The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Very new to bread baking, I'm screwing up somewhere.

Niashi's picture

Very new to bread baking, I'm screwing up somewhere.



I'm trying to figure out where I am completely failing with making this Italian bread so I can fix this. I figured I would try and start with this before I moved on to my sourdough loaves (I am using the sourdough on some other things for now, the man at home has fallen in love with sourdough pizza for example).

So first off I'll list my equipment so there isn't any questions about it later:


Mixer: Bosch Universal Plus

Baker: Romertopf Model 111 (Soaked bottom and lid for about 30 minutes)

Scoring: Kyrocera Ceramic knives, non serrated.

Recipe: The Italian bread recipe here.

Preferment: 14 - 16 hours.

Proofing Basket: Yes

(Ingredients list for those wondering:

Flour: Bread flour, Stone-Buhr

Yeast: SAF Instant

Malt: Natural sugar (Turbinado), I don't have any malt around and tried to send the man at home out to find some and was unsuccessful. I cannot go out myself as I'm on a walker from being out of surgery)

I follow the recipe, when I mix, the dough is still very sticky, even at 5 cups of flour. I don't want to add much more  for fear of ruining it anymore, also very very slack.  I am mixing for the amount of time recommended.

I rise it for the recommended time, punch down and rise again. I use some flour when go to shape/relax and do final shape (in proofing basket).

The first attempt, I scored 4 times diagonal, second time one large down the middle, 1 smaller on left side, 1 smaller on right side.

The loaf I'm guessing is still too wet? It just  doesn't want to keep the scoring. Bubbled formed in the scoring in the second attempt.

And now for the results (I do not have pictures except for which shows when I peaked at the first loaf about 15/20 minutes in, obviously not fully cooked yet).

First attempt: 500F, 40+ minutes

The crust is flaky but overcooked but also very very tasty (I want the flaky, but not the overcooked!), where the scoring is, the dough is horribly undercooked (gooey). The rest of the crumb is only slightly undercooked. It sprung in the oven a bit, but would like more spring. Might not be possible due to me trying to cook it in the clay baker and I can understand that.

I am supplying too much water? Is the dough too wet?


Second attempt: 425F, 40+ minutes. No steam escaped from the oven, so I'm thinking I need to stay with the higher temp.

Oven spring didn't happen, but same as first. Gooey in the scoring, crumb is slightly undercooked, but crust extra dry. (This was me experimenting, I see that I failed horribly.)


I will be of course, attempting again. I can take detailed pictures of the entire process, mixing and all if needed.

Niashi's picture

I figure I'm failing on more than one point. Maybe I'm overproofing, overmixing, etc.

flournwater's picture

I've never used one of those "Romertopf " thingys but a couple of things in your post make me curious.  That loaf in the photo looks to me to hve been steamed more than baked.  Do you (are aren't you supposed to) remove the lid at some point in the baking process?

You will always experience a wide range of hyrdation fluctuations if you don't weight your ingredients.  Before  you take on the next loaf I'd suggest dumping the measuring cups and adding a scale to your collection of tools and gadgets.

Niashi's picture

I have a scale (I use it for my sourdough starter, my sourdough pizza dough recipe, my buttermilk biscuits recipe, etc), I would love a recipe that uses weight instead. I take it I need to build a ratio of wet ingridients to dry?


*edit* Oops forgot to include..


That picture was not the final bake. The lid did come off at the last 5 minutes on the first bake. The crust was very very dark.

mrfrost's picture

I think the lack of weights is the issue with this recipe. It probably needs much more flour than if the flour were measured at say 4.25-4.5 oz per cup.

It probably needs a very heavy 5 to 5.5 oz per cup, for a total of at least 30 oz of flour. Even at 30 oz of flour:

24 oz water / 30 oz flour = 80% hydration.

Still probably way too much hydration that what it actually is supposed to be. Probably needs about 35 oz of flour. That would be about 68.5% hydration, which is still a little sticky for an all white flour recipe.

My numbers may be a little off, but I don't believe most of the loaves pictured there were made with much more than a 75% hydration, if that high.

So obviously, you don't want a stiff, or too firm dough, but you probably need to add enough flour to where it's still a little sticky, but can be easily managed on, and with a dusting of flour.

Niashi's picture

Okay, so you don't think I'm overmixing, or overproofing, the recipe itself seems to be the issue? That makes me feel better, thanks =.)


I'll definitely look into this. The dough did seem quite wet, but I wasn't sure if that was a result of failure on my part.  When I start something new, I point at myself first, because I'm the new element to the scenario/equation.

mrfrost's picture

Well, the recipe does say to add enough flour to make a dough that is slack, but not sticky. Are you doing that?

Seems to me you did say you were afraid to keep adding flour, but you just may need to, until you get the described consistency.

Far be it from me to say one of the greats wrote a bad recipe. I'm relatively new to baking also, but luckily for me, I stumbled upon the King Arthur website, where most recipes are given with weights. Not to say there is never any adjustments required with weights, just much less so.

I think it is so much easier to begin baking using recipes given in weights and commercial yeast. I always wanted to try that Italian bread recipe, and you will even see my post there(quite some time ago), inquiring of the poster what was the approximate weight of "his" cup of flour. I was concerned because of the posts there about how wet the dough was and I was a novice.

I decided to stick to recipes, mostly with weights, where there is much less flour/liquid adjustment. Although now, I feel I can reproduce just about any commercial yeast recipe that I attempted.

Good luck.

mrfrost's picture


Niashi's picture

Yeah, I did say that hinking that if I added too much, it would turn into a brick, but now I understand why I should have. I should have thought about hydration levels and so see? Still points to me. I should have sat down and thought it over. Since it was my first loaves, I had convinced myself it was something wrong I was doing because I'm quite accident prone and I was right, it's my boo-boo.


I just need to make sure to get into the mentality of the science of cooking/bread with ratios when I try next.

flournwater's picture

I agree with mrfrost's assessment and would like to add one other detail about adding flour.  If you add it steadily until you achieve the texture you think you want you're likely to have added too much because, once the dough rests for 10 - 30 minutes, the texture you had coming out of the mixer will have evolved into something else.  So be judicious in how much you adjust the flour if you decide to play on that field.

cgmeyer2's picture

i have a romertopf 13 x 9 oval baker that i use for bread. i soak it in cold water for 15-20 min & then let drain on a towel until it is damp but not dripping. i place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom & put the formed loaf on the paper and add the lid.

this is placed in a cold oven. i set the temp @ 450 degrees F and bake for 40 - 45 min after the oven reaches 450 F. i rotate the baker halfway thru the time. i also remove the lid the last 10-15 min of baking. my loaves have come out great so far. i use a combo of bread, all-purpose & added whole grains & seeds.

hope this helps you. 

take care, claudia