The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

An introduction

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JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

An introduction

I thought I would introduce myself here, having been lurking, occasionally commenting and learning more than I thought was possible. (Most notably, sourdough pancakes. Wow!)


I've been baking bread almost since I can remember -- my mother used to make an amazingly sloppy wholemeal loaf that received no kneading and generally ended up brick like; I forget what it was called. Most of my baking was based on Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery and Bernard Clayton Jr's The Complete Book of Breads (with a hatred for volume measures every time I used it).


Sourdough called to me about 20 years ago, maybe less, when the food writer of the Independent newspaper, Jeremy Round, published a sourdough recipe that contained a mistake. Several people wrote to complain and the paper published a correction. I thought, if it is that important, I ought to try it. And I did. Round, who is tragically under-represented on the internet, died in 1991, and he was still alive when I made my sourdough, so it is at least 19 years old. The same one. We've been through some ups and downs, my sourdough and me, including a relocation from Somerset, England to Rome in Italy.


Round's approach was very simple. You made a starter, made some bread with it (as I recall 18 oz flour to 12 oz water) removing 8 oz of the dough after the first rise and kept it in the fridge to use as next time's starter. No feeding in between. And that suited me fine until this past summer, when my dough became horribly, horribly sticky.


That's when I came here first, and discovered that the problem was almost certainly a combination of too high a temperature, too weak a flour and too long a fermentation.


Since then I've gradually worked on each of the variables, feeding the starter, working with percentages, and am now once again making reasonable bread.


A recent sourdough loaf


But the dough is still impossibly sticky, even at 60%. I've read about stretch and fold, and French folds, and watched the videos, but I still cannot handle the dough without it sticking to my hands, the steel work surface, everything. I've got a batch rising now, but I really think this is going to be the last time I try to do without kneading, and enough flour to stop things sticking. I cannot believe that people go out to 65% and 70% dough. Mine wouold be a sticky, structureless, freeform mess.


Is there any way I can manage this sticky dough?


At the moment I stretch it and fold it with the help of a scraper, but it is impossible to shape and I end up just plopping it into tins to prove. I shudder what to think would happen if I tried a loaf in a banneton.


I already have a blog, where my I chronicle my baking;, and I see no point in duplicating all that here. So my second question is:


Is it acceptable to just post links here to my personal blog?


Thanks for listening.


Jeremy

Comments

Susan's picture
Susan

Welcome to TFL.  Your loaf looks beautiful!


Sounds like there's just too much water in your dough.  Flour is different all over the world.  Since you're in Europe, I'd suggest that you try Flo's method:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9346/123-easy-formula-sourdough-bread


Let us know how you fare!


Susan from San Diego

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Thanks Susan


Thanks for the compliment. It does look good, I admit, but it was very scary and messy, and that's the best after a lot of experimentation.


Flo's formula certainly sounds like a simple and interesting way to go. One problem with flour is that here in Italy the choice rally is very limited. Now that the local supermarket has Manitoba I'll use that. And of course I will keep you informed.


Jeremy

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have no experience with your flours but I'm pretty sure that is your problem. At 60 % you should have no trouble handling the dough. In fact once you get a known good bread flour I suggest you mix a batch of 65% hydration and knead in the bowl every hour for 4 hours. Try being sure to get a good stretch and do 10 strokes lifting the outside edge up and over.


Another thing you might try is a much lower percent of prefermented flour (starter). Try using  only 100 grams of starter during this warm weather. Fold as above and wait for the doubling, shape and bake.


I would use a stronger flour than the 9 for feeding the starter also.


Eric

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Thanks Eric


As I mentioned, now that the supermarket has Manitoba flour I'm going to stick with that. And maybe I'll try feeding it to the starter too. Less starter may be worth trying. I need a new set of scales so that I can keep and feed smaller amounts of starter. I love the pancakes, but I hate to waste starter.


Is there a video of this "knead in the bowl" technique you mention? I've never heard of that.


Thanks


Jeremy

Susan's picture
Susan

http://thebackhomebakery.com/Tutorials.html


Mark is incredibly generous with his time and talents.  You should glean lots of information from his videos.


Best,


Susan from San Diego

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Thanks Susan


I've watched the in-bowl fold a couple of times now, and I think I'm ready to give that a whirl. Just one thing. From what I can see, the dough is soft, but it isn't sticky, or not very. I suspect mine has been way overproofed. (Evidence will be forthcoming). So for now, back to the spreadsheet to adjust my proving times.


Jeremy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Seems to me everything is just going too fast to control it.  Some ways to slow down the process that might help in the heat:


Feed the starter more flour, making it thicker, possibly adding just a tiny pinch of salt.


Add more salt to your dough.  One teaspoon for 800g flour is low even for my standards,  I normally use one teaspoon for 500g,  could up the salt to 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons.  This may help control rising.


 


Sticky sounds like lots of dead stuff in the starter which also means it's starving too long between feedings. 


Try this little trick:  make a ping pong ball sized starter that is packed full of flour.  (start with just a teaspoon of starter and add a tablespoon of water, then enough flour to make a ball that keeps its shape long after 30 minutes.)  It should be very dry, not sticky and not crumbly, just barely dough.  Roll into flour and set into container with lid.   If this is not refrigerated at 30°c, watch the ball, in about 6 to 24 hours it will have matured. (I suspect 12 hours, if sooner, try adding a tiny pinch of salt to the next step. If longer, then your starter needs another firm refreshment to boost its energy.)  It will be cracked, sponge like, full of bubbles and no longer a ball.  Stir down and remove a heaping teaspoonspoon full (refrigerate the rest, use or ditch)  combine with 100g flour and 100g water to  make your bread starter. 


100% Starter should firment between 6 -12 hours but use when it is nice and foamy  leaving a teaspoon or two in the jar to feed and keep your starter going (make another firm ball.  This seems to hold out the heat better.)  I see no problems with using 200g 100% starter in your recipe.   After mixing your dough together, let it just sit there covered for 30 minutes before continuing,  this improves the dough tremendously!


Keep in mind that proofing times will shorten in the heat, start shaping when the dough feels firm yet airy and not when it is "doubled" which may be too long.  Better to be closer to underproofed than overproofed before going into the fridge.  Esp. when it is so warm.  Do you use any oil to lightly coat your dough while it's rising?  I lightly oil the bowl first so I tend to use less oil.  Just rolling the dough over in the bowl coats the top.  Covering the bowl with a plate or oiled plastic keeps dough from drying out.


You seem to be trapping enough steam inside your cover while baking.  Good for you!


-Mini