The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough sticking to cloth when transferring to peel

arhoolie's picture
arhoolie

Dough sticking to cloth when transferring to peel

Hi folks,

This is my first post here, though I've been making Artisan-style breads, mostly sour-doughs, for little over a year now. The techniques I've picked up have been mostly from Reinhart's BBA. Here's my question. When I transfer the boule from the proofing bowl to my peel prior to docking and putting in the oven, the dough sticks to the cloth such that I have to very carefully peel it away. This is very tedious at best and frustrating to say the least. I have two cloths that I use: one is a flax couche that I got from Baker's Catalogue, the other is a cotton tea-towl (not terry cloth). Both have been sprayed with oil and then impregnated with flour to try and prevent this sticking, but I can't seem to figure what I might be doing wrong or how to prevent it.

Any ideas, anyone? TIA. 

-brian 

 

 

 

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

because I don't use a couche, but numerous peeps on this site have said that rice flour does the trick.

pseudobaker's picture
pseudobaker

I use a heavy duty linen for my couche - you still have to treat the dough with care, but it doesn't stick (the linen "wicks" moisture away from the dough, allowing a skin to form). 

arhoolie's picture
arhoolie

Thanks for the comments. Yes, I am getting a skin to form, but it's just that it does stick to the cloth. The cotton, poor-man's couche is by far the worst of the two, but there is some sticking to the flax cloth as well.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Brian,

I also am a big fan of BBA, and I know it says to oil the flax cloth. However, I've found that flouring the cloth is all that is needed. I had much more trouble when I oiled the cloth. If the cloth is dry, and some flour is rubbed into it, it seems to work great for me. I use the same cloth from the Baker's catalog that you do. I've done several different sourdough artisan style bread recipes of varying hydration levels using these same cloths, and I only have had problems with sticking when I sprayed the cloth with oil. Without oil, I just turn the whole bowl/couche assembly upside down on the peel. I lift the bowl off, which leaves the couche there. Then I just gently lift the cloth off the dough. The cloth adheres very slightly to the skin of the dough, but it doesn't take anything but a light pull from the edge of the cloth more or less perpendicular to the dough surface to get it to come off. An additional benefit is that the cloth doesn't become rancid from the oil on it. You can occasionally wash the cloth with some water to get the flour out of it, if the flour in the cloth starts to go rancid.

Bill Wraith

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I agree with Bill - don't oil the linen cloth. If you flour it enough, the dough should not stick too much, and as you roll the proofed loaf out of the linen gently, it should pull away without ripping or loosing its shape. That said, if you really want to guarantee your dough will not stick to ANYTHING, use white rice flour. Thanks to Merrybaker's tip on that, I have been using white rice flour for a few weeks now in both my willow bannetons and my linen lined baskets and NOTHING sticks to it, its like magic, and you don't need to use much of it at all. You can find white rice flour at most health food stores.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mountaindog,
Thanks, I'll have to check out using rice flour. I have not really had any trouble using regular AP flour, but the rice flour sounds really great. Here's another question. Sometimes I get quite a lot of flour left on the dough after it comes out of the couche. Do you try to remove it in some way? I have not in order to avoid ruining the shape, but then it's on the dough in the oven. It's not a big deal, but with certain breads I feel they would have had a better appearance without so much loose flour on them. Also, if you try misting a dough that has a lot of flour on it, you get a covering that doesn't necessarily look great. Anyway, if you or anyone else has some advice on the fine points of what to do with extra flour on the dough, I'm curious. Maybe the rice flour is the trick - and using not much of it?
Bill Wraith

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Hi Bill - I used to over-flour my willow bannetons and I did not like the result, not only did the wet dough still stick, but the crust never browned very well covered with all that flour, and I ended up brushing it off after baking as best I could, but it was not pretty. Since using the rice flour, I hardly need to use any and even wet doughs fall right out of the bannetons in one neat shot, and as you can see in this pic below, not much rice flour ends up on the loaf, which is how I like it (see top left loaves).

 

When I use the linen couche for proofing batards, I do use regular AP flour, but I still find I do not need to use too much, and hardly any of it seems to be left on the loaves when I remove them from the couche - for some reason the linen seems to be rather non-stick itself. I bought my 1 yard of linen from the San Francisco Baking Institute, which is also where I got some of my bannetons, at a very good price.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mountaindog,

I finally got my act together and got some rice flour. What a difference it makes. Great suggestion.

Thanks, Bill

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Bill - glad it worked for you...Merrybaker is the one who first suggested it to me, and as she said, that stuff is like teflon!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

mountaindog,

Ever since I started trying to prepare my doughs to a higher hydration level, I have been having trouble getting my bannetons free without damaging the dough. I haven't tried the rice flour yet but I suppose that's next.

Also, I haven't been able to slash anything without deflating or hogging up the outside of the skin. Maybe I should go back a little to a firmer dough? I do like the holes and flavor with the higher water levels but I seem to be sacrificing my ability to work the dough well.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mountaindog,

Those are nice pictures. Mine look OK even with the flour on them, but I haven't managed to get them as perfect as in your pictures. I know what to shoot for now. I have not tried using less flour. Somehow, I was envisioning a nightmare where I pull the skin off the dough along with the couche and am left with a shaggy mess, so I have always used flour liberally in the couche/banneton. I felt the same way about oiling the couche before I quit doing that. The rice flour idea is also intriguing and will be tried soon. I have used simple plastic bannetons also. They seemed to work fine, although I worried that no air making it to the dough wouldn't be good for developing the "skin". Do you find the couches become more sticky when they wear out? Mine are beginning to look raggedy and don't have that smooth shine on them any more. I was thinking about buying some new cloth.

Bill

arhoolie's picture
arhoolie

...to everyone who responded. I'll try not oiling first to see if that helps, and if not, l'll try the rice flour next.

 

-brian

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

know if rice flour does the trick for you. Thanks

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough

A couple of other ideas is to use Semolina flour which you can get at any bulk food store. You can also spray the stuck part with water and it will peel away more quickly and easily. Any flour other than white flour will work better, and the lower the gluten factor the better it will work. Gluten acts like glue.

arhoolie's picture
arhoolie

Ah, now there's a possibility. I've been using KA high-gluten flour on the cloths. I'll try all-purpose next time. Thanks for the suggestion.

-brian

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I'm waiting for a KA order to arrive, which includes rice flour to try out on my next attempt. However, based on mountaindog's encouragement, I simply put less flour (it was KA bread flour, and yes, semolina or some lower protein flour is also on the list to try), and it was easy enough to get the couche off the dough. This loaf was fairly high hydration - around 80% with a mostly whole wheat loaf (20% bread flour). It was stickier than some of my lower hydration doughs; and yet, I was still able to pull the couche off of the dough without tearing, deflating, or ruining the shape of the dough.

I sprinkled just enough flour to rub into the couche without actually leaving much loose flour. As a result the troublesome large puddles of flour I've had in the past weren't there.

Unfortunately, I tried another experiment that kept me from a perfect crust. I put a cast iron skillet on my lowest rung, as suggested on the site somewhere else. However, to make room for that, I had to raise the loaf one rung in my oven. Although I had a very good oven spring, maybe from better steam and heat from the ceiling of the oven, I also managed to scorch the crust because it sprung up close to the ceiling of the oven.

So, now I'm working on a lower profile cast iron skillet, and I'm hoping to have a very nice looking crust, good oven spring, and so on. Maybe I should be tenting the loaf after 10 minutes. Any other ideas on how to balance good heat/spring against burnt crust?

Plantlady's picture
Plantlady

My second loaf of artisan type bread (Oregonian recipe derived from NY Times recipe) and both times the dough has glued itself to my cotton towel. 

Sooo....

I'm buying rice flour on my next grocery trip.  

I was wondering if I could just buy 1/2 yard of heavy 100% linen for a couche.  It would be a lot easier and cheaper than mail order.  I also haven't found anyplace online with a linen couche.

Obviously I'd wash it thoroughly before I used it.

 Thank you,

Jan

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Jan - I think as long as it is heavy and it is un-treated real linen, it should be fine. The thickness of the fabric helps it hold the shape of the folds in place against the loaves, and the linen itself is somehwat non-stick compared to cotton. I'm not sure where you are located, but the San Francisco Baking Institute has some good-priced linen for sale by the yard for baker's couches, here is the link:

http://www.sfbi.com/baking_supplies.html

Lot's of other great supplies there too, best prices I've seen for willow brotforms in the States, I got mine there and am very happy with them. The larger bannetons (linen-lined baskets) are nice too and the proceeds from their sale go toward scholarships for culinary students. 

Regarding rice flour, it works like teflon for flouring the brotforms and you need very little to do the trick, but for the couche I find AP wheat flour works just as well because the linen itself, as mentioned above, is somewhat non-stick, so you don't need to use too much flour anyhow.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mountaindog,

I also like the sfbi for supplies, great prices. I found under Tips they suggest using a ratio of 4:1 flour/rice flour to prevent sticking and not impair the nice crust you get from wheat flour. I have been using this mix for a while now and it works great. The rice flour is indeed like Teflon. I have found you just need a small dusting with the mix and out they come.

Eric

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Geat tip, Eric, thanks, I'll try mixing 4:1 next time...I'll have to revist the SFBI site, I didn't notice the tips last time I was there...

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I discovered a number of interesting tid bits there. They are addressing a few things we have been discussing.

Eric

Plantlady's picture
Plantlady

Thanks, Mountaindog

I'm in Portland and have a fabric store that carries linen near me so I think I'll go that route if they have a reasonably heavy weight.  I picked up some rice flour at the store today.  

Although it's rather flat my loaf seems to taste fine.  Nobody around here complains about fresh bread in any size, shape or form.

 

Jan  

JIP's picture
JIP

Just go to a fabric store I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and got a piece of muslin real cheap linen might be a little more expensive but not too much and you can get as much or as little as you like.

bakker_be's picture
bakker_be

Another solution for the sticking is the use of corn starch: just rub it into your fabric and your dough won't stick. It's also ideal if you want your bread to have a nice white "flour" pattern on top as it doesn't color in the oven.

Bart