The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

help - poor appearance in score

helen ems's picture
helen ems

help - poor appearance in score

Help! My transitional - 50% whole wheat bread flour & 50% unbleached bread flour - naturally leavened bread is ugly in the score area. Please reference the top photo. Does this appearance suggest what the problem may be? Another batch baked just before this one looked better. Please see the middle photo. This has happened previously - one batch turns out and the other does not - please see bottom photo. I've tried a number of things to figure it out and have not yet. Thanks for any assistance.


 


dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

From the photos, I'd guess you under-proofed the loaves and got more oven spring than desired. You may have also scored deeper than you needed to.


David

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

I have questions about your two bake, were they baked one after the other, risen and proofed together or were they two seperate bakes?


The top picture definately looks a bit underproofed as dmsnyder said and maybe a hot spot in the oven as i see both loafs have have blown out to one side a little which is obvious on one loaf and not so obvious on the other if you look carefully.


Dmsnyder or anyone else please expand on the scoring too deep issue if you can, i find that if i score too deep the slash does not expand or develop fully before the crust sets leaving it still looking 'v' shaped.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The photos in the original post appear to show scoring with the blade at 90 degrees to the bread surface. The problem you describe usually occurs when you score with the blade at a less acute angle.


When your cut forms a "flap," if it is too deep, the weight of the flap keeps it from opening up. A 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep cut works best. The slacker (wetter) the dough, the shallower you should make the cuts.


I hope this helps.


David

helen ems's picture
helen ems

The scoring on the top loaf was very light - so probably the underproof may be the problem. They were two separate bakes from two separate batches - not risen and proofed together but rather about an hour apart. The bottom photo may have been scored more deeply - different day prior to awareness of not scoring too deeply. 


Thank you both for the tips. I'm excited now for my Thursday bake of eight loaves in two separate batches.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Are you baking with steam in the oven?  If you aren't, it may be that the crust dries quickly enough that the still-expanding dough on the inside has to rupture the now-hardened crust at the weakest point--the scores.


If you are using steam, then the cause is probably what David has already diagnosed.


Paul

helen ems's picture
helen ems

Yes - I'm using steam. The crust turns out well with beautiful, audible cracking. The top loaf was scored with the blade 90 to loaf surface and @ an estimated 1/8" depth. The bottom loaves were probably the 1/4" to 1/2" depth, also with the blade 90 to loaf surface.


I suspect the underproofing at this point. A finger is poked into the loaf and it springs back slowly. Perhaps there are more subtle degrees of being proofed that I will acquire with time. If anyone is aware of a more foolproof method please pass it along.


Thanks fellow bakers for the informative comments. I'll report back on Fri after my next bake.


Helen 

KYHeirloomer's picture
KYHeirloomer

I found my scoring improved exponentially when I started holding the blade at about a 45 degree angle to the bread surface. You might experiment with that.


Also, I wonder if you are turning your breads halfway through baking. That has nothing to do witht he scoring, per se. But it promotes a more even baking.

helen ems's picture
helen ems

Well, 4 more loaves (2 separate batches and bakes) were made today. They proofed longer and the finger poke stayed indented for some time before slowly coming back. Is there a better way to test proof? The score was probably 1/16" inch. So... they're not scored too deeply - it just gives that appearance. Oven is pre-heated @ 450 for 1 1/2 hours. Stones/ tiles and boiling water in a cast pan. Crust is nice. Kneaded one batch much longer thinking the gluten may not have developed. No difference. Both batches had ~ same window pane. I'm not sure what has changed from previous nicer looking loaves.


Other ideas? The loaves are one each from the two batches made today. Thanks. Helen



 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now raise your oven temperature a little so the oven is hotter when the loaves go in and then drop the temp after 15 minutes when rotating the loaves.


You might want to try a different score... 5 or 6 pointed, and not too far over the sides with the blade.


Instead of lengthening the final proof, lengthen the bulk rise all in the same time frame as this last bake, slipping an extra fold on the dough before shaping and putting into the baskets to rise.

helen ems's picture
helen ems

First, thank you to all who have been sharing tips and time to help me diagnose this problem. What a powerful resource!


One of the things that is so puzzling to me is the "what changed" from better looking to these ugly loaves? Perhaps I was operating on the hairy edge of one or more variables.



  1. So..increase the bulk time. I went back in my notes and it looks like bulk rise may be shorter now by about 45 minutes to an hour.  What do you mean by "all in the same time frame as this last bake"? Would I lengthen bulk rise and shorten final rise so the total time is ~ the same?

  2. What is happening during the bulk rise that might have an affect on this problem?

  3. What technical advantage does the 5 or 6 pointed score have over the 4 point? Saw a photo of one and they sure look nice.

  4. The hotter oven. What might be happening with a hotter pre-heat? So far I haven't seen any affect on the bloom. I used a 2 hour pre-heat @ 475 and then turned to 425 just after loading for a couple bakes. Get great crust that way. But...they were ugly. So this time I went back to preheated @ 450 for ~ 1 1/2 hours and turned to 425 when loading. Still ugly as you can see from photos. If I don't turn it down (which I have overlooked several times) I get crust thicker than I prefer. Anyway, I'm trying to understand the affect of the oven temps on the bloom. My thinking was that a hotter oven might be more likely to make it go too fast and burst. Not so. Didn't seem to matter.

  5. Scoring - I'm wondering if I'm deep enough. Did not have the problem when I was scoring deeper. Affects of scoring depth?

  6. Will try holding blade at 45 degrees. What might I expect the effect to be?

  7. Currently there are 3 stretch and folds prior to shaping. They are about 2 - 2 1/2 hours aparts. So, add another?


As I went back over my notes I wondered about a couple of other things.



  1. The temp of my dough just after kneading has changed from about 75 to around 80. Affect? I've been kneading longer to try to develop more gluten. Could this be overworked dough? What happens when dough is overworked? What about the final temp. in dough? I think that's why my bulk rise got shorter.

  2. Different flour for the 50% unbleached bread flour part. Went from Dakota Maid Bread to an organic Bread from Bay State. I have no specs. on either for comparison. There were some bloom problems prior but less severe. Got worse about this time frame but made be a coincidence. The whole wheat bread flour is the same (Great River - a really nice flour) but did get a new lot at that time. Don't really think this is the problem but ... any ideas?

  3. Temp for rise? House is typically around 65. Verifyed in my notes that it hadn't changed much. On occasion I've placed rising bins about 8 feet from wood stove to to get them warmer. Did not make complete enough notes to know what happened however. What affect does the rise temp have other than time to rise? 


Thanks again for all the support and help with this maddening problem. Next bake is Mon. - probably 8 loaves which normally is 2 batches but can break it down to 2 loaf batches to experiment more with rise times etc.


Helen


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Many interesting things going on. 


Warmer temps will raise the dough faster.  But cool room temps will slow down the rises as the dough cools.  It is very hard to over knead the dough by hand.  The first fold can start after 2.5 hours but the others would bennefit being closer together, more like 45 min to an hour apart.  (Are we talking sourdough or instant yeast here?   Sourdough needs more folds as it goes slack faster as fermentation progresses.)  The last fold about 30 minutes after the previous one.  But with 65°F temps, the times between will naturally be longer.  65°F is pretty cold so you need the 80°F dough temperature in the beginning just to get the dough off to a good start.


I take it back about the oven.  I actually bake cooler, about 445°F if I pre heat but don't turn down the heat until the initial oven spring is over and I rotate the loaf.  Then I reduce the temp to about 400°F to finish the bake.  Maybe that would help.  If the underproofing problem is solved (and it looks that way) then it's time to play with other ideas.


By the looks of the scoring separation, I think you have the "proofing feel" right for when the dough should go into the oven.  I am a little concerned with the shape holding up.  That is why I suggested moving any extra rise time needed to the bulk rise and keep the final proof time short to keep the dough from going too slack in the floured basket.  I think with more folds, building more structure will also help the loaf shape.  Stop folding the dough when it shows too much resistance to folding.  Let it rest 10 minutes and then shape into a boule.  Then place into the basket for the final proof.

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

65 degrees farenheight is way to low for my sourdough to rise, my bulk rise is 10hours at the moment and temps are generally 70 to 75 most of the time.  I recently had to work at my bulk rise and final proof because the temperatures in the uk have plumeted, first i wondered if i was making a mistake somewhere but then i noticed my starter was doubling every 24 hours as oppose to every 12 hours, and i finally got it.  Even if my dough is cold before the bulk rise i can add on a couple of hours at least.  Sourdough is a tricky beast, slightly too cold and it slows to a snails pace, there seems to be a sweet spot in temperature range that gives great results.

helen ems's picture
helen ems

The intial knead is by machine so maybe I'm overworking? It is a sourdough with 1/4 t yeast added per two 1 3/4lb finished loaves as a just in case.


Lots of great info. Thanks so much for all the help. I'll report by on results of Monday's experiment. Hopefully something concrete - sometimes these experiments are not as black and white as I'd like. The three variables I'm set up to test are initially kneading time, number of folds. There will be 8 loaves. We'll see what happens.


Helen

helen ems's picture
helen ems

Well, today I have 10 ugly loaves.


I varied:



  • knead time - 6 minutes and 12 minutes (Cuisinart on 3/12)

  • Bulk proof - 5.5 hours and 8.5 hours @ ~ 71F air temp

  • number of stretch and folds - 2 and 5


This was set up as a designed experiment with 8 runs done in random order.



Run Order knead  proof S & F
1 6 8.5 2
2 6 8.5 5
3 12 8.5 2
4 12 5.5 2
5 12 5.5 5
6 6 5.5 2
7 6 5.5 5
8 12 8.5 5

Results: Nothing jumping out as the culprit - all the loaves had ripping dough in the slash - some were just more flat than others. The slash area looks about the same with some variation but all pretty similar to loaf at top of first post. Loaves 3 and 8 were so weak they couldn't even be shaped!

Also, refreshed my starter for 4 hours and made a standard set of 2 loaves. 7 minute mix, 7 hour bulk proof, 4 stretch and folds. They also are just as bad looking. Clearly a different variable is at work here. But what is it???

The dough is ripping - even being very gentle with the S & F it wanted to rip. What is breaking down the glutin? Is something wrong with the starter? That is where I'm turning my attention next. The flour? Bay State organic bread flour is ~ 50% and Great River Whole Wheat Bread flour is the other ~50%. Had occasional problems before switching to Bay State mid- Nov. Different enyzmes in flour? Maybe change in weather is making for unhappy starter?

Might this be caused by something wrong with the starter? Different flour?

As always, your help is appreciated. Generally I'm against feeding the birds; they'll be getting treats somorrow.

Helen

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

clean cuts right down the middle  


Other thoughts are... what about the WW flour, are you pre-soaking any of it first to soften the rough edges first?  Sometimes an overnight cold soak (with 4% or all the recipe salt) helps. 


Something basic like keeping the tops of the boules up and flipping them upside down to stretch and fold and then returning the tops up to rest?  


Ripping dough could mean over mixing.


When I look at the score rips, I want to know the hydration of the dough and the dough temp after mixing.  How tightly the boule was shaped.  As I hand mix, I'm not to up with machine mixing times and speeds, someone else would be better with that.  Have you tried hand mixing just one loaf? 


Maybe the score you've chosen might not be the best for this particular dough formula.  How about a #?  or a palm leaf?  leaving the top of the loaf intact might be just the hold together it needs instead of the + which encourages it to open.  Is the recipe a published one?

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

Are you using a fan oven?

helen ems's picture
helen ems

Regular gas oven. My setup is with one of those fancy and expensive fibrament on bottom (it didn't work well and it's a good place to store it) with a cast pan set on it for steaming, rectangular, 1/2" thick pizza "stone" on shelf in lower third, quarry tile on top shelf placed in the top third. I am able to bake 4 nice loaves at a time with this setup when whatever is causing my problem reared it's ugly head. The loaves bake fairly evenly with little difference between locations and brown nicely.


Sorry, no crumbs shots today. Bread is already bird food. Typically the crumb is acceptable and tasty. The experimental loaves had dense crumb. I'm not concerned about it because they were made at what I had hoped was just over the hairy edge of my operating window for the variables I tested as a way to diagnose the problem and understand which variables were having an effect and how much as well as any interaction rather than to make nice bread. Clearly the variables have an effect (flat/ dense) but not on the 'ugly" problem. The dough really ripped during handling yesterday which told me that overmixing is a real possibility. The 12 minute mix was put in to test that. I had hoped the 6 minute mix would then give better results but it did not. That too may still be overmixing, may not have gone low enough. Great idea to try the hand mix - wish I'd thought of that yesterday. Will try with a two loaf bake tomorrow.


 I believe one factor is a lackluster starter because the house is often in the 62 - 65F range and probably colder by the outside wall where the starter was kept. I feed it every 12 hours - 1 part starter/ 2 parts water/ 2 parts flour (50% WW and 50% bread). After noting some people add a bit of rye flour I started adding a spoon of fresh rye flour last night. Also saw someone that puts it in microwave with a cup of hot water and am trying that to keep it warmer. It seems reasonably active however I wonder if the lower temps favor a higher acid and it's breaking down the gluten? Perhaps I'll have to find some pH strips. The balance tipped?


Boules shaped very loosely because of ripping dough. The combo of long knead and long proof pretty much fell apart.


Hydration is ~ 70% if I'm calculating right. Starter is 50% water and I use 17 oz per batch. Add 28 oz flour and additional 17 oz water to each batch. so 25.5 oz water/ 36.5 oz flour ~ .7. I was able to adjust water temps. to give a 75F dough temp after mixing for each batch of the experiment. That is a typical dough temp for me. Proofing air temps were ~ 71F and I was able to keep it fairly consistent all day. Measures were taken about every 15 - 30 minutes to verify. (I burn wood so I have to work to keep temps constant) 


Never considered soaking the flour. Could help. Definitely makes sense. What is puzzling of course is the change. I was consistently making acceptable loaves. Cold weather and different brand unbleached flour are the two things that happened about the time the problem occurred. which may point right back to the started as well as the longer it proofed the weaker the gluten became...we'll see.


The type of scoring was working...


As always, thank you for taking the time to ask great questions and make observations and suggestions. It's great learning even if I still have ugly loaves. Maybe some light will show itself tomorrow - stay tuned.


Helen

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

As the weather got colder over here i experienced a slow down in starter activity, i always use an elastic band now round the jar my starter is in so i can tell when it has doubled and only use for bread and feed then.  In warmer weather my starter use to almost tripple so was easy to tell when it needed a feed and raised bread easily.


Temperature seems to play a crucial role in sourdough, i have to keep the dough warm as it rises which is quite visable and then if i don't and say it is unheated and room temp is about 10 degrees centigrade then the thing dose't budge, even after ten hours or so it has barely put on half its size.  I use one of them foot heaters that is low on the ground, i let the sealed bowl the dough is in to gently warm in the blast of air it puts out.  It mainly heats the top of the mixing bowl allowing the bowl and dough to stay warm during rising, probably at about 18/19 degrees centigrade.  It only takes a few hours to rise and a few hours to proof at these temps.


If temperature is causing a slow down does that mean your loaves are underprooved and hence the problem your having?


What can i do to proove my loaves at low temperatures? If i put my sourdough in the fridge it just stops dead and takes hours to warm up after, honestly if my dough even gets cold it seems like its had a few too many beers, fallen over and just won't get back up again. 

rhodriharris's picture
rhodriharris

Youve never posted a crumb shot, maybe this would tell more.

helen ems's picture
helen ems

Here is my conclusion on the primary cause of the Ugly bread based on additional changes and results. I hope this is helpful to others.


The primary cause appears to be overworked dough. Standing mixer kneading is now reduced from 7 minutes to 3 minutes on setting 3 (of 12 on my Cuisinart). Because I'm using about 35 - 40 % starter with bread flour the gluten was probably already developed and the mixing was overworking it so it was no longer extensible and just rips during oven spring. It also had the pale characteristic that I've learned is associated with overmixing. (My fancy experiment did not go nearly low enough on the mixing so the signal was not clear. What I did see was it got worse with additional working so had suspicions which I then investigated further and tested.)


I am also suspecting that another influence is the 50% unbleached flour. I've had good results with Dakota Maid bread flour (retail) and not so good with Bay State organic (commercial) unbleached bread flour. Don't have the specs. on either for comparison but do see a difference with my particular methods.


Photos on improved results. These better results have now been repeated for three successive bakes. Now on to additional improvements.