The Fresh Loaf

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Crumb of sourdough bread

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Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Crumb of sourdough bread

I've tried three sourdough recipes that do not add use any commercial yeast, but do call for a small amount of whole wheat flour (about 11%). The crumb of the bread is different from bread I've made with instant yeast. It looks shinier and glutinous, and is tougher—almost rubbery. Is this typical of a sourdough loaf? 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

It can be. A large presence of lactic acid will impart the texture you describe, especially tough and rubbery. Shinier crumbs could simply be due to a lot of free water in the dough. I presume you're using a wet starter?

Please post your formulae and method for further scrutiny...

skegbyguy's picture
skegbyguy

750g strong white flour

500g starter

15g salt

350/400 ml water

Combine all adding the salt last. Add enough water to make a soft/sticky dough. Knead with a dough hook for 5 mins, knead by hand until it comes together. I don't use oil or flour when kneading. I put it in an oiled bowl and leave it covered to at least double in size. Divide into two, shape and put into floured baskets. I use disposable shower caps to cover the baskets. When at least doubled in size put into a preheated oven at 200C for about 30/40 mins.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I believe you have the same problem as the OP. On that basis for 750g of flour 500g is far far too much starter. This would certainly be the cause of a rubbery crumb! 25-33% is plenty.

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I followed your advice with the stiff starter and with my 700g flour loaf I used 50% stiff starter and the crumb is beautiful.

I think with a wet Starter the result would be very different.

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

You are correct. A wet starter should be used at a lower percentage than a firm one. A wet starter has much lactic acid content. Lactic acid has a firming effect on the crumb hence a rubbery texture.

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Thank you.

I am very happy with my firm Starter, I would not go back to a wet one so I kept in just in case I come along a recipe that calls for a wet Starter, it is quicker to have it at hand than converting parts of the firm starter:)

skegbyguy's picture
skegbyguy

Thanks for that, I will let you know what happens.

I meant to say that the recipe I have been using is a Paul Hollywood one from his book 'How to bake'.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Most recently, I followed the recipe for BasicCountry Bread from Tartine Bread:

water 750g
100%-hydration leaven 200g (but with more white flour than whole-wheat)
white flour 900g (Gold Medal Better for Bread)
whole wheat flour 100g
salt 20g

The dough was wetter than the pictures showed. After near four hours of bulk fermentation with a stretch-and-fold every half hour, it still wasn't stiff enough for a free-standing loaf and needed a basket for the final rise. Next time I will use King Arthur Bread Flour.

Baked in a convection oven at 450° for 20 minutes, then at 430° for another 25 minutes. The crust was tough, but the crumb had good flavor, although it had that glutinous texture.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I believe that the book, Tartine Bread, says to bake in a combo cooker/dutch oven for 20 minutes covered at 20 minutes uncovered.  I am not sure whether that would change the texture of the finished product, but you might want to try it that way and see what it does for you, rather than changing temperatures mid-bake.  I am also not sure whether convection baking has any impact on the texture. I know that typically you are to lower the temperature when baking with a convection oven, but you seemed to keep the initial temperature the same followed by a drop and then increase in the bake time.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Forgot to mention that I used a cloche (instead of the dutch oven). Yes, the thermostat is supposed to be lowered when using a convection oven, but I've never needed to while the lid is on the cloche, perhaps because it keeps the circulating air off the dough.

It needed longer baking than the book indicated, but I assumed that due to the wetness of the dough.

Well, I've got another batch going, this time with KA Bread Flour, and its consistency is much better—although not exactly like the pictures in the book. There is something visually appealing about that dough.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The dough in the book looks like a soft pillow or giant soft marshmallow.

And when you watch his videos, and see him shaping the dough, the dough looks nothing like what I get when I try to follow the formula.

But one thing I can tell you which may get you closer to the pictures, is that when you dust with flour, you should dust with plenty of it. Just be comfortable knowing that the added flour is on the crust and not the crumb.  This will not only make the dough more like a pillow but will make it easier to handle and easier to release from the baskets.

Heck, if you use plenty of flour AND have the dough at the right time and temperature, it may actually result in that billowy dough he has so beautifully photographed.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Are Chad Robertson's videos available online? Youtube has thousands of videos of people making his recipes, but I don't want to see them, I want to see the master at work.

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1
cranbo's picture
cranbo

One more, Chad's video for the "Tartine" book. Watch starting at 5:52 to get a feel for the texture of his bread while shaping:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5kKeKSfyOE

cranbo's picture
cranbo

In addition to flour & dough timing & temperature, don't forget the impact of the type of flour used. Yes you can follow his recipe exactly but still get a different outcome if you don't use the same flour (I believe Tartine's comes from Central Milling in Logan UT).

Different flour is going to behave and hydrate in different ways. As the primary ingredient in any bread, the type of flour should always be considered as the most important contributor of both texture and flavor. In that sense, it's the same as making wine: you're only going to coax the finest wine out of the best tasting grapes. If you have mediocre grapes, your skill might be able to make better than average wine, but it will never be great. 

Davo's picture
Davo

A few things. Sourdough bread commonly has an elastic crumb - but less so when it's very active. If the starter isn't very active you may well get quite a dense and very rubbery/tough bread. My early efforts were like that, but the bread became lighter in texture once the starter got up to speed. How's your starter activity? Also how long did the final proof go for and was the dough "ripe" on baking?

And that slightly shiny appearance - I reckon that is pretty normal, even when the bread is lighter - especially if you have some big holes, you can see a kind of transluscent shininess in the crumb.

I'm not surprised your dough needed support - unless I'm getting it wrong you have a dough hydration north of 75% (around 77 I think). That's pretty wet. You could try and reduce the hydration a little back to more like 70% and see how that goes...

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

This time I used King Arthur bread flour. The dough had more body than GM Better for Bread, but it was still wetter than in the pictures. The final rise was 3 hours, and the oven was kept at 450° on the convection setting.

The finished bread tasted like sourdough and the crumb was less glutinous, but it was tough. We didn't even try to eat the crust. Too much water?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

A final rise of 3 hours but what was the dough temperature? I believe he talks about a 3-4 hour rise at a 76-78 degree dough temperature (don't quote me there, check the book).  I just know that it is above my room temperature so if you are doing this at 70 degrees and not in a warmer environment it is going to require longer than 3 hours to proof.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Good point—I never thought to measure the temperature of the dough. I poke the dough to see if it springs back. 

As for the ambient temperature: I left the dough at 72° for about two hours. In the meantime, I ran a load in the dishwasher (air-dry) and when it finished, I put the dough into the still-warm dishwasher for the last hour of rising.