The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

If You Ain't Got That D'oh Re Mi -- My First Baking Weekend (Cont.)

GSnyde's picture

If You Ain't Got That D'oh Re Mi -- My First Baking Weekend (Cont.)

The Second Bake

As with the first batch of Sourdough I baked Saturday (with reasonable success), I tried to manipulate the fermentation time of the second batch to meet my schedule.  The starter was ready Saturday afternoon, and I mixed the flour and let it sit on the kitchen counter for several hours, before deciding that it was getting late and the dough wouldn’t get shaped, proofed and baked until Sunday.  So I put it in the Igloo cooler with Blue Ice overnight.  I misunderestimated the fermentation rate.  Sunday morning it was a good deal more than doubled (big d’Oh!).  


David (surprisingly still patient with my questions) said it might be overfermented and wouldn’t proof well or achieve good oven spring.  Not surprisingly, he was right.

I found the dough very sticky, but didn’t want to over-flour the board this time and repeat my seam-sealing problems of the first batch.  So I wrassled with it and got a lot of it stuck to my hands (I used the d'Oh scraper).  Knowing that a frequent mistake is to over-react to an earlier mistake, I used a moderate amount of flour on board and hands in the folding and shaping.  I tried to be attentive to not overflouring the dough’s surface, and I got it about right.   Having reviewed Floyd’s batard-shaping video again, I did a better (not great) job of shaping batard-shaped batards.  The seams were well-sealed.


They rose little in proofing, and got little oven spring.  The shape and crust look pretty good.  On these loaves, I again suffered from the lack of a proper scoring tool.  I tried various implementss--sharp paring knife, grapefruit knife, very sharp bread knife, gas-powered weed-whacker [j/k about that last one].  Did I mention I need a lame? I ordered one today.


As you can see, compared to the loaves from the day before, there was very little oven spring.


And the crumb was dense and heavy, underbaked.  To put a positive spin on it, I’m calling it very chewy.


I suppose I could find a use for these.  I might take up carving duck decoys (but my charming spouse thinks they won't float).

On the bright side, I got very good broiler spring on our omelet yesterday morning.


And the toast made from Saturday’s bake was crispy and delicious.



Lessons Learned

From 10 hours perusing TFL, many conversations with Brother David, and a weekend of fumbling and bumbling, I got two pretty good loaves and two roughly-batard-shaped paper weights.  So what lessons have I learned from all the d'Oh! moments?  There are too many to count.  But the main ones are:

(1) You can manipulate rising time to fit your schedule, but sometimes you waste good dough doing so (it's not a waste of time if you learn from it). 

(2) Read lots of experienced people’s writings on a technique (or, better yet, watch videos) before you try it.  You’ll still mess up, but not as bad, and you’ll have a better idea what you did wrong.

(3) Some of the axioms bakers talk so much about are really important (use the proper tools, follow the recipe, shape the loaf just so), but the most important one is to stay in touch with the dough and read its signals.

(4) However much I learn, there’s still way more to learn than I know.

Sorry for the long post, but I needed to experiment with blog posting, too.

I plan to get better at both.




LindyD's picture

Quoting from one of my bread books:  Success is a poor teacher.

Welcome to the gang, Glenn.

wally's picture

And I'm sure Woody would have been happy to have you share your bounty with him back in the day.  I believe Socrates said something to the effect that 'wisdom begins with wonder.' Bread baking is pretty much the same.  If you hang onto the wonder long enough, the rest begins to take care of itself. 

PS- the toast looks delicious and I'll bet it worked out nicely with the omelet.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Glenn.

You can use retardation to adjust bread baking to the other demands of your schedule, but this must be done planfully. In order to successfully retard the dough before dividing it, you should do so early in the bulk fermentation - after about 1 hour or when the dough has expanded no more than 25%, in my experience.

I don't have experience retarding dough at 50ºF. Perhaps some of the professional bakers here might contribute their knowledge. I'm talking about sticking the dough in the fridge (40ºF, generally). However, my understanding is that, when a bulk retardation at 50ºF is planned, the amount of starter or yeast in the dough is reduced to slow things down. This can be done for convenience or to enhance the flavor of the final product.  

Your second bake has the problems we've already identified. I'd add that your shaping shows improvement. So does your scoring.

in addition to Floyd's video, I recommend Mark Sinclair's videos. There are some on TFL. And also Ciril Hitz's video's on


GSnyde's picture

I do have a plan: next time, I plan to use the same recipe, but do it better. I want to try several variables.

I might do two batches and do a couple stretch and folds on one but not the other. I might spike one with dry yeast.  I might put raisins in one and anchovies in the other.  Maybe I'll send one to public school and the other to Montessori.

Maybe by then, I'll have received my lame and and proofing basket.  If I use the proper tools, the bread has to be good, right?  Right?


Yippee's picture

"If I use the proper tools, the bread has to be good, right?  Right?"


In my opinion, having the right tools is only part of the equation. They do make our lives easier so we can enjoy this hobby more. However, they are not a guarantee for success. There are many many other factors a home baker has to take into consideration in order to make a right judgment to achieve quality breads. This takes time and practice. You definitely have the advantage over the rest of us as you have an in-house adviser!


GSnyde's picture

My flippancy aside, I do want to figure out the prudent parameters for manipulating fermentation.  For now the manipulation is designed to meet my schedule.  Later, I may try manipulating fermentation for flavor and texture.

Thanks, David, for the tips.  Any problem if I retard the dough in the fridge overnight and, if it looks like it's taking too long (e.g., if I want to bake mid-day), pull it out to let it finish doubling at kitchen temperature?

Also, the recipe I'm using doesn't call for periodic stretch and folds during primary fermentation, only between primary and proofing.  Would the texture be improved if I do a stretch and fold or two before and/or after putting the dough in the fridge?  Would that require other changes to the recipe?