The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello and first problem

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rainey's picture
rainey

Hello and first problem

Hello, Fresh Loafers.  This is my first post and I need to learn the ropes but I'm happy to have found this site.

I am also in need of some problem solving help.  Short version:  my sourdough doesn't develop a skin and goes flounder instead of springing up.

Longer version:  I'm more familiar with conventional commercial yeast breads.  I could make sourdough but I was making it like more conventional bread and the crumb was coming out pretty tight.  I set a goal to achieve an open irregular crumb and a tight boule shape.  In the process of working my way through this I discovered the stretch & fold technique.  It immediately gave me the crumb I was looking for but I'm not getting a skin that could contain the oven spring.  At least I think that's the current problem.  

In my first attempt, the skin ruptured and I got a sort of doughnut shape beneath the skin where all the folds converged on the center.  I put that back on the bench, did another stretch & fold, tucked it into a ball and it baked into a yummy thing more like a ciabatta than a boule.  

Any tips on how to get a tight boule with an adequate skin?  

Thanks so much!

 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Hello and welcome. Is your main problem the dough holding its shape whilst proofing? I think this is what you are asking, forgive me if I have the wrong end of the stick.  You say you have lots of baking experience with conventional yeast  and have made sourdough but with a tighter crumb. Were these free form loaves?  Or were you using a tin? Did you add more water to your more open crumb dough or was it exactly the same recipe and the only change is the stretch and fold?

I am not very experienced, but I do know from all the videos that I have watched that dough using the stretch and fold method does not hold a perfect shape between folds.  Even at the end it won't hold a perfect shape. I read in one of my books recently, probably Ken Forkish, to put the dough after stretching with the folds to the bottom as this helps it hold its shape a bit better.

Are you doing the final proof in a banneton of some sort. Most people use a banneton, or a make shift bowl with a well floured tea towel etc, as this is really needed for the dough to hold its shape. Without that it will just spread. The banneton also wicks away moisture from the outside of the dough so that you get a bit of a skin.

Personally, I find that cold, retarded dough holds its shape much better than warm dough, so I always bake from cold. But I have had issues myself with spreading in the oven recently and got some useful tips on a recent thread.

Usually when you see pictures of really, high almost perfectly round boules, they have been baked in a covered container just the right size for it, so they have no choice about where they can spring, they have to go up. It is possible to get a really good rise without the Dutch oven method, because people do it. It just requires a lot more skill and getting so many things just right.

The thing that confuses me about your post is the final paragraph, are you saying that your dough developed a skin during the bulk ferment whilst you were still doing stretch and folds? Or did it rupture on its final proof, so you stretched and folded as a remedy? I think it shouldn't get any skin in the bulk ferment and if it was the final proof the boule was either shaped so tight that the dough couldn't rise without rupturing it, or put somewhere where it got too dry and the rising dough broke through.

Also, if you look under the videos section, there are lots of really helpful videos about shaping which may help.

rainey's picture
rainey

"Is your main problem the dough holding its shape whilst proofing?"

It is very slack throughout.  There is no indication of a skin.  It is round when I tuck the ends under but there is nothing holding the shape together.  I'm sorry I don't have a lot of baking vocabulary to describe this.  Perhaps I should take pictures of the next loaf through its various stages.

 

"You say you have lots of baking experience with conventional yeast  and have made sourdough but with a tighter crumb. Were these free form loaves?  Or were you using a tin? Did you add more water to your more open crumb dough or was it exactly the same recipe and the only change is the stretch and fold?"

Yes, I have always done primarily free form loaves.  I bake in a pan for sandwich or toasting bread but not often.  

This was, indeed, a much wetter slacker dough but, previously, even with slack doughs I got a relatively tight crumb.  Sometimes, previously, I got a nice tight boule; sometimes a more ciabatta like profile.  In those cases, the amount of water made the difference but none of them were as wet as my recent sourdoughs have been.

The change I made with my last loaf was the stretch & fold technique.  It was responsible for the much improved crumb.  And I can say that with confidence because the dough was the second half of a dough I had baked without using stretch & fold that didn't achieve the same size holes.

 

"Are you doing the final proof in a banneton of some sort."

I did not use a banneton but I have one and I could give that a try.

 

"Personally, I find that cold, retarded dough holds its shape much better than warm dough, so I always bake from cold. But I have had issues myself with spreading in the oven recently and got some useful tips on a recent thread.

Usually when you see pictures of really, high almost perfectly round boules, they have been baked in a covered container just the right size for it, so they have no choice about where they can spring, they have to go up."

 I am baking in a cloche.  The manufacturer's method is to put the cloche in an unpreheated oven.  I could try refrigerating the shaped loaf before baking but I'm not sure what will happen if I add another temperature increment to the cloche's method.

 

"The thing that confuses me about your post is the final paragraph, are you saying that your dough developed a skin during the bulk ferment whilst you were still doing stretch and folds?"

It doesn't develop any skin at all at any time.  At least not in the way that I understand skin.  When I baked conventional free form loaves with a higher flour content you could see that the outer surface had developed a structure that bound in the bulk of the loaf.  The way I've always thought of it was like the rubber material creating the shape of a balloon.  When that structure/skin is in place there is a force/counter force relationship that controls the oven spring like the skin of a balloon encloses the air that inflates it.  

My slack sourdoughs do not have that structure so they are captives of gravity.   The only word I have to describe the surface is wet and soft.   They expand but they expand out as much as up.  On the other hand, I have done no-knead bread that looked equally slack that rose like crazy so I was willing to keep trying but I'm not making any progress on the shape issue.  The flavor is great.  The crumb is approaching great.  The shape is only acceptable for a ciabatta.

As for the rupturing, I take this to be another function of the lack of surface tension.  There was more pressure to spread out than the top could withstand.  It spontaneously opened in the uncontrolled way that an unslashed loaf would.  When it did that I could see the evidence of the folds that were drawn to the center of the mass inside under the hole.

 

Thanks for your suggestions.  I will go looking for the videos and see what they suggest.

Nice to meet you, Bakingmadt.

 

 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Hello again. I am sure someone better than me will come along in a bit, I only really feel happy to comment I things I have actually experienced, and I am having some similar problems to you.

Some of the sourdough recipes are very, very wet and I think it might be a case of practise makes perfect, knowing whether you have done enough stretching and folding, but it is all balance, not enough hard to shape, slack dough, too much and the crumb will tighten up again! I am still on a learning curve with this too.

I doubt there is much problem with your shaping if you have been making free form loaves you are happy with before. Your description of a balloon is good, I do think that describes what we are supposed to be aiming for.

I use LaCloche to bake and I get the problem you describe, but I do bake loaves half the recommended size and I am sure if I filled the cloche more it would spread less. That and a whole load of other things I have to learn! I also suspect that because I bake from cold, I need to preheat my oven for longer.

If you look under artisan baking, the thread causes of spreading from a couple of days ago, you will see my problem too and I have had lots of helpful suggestions.

The trouble with all the suggestions is that I need to be disciplined and try one possible change at a time, change too many things and you don't know what is causing the problem. In your case, you could try a recipe you have been happy with in the past. Exactly as it is but stretch and fold instead of knead to see the difference there, or use the same kneading method but add more water and see what happens there.

There are so many variables to consider. I am sure others will add several dozen more. It is an interesting challenge though and one that I really enjoy.

rainey's picture
rainey

Thanks for the suggestion to try that forum.  I'll go there and see what I learn.  ;>

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

gives you big holes,will always spread while proofing if not supported by basket.  That is just the way it is.  A basket  will cure most of your ills but i also like to final proof in the fridge overnight for 3 reasons.

First the sour and flavor of the bread is improved greatly, if you take the bread out of the fridge to warm up for an hour as the oven preheats and gets the stone up to baking temperature.  2nd the bread will still be quite cool and less likely to spread when un-moulded and 3rd oit is much easier to slash when cold.

The hard part is being awake when the dough is proofed to 80% and ready to come out of fridge so it can proof to 855-90% that final hour it sits out as the oven heats..  If it over proofs in the fridge then no worries - just bake it cold right out of the oven once the oven is hot,  For me 12 hours in the fridge works best with no bench proofing after shaping and putting it in the basket.  You will have to experiment what works best for you and your kitchen.

Happy Baking

 

rainey's picture
rainey

A banneton was one of Bakingmadtoo's suggestions too.  So, OK, that's an easy one to start with.  I did actually frequently use that for my final proof when I was doing the final proof of my simple non-sourdough country breads.  I'll give make that change first and then see about cooling the shaped loaf before baking.  …another of Bakingmadtoo's suggestions as well. ;>

I forgot to get some dough started last night so it will be a couple days before I know how the first experiment works but I'll let you guys know if I have some progress.  

Nice to see you here.  I was happy to see a note from you on the Introductions forum.  ;>  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...see the evidence of the folds that were drawn to the center of the mass inside under the hole."

That says a lot about the folding...  try stretching the dough out longer before folding over and across to the opposite side of the dough mass.  Fold trying not to trap air inside.  also   stretch and fold about every 30 to 45 minutes after the mixed dough starts to rise.   Before any "bulk rise midpoint" for then it is too late.  

Think of your dough (and I know this is crude) as a basic time line like this:

Regular dough with yeast:    

mix....knead....  rise...........................................rough degas.... final shape.... final rise... bake

Sourdough: 

mix.. knead... rise..... st & fld.. rise...... st & fld.. rise.....st & fld...rise.... degas....final shape. ..final rise... bake

See the differences?   When you see your sourdough rising more out than up, flip it over (big, big point)  give it a big stretch & fold from each of 4 sides, flip it over again (so it is now top or skin side up) and then tuck under the corners to give it that nice round shape.  Repeat when the dough looks too relaxed.  

Depending on fermentation, that can be every 30 minutes, 45min or every hour.  I start the first set of folds when the dough has some gas inside of it about 1/4 risen if you are thinking "double."   Anytime stretching resists you and starts to tear, slow down or stop stretching, Flip the dough over (top side up) and let the dough rest.   Continue after 10 minutes or if near the end of rising time, give it a final shape and rest in the banneton.  Keep track of your top side and shape the dough away from it stretching the "skin."  

:)  have fun with the next loaf!

rainey's picture
rainey

Thanks!  That looks like a lot to digest but fortunately I got some dough started this morning so tomorrow I'll be able to give it a try.  I'm sure "hands on" will make it more clear and it sounds like a promising route.

Can you tell me a little more about degassing sourdough.  I wasn't doing it.  I thought every bit of gas was precious since that was one of the goals I was working toward.  

I am hopeful about this and the banneton.  I expect better results already but I'm taking pix of each step anyway so I can be more clear next time about my progress and lack thereof.  ::chortle::

Nice to meet you, Mini Oven, and thanks again for the clarity and specificity.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Actually as you stretch (and I mean stretch) the dough before folding, you are degassing the dough to some degree. One does need to be gentle but any large bubbles should be popped before shaping or even baking.  Up to you really.  They only get bigger in the oven.  Check out the shaping videos for sourdough it varies from loaf to loaf, most often the shaping tends to degas, but my point is...  sourdough tends to relax much more than non-sourdoughs during fermentation turning into a liquid if you don't get in there and fold up those long gluten strands over each other.  Gas is good but not as precious as your dough integrity.   Folding the dough helps trap the gas that just keeps coming.

The profile of the dough can best be watched if you place the rising dough on a lightly floured board or table and cover with an inverted bowl between folds.  

Nice meeting you too...  

rainey's picture
rainey

"The profile of the dough can best be watched if you place the rising dough on a lightly floured board or table and cover with an inverted bowl between folds.  "

 

I actually tend to do this out of laziness.  It may be why I'm seeing so clearly my failure up to this point to develop adequate structure.  

Thanks for the further explanation.  I'll try it all tomorrow.  

rainey's picture
rainey

Well, I tried to incorporate as many of those suggestions as possible.  The texture of the crumb is much improved.  The flavor is good.  The crust was much prettier and it had a nice network of gluten fibers creating a skin.  But when I turned it out of the basket it spread wide again.  

I wasn't dismayed.  I thought it could re-inflate when it went in the un-pre-heated oven in a ceramic cloche.  It didn't.  

I wonder if it would have if I had used a heated oven with a heated stone.  Maybe that's what I'll try next.  

I will say that S&F made that wet dough take a shape.  It just kept going out at every opportunity.  And I may have labored over every new unfamiliar step and taken too long.

I doesn't bother me to keep working at this,  I just don't know what I did wrong so I'm still stabbing in the dark. 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

I am glad you saw some improvement. I have a loaf baking at the moment and despite turning the heat right up and baking it hotter for longer, I can see it is still determined to bake more out than up.

I still think that if your biggest problem is when turning the dough out of the banneton, it is worth trying retarding your dough and baking from cold. As yet I have not had any warm dough that does not want to spread out fast myself. In fact, I find warm dough very difficult to handle. Cold dough is lovely to turn out and easy to slash and spreads much more slowly, allowing you more time to mess about before getting it into the oven.

The other thing you could try, is reducing the hydration a little bit, until you get used to handling sour dough. You may get a slightly tighter crumb, but it does make it easier to practise the things that you find difficult. I reduced the hydration just a little bit, of the loaf baking now as I am tired of wide flat loaves, however tasty and nice the crumb.

I figure that as I get better at understanding what the dough is doing and handling it, I will be able to increase the hydration. 

If it is any consolation, I don't know what I am doing wrong either! Like you I will just keep trying until I get results that I am happy with, which will probably be forever! But, I am enjoying the challenge!

rainey's picture
rainey

I've got the second hunk of dough in the freezer.  I'll try the same method with that one baking on a hot stone in a preheated oven.  I'll give it a more vigorous knead too before I do anything else.  

On my next dough after that one I'll try working with cold dough.  But my understanding is that this will cut back on the sour flavor of the bread, no?