The Fresh Loaf

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spreaditis---lacking loft

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

spreaditis---lacking loft

Hello.  I'm new to the Fresh Loaf, but have been baking breads for about 4 years now (more frequently in the past two).  I've been making sourdough breads for about a year, and they're edible, but they spread everywhere.  I'm talking about regular plain sourdough---whole wheat, or all white bleached flour, or a mix of the two.  I've tried it with looser, malleable dough.  I've tried thickening the dough with more flour, which only resulted in very dense and hard to bake bread.   I've seen pictures of breads on here with serious loft, where the widest part of the free-formed loaf is towards the middle of the height (like a teardrop), not right on the bottom as mine are.  I realize that all of this is still pretty new to me.  Is there a step I'm missing?  I'd really rather not use special forms, or commercial yeast.

I have healthy starter, just the regular white flour with filtered water.  I add its equivalent in flour, and half that in water (I use cups for now).  It rises well.

I add starter to flour and water, use noniodized salt, then knead it until it is very malleable and stretches to let light in. During the kneading process I let it rest a little while washing dishes, then go knead it some more.

I let that rest in an oiled bowl about 4 hours (I am at 2200 feet elevation) to get a good taste.

Then, I knead it again, only using enough flour to keep it off my hands.  It still feels malleable.

I let it rise on a metal flat pan until doubled, then put it in an oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit with a pan of hot water indirectly underneath it, baking for about 45 minutes.  [i know I know, not a high temperature as I just read higher temperatures make better crusts....but I'm just working on baking it all the way through first!  I do NOT like doughy centers and have taken to cutting every single loaf in half to be sure it's baked through. I've found out that the thump hollow sound test does not tell the truth]

So, I'm praying that somebody has the answer out there.  I'm not doing fancy bread yet, I'm just trying to get the basics down.  I would really like some good loft. 

Thanks

Comments

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, chickadee3.

Welcome to TFL!

The best thing you could do for your spreading loaves is to proof them in a banneton or on a couche. The loaves need lateral support while proofing to keep them from spreading.

There are other factors that can contribute to loaves spreading. These include high hydration, inadequate gluten development during mixing (or stretch&folding) and not forming a good gluten sheath when you shape the loaves.

A hotter oven will help with oven spring, too. But the best temperature and length of bake depends on the shape and weight of your loaves.

Regarding when the loaves are fully baked: Your best solution is to get an instant read thermometer. You stick the probe into the very center of the loaf you are testing. For lean doughs, the temperature should generally be over 205 degrees F. For enriched breads, 190 degrees is usually right.

Hope this helps.

David

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Dear David,

Thank you for your welcome and reply!

After reading everyone's replies and looking at some of the recommended videos, I think my problem has to do with gluten development (is a gluten sheath something to do with folding?).  My dough looks really different than the dough the baker pulled out of his big tub (King Arthur flour video), and that was even before the proofing stage.  Is folding a necessary step for making sourdough bread?  When should it be done as a rule of thumb?  Should it be done after the first rise and then as you shape the loaves?

I hadn't thought about a thermometer to tell when the center is done.  I think I will invest in one once I get the dough straightened out.

Thanks,

~Bonnie

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The "gluten sheath" refers to the smooth, intact outside surface of a well-shaped loaf. This does require adequate gluten development but describes one of its functions.

Stretching and folding the dough serves several functions: The stretching helps develop the gluten. The folding "organizes the gluten" by folding the gluten strands and allowing for chemical cross-links to form. This adds to gluten "strength." Mechanical mixing also stretches and folds the dough, but in such a way  that, with a long mix, the gluten strands tend to be lined up in a regular, grid-like fashion. That tends to result in a "regular" crump like what you see in most commercial breads. Hand kneading or stretching and folding results in a more random, chaotic organization of the gluten strands and a pattern of randomly distributed holes of varying sizes in the crumb, which is "traditional" in sourdough (and other) hearth breads.

The third function of stretch and folding is to redistribute the nutrients and even out the tempreature in different parts of the dough mass. This matters more with larger batches of dough, of course.

Stretch and fold is done at intervals during bulk fermentation. You need to wait long enough between episodes to allow the dough relax but do it often enough to keep the temperature evened out and nutrients available to the yeast. Generally, intervals should be no more frequent that 20 minutes and no longer that 60 minutes.

Having said all that, you can make good bread without using stretch and fold at all. My suggestion would be to make two identical batches of dough. Use whatever method you currently like best on one and S&F on the other. Then you can compare the results for yourself.

David

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Yay!  Thank you!  After much research and tips and narrowing down the problem, I figured out that I wasn't kneading it correctly.  I was doing the push-down and quarter turn method.  No folding or stretching.  Interesting how even the end result in bread can point to a problem much earlier in the process.  With just folding and stretching, the dough became dramatically different, and the bread held its nicely curved lofty shape during baking!  yay!!!!!!!

Now on to invest in a thermometer...

~Bonnie

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, chickadee3!  Welcome to TFL. :)

On top of what David said ( =proofing the dough with some supports, either in bannetton/brotforms or between folded couche. You don't have to buy real things made for those purpose. Just a basket and a tea towel -hopefully linen one- you alreay have would do the job)......

 

 knead it until it is very malleable and stretches to let light in. During the kneading process I let it rest a little while washing dishes, then go knead it some more.

Reading this part reminded me of my experience years ago.  Are you sure you're not over-kneading the dough?  In my early days of sourdough bread making, I once kneaded the dough too much, hoping I'd get very good gluten development  (this was before I knew you could actually over-knead), the dough became so pliable and extendable (obviously gluten had collapsed by being over-worked) , and the resultant bread was just as you discribed about yours.  May not be the case  you, but just a thought.....

Kind regards,

lumos

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Dear lumos,

Thank you for your reply and welcome. : )

I think I will look at the tea-towel and basket option when I know that I've got the basic dough correct.  I've seen a video on King Arthur Flour methods that Robyn suggested, and saw that my dough differs dramatically from theirs even before the final proofing stage.  So at least I'm narrowing the problem down.

I don't think it is over kneading.  I only knead a little to incorporate the flour and water evenly, then let it rest a few minutes.  It seems to be easier to work with when I let it rest for a few minutes.  Then I knead it.  I am thinking that my kneading is not enough, and that my dough is still too dense with flour.  I'm using 2 1/2 cups of water, 1 cup of starter at 100% hydration, 2t non iodized salt, and about 5 cups of flour (whole wheat, white, or a mix).

I'll keep working on it!

~Bonnie

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Yay!  Thank you!  After much research and tips and narrowing down the problem, I figured out that I wasn't kneading it correctly.  I was doing the push-down and quarter turn method.  No folding or stretching.  Interesting how even the end result in bread can point to a problem much earlier in the process.  With just folding and stretching, the dough became dramatically different, and the bread held its nicely curved lofty shape during baking!  yay!!!!!!!

Now on to invest in a thermometer...

~Bonnie

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Hello there, I too add words of welcome to TFL.

I wonder what shape you tend to make.......?

Have you seen David's shaping tutorial? It is really helpful:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19346/shaping-boule-tutorial-pictures

The KAF videos are worth watching too; the preshaping and shaping techniques shown work for handmixed bread too, don't be put off by the reference to professionals:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/videos.html

Plenty of others on YouTube as well. Ciril Hitz in particular has made a number of useful videos.

You might try putting you bread into the oven before it has doubled during the final proof. Slight underproofing helps with better oven spring. Can you tell from the feel of the bread when it is ready to go in the oven? 

And as Lumos says, find things you already have at home to support the shaped loaves during their final proof (colander, basket, linen teatowel etc etc). Using a mix of flour and rice flour and rubbing that into any fabric you use will also help prevent sticking, when you transfer the loaves to the oven. 

You are wise to get the techniques sorted with a familiar formula, as you will soon see what difference a single change makes.

Cheers, Robyn

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Dear Robyn,

Thank you for your kind words of welcome!  I feel welcome already, with people willing to help me, even though I'm a beginner in my baking skills.

The shape I'm currently going for is a free-formed round, baked on a metal cookie sheet.  The reason I am shooting for free-formed, is that if I can get that loft and shape in free-form, then I know that my methods and the dough I'm getting/making is pretty near ideal.  I looked at David's tutorial that you posted (and I hadn't seen it before).  What really helped me were the videos on King Arthur.  I think my problem is even before shaping.  Their dough handles a lot different than mine does.  It reminds me of my English Muffin dough (that is the recipe I've gotten right....before the basic sourdough...go figure)--- very tacky, but holds together like a really soft noodle or something.  Perhaps my problem is that I still have too much flour, and not enough gluten development?  All I know is that after the mixing step, when he pours it out onto the table for the folding and cutting, the dough he has already differs from mine. hmm

You have asked good questions---I have no idea how to tell when my dough is ready for the oven.  If I touch it, it's usually very tacky and sometimes deflates.  So again back to the dough difference...mine is a lot tougher (even though I though it was workable) than the King Arthur guys.

Thanks for the tips on how to coat the towels so that they don't take dough with them.  Thank you also for your kind compliment and understanding what I'm trying to do (get the basic formula and steps down, then proceed with varieties of breads).

I think I will try a wetter dough.  Should it be even really formable during the first rise?

Thank you,

~Bonnie

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Goodmorning Bonnie

I am staying at a friend's home (sadly her partner just died), using her computer on a wireless link. I have just written a long reply to you and when I went to post it, it 'disappeared'. While I was working on it I wanted to save it knowing this 'loss' was a possibility but didn't want to tamper with her computer/software. I will redo the post but I don't have time now.

Here are three links to basic sourdoughs popular on TFL for you to check out  for flour/water ratios etc and I'll come back and add commentary when I am able!:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/9346/123-easy-formula-sourdough-bread

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/6927/well-i-finally-did-it

http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/08/my-new-favorite-sourdough/

Regards Robyn

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Goodmorning Bonnie

Further to my hasty note yesterday. I wanted to answer your questions.

As Richard has said, you will have much better chance of 'curing' your spreading problem if you come up with a means of supporting  the shaped loaves during final proof. These days the trend is for higher hydration doughs, which as you have seen on the KAF video are soft and pillowy, requiring support. Our grandmothers' bread which they kneaded on the bench, contained less water and was a much firmer product which could be left to final proof without support. You seem to be seeking confirmation that you've got your dough right, using its ability not to spread as an indicator. If you wish to make the kind of breads you will have seen when checking out the three links I left yesterday, you will need to use the flour:water ratio those bakers use and you will also need to support the loaves. If you still prefer the idea of a unsupported loaf, you will need to use a lower hydration level.

We express flour to water ratio in baker's percent terms. You may already know baker's percent. If not it is a bit hard to get your head around,  the main point is the weight of the flour is assigned 100 and all other ingredients weights are expressed in relation to the flour weight. If the flour is 100 grams and the water 70 grams this would be a 70% hydration. (eg if the flour was 450g and we wanted to make a 70% hydration mix we would add  315g water). The basic sourdoughs in yesterday links  are around 72% hydration.

When you are ready to invest in some equipment, a kitchen scale would quickly repay itself. Especially when you are wanting to try other people's formula, much easier to reproduce when you are working with weights. Many on TFL have mentioned the Escali, whatever you get, a scale that works in grams and has a tare function would be good:

http://www.amazon.com/Escali-Primo-Digital-Scale-Warm/dp/B0007GAX04/ref=pd_sim_k_2

You ask whether the dough should be formable during the first rise. By the end of the bulk fermentation (first rise) it will be ready to be formed, in fact this is how I decide to move on to the next stage of preshaping. In my case I mix the flour and most of the water to a shaggy state by hand in a bowl  and then leave it for 20~30 mins. Then I add the salt and  the retained water around 50ml, (a Chad Robertson technique) and mix by hand in the bowl until the dough is smooth again - something odd happens when you add the salt, the dough goes a bit 'stringy' but soon goes smooth again. At 25deg C I find a need about 2.5 ~3 hours for bulk fermentation. During this time, every 30 minutes I stretch and fold the dough in the bowl by putting my hand under a corner of the dough and drawing it up in the air until it resists, then fold this corner piece down on top of the rest of the dough, turning the bowl, I do this another three times, it only takes a couple of minutes to do this. When the dough begins to hold some shape, then after the next 30 minutes I go on to preshaping. I don't really pay much heed to how much the dough has expanded, and certainly not the clock. I look for the stretched dough that I've folded down retaining a kind of shoulder for a bit and not just flowing. It doesn't stand proud, but it is no longer flowing. I don't clock watch and am more interested in the consistency of the dough than the volume it has. You will note I do no traditional kneading on the bench. Working with higher hydration doughs it is much easier to leave the dough in the bowl and manipulate it in there.

I decide when to put the loaf into the oven by touch (in my case it'll be ready around 1.5~2 hours at 25 deg C, but I don't clock watch). The shaped supported loaf becomes quite pillowy to touch. If I poke it with a flour dusted finger, the indentation will slowly rebound, but not fully. If the loaf is underproofed, when I poke it the dough will spring back fully, immediately. If it is overproofed, the indenation will remain, no rebound, and it seems the loaf may even deflate, I have never had this experience, but I have seen comment about this on TFL. Trying to work out when a free form 3D object has doubled is very difficult, if you have experienced deflation I suspect that you have overproofed , your dough has run out of umph, and has nothing left for oven spring either.

Let us know how you are getting on and don't hesitate to ask more questions.

Kind regards, Robyn

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Dear Robyn,

I'm sorry to hear about your friend's loss.  I'm glad that you are able to be there to comfort them.

After much research and tips and narrowing down the problem, I figured out that I wasn't kneading it correctly.  I was doing the push-down and quarter turn method.  No folding or stretching.  Interesting how even the end result in bread can point to a problem much earlier in the process.  With just folding and stretching, the dough became dramatically different, and the bread held its nicely curved lofty shape during baking!  yay!!!!!!!  I didn't need supports---what I was looking for is the widest part of the curve to be more towards the center of the height, and it occurred, without ANY other change (one variable at a time in every experiment) to the dough other than folding and stretching.

Thank you very much for explaining the folding method a little more. 

Your replies gave a lot to ponder and practice. Thank you!  : )   I don't get much time during the harvest season to devote to computer replies or research, so it may be awhile before I reply.  Please know that I am definitely working on it!  I may include a scale in my winter shopping list...not sure yet.

~Bonnie

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Hello Bonnie

Welcome to TFL. 

I think I will look at the tea-towel and basket option when I know that I've got the basic dough correct. 

If you are making a dough of 65 to 75% hydration and giving it a fairly standard final proof of 1 hour, you will need to support the dough during its final proof to stop it spreading!  Also,

I'm using 2 1/2 cups of water, 1 cup of starter at 100% hydration, 2t non iodized salt, and about 5 cups of flour (whole wheat, white, or a mix).

it really is better to measure by weight rather than volume (most people who use weights use grammes).

Happy Baking

Richard

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

Thank you for your reply.  I am thinking about adding some equipment to the kitchen like a thermometer and scale.   I have had success just by changing one thing:  folding and stretching during bulk fermentation.  I'm learning soooo much and have so much more to learn and work on, but that was my basic problem.  The bread was better able to shape up during the proofing stage.  I don't mind a little spread and understand wanting a really nice shape, but I was just after a good dough (where the outermost part of the curve was at the center of its height) and a free-form option.  Granted they do spread a little, but thankfully no longer take over the oven!  (yes...that has happened....once...)

Thanks again,

~Bonnie