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Sourdough French Bread

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inlovewbread's picture
inlovewbread

Sourdough French Bread

This past week I tried "Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough" as relayed by Shiao-Ping here:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13525/my-imitation-chad-robertson039s-country-sourdough


Her formula (of course) turned out perfect. My attempt? Well, not so much. BUT- I was still very pleased with the results. :-)


On the last leg of the levain build, I was to add flour/water and ferment for two hours only. However, I was called away and had to cold retard again at this step so I resumed the next morning. So in all, I ended up with refereshing starter (of which I combined half of my 50% hydration starter and half of my 100% hydration starter to end up at the 75% hydration starter used in the formula) and then two more levain builds. Whew.


I used my couche for the first time, that was exciting! I do wish though that I had weighed each piece of dough before shaping as one ended up a bit larger than the other two. Practice makes perfect...



As for the slashing- hmmmm. I reallly tried here. I have even been practicing! I made a huge batch of AB in % dough just for the purpose of practicing shaping and slashing. I have both a lame and another scoring knife (kinda like an exacto with a handle) from King Arthur Flour. I held it at a 30 degree angle and went 1/4' to 1/2' inch deep but still can't seem to get an ear. I'll keep trying.


They tasted great but I'm starting to seriously consider some type of "sourdough" flavoring in my sourdoughs as my starters seem to be very mild. Just kidding, but I am having fun exploring how to get more sour from my starters. I had high hopes for the "levain builds" but it didn't seem to do much. 



Overall though, great fun with this formula. 

Comments

arlo's picture
arlo

The loaves look wonderful! Don't be so hard on yourself when it comes to scoring.


When it comes to creating an 'ear', you will need a lame which features a curved blade. This helps get 'underneath' the dough and create the flap which laters turns into the ear. A straight blade is more for boules and long slashes. Though you may be able to create an ear with a straight blade, I am unsure though.


But your bread looks wonderful none-the-less!

rainwater's picture
rainwater

Scoring is overrated....or I should say the fascination with how scoring looks once it's been baked.  Scoring is used to keep the bread from expoloding in funny places and to help keep the shape of the loaf....if this happens, then your scoring is successful...and your bread looks delicious.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

A curved lame helps when you are scoring a bâtard, but it is not essential.


If you haven't read The TFL Handbook Scoring Tutorial, you might want to look at it. 


The cuts you got could be due to your scoring technique, but they could also be the result of over-proofing, the way you steamed your oven or a combination.


David

inlovewbread's picture
inlovewbread

Hi David, 


Thank you for pointing me to this tutorial. I enjoyed the video and it was very helpful to see the lame in action.


I read somewhere that Calvel (I think) holds the lame with the curve facing him instead of the other way, so I was trying that. That is way to advanced for me though...what was I thinking? I will turn the lame around next time.


I'm pretty sure my loaves weren't overproofed, but am intrigued by "the way my oven was steamed"- could you elaborate on this? Is there really a difference between steaming with ice cubes vs. warm water vs. cold water vs. taking the skillet out after a time, etc. I'm reading Leader's book right now and he suggests using ice cubes.


I usually pour 3/4 cup warm water into an iron skillet, take out skillet after 10 minutes or so. Sometimes I spritz the walls of my oven at 30 second intervals for the first min. and a half. 


 


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

There are lots of methods, but what you want is a very humid environment for the first part of the bake. Once the crust starts to color, steam should be discontinued.


If you search TFL for "oven steaming," you will find lots to read.


Here are the crucial elements, as I see it:


1. Pre-steaming the oven is a good idea. The pros do it for hearth breads. I have found that, even a 30 second delay in steaming after the bread is loaded makes a noticable difference, so having the oven air wet before you load it is good.


2. Steam after the bread is coloring up is useless.


3. A big burst of steam right after loading is good.


4. It is possible to steam too much. This can interfere with ear formation.


5. Using ice cubes for pre-steaming is okay, but this method gives prolonged humidification, not the burst of steam I want right after loading.


Currently, I am using a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks. I preheat this for 45-60 minutes. I pour a little (1/3 cup?) of boiling water over the lava rocks just before transferring loaves to the peel and scoring them. I pour a bit more (1/2-2/3 cup?) of boiling water over the rocks when I've loaded the loaves.


I hope this helps.


David

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

 


I have just seen your post.  Your bread looks amazing!  But I have to be honest with you - I had no idea that my formula could work for other people.  I always try to put down as many details as possible about my steps and formula, but because most breads I did only once, when it turned out alright, I think it was a fluke and had no confidence that it could work for other people. 


Your crumb looks really delicious, in fact, more delicious than mine.  It looks that it is full of that wonderful sourdough flavour.   I wonder if it is because your second levain build was much longer than mine. 


About your scoring not getting the "ear" you wanted, I would suggest that the reason may not be the obvious, ie, the scoring.  David had suggested that one of the possible reasons might be over-proofing.  I happen to agree.  My thinking is your  overall fermentation time was a lot longer than mine (ie, taking into account the time of the second levain build), so the effect is as if you have "over-proofed" the final dough.   When all things being equal (ie, right dough hydration, suitable amount of steam, and reasonable scoring, etc),  under-proofed dough (as opposed to over-proofed dough) will get you a better "ear" any time.  Once the dough is fully proofed, there is not much "Oomph" left in them in the oven.   Just a thought.


Another trick I have found is to bring down the overall dough hydration.  Have you ever had the experience of comparing pancakes made with a thick batter and with a thin (and running) batter?  The latter is flat while the former is like there is life in it that it springs up in heat to become a thick pancake.   My description is not very good but you get what I mean.  If you lower the dough hydration by say 5% (in my formula, every 16 grams of water is 1% dough hydration), you may notice a change in "grigne."  However, your crumb may not be as open.   It is a matter of juggling to get the right balance.


Thank you for sharing your experiment with us.


And lastly, if you want more sour sourdough, you may want to try stiffer levain (eg, not 75% hydration as I have used, but 60 or even 50%) and try leaving your levain in the refrigeratior for up to 24 hours after the first 3 - 5 hours in the room temperature (depending on your room temperature).  It is a matter of experimenting.


Thank you for your post again.


Shiao-Ping

inlovewbread's picture
inlovewbread

Thank you for your post to me! I just read it tonight so sorry for the delay in response. I appreciate the information a lot and it was a pleasure to follow along with your formula. 


As I continue to learn, I am experimenting with the other factors that go into getting an "ear" and getting a good scoring pattern down. I agree with you and dmsnyder that I need to get the steaming right in my oven. Also, I have been making a lot of breads with very high hydration doughs. Now that I am comfortable with those and the methods involved, I feel weird handling doughs with lower hydrations. I'm afraid of a dense crumb or something. So I will take your suggestions into account to lower the total hydration a bit. I'm going to retry this formula on a smaller scale, lowering the hydration and changing the oven steaming. I also have never thought of over-proofing due to the second levain build...interesting. I will look into this.


Thank you again for your reply. It's a pleasure to read your blog entries and try to copy your wonderful creations! Just saw the banana sourdough and it has been added to my "to bake" list. Or, I should say, my "to attempt" list. :-)

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

I used to be really afraid of lower hydration doughs because I read so much about how higher hydration gives you a better chance of open crumb, etc.  While that is true, it doesn't mean we could not get open crumb on lower hydration dough.   The important thing I find is that the starter must be in tip-top condition to perform well, which means proper refreshing and to never use it when it's past its prime (ie, over-mature).


The theory about "grigne" (ear), if you have a high hydration dough, is that you need to pre-shape it tight, let it rest (ie. relax), then shape it tight again!   But it's really hard to do when you have a wet dough.   I rarely have "grigne" when I work on wet dough.  It is much easier to have "grigne" on a low hydration dough.

inlovewbread's picture
inlovewbread

Hi, sorry I didn't see your second post....


Thank you, really, I do appreciate all the tips and advice I can get. I guess I'm also afraid of shaping too tightly and degassing the dough too much. Everything I've been reading emphasizes that "iron fist, velvet glove" and maybe I have two velvet gloves on. I'll try it here on my next batch and see how it comes out.


As for the starter- I think my 50% hydration starter is doing really well. I do have a little confusion though on what the "prime time" is...I usually refresh the night before a scheduled bake (or keep starter fed weekly if not baking). It usually takes 6-8 hours for it to raise and then start to collapse on itself. Right before it looks like it will collapse is when I remove my portion to add to the formula. Then I refrigerate the rest. Is this similar to what you do? If not, I'd love to hear your starter schedule/handling and if anything I'm doing seems to inhibit the better results. 


Thanks again :-)

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

You said,



Right before it looks like it will collapse is when I remove my portion to add to the formula



That sounds about right.  The important thing I find is that it has to dome before you use it.  As soon as it forms a dome is when I use it.  If I have scheduling issues, before it domes (but after at least a couple of hours in room temperature) I will move it into the refrigerator; I normally leave it there for no more than 4 - 6 hours though, then after I bring it out of the fridge, I will wait until it domes to use it. 


The above is for the normal situation. However, when I did my version of Chad Robertson's style of levain breads, in the second starter build-up, because it was only for 2 hours (ie, "an intermediate levain expansion"), the starter would not have domed before I used it.  In truth, I think, it would probably not make much difference if I had let it dome, and I really can't tell you if this so-called "levain expansion" has an added advantage.  I am not good at tehnicals.  But what this suggests to me is to use a starter before it matures is way better than when it is over mature.


 

inlovewbread's picture
inlovewbread

Thanks for the feedback Shiao-Ping. Good to know I'm on the right track. Just got Hammelman's book- can't wait to read it cover to cover.