The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Some success!!!

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ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

Some success!!!

Fifth attempt


I am such an excited little bread maker right now!  Look.... Sourdough!!!  Thanks for all advice from TFL members.  I will add to this blog later this evening, but for now I have to go finish a painting.


Okay, now that I'm feeding my poor little starter the right amount, I'm sure it's happier, but I don't know if that's the reason for this sudden improvement.  I've tried several new things with these loaves.  


1.  A well fed starter.


2. Still used the 1,2,3 recipe.  This time I used half unbleached white bread flour, and half multi-grain bread mix (no added yeast).  Autolyse for 30, then add salt.


3.  The dough was still way too wet for my liking, but I followed Richard Bertinet's 'thwapping' method of kneading.  I did this for at least 15 to 20 minutes with great improvement in the smoothness of the dough, but still way too sticky!  I added just enough flour to end the sticking and then let it sit in the fridge overnight.


4.  I let it rise all by itself, instead of trying to speed it up with steam baths etc.  It was covered in a nice sunny spot though.  Would you believe it was 16 degrees C (that's about 61 degrees F) where I am even though it's supposed to be spring!  That took a long time, about 5-6 hours.


5.  I heated the oven as hot as it would go AND I put a terracotta tray in as well.  (I don't own a pizza stone).  I also had a tray in the bottom of the oven to which I added a cup of water.


6.  The boules probably weren't fully doubled before I put them in (kudos to a TFL member for that tip) and hoped like crazy to see some oven spring!


7.  I spritzed at 10 min intervals after the first 20 mins.  (I've done for all previous loaves.)


I sit in front of the oven with a torch (my oven light doesn't work! ha) and watch for oven spring.  I gave up after about 7 minutes cos nothing happened, sat down to play with my iphone while waiting.  Next time I look, wow!  I actually have bread rising in there!  Et voila!


 

Comments

Occabeka's picture
Occabeka

Congrats ronnie!


Looks like you delivered Siamese twins. Nice crust too.


Occa

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

Funny Occa, I do have twin granddaughters 6 months old, Sophie and Amelia.  But yes, I wanted to cook the loaves both at once (I'm very busy), and they joined up!  I don't mind, cos when I bake regular bread I form them into high tops in the tins and I love pulling them apart when they are fresh out of the oven, just to see the nice soft flaky dough.  Naughty eh!  (How come after making bread for twenty years or more, it still fascinates me?)  I have been continually trying to make this sourdough for the last month and this is my first success!  Yahoo!

Vogel's picture
Vogel

What a rapid improvement! Very nice looking loaves. I am glad to hear that you managed to detect the things that weren't ideal before and work on them.
Especially the sides were the two loaves sticked together look super-tasty. Really fluffy. Looks like there is a very nice crumb inside.


I can imagine your excitement of the loaves springing in the oven and share the experience that sometimes they keep totally flat and then suddently after 5 minutes or so they begin to explode. Actually, now I usually do it like this: Instead of sitting in front of the oven and watching it rise, I try to ignore the oven and clean my tools and work surface instead. After about 10 minutes, when I am done, this is the first time I look for the loaves. Then it is super-exciting to see how they expanded, as you still have the picture of the flat dough after the final proofing in your head and compare the now risen loaf with this picture, so you really think: "Woaah!".


If you have trouble with the dough being to sticky, I would suggest the following: After half of the aimed bulk rise, do a stretch & fold on a floured work surface (see this video). In order to do this, flour your work surface generously and pour the dough onto it by just turning your bowl (oil your bowl before putting the dough into it after kneading, so it doesn't stick too much). You can use a dough scraper to help release it, if necessary. If there are pieces of dough left in the bowl, you can scratch them out and just press them on the top of the big dough on the work surface. From now on the bottom side of the dough which now touches the work surface should remain the bottom side throughout the whole folding. Now flour your hands and try to gently lift the dough in order to see if it sticks to your work surface. If it does, then just slide it around your work surface to catch more flour. Then stretch in one direction and fold it in three layers like a letter, while brushing of the flour a little bit. Check again if the dough sticks to the work surface. If the dough is very bubbly, then you can use your flat hands to degas it a little. Now do the folding again, but in the other direction, as seen in the video, while again brushing off the extra flour. Roll the dough over, so the seem side is down and the smooth/bottom side is up and put the dough smooth side up back into the bowl.
Sounds a little more complicated than it actually is, I guess. The purpose of this: The dough gains further strength, becomes more elastic. Furthermore, you create some sort of a stable and slightly dry outer skin, which makes the dough much easier to handle when you are going to shape it. After the bulk rise, pour the dough onto the counter again by just turning ofer your bowl (should be much easier now) so that the smooth side touches the work surface, whereas the stickier seam side is up. When you shape the dough, always fold the dough towards the sticky side, so the smooth side remains intact.


This is a minor aspect, so I hope that you take this as an advice and not as discouraging: The lighter spots on the loaf on the left suggest that the heat doesn't reach all the sides of the loaves evenly. This applies to most home ovens. The area deeper in the oven saves more heat, whereas the front part cools down more quickly when you open the oven door for steaming for example. An easy way to work around this is to just rotate your loaves by 180° for the last half or third or so of the bake, so the lighter, less-baked front side is now in the back of the oven. Just watch that you don't turn them before the oven spring is done and the crust has formed, which can take about 15 minutes ore more depending on loaf size, steaming, temperature, etc.

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

Thanks Vogel.  Yes it was a big, rapid improvement, but now I need to repeat it!  I have been trying out everyone's advice here each time.  It makes sense to use other people's experiences to save time in learning hey!  I don't know why I didn't turn the loaves in the oven for better colour, I always do that with my regular bread.  Just too excited about the first time oven spring I think.  haha.  I'll do that next time.  I'm off to watch that video now.  Cheers.

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

to read of other people successes.   I don't have a mixer and because of the small amount of flour (around 500 grms)  that I use, I only knead with my hands. I'm still having problems getting my dough to reach the  soft  silky wobbly mass that I see on all the videos. Very disheartening for me.


I thought I was the only person that would sit in front of the oven with a torch to check on my baking and I'm glad to know I'm not alone!!  

Vogel's picture
Vogel

Don't worry too much about your dough consistency not being comparable to the one in some videos. Especially the professional videos often use intensive lighting which makes the dough look smoother than it actually is. It's like in music videos. The right lighting and Madonna's face looks like baby skin without any wrinkles, while photos on the street may suggest otherwise.
I don't think it makes a very huge difference wheter you knead by hand or with machines (I am a hand-kneader myself), only the kneading times may differ. I believe the dough handling afterwards is much more crucial. Things like always trying to keep the sticky and the smooth side in their places, not ripping the smooth side when doing a stretch & fold and proofing in the right environment also greatly benefit a smooth and silky dough that is easy to handle during shaping.

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

The inside.


This looks like a completely different loaf, but the photo was taken with a different camera.  Makes it look more golden. Hey jyslouey, that's funny about the torch.  I never used to have a mixer and all was done by hand.  I'd be happy to mix by hand now, but my mixer needs the use.  The mixer does very little anyway, just the initial first few minutes.  Mixing by hand is great exercise and great for toning up your arms!  Thwapping was fun, but I'm gonna try the 'stretch and fold' next time.

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

it's a pity I can't make this as I don't use a sourdough starter.  I'm getting a fairly dense crumb with my bread so I tried using my bread machine to help with the kneading.  It was totally useless as it only kneaded for no more than 10 mins and then went into the fermentation stage (the machine stoped kneading and started to get quite warm)  I quickly took the dough out to continue kneading by hand.


I would use the RB slap and fold method for very wet sticky dough but for the stiffer dough, I would like to try the stretch and fold method.  I think my poor  kneading skills may well be the reason for my dense loaves.   

Vogel's picture
Vogel

Really nice crumb. Soft, light and airy. Good job!


@jyslouey: Is there a reason why you don't work with sourdough? Does it appear to be too complicated for you to raise a sourdough starter and keep it alive? Or did you already try to create a starter but failed and therefore became discouraged?


An efficient technique to develop the dough (kneading) isn't the only requirement to get a light and airy loaf. Firstly, I don't know where you come from but you have to consider that wheat flours aren't equally strong everywhere. Here in Germany for example, which isn't really a place where extremely strong wheat can grow (it's no coincidence that rye bread has more of a tradition here than wheat bread), you need to be much more careful in order to produce a loaf that holds its shape nicely. Modern techniques like with no-knead breads don't necessarily work as well if you can't use American flours, so you need to be a little more conservative.
Secondly, often the proofing/fermentation times you can find in recipes are based on ideal conditions. In my cold kitchen it often takes twice the time. So if the recipe asks for a final rise of 1 hour, then for me it might take 2 or even 2 1/2 hours on a cold day. If I baked it after 1 hour, it would be totally dense. So you need to rely on the poke test and on your own experiences rather than on the numbers listed in the recipe.
Then, of course, handling and the right shaping are important.


Generally, you shouldn't have to knead wheat doughs for much more than about 10-12 minutes at most, provided the dough isn't enrichend with very high amounts of fat. If you take advantage of autolyse and do one or two stretch & folds during the bulk rise even less kneading time may be required. Do you try to do the windowpane test? If your dough passes this test, then there are most likely other reasons for your loaves being dense.

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

Sorry I missed your post.  I have never tried working with sourdough mainly because it sounds so very complicated and time consuming.  I've been doing some reading on sourdough cultures but almost all the instructions tend to use a lot of flour and a lot of it is also thrown away which I find quite wasteful, esp where imported flour is not cheap in HK.  I only make one loaf at a time and when I see the many comments on TFL from folks who have been experiencing trouble with their sourdough starters, I just didn't feel confident enough to tread where others have failed.


I have started to autolyse my flour in the last couple of times when I use wholewheat flour and I'm using  Mike Avery's stretch and fold every 45 mins method as I type for a yeasted sundried tomato ciabatta w/fresh herbs. I shall see what happens in a couple of hrs.  


I've not tried the windowpane test but my doughs seem to have improved somewhat since I started using autolyse plus s&f.  I may not get perfect windowpane effect (it tears at certain parts when i pull on the dough) but it  looks pretty close in my last few attempts.  I'm not too good at assessing the finger poke test, so most times its just guess work for me,  I use the joint of my index finger to give it a poke and if the dent remains, I think it is ready.  I could be wrong here and perhaps the dough  should  fill up slowlly after being pressed?  I'm a little confused about this.


I hope to enrol at the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Bangkok for their 4-day "Art of bread making" course in the coming year and sourdough  is on the curriculum so I may be tempted to give this a try, esp when I see the lovely breads that are produced using sourdough.

Vogel's picture
Vogel

No problem. I am happy to hear your doughs become better.


About sourdough: I can understand that it may be a little scaring to step into the sourdough "business". Since sourdough isn't as much an ingredient that you just buy in shops and then be ready in your kitchen all time, it may be a little too complicated, especially if you only bake once in a while. There are a lot of very good recipes which work without sourdough, so it is perfectly fine to do it that way.
However, maybe some of the posts here suggest that working with sourdough is more complicated that it actually is. I don't want to pursuade you to begin a sourdough starter, so I hope you don't misunderstand me. Just trying to give some information :):


Time: The most time consuming part is to start your first sourdough from scratch. You have to clean and sterelise (pour boiling water onto it) a bowl and mix flour and water. Then for the next 4-7 days you have to stir this mixture two times a day and feed it once a day, which should take about 5 minutes per day.
Once you have successfully created a starter, you can begin the usual cycle. Take some of the sourdough, feed it with flour/water to create the amount you need for your recipe and put the rest of it into your refrigerator. When the sourdough starter is still young (only a few weeks old) you have to feed it about once a week so it doesn't become moldy. Once it has become strong enough, it is totally fine to let your sourdough sit in the refrigerator for several weeks or even months, so you don't really have to spend much time and care.
So to sum up: 1 week where you have to look for your starter every day, 1 or 2 months where you have to feed it weekly and then you can just use it when you need it.


Wasting flour: It isn't really the case that you have to waste lots of flour. In the beginning, when the starter is young and needs to be fed more regularly, you may have to throw some starter away if you bake with it less than once in a week. Over time it is possible to let the sourdough starter sit in the refrigerator for several weeks without feeding, so there are no leftovers at all.


Baking: Doughs which use sourdough as a rising agent need much more time to fully rise compared to using yeast. And times can vary a lot depending on the strength of your starter and temperature/climate. So you need to be somewhat flexible. If you are very busy and need to have things ready in time, this may be a problem. However, it is fine to add additional yeast to your doughs to compensate for this.


Poke test: I can understand that it is hard to get the right feeling for it. I'm still having trouble to find the right point, too. What I've learnt so far is that rather than focus too much on whether poking leaves a dent or not, you should try to feel the center of the dough. The outer part of the dough rises first, so it may feel very light, whereas the center of the dough still needs to be filled with more gas. So try to go deeper into the dough with your finger (without damaging it, of course) and feel if the core of the dough is still very dense of it is as light as the outside. And then allow yourself to make mistakes. So maybe just try to wait half an hour longer than you feel comfortable with and then touch and feel the dough again. if the dough collapses when scored/baked, than it was overproofed and next time you know how overproofed dough feels like and therefore how it shouldn't feel. If has a nice oven spring in the oven, then you know than you know that your doughs always had been underproofed before.


I hope this helps a little. Good luck with your Ciabatta!

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

for explaining all of this to me.  I'm going to print your comments out and keep it in my scrap book tog. with all my bread and pastry recipes in case I forget.  I'm truly convinced that the 'professional' bakers on this forum must be the most jolly, helpful and patient souls around.  I saw  an extremely ill-mannered comment not even worthy of a response being posted, yet there were lots of suggestions and advice being offered :-)


Perhaps one of these days I will finally be convinced to attempt to start using a sourdough but right now I can't get my yeasted breads right!!! :)  I'm planning to attend a 4-day bread making course  in the coming year and sourdough also happens to be on the curricululm. 


BTW, here's a pic. of my "ciabatta",  a recipe from my local cooking school using 250 grams flour and 1 tbsp of IDY and giving it 1 hr of proofing in a warming cabinet.  I reduced it to 4 grms and gave it 3 s&f between 30 - 45 mns intervals followed by another 60+ mins. proof before shaping them and 2nd proof for another 45-mins. before baking at 200C for 15 mins.  They aren't very appealing but still very good with a bit of ham and salad in between.  This will be my packed lunch for Monday :) Have a good weekend.  Judy



Judy 

ronnie g's picture
ronnie g

is supposed to look like, but this looks good enough to eat to me and that to me means 'successful'.  Even when I learned to make commercially yeasted breads twenty years ago, it took me about three months of trying before I got it right.  I kept a diary because every time I baked, I tried something different and wanted to keep a track of what I was doing.  In the end, it's like driving a car, you get to know what feels right and what doesn't.  Persevere and you will become a great bread baker!  I think if you put in the extra effort now and learned to work with sourdough right from the beginning you will not regret it AND all your friends will be amazed!  haha.  So blessings and happy baking jyslouey.