The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Vermont Sourdough... What happened?

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

Vermont Sourdough... What happened?

Hi.  This is my first post.  I followed Hamelman's recipe.  I'm not far from KAF and my starter is originally from them, but has been happily living with us for 4 months.  I'm pretty sure my problem was either not slashing the dough deep enough or not proofing enough.  Am I right?  First time I have ever done this bread and just didn't expect that blowout up top.  Any help is greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance, Pen

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

how pretty your loaf is.   Whatever you did, just keep doing it!   Now if you want it a little more controlled, try proofing it longer.


Mini

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

I thought it might be proofing.  I did the final fermentation overnight in the fridge, so maybe I should have let it sit at room temp for about an hour after shaping before putting it in for the night.  I know my fridge is a cold 39F.  It had great oven spring, but just surprised me a bit.  I'll be cutting into the loaf tomorrow to see what the crumb looks like.  Thanks again.

Hans Krijnen's picture
Hans Krijnen

Great looking bread. Great oven spring. I make this bread for the last 6 months every week. Last week i added some Soaker to the dough and increased the flour for the final dough with 4 ounces try it out. It give it a little extra crunch.


Greeting from the other side of Vermont.


Hans

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

Hans for the final ferment do you leave the loaves out to proof for a bit before the fridge?  Mini would you know?  I thank you both for saying that is is a pretty loaf.  It is nice, I just wish I could have gotten it a tad bit darker, but the "ears" were really getting crispy.  Thus I suppose my reasoning that I can try to change it just a bit. TIA

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Is it too brown?   If not why not try moving the oven rack down one notch?  Your starter is just fine from the looks of your loaf, not to worry.  If you proof longer, do it after retardation, on the counter.  I would mess with the oven rack first or turn down the oven to 450°F or 460°F after the first 10 minutes of baking.  :)


Mini

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

Thanks.  The loaves baked this morning had a better control.  Thanks for all of the suggestions.  I let them sit out about an hour prior to the fridge and that did the trick.  Best to all.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hello,


I'd agree that your loaf was a bit underproofed, but it may also be that the yeast activity in your starter is less than what you need.  Could you post a picture of what your sour starter looks like just before you bake with it, and also one picture of how it looks when you're about to feed it (not AFTER feeding -- BEFORE feeding).  I can probably tell a bit about what's happening just by seeing it in both stages of development.


Also, could you explain how often you are feeding the starter, and what proportions of flour, water, and ripe starter you use when you feed it.  Also -- what temperature is being maintained for the starter and for the final dough?  70 degrees?  75?  80?  All these things matter quite a bit.  It's easy to maintain a healthy starter as long as you respect the details, but first you have to zero in on what details to follow.  I'll try to help you with that, if you like.


Daniel DiMuzio -- former Executive Baker, baking instructor

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

That would a help, thanks.  Mind you, I am just a home baker who has returned to baking after a hiatus of 8 years.  This is my stress reliever.  I usually bake each day now, so my starter is fed each day and kept on my counter (in my New England kitchen which can range 60 at night to 70 during the day.)  I usually remove a cup of starter and feed it 1 cup flour w/1/2 cup of well water.  I took a picture before feeding


The levain used in morning was doubled in size and super fuzzy with bubbles.  Sorry no pic there.  When I don't bake often the starter is kept in the fridge and only fed 1 time a week.  My fridge runs very cool.  I have some loaves right now in the fridge that will be baked in the morning.  I will see the results this time.  I left them out for an hour prior to refrigeration.  TIA

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

From the photo of your starter I don't see any obvious issues.  You did mention that just before you used it in the dough, it was "fuzzy" with bubbles.  Was it sort of foamy looking?  That's not a good thing.


Since people are referring to Jeffrey's book here, we might as well continue doing so.I used Jeff's book in my bread classes at a culinary school -- it's a very good book, probably the best trade publication out there.


I assume that you own a copy.  Read his appendix about maintaining sourdough cultures -- pp 351-359. 


You should notice that he feeds twice a day with liquid levain, and he weighs ALL ingredients.  Using cups to measure flour or starter (which have varying amounts of air) is especially risky.  No professional baker looking for consistent results would ever do so.  Basically, any time you use cups instead of a scale, you're gambling with whether or not the measurement was the correct weight.  Why gamble?  Digital scales are cheap ($25 bucks at Walmart), and you'll get more predictable, consistent results in your baking.


You can keep your starter in the refrigerator to hold it while you aren't baking, but it really will do better if you feed it TWICE a week during no-bake periods.  Waiting more than 3-4 days to feed it seriously weakens the wild yeast, which would be swimming in acid otherwise.  Even then, if you know you'll be baking bread on some given Saturday, you should take the starter out of the refrigerator and resume TWICE A DAY feedings at room temperature at least two full days before that.  Try to space them 12 hours apart. This will resuscitate the culture prior to use in dough making, and the balance of wild yeast activity and bacterial activity will be mostly restored.


I'm not saying you can't make sourdough cultures or bread any other way than what I described.  I am saying that you will get better, more consistent results and that you will have better control over how the fermentation proceeds if you follow the steps I just outlined.


BTW, 39 degrees for a retarding temperature for the loaves is just a bit too cold.  When yeast are less than 40 degrees, they focus more upon survival than they do upon fermentation, and CO2 production can cease altogether after a point.  42 degrees, as Jeffrey seems to suggest, might just be warm enough to let microbiological activity proceed without letting it do so too quickly.


I'll stop meandering here by just saying that you should read all of Jeffrey's explanations for how to start and maintain sourdough (already mentioned), and familiarize yourself with his excellent text from pages 1-86.  Too many home bakers skip doing their homework and just plunge into advanced baking techniques.  Why re-invent the wheel?  Jeff took a lot of pains to explain to interested bakers how to start mastering the process, as opposed to just reading and following recipes.  You're cheating yourself if you don't take advantage of his knowledge on the subject by reading what he has to say.


If you have any more questions about this, why don't you just e-mail me off-site at dandimuzio@yahoo.com.


--Dan DiMuzio, former Executive Baker and Bakery Instructor

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Judging from the looks of the boule, your starter is more than adequate to build the liquid-levain. It looks fine...I can't tell if you had a bit of a blow-out at the top, or if that's just the way you scored it.


If you look at the receipe, Hamelman calls for a temperature of 42F for the 18-hour overnight retardation.  You are retarding the bread at 39F.  Not sure where you are placing them, but sometimes the bottom shelf of the fridge registers a slightly warmer temp. 


Did you check the temperature of your dough after mixing?  It's supposed to be 76F (see pp 382-385 of "Bread.")


Because you are retarding the dough at 39F, I agree that you need to allow them to ferment longer once you remove them from the cooler.  Just keep an eye on the dough because you want to bake it when it's ready, or at about 90% fully proofed.


BTW, welcome to TFL.


 

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

all for your insight.  I appreciate the opinions.  They were great!


Just an FYI, I did read Hamelmans and I always weigh everything ( my scale measures in gms, cups, and preprogrammed for KAF flours), and my dough is stored at the higher level in the fridge where it is warmer(weird design I know).  Wish we had not donated that wine cooler...  I home baked for 20 years and maintained a starter then, but used commercial yeast for most of my breads.  After not baking for 8 years I wanted to return to baking bread mainly with starter, thus the "experimentation" because I must work with the conditions and the appliances that I have at home.  Will I ever have perfect results each and every time?  No, but will have fun doing it.


My loaves came out beautiful this morning, by just letting them proof an hour prior to the fridge and while I baked something else in the oven.  


Many thanks again to all and best wishes. 

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Just wanted to say, as a Hamelmaniac who has gotten a lot out of lurking through this conversation, thanks for starting it!

marieJ's picture
marieJ

What a beautiful loaf!!!  I wish my loaves would behave like this!  Lately I've been looking at the loaves in very expensive boutique bakeries and ashamedly wondered if they were applying artificial methods to get such pretty responses.


Congratulations!

jacobsbrook's picture
jacobsbrook

every time I bake this bread I am getting better results.  Definitely practice makes perfect.  The loaves still have wonderful spring.  You will get there for sure, no worries. 


Best regards, Pen