The Fresh Loaf

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Flat sourdough loaves

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Sour Doh's picture
Sour Doh

Flat sourdough loaves

Here is a problem I can't figure out  - can anyone help?  I've made two attempts at making the Danish Sourdough Rye from the book Bread Alone.  In short, it uses a rye starter, but white flour for the main dough.  The book cautions that the dough will be sticky but warns against adding too much flour during kneading.


My results taste great - very earthy and tangy, with a bubbly and irregular crumb.  The problem is that the dough has so little body that I can't get it to form a loaf properly.  I've tried both a boule and torpedo shape, and each time the loaf just oozes flat during proofing.  In the oven, I get great spring as I've got terra cotta tiles to bake on, but the spring goes only horizontilally -  I can't get the loaves to spring upwards.  The resulting loaves are then either disks or flatt paddle-shaped things.


Any thoughts?  Could my dough be still too wet?   Maybe I'm not kneading enough?  The only organic flour I can get in large quanities here is all-purpose.  Might it not have enough gluten?

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I looked at the Bread Alone recipe, and the rye starter formula, built from rye chef. I think Bread Alone is a fine book, but mixing volume measurements (fluid ounces) with dry weight (avoirdupois ounces) make careful analysis a royal pain.


1 fluid ounce of water is ALMOST equal to one dry weight ounce, but, for example, it's enough different that the specified 24 fluid ounces of water in the final dough weighs 25 dry ounces.


When you make all the corrections the hydration % of the final dough ranges from 67% to 74%. For a dough. The combination of rye flour and whole wheat flour present ranges from 22% to 24% of the final dough. Both these flours absorb more water than AP white flour. Consequently, the 67% hydrated final dough should be relatively stiff, but still sticky, at least initially. The 74% hydrated final dough will be wet, furthermore developing the gluten will take a lot of work, with machine kneading, hand kneading, French folding, or Stretch and Folds.


Because of the wide range of final dough hydration possible answering your question isn't simple. It could be simply a wet dough, it could be weak gluten development, it could be both,


and not all AP flours are the same.


The author gives you two clues toward what kind of dough to expect if you stay in the specified hydration range.


Quoting the recipe:


Clue 1. "...knead. adding remain flour when needed, until dough is soft and smooth. 15 to 17 minutes." That's a lot of kneading, it's telling you a strong gluten structure is needed.


Clue 2. "...Line two bowls or baskets about 8 inches....(Since this tends to be a very soft dough be sure the towels are well floured." This dough is not intended to proof without the support of a brotform, bowl, or banneton.


Unfortunately, you've not made specific how you are shaping or proofing the loaves.


Finally, the clue that your bread has an open crumb.."a bubbly and irregular crumb" implies your dough tends toward the high hydration end of the range. Unless the gluten is developed very strongly, and your starter is very active yeast wise, I wouldn't expect much oven spring, and they would likely flatten when turned out from the supporting bowls, etc.


I know this doesn't answer your question; I got what the recipe is telling us, but I don't know specifics about your dough, other than...the dough has so little body" ,"it oozes flat during proofing', and the above mentioned hydration hint.


A guess. Your AP flour probably has enough protein, you are not developing the gluten enough. Have you looked--I mean that literally--have you watched any of the many videos that demonstrate the various kneading methods, and no-kneading alternatives?


David G

Sour Doh's picture
Sour Doh

Thanks for the insight; I hadn't watched any videos previously, but now I see that stretching and folding is called for an slack dough.  Also, I had not been using a banneton and was trying to get a good shape by using a floured towel as a couche.  I haven't gotten the hang of that yet, I don't think I was giving the dough enough support on the sides.


Good points about the conversion from weight to volume.  I know I need to get a kitchen scale to keep everything consistent so that I can be precise about hyrdration percentage.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I do not think the problem is with your flour or with your kneading.  I am guessing that your shaping is deficient and allowing the loaves to flatten.  How much bread baking experience do you have?


Jeff

Sour Doh's picture
Sour Doh

Very little experience, at least in baking artisan-type breads.  I do think my shaping is deficient -  I need work on using brotforms or a couche.  When I remove the loaves on from a couche onto the peel I mangle them and they flatten.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Once you have had experience with handling and manipulating dough you will be amazed at how a slack dough can be made to magically hold its shape for baking.  It is not really magic but it will seem that way at first.  Until then you will struggle endlessly trying to make the dough do what you want it to.  Holding shape is a function not only of the formula and its ingredients but even more so of the way in which the dough is handled.


My suggestion is that you read all you can on handling and shaping dough.  There are also some great videos here on this site from Mark at the Back Home Bakery that show him handling and shaping dough.


Jeff

varda's picture
varda

I am also a new baker and had a similar problem to yours with making a baguette.   I posted yesterday (I think) to this forum under the title "how to make a better baguette".   All of the responses were helpful and I was able to get that slack dough to hold its shape much better by following it - the several video links were also very helpful.   

jennyloh's picture
jennyloh

I've been experimenting with a very wet dough based on the 5 minutes fresh baked bread recipe that I got from this website.  I had problem trying to shape like what you seem to have experienced. 


For the 1st loaf, I was shaping it as a baguette.   I didn't put into the fridge for this loaf. What I did was to throw some  (just a little)  flour over the external and on the working bench as I was shaping and rolling,  which helped with the handling.  Secondly, I put it into a homemade couche - made out of those cling wrap box with the internal lined with cloth,  this helped to put the dough together while it proofed.  Of course,  when I put it onto the parchment paper,  it flattens a little,  but after I put into the oven,  it has a good oven spring.  My oven was small,  initially I saw the ends drooping down - literally,  I open the oven and flipped the end up.  Anyway,  it rose up quite well.


2nd loaf - out of the fridge,  still very wet and soft dough to handle,  I put it into a 1/2 height loaf pan - that looks like its meant for swiss roll (I have no idea what this is called)  again,  same method, throw a little flour to shape it. leave it in there to proof.  As it proofs,  it took on the shape of the pan.  Put it into the oven directly,  (I oiled the pan with olive oil),  and it turned out perfectly well.  Rose up well.  Have not gotten a chance to upload the pictures into my blog yet.  


Hopefully this helps,  as I don't know how wet yours is.  Mine is probably around 70% hydration.


Jenny Loh


www.foodforthoughts.jlohcook.com


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Love your idea for a homemade couche. I might just have to try this. What type of cloth did you use?

jennyloh's picture
jennyloh

It's indicated as 100% cotton, and it's meant to be a table mat. but I've never used it as a table mat.  I use it usually to lay my bread in the basket and now,  I used it to cover my dough and couche, which I find that it works pretty well.  As mentioned, I lined it in the box (long cling wrap box), which helps to hold the dough.  I tried the couche -  laying on the bench with the box,  but I find the transfer to parchment paper becomes difficult as you got to pick up the really soft dough and flip it around.  With a box,  its easier to move around,  and all I need is put a parchment paper over it when its proofed,  flip it gently,  and it's out of the box/couche,  with the floured surface on top.