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Too dense and crumb problems - please help

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Too dense and crumb problems - please help

Hi All,

I have been making sourdough bread for around a year now and after a variety of "experiements", although the bread forms and tastes good, it is far too dense and the crumb is moist (it is more like an English crumpet than bread). I have been using recipes from "Bread Alone" by Leader and Blahink and adapted slightly through my experiments.  I have detailed my technique below and would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.

thanks very much in advance

Lee.

Starter

- 200g stored in the fridge

- Night before baking, feed starter with 200g strong white bread flour (11.6% protein), 200g filtered water and leave out on the work surface covered over night

- Starter is bubbly and increased to about double in size (may be a little less)

Dough

- Recipe

400g starter

100g wholewheat flour

900g strong white flour (as above)

600g water (luke warm and filtered)

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

- Technique

- add starter and water mix well then add salt

- add remaining flour and mix with spoon to bring together

- knead using a dough hook on mixer until dough it springs back "slowly" when pulled (approx 5 mins)

- rise in oiled bowl (approx 3 hours) on work surface

- knock back and form into 2 loaves

- proof in bowls lined with floured cotton for around 1.5 hours again out on the work surface

 

Bake

- preheat oven 250 degrees C

- shape dough gently

- put on preheated baking sheet spraying oven with water to create steam

- reduce oven to 230 degrees C (have also tried 210 and 190 and no difference in crumb - lower temps seemed to make thinner crust)

- bake until internal temp is 98 degrees C (have tried 99 and 97 and no difference)

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

You say "approx 3 hours" and "around 1.5 hours". By what criteria makes you pull the trigger for the next step? If you are relying on time, especially for the final, and the temps are up more than other times of the year, you could be easily over-proofing. What you describe is something we term 'bricking', and that's classic to over-proofing.

But let's back up, because I'm really starting to think we have a sluggish starter, and that can certainly cause bricking as well...

First off, how old was this starter before you started refrigerating it? Next, you say overnight it nearly doubles, or almost. That's not right... if left that long, it should easily triple if it was truly healthy, especially when feed a high protein white flour. That's a very sturdy house of cards it can build there...

You might want to let that starter sit out on the counter for a few days to maybe a weak, and just let it percolate and be happy. Feed it well, and often. For 200g of retained starter, you should be feeding it 200g water and 200g flour every 12 hours. For the purpose of rebuilding the culture and not worrying about baking, I'd save flour and do 100g retained starter and 100g each water and flour. Once it's good and healthy again (at least tripling within 6-8 hours), then try and bake with it again. This time, however, do not let it sit overnight. Watch your starter as you rebuild it each night, and time it. Find out exactly how many hours it takes to peak. This is the exact time you want to use it, not after it has collapsed on itself and sat for another 4 hours. So, next time you bake, get things timed so that your doing the initial mix stage right at the starter's peak.

Once you've eliminated a lazy starter from the equation, try another bake. If that fails, we look elsewhere. ; )

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

Thanks very much for your reply.  The original starter I got from a friend of mine and it is many years old (may even be as much as 20 years!).  When using his, I got much the same results.  The current starter is based on his but I stupidly baked the whole starter acouple of months ago and recreated the current one from the dried bits off the container I use and the wooden spoon I use!!

One thing I didn't mention is that I do the feed bake cycle once a week at best and sometimes every other week and the starter generally has a layer of hooch on the top when I take it out of the fridge.  Hooch is remixed in and then used as described.

Your question about "what makes me pull the trigger" is an interesting one....  It is I guess partly due to what we are doing that day and how it looks.  I tend to leave it and check after about 3 hours.  If it has more than doubled in size and the dough is lethargic (when I put my finger in it gently trys to fill the dent but never makes it) [I don't always check to be honest!] I cut it into loaves and proof it.   I determine the end of proofing by again rough time and it "looks about right".  Thinking about it now, once knocked back, the proofing doesn't double in size again - is this right?  Also, when I cook in 2 batches, the second batch is often difficult as when I take it out of the proofing bowl, the outer "cloak" seems very fragile and often breaks and the whole thing collapses.  Now I am writing this, my approach doesn't seem very scientific :)

When in the oven, I seem to get a fairly good oven rise - when sliced, the bread seems about 1/3 of the height is below the widest part (if you see what I mean).

I'll try your rebuild this week and report back.  If I understand correctly, I should take 100g of my exisiting starter. Feed it 100g water + 100g flour every 12 hours.  When you say time it to peak, how do I know when this is?  The trouble I have is my bowls are spherical so difficult to see how many times it has increased.  Will need to find something a bit more scientific.

thanks very much once again

 

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

>If I understand correctly, I should take 100g [...]

Yeah, ya know, that was just an example to say if you're not worried about baking with it, you can ramp it down. Basically, we want around 1:1:1 (starter:water:flour) as a refreshment for a healthy starter. If you kept 100g, then you'd add 100g each of water and flour. Combined weight of the refreshed culture would be 300g. That's still a lot. I only keep 37g and add 74g of refreshment total (my ratios are 34g water and 40g AP flour, because I maintain it at 85% hydration rather than 100%). My combined refreshed culture is therefore ~148g. This easily fits into a normal glass 1 C measuring cup, loosely fitted with plastic wrap. Here's a pic:

Now, when we talk about peaking, that's of course the highest point it rises to. In the cup above, my initial refreshed cluture starts out at just a tad over the 1/3 line (visible here). You can see it rose to just shy of where the handle attaches to the cup. That's more than triple. Also note the bubbles - they are quite varied, from very tiny to quite large. That's again another indication of health and activity. I've never refrigerated this starter, and I've never had any hooch - ever - even if left for 18-24 hours (which I will -never- admit that I've done once or twice). For some reason, people who refrigerate seem to get that, often. Anyways, as a starter is fermenting, it builds up like a small tornado, gaining speed and a psuedo torsion. There is clearly a 'dome' on the top that is rounded upwards, and a slight swirl (or whirl?) of rotation. When it reaches climax (the food is exhausted), it will remain domed for about another 10-15 minutes, then the dome will curve downwards. The starter will then start collapsing in on itself. As you can see in this pic, this starter has already climaxed, and this is probably 1 or 2 hours later. This would NOT be a good time to use this starter for a loaf - pancakes? English Muffins? Great. Bread? You'd be pushing your luck. The point at which the climax occurs depends on temperatures. Right now, it's avg'ing 80° F in the kitchen, so it peaks at about 5 hours. A few months ago when it was cooler (~70° F), it took 6 hrs or so. You need to know that time! That's the point where you're going to get the most yeast bang for your buck...

>Thinking about it now, once knocked back, the proofing doesn't double in size again - is this right?

Nope, that's not right. It should easily double again if you left it long enough. You wouldn't want to do that, though, as that would definitely be over-proofed. For good oven spring, I'd be aiming for about 70-80% doubled (some go a lot less even, for a real dramatic 'bloom'). Most of us no longer 'knock back' our sourdoughs, because we lose a lot of precious gas and structure. We gently de-gas the largest bubbles (generally making the bulk fermentation gasses evenly distributed), then gently shape. That gives you a crumb that looks as varied as the bubbles in the starter above, which most people associate with sourdoughs. But hey, those are all the minute details each baker toils with for his/her own likes. Your problem is getting anything -not- a brick! You need to get to that goal before you can move on.

If you can get a good glass 1 or 2 C measuring cup (what, 3 or 4 dollars?), try moving a small portion of your culture over to that and see what it's actually doing. I'm not convinced your starter is healthy and viable. Prove that right or wrong, and let's move on. = )

- Keith

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...the crumb is moist... ...bake until internal temp is 98 degrees C...

Despite the apparent precision of the internal temp method, this sounds to me like "not done enough". Unlike some other baked goods, such as cakes, t's not easy (possible, but not an imminent danger) to overbake a loaf of bread. There's usually quite a bit of freedom to get the crumb just as not-moist (or moist) as you want.

I've found that while the internal temperature method is quite accurate for lower temperatures, as the goal temperature gets  close to 100C it becomes increasingly hard to get it just right. The reading on the thermometer keeps changing a little depending on when I read it: the first time I looked it said 97C, a few seconds later it said 99C, which one is right? But baking longer does not change the thermometer very much: if when it says 99C, I then bake it several more minutes, it still says 99C.

So I'd suggest these two things:

  • be sure the end (actually about one inch back from the end) of your temperature probe is in the middle of your loaf - don't poke the probe in so far the tip comes close to the inside of the far crust
  • try once as an experiment: when the thermoprobe says the loaf is done, bake it another five minutes anyway
leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

I think you may be correct about my starter.  I did what you said and refreshed it twice yesterday this time a bit more scientifically in a vertically sided container...  Results were

Refresh 1 -  height went from 35mm to 50mm (nowhere near double)

Refresh 2 - left overnight (11 hours), height went from 35mm to 60mm (no sign on the container that it had risen higher and fallen back)

Refresh 3 - height went from 35mm to 70mm (so has doubled in volume)

Also, the bubbles are no where near as big or many as in your picture....

When should I stop the refresh process?  Also, if I am not going to bake until Saturday, should I leave it in the fridge after the refresh process is done?

Chuck - thanks for your tips on the temp. The probe is generally in the centre of the loaf.  Once the starter is refreshed (hopefully by the weekend) I will try and bake a couple of loaves side by side and take one out when it hits 99 degrees and the other 5 mins later and see the difference.  Will report back.

Thanks again both

 

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hi Lee -

Good news that it's getting healthier! It will just take a few days to figure out whether or not it was just a low yeast population, or whether or not there was some other problem. That could range from just an unknown imbalance of the other organisms, or possibly an invasion of something else. In the former, yeast populations should come back quickly (and that seems to be happening somewhat), and in the latter, it will take a bit longer for the yeast to turn the culture back to something unfavorable for the invaders. Key either way will be smell. A good balanced starter should have a fairly sharp 'beery' or alcohol smell. It should be fairly sweet/buttery while rising to peak, then turn a bit sour-ish as it's collapsing. If it's become polluted with unwanted organisms, these familiar smells will be 'off', and only by being intimately familiar with what a GOOD smell is can you tell when it's 'off' by just a bit. If it's -really- off, of course, it will smell cheesy (and not a good cheesy at that), possibly like nail polish remover, paint thinner, etc. The smell of a starter is equal in importance to it's ability to lift itself to at least triple within about 5-7 hours at normal counter temps (72° F or 22° C). These 'other' types of imbalance problems frequently occur with people who refrigerate their starters. There seems to be a magic refreshment cycle in the refrigerator that keeps people posting that it works for them. Depending on your refrigerator temperature, it's a process of experimenting to arrive at that magic cycle that works for you, otherwise you will constantly be having this problem. You have to fix both problems: the current unhealthy state, and whatever caused that state to begin with (and that's generally not real fun).

I would certainly not recommend putting it back into the refrigerator until you have it healthy by sight, by smell, and by finished baked products that you are satisfied with. Keep us posted, especially after another baking session! Good luck!

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

I have been feeding it as you suggested over the past few days and seem to have reached a point where it is doubling each time but no more.  Past 3 have done this but no further progress.  The smell is an interesting question so will double check tonight but After the rise, I would say it does smell of alcohol but more a cheap spirit rather than beer and has a sour tint to it!! Possibly with I bit of paint thinner type smell but slight.  Not sure about during the rise so will check.

Rather than throw the unused starter each time, I have put it into a frying pan and made some "pancakes" just out of the starter with no other ingredients.  To be honest it was more of an experiment but seems OK.  Anyway, they too taste fairly sour but nice enough.

thanks again


Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hey there -

Kind of suspected it might take more than a couple of days to get healthy, so just keep feeding it every 12 hours and be patient. I'm hoping you have some Whole Wheat in your flour arsenal, because I'm going to recommend we do, at a minimum, 10% WW, even as much as 50%, your choice. Also, let's switch to a 2:1:1 feed ratio. Essentially, double the amount of old starter to retain, or cut in half both the new water and flour. I'm going to assume you brought your culture down to 300g total weight. Therefore, choose one, according to how much your container can handle:

Plan A:

  • Retain 100g old starter
  • Add 50g water
  • Add 45g AP or bread flour
  • Add 5g WW flour

Total weight will now be ~200g.

Plan B:

  • Retain 200g old starter
  • Add 100g water
  • Add 90g AP or bread flour
  • Add 10g WW flour

Total weight will now be ~400g.

In either case, math was for 10% of the flour weight to be WW. You can do 20, 30, up to 50% if you want. At this feeding rate, it's best not to let it go much beyond 12 hrs, and best if fed around the 10 hr mark, if you can manage that. Do this for 48 hrs or more, until you are getting more rise than you are currently. When you get significantly more rise, drop the WW so that we are back to 100% AP or bread flour. If the new rising level is maintained with all white flour, switch back to 1:1:1 feeding and observe. Let us know... and hang in there!

With it only doubling right now, I wouldn't bother attempting to bake with it, unless you don't mind a less than optimal outcome. That's up to you, you just have to adjust your expectation if you do.

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

Yes - have plenty of WW flour so will mix some in to the feeding cycle.  Is it better to have more WW (i.e. go up to 50%) or stick with 10%?  Also, intuitively (at least for me!!) I thought you were going to say to increase the amount of food rather than halve it to give the yeast more to "snack" on.  If I understand the above correctly?

thanks

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

A lot of things that sound logical end up counter-intuitive to the desired outcome when dealing with natural yeast. Giving it more food to snack on keeps the pH level of the culture at a disadvantage for the yeast for too long while they try to breakdown all of that extra food. You would do something like for an extremely vibrant culture, not one that's been abused. We feed it less so that the old pH level that they like can be gotten back much quicker. We need the yeast to have the advantage over any other organisms while getting their population back up. This also means we must be prepared to feed it more often, or at least a little earlier.

Based on the path we have come thus far, I'd say 10% (just a kick) should be enough to help stabilize the environment. 50% would be more for a starter that was, for all intents and purposes, not responding at all. Anything in between would be fine, too. If it were me, I'd do 10% for 2 cycles, and if I didn't see a definite perk-up in the right direction, I'd increase that to maybe 20 or 30 for the next 2 cycles. It's rare for a starter that is showing fairly good signs of life to -not- respond to a little WW in the refreshment. Note that the addition of WW, especially if you go above 20%, will give your starter a slightly different smell. Be prepared for that, it's not a sign that everything's now better, or worse. Save any comparisons for when you get better volume and switch back to 100% AP or bread flour.

Is your new container see-through? How are we doing with the bubbles, using the picture I provided as a comparison? When your starter peaks, does it start to collapse inward, leaving a snail trail up the container to where it was? When you refresh, is there glutenous strands that come out of the toss out, or is it gluey and/or completely devoid of any structure?

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

A quick status update...

I unfortunately did my 1st reduced refresh before your reply so went for plan A and 50%WW

feed 1 - (100g starter, 50g flour, 50g water) but did 50% WW flour. It nearly doubled in size (around 80%). However smell at the end was like water based paint!

I saw your reply so continued at 10% WW

feed 2 - 10% WW flour started at 30mm finished at 35mm after 7hours! Smell still like water based paint but a hint of beer..  On this feed I did clean the container with water before doing the feed (normally, I leave the container as it is..)

feed 3 - 10% WW flour 

This one is still going but the odd thing is that the overall starter seems to be getting thinner (as if I have added too much water).  As far as I know I haven't (but clearly could have by mistake) but was wondering if this meant anything or did I add the water by mistake.  The other odd thing about this feed was that after about 1.5 hours, there was a layer of liquid on the top almost as if it has seperated a bit!!  I left it alone and the starter is still growing and seems to be re-mixing again.  All seems a bit odd.  The good thing is that it is definately smelling more and more like beer (still a paint smell in the background though).


In response to your question.  It is gluey with very little structure.  It does not fall back just gets to a point and stays there.  There are bubbles on the top and in the starter itself (as much as I can see through the container) but nothing like the picture you pasted.

Am I making progress or is it going backwards?

thanks

 

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

No such thing as going backwards, as long as you continue feeding.

It appears your starter is wildly overpopulated with possibly several organisms (paint smell). The good news is, there seems to be enough yeast present to see it through. Caring for a starter is very similar to caring for an aquarium. When things get out of balance, it can take awhile to get them back - it's a slow process that Mother Nature will not accelerate for us. We have no way of identifying exactly what is in there right now, we can only trust that with the presence of yeast, it will sort itself out eventually.

When it changes back to something vibrant and healthy, it's going to be all of a sudden, and all the other phases preceeding that will seem to take forever. You are just going to have to keep feeding it. If it's a Thiol invasion, you're looking at around 8 to as many as 12 days of feeding the 'paint', and you're already on what, day 3 or 4 here? If it is simply protease, you should bounce back any feeding now. Based on your description, though, I'd be settling in for the longer wait.

The WW additive was designed to give the starter an 'energy drink' of sorts, and it appears that's not what will solve this problem right now. Do not continue adding any more than 10% WW, I'd go as far as to say that you can drop it completely. If you did a 50% one time addition, your starter got a healthy jolt, and WW isn't going to speed up the process of evacuating Thiol. So, feed with 100% AP or bread flour, maybe do a 10% WW every 2 or 3 days (it can't hurt anything). Maintain the current 2:1:1 maintenance@~12 hrs, this interval is not mission critical. 8 hrs here or 15 hrs there isn't going to make or break anything, so just relax. You can't do anything right, you can't really do anything wrong. It will just take a number of days.

If you get a sudden change for the better, switch immediately to 1:1:1. That day is coming... = )

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Sounds like there won't be any baking this weekend - although the kids are enjoying their pancakes every morning made out of the unused starter :)

I was in a rush this morning and was feeding the starter and almost put in 100g of water instead of 50g was focusing on the flour split too much.  Anyway, given how liquid the starter was yesterday, I can only assume I did the same thing then too!!  Should I add less water on the next feed to try and return to the correct consistency or stick with the 50g water 50g flour for a few times and I assume it will eventually settle to 100% hydration anyway.

Paint smell is definately getting fainter :)

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Yeah, like I said, you can't really do anything drastically wrong, so a one time hydration boost will fall in line with that. With such a smallish culture, you're right, within 2 or 3 feedings that are accurate, you'll be back to something that's close enough to 100% hydration.

Once it 'pops' and starts behaving like a healthy starter, just keep in mind it will still be very unstable. That means it's likely to throw off weird bitter after tastes when baked with, but that's usually only noticeable to people familiar with quality sourdoughs. It will be 3 to 6 weeks -after- it starts behaving correctly that it will start producing a really nice flavor. Each bake will be a pleasant surprise for the better. You can also abuse it quite a bit, including going back to refrigeration as a means of storage. You can use that time in between now and then to research what people who do cold storage are doing that seems successful and fits your same schedule. Looking forward to the post where you're ready to bake! Hopefully we will have fixed the problem in your original post!

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

As the House Martin's song goes.... "the road is long... with many winding turns"  :)

Well I am still at it and following Keith's suggestion.  Oddly, some days it seems less paint, others more.  Also, some days it seems to have more of a pain stripper smell or maybe cheap alcohol....  It does seem to be rising to about double each time though.

Also, the other day, I stumbled across another thread on the same topic.  Someone there suggested making the feed with more flour than water. So, I split the starter into 2 batches

Batch1 - continued following Keith's strategy

Batch 2 - 100g starter, 75g white flour, 50g water.  After 1 feed, it seemed to rise better than batch 1 and the smell was reduced.  I continued with Keith's strategy for a few feeds (until it looked about 100% hydration again) and did another 75g flour one.  Net result is it seems to have more energy in it (rises slightly more) and smell slightly better than batch 1 although recently getting more the same.  Is this a good strategy to continue with or just continue with plan A?

At this rate is would seem quicker to start a new one :)

thanks

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Your first 'rebuild' took place on Sept 12 - today being the 22nd, so that's 10 days. It's way early to get frustrated. I know that's hard to hear... hehe I'm convinced that Mother Nature makes this a test of patience so that when she finally agrees to lease us a culture, we'll take care of it, and have proven we will put in the time. ; )

Fooling around with the hydration isn't going to do any harm, and might do some good. At 75g flour & 50g water, your refreshment going in was ~ 67% hydration. I just did 3 days of that to make some DiMuzio SF Style SD, and wow, that was kind of a PITA hydration for a starter (for me anyways). You can drop it down to 80 or 85% permanently - I have found that range to be easy to handle, and I recall it seemed to help my thiol issue a few months back.

Well, that was a 'volume' and 'smell' report, but how are we doing with bubbles? Still a zillion tiny ones? Starting a new one isn't out of the question. It's a good strategy based on the fact your original starter got cooked. I think this one will bounce back, but there's a wagering chance it won't. We don't usually like to talk about those odds, but let's be honest, a few have reported theirs never did come back to full health.

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

On the bubble front, it is a little interesting...  Looking through the side of the container, you see many tiny tiny bubbles if you go up close.  From a few feet away it looks like no bubbles.  On the surface, it is covered with many many larger bubbles (say 3mm in diameter).  The interesting bit is when I go to stir it and take it out (so I can weigh 100g back in!), there are big bubbles (hard to tell size as I have just collapsed them with the spoon but I would guess at around 15 to 20mm) in the middle connected by strands/ strings of dough. I will take some pictures tonight and post them so you can see.

Thanks again for all your help and support Keith - you are a star....

 

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Well, before I go quoting 'Pulp Fiction', let me just say you have been a very easy going customer, which makes any support given to you rather easy. You're eager for the results, but can remain focused and absorb/follow some of the finer points here. Trust me when I say that's going to be a benefit once you start baking again, and wish to explore other areas where you can use some help. But! We're not there yet! ; D

ok, quick comments...

>Looking through the side of the container, you see many tiny tiny bubbles if you go up close.  From a few feet away it looks like no bubbles.

That's not real good news at this stage, and that should change by Sunday, or we'll need to get concerned. Concern being: is there actually -any- yeast in there at all, or do you simply have a culture of thriving organisms that aren't in the yeast genre? These organisms can certainly produce gases, and often do to the tune of 'almost doubling'. Worry here is valid, not so much panic yet.

>On the surface, it is covered with many many larger bubbles

Yeah... well when you refresh, you generally incorporate a large amount of air into the slurry. These smaller pockets of oxygen will merge over time, eventually making a large pocket and escape to the top (that whole gas vs gravity thing...). From your verbalizations, I'd say that's normal, expected even, and not necessarily helpful to us.

>middle connected by strands/ strings of dough

Those strands and strings are the natural by-products of autolysing. They are gluten strands that just develop by letting dough sit. We like that! What we don't like much is the fact we were gambling on thiol, and thiol does not leave very much structure like that behind... you said it was unstructured and gluey before, has that then changed to structure? How about the glueyness? Is that even a word? lol...

>I will take some pictures tonight and post them

Now you're starting to openly predict exactly what I'm going to recommend next... what do you need us for?! ; D  That will be a big help! Words can only take us so far..

>Thanks again for all your help and support Keith

Re-read paragraph 1.

You're more than welcome = )

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

As promised, a couple of pictures of my starter.  As you can see, nothing like the one you sent....  What do you think??

 

These were after 7 hours after the feed on Saturday.

Today, I decided to take the plung anyway and bake a loaf out of both batches but due to family schedules, I couldn't leave it to proof long enough but cooked anyway. I also didn't knock it back - just did 1 rise.  Surprisingly, the outcome was OK (not great but OK).  I took it to a family BBQ and they all loved it!  My wife thought this was the best batch for a while!  For one batch, I made it a little too wet and it stuck to the cloth during proofing. Net result was a flatter denser loaf - this was also twice the size of the other loaf and really needed more proofing anyway.  The other loaf was actually pretty good with a softer crumb ad good crust.  Not perfect by any means but not too bad either.

I now have 2 batches as follows...

batch 1 - last 2 feeds white only - smells of paint

batch 2 - last 2 feeds 10% wholewheat and only a hint of paint.

Both batches had a 75g flour 50g water boost 2 feeds ago but with flour as above...  Is there light at the end of the tunnel or is it time to start again :)  Hopefully the picture help?

thanks

Lee

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hard to tell some things about the pictures... on the side view, there is substantial slurry above the culture ceiling. Did it rise to that level and has dropped down, or was that left over from mixing it? Judging by the huge amount on the left that goes far and above an 'average' percieved line, I'm going to guess it was just from mixing...

If the wife says it's getting better (or the best so far), and others enjoyed it, you're making progress. Going the right direction is the only short-term goal, and you're achieving that. Your patience and focus -is- paying off! Well done!

If you are doing 50g water and 75g flour, you're at around 67% hydration (rounded up from 66.66%). I am very familiar with that hydration, and your starter looks waaaay too wet for that number to be possible. At 67%, you get a doughball after mixing, and it can stand on its own for an hour or so. It forms a very solid dome and is very resistant to 'crashing' down on itself. It takes it about 15 hrs to be noticeably collapsed, and it does not leave much of a 'snail trail' down the container from where it peaked. It leaves strands of flour, almost like thousands of tiny lice. The starter in that picture looks to be > 90% hydration.

Can you confirm your best guess at where your current starter(s) are at, hydration-wise, and exactly what the current maintenance is? Need to know how much old starter is being retained, and how much new water and flour is being added. If you can, and if you haven't yet, please transfer some starter to a temp container. Completely wash and dry the old container. When you're sure it's very dried, WEIGH it by itself, and note that number somewhere. Do it for both starters if you are maintaining two. Transfer back the starter(s) and refresh them. Once you answer this post, we'll get you on a very easy 5-8 min refreshment cycle.

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

A few points of clarity...

The marks on the side are almost entirely from the mixing and although I scrape down with a rubber spatular not always completely clean -is this a problem? 

In terms of hydration, I did one feed at 50:75 then returned to the normal routine of 50:50 as another 50:75 would be too much of a dough ball (I assumed!).  The pictures are after 1 or 2 feeds of 50:50.

Both starters should be around 100% again as they have been fed about 4 times since the last 50:75 feed.

Feed cycle is 50g filtered water, 50g white organic bread flour, 100g starter.

Will wash the containers tonight when I do the next feed cycle.

I had intended to take a photo of the resultant bread but it was eaten too quickly by the family....

thanks
Lee.

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi,

A little update...  When I went to feed my starter last night, the paint smell seems to have gone completely but the chemical smell remained.  I thoroughly cleaned both containers and fed both starters 100g starter, 50g water, 50g flour.  For one of the starters, I added some fresh lemon juices (tip from this group - I added 1 tablespoon to 5.5oz water, then used 50g of this). Once fed, both starters were 20mm in the pot. Results this morning (after 10 hours)

batch 1 - no lemon

rose to 35mm bubbles as per pictures, smells a little yeast and a litte chemical.  No sign that it has risen higher and dropped back

batch 2 - with lemon

rose to 40mm, bubbles as per pictures not real smell to it.  No sign that it has risen higher and dropped back.

I wonder whether I should leave them longer?

thanks
Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Scroll down for my next response : )

- Keith

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi Lee,

Looking at the previous comments and your original formula, I see some problems with both the recipe and the instructions you provided.

First, 400g of 100% hydrated starter + 600g of water for 1000g of flour is going to give you 80% hydration. That's really really wet dough, almost like a focaccia. Is it even kneadable in your mixer? At 80% hydration it's probably goopy and batter-like. If you want it more fluffy, reduce your water by 200g, that will give you 60% hydration, which will feel and behave much more nicely. 

- rise in oiled bowl (approx 3 hours) on work surface

- knock back and form into 2 loaves

- proof in bowls lined with floured cotton for around 1.5 hours again out on the work surface

Second, even though the recipe has 40% starter, these timings completely depend on how active your starter is. From everything that's been written so far, it doesn't appear your starter is active enough, so I encourage you to continue feeding 2x per day at room temp (72-75F) for a total of about 10 days until it reaches ful strength.

Finally, Watch the dough, not the clock: during that first rise in the oiled bowl (I prefer a clear plastic tub so I can measure the change), your dough should almost but not quite double in volume. It might take 3 hours, it might take 6! It depends on your starter strength, your room temp, etc.

During your final proof after shaping, again it should almost but not quite double. Could take 1 hour, could take 6 hours! Poke the dough gently with a floured finger, it should not totally collapse, but slowly spring back a little. Watch the dough, it will tell you when it's ready to bake. 

 

 

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi cranbo,

Isn't my recipe 67% hydration rather than 80% (i.e. 800g total water/ 1200g total flour)?

thanks
Lee.

 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Lee, my apologies, apparently too early in the morning for the maths for me :( 

You're absolutely right, yes, your formula is 67% hydration, I forgot to include the flour in the starter in my calculations. My bad :( So disregard my comments about the formula. 

My comments about the dough timings still stand though ;)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

After adding 400g of starter to the dough, what do you do specifically with the other 200g of starter? Is the starter reduced, fed again, allowed a few hours of growth before refrigeration? Or is the near exhausted ripe starter put into the refrigerator to more or less starve for a week?

What I'm drawing attention to is the way the starter is stored to maintain healthy yeast numbers. I think once the starter is healthy (stick with Keith's excellent help) a new care pattern will develop which will also be easy to maintain, just a little bit different than what was done in the past.

Mini

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Mini,

You do raise an interesting question and having read it, does seem like I have been a little mean to my starter :)  Once the feeding is complete overnight, in the morning, I take 200g of the starter from the bowl and return it straight into the original container and put it in the fridge!  As you say, I starve it then until I need it again!!! Which is either a week or 2 weeks..

I'm now guessing this isn't really a good idea (and am starting to feel sorry for it :) )??  What should I really do as I only normally bake at the weekend - no time in the week.

thanks again


Lee.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You are making up for it now. Starters can take quite a bit of abuse. Once the starter is going strong there are several ways to make it work for your schedule. Quite a few loafers are baking weekends. So there are lots of tips around. :)

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Starting a new comment section here, as the old one was getting a bit margined ; )

Ok, well at the point where we were getting regular volume, we should have switched to more food. That should have happened long ago, and may be what's hindering the final push here. We're going to do that, and we're going to drop the hydration slightly to 85% (what I'm currently maintaining). To answer your question about the stuff left on the sides, it is a problem because it can start to accomodate molds. You seem to be washing the containers every few cycles, so that minimizes or even eliminates that issue. With this new hydration, you're going to have a lot less on the sides, and learn how to basically clean it every time you refresh. You shouldn't have to physically wash the container, ever. Let's begin.

You are going to retain 50g old starter. Assuming that's close to 100% hydration, we can figure in it is 25g each water and flour. All good.. now let's figure out how much flour we'd need to add to that 50g of starter to convert it to 85%. I'm figuring close to 4g extra flour, let's see...

54 / 185 = .2919

85 * .2919 = 24.8g water - close enough, we currently have pretty much exactly that right now.

100 * .2919 = 29.2g flour - we currently have 25, so we'll need to add 4.2g. Hold that number for later.

Now, let's see exactly what we would do as a normal refreshment. We want 100g at 85%.

100 / 185 = .54

85 * .54 = 45.9g water (46 is fine here)

100 * .54 = 54g flour

Ok, so jot that down - each time you refresh, you will use 46g water and 54g flour. Now, for the one-time adjustment to the current 50g of retained starter, we need to add another 4.2g flour. This one time, we will be adding 46g water and 58.2g flour, got it? Ok, set aside some old starter and clean your container. Dry it. Did you weigh it empty yet? You need to, and jot down that weight. Measure out and add to the dry container, 46g of water. Add 50g of the starter set aside. Use a large fork and throughly whip to combine. You want it extremely foamy, a good beer head of foam. This is forcing oxygen into the mixture. Measure out the 58.2g of flour and add it all at once. Stir firmly from the middle out. Once you get most of all the flour wet, you will notice that there is a lot of dry flour around the edges. Use the SIDE of the fork and scrape from the top of the dry flour line to the top of the slurry line, rotating the container and repeating until it's all gone. You will find this very easy, fast, and precise after doing it several times over the next feedings. Ok, now with all the dry flour scraped down with the fork, stir the bejeezus out of it all until fairly smooth. The last stroke should be using the backside of the fork against the glass, rotate it all around the glass once, and then fold the fork over the top of the slurry and pull it up and out. This last movement will let the fork exit with a minimum amount of starter left on it (you will again get good at this with time). You will have a fairly substantial amount of residual starter right above the slurry line, but nothing even close to what you had before. Now take your rubber spatula (make sure it's clean) and get a little tap water on it so that the first strokes we make don't get hung up. We are going to scrape from top to bottom with the tip pointing down, instead of scraping around with the side of it. Essentially, we are 'pushing' the side excess back down, from above, to a little below the slurry line. Rotate the container and repeat. Make sure you use enough pressure on the spatula tip against the glass side to get a complete grip, but loose enough that it will slide down easily. Repeat part about this getting easier... ; ) There will be a little residual left on the spatula - that's fine. Lastly, take one paper towel, fold up into a small square that you can still hold with your fingers. Quickly pass it under running water to lightly wet it. Run it around the inside of the container, starting at the top, and finishing about 1/2" or so above the slurry line. What's left above the slurry line will quickly get covered by the starter rising. You now have an extremely clean and tidy starter, no need to wash the container ever again. This whole process looks like a lot written out. It takes me about 6 mins from start to finish to actually do it all.

Whew!

Ok, now since your starter container has no markings, let's add some. Get a strip of masking tape, painter's tape, post-it notes, whatever you can MacGyver together, and put it vertically on the side of your container. Use sharpie, crayon if you have kids, blood if you're a vampire, whatever, to mark where the top of the slurry is. Make sure you are around when it peaks, because guess what? We need a mark there, too. If you can, take a picture before the next refresh. It should show the line where the starter began, where it peaked, and where it was right before you started the next refreshment. Please do this next refreshment between 12 and 14 hrs. You started off with a clean container, you won't have that next refresh, so here we go:

Remember that empty container weight? Add 50g to it. This is your target weight. Take a large fork and stir up the starter. Use the side of the fork to lightly scrape the sides downward, but don't obsess on it. You should find that the old starter will come out in huge chunks. In fact, if you wanted to, you could probably damn near pull it all out at once! But don't... hehe Take out a fairly big chunk (over half), zero your scale, and weigh it all. You are trying to hit your target, which is the container weight plus 50g. Not there? Pull out more until you nail it. Do I need to say this will get easier? No? Ok. Now that you have exactly 50g left in the container, measure out your 46g of water and dump it in. Using the side of the fork, and tilting the container until water comes up to the peak line, start quickly scraping the dried peak line area while rotating the container. Should take about 10-15 seconds to complete. Then use the tines of the fork to scrape around the bottom getting everything loosened up. At that point, you can repeat the above, beginning with 'whipping' it into a froth.

I'm sorry we did not catch that you were essentially 'under feeding', but this will be corrected now. Let us know how it goes after a day or two, and post a new pic with markers!

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

Will start this tomorrow and fingers crossed.  If it helps any in the diagnosis, I almost never clean my containers so could still be the root cause I guess?  I try to scrape the majority off the slides with the spatular but never really paid much attention to it..... until now :)

Should I do this with both starters (i.e. the normal one and the one with lemon) or would you suggest experimenting something different with the other one?

thanks

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Gonna be honest here, would ditch the second one and start a new one from scratch. Unless you are doing something so drastically different between them, there is no point wasting flour on two of the same. Secondly, you very well could end up with a much better starter down the road (and likely will). Figure 6 weeks, but in the meantime, apparently you can bake with the old one? That's a nice feature = )

If you're game to do that, you'll need a can of 100% pineapple juice, and Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice Solution Part Deux. Scroll down in that post to the part where she outlines the startup procedure. Note she uses VOLUME measurements at first, so the initial slurry will be > 100% hydration. If you haven't, and when you have the time, read Part 1 and Part 2 in whole, each. You can never have too much info about your starter, and these two articles are a culmination of a lot of fabulous research and experimentation.

I'm not sure if the stuff on the sides created your original problem, but I do know certainly that a majority of those that end up with molds and/or other nasty bacteria are usually pretty lax with their containers. The part that might include you? A lot of them get it from that most huge and accomodating petri dish; the refrigerator.

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

The only difference is that I introduced the lemon juice to one of them and it seems to be rising more than the other.  Will start an new starter at the weekend anyway. I didn't start the original one from scratch so it will be a learning experience anyway.

Thanks

Lee.

leenowell's picture
leenowell

I was in a big rush this morning so didn't have time to look up the new technique so decided to do a quick 100g:100g:100g feed in both starters. Got home this evening (14 hours later) and the starter has risen from 30mm to 60mm (judging by the debris on the sides) and dropped back to 40mm (one with lemon) 45mm (one without). So far so good. 

Bubbles much the same as before so didn't really expect much....

So, did the smell test and was amazed!!!  The one with lemon smelled yeasty, beer undertone (albeit a cheap beer!) not paint nor paint stripper.  Wow I thought.....  The one without lemon.  Faint yeast, no beer, no paint, no stripper.  Seems like we have turned a corner...  After a very long day at work, this was a great  and pleasant surprise.  So, does this change next steps or go ahead with the new plan?  I will probably do 1 at 100% and the other at the new one tonight and see the plan tomorrow.

Good progress.....

Thanks

Lee.

leenowell's picture
leenowell

So good progress with the starter remaining paint free. Although it is more than doubling these days (30mm to 75mm) the bubbles are not as good as yours yet Keith. It seems to peak in about 5 hours, then drops back from 75mm to 70mm by next feed. Here are some pics... What do you think?

 

So based on the good results, I thought I would try my first loaf and had a few issues...

1. Recipe... the 85% hydration threw me a bit so recalculated my usual recipe and came up with....

400g starter (at 85% as per Keith's recipe above) made using 200g starter, 184g water 216g flour

600g water + 928g flour + 1 tablespoon of salt

2. The rise

I only did the 1 rise (as someone suggested early on in the thread) putting it in a plastic bowl lined with my usual flour engrained, smooth cotton teatowels (the type you use to polish glasses).  I decided to wait until it had doubled (as best I could see) and checked by putting my finger into the dough and it started to fill the dent in slowly but for a couple of seconds then stopped.

3. The stick

When I tried to flick it out onto the board, it had stick at the bottom to the cloth (sides were fine).  Also, the cloth felt damp.  as a result, I lost some of the air as I tried to detach the cloth from dough and also the cloaking around the dough was badly damaged :(  I had this problem before and by rubbing the flour in to the cloth it seemed to fix it.  I suspect it was a coincidence as I rubbed loads in this time to be sure and gave the dough a good dusting.

4. The bake

Bake went fine although I didn't get as much oven rise as normal - I put this down to the sticking issue. Oven heated to 250 deg C with preheated oven tray.  Sprayed water in, 3 mins later sprayed more water, turned oven down to 220 deg C and baked both loaves to 99 deg C - checked in 2 different places. I took bread 1 out when it hit the temp and bread 2 left for a further 5 mins.

5. The result.

Both loaves, not as heavy as before and a nice thinner crust. Crumb still moist (like an English Muffin/ Crumpet) but the loaf that stayed in for the extra 5 mins was better. Bread 1 got eaten before I had a chance to take a picture but this is a picture of bread 2 (i.e. the one that had the extra 5 mins)

Keith/ all - should I continue feeding twice a day or can I start putting it in the fridge?

Thanks very much again for all your help.  It has been fantastic - my starter is much better now than it has ever been.   

Lee.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now try this...   After adding the 400g starter (just short of peaking) and the rest of the dough.  Let it sit in the bowl instead of a towel.  The towel part should be rather short or it will stick, big time.   Sometimes wet doughs are better worked where you can contain the dough folding it while it is rising, like in the bowl.  The trick is to first flip it over to the top is bottom and then pull out the sides and fold over the rest of the dough.  Working around to make sure it all gets stretched.  

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/22990/illustration-stretch-and-fold-bowl     

Do not let the sourdough double in size, better 3/4 and let the rest happen in the oven with heat and steam for good oven spring.  Think of the rise as one with lots of little interruptions to build body in the wet dough.   It is easy to feel the changes in the dough as you handle it more often.   Try it and if you put the dough into a floured cloth, leave it there only about half an hour or so before gently turning onto peel or sheet or stone.   

The starter is looking much better.  After removing some for your loaf, feed it.  Let it sit out for at least an hour until it just starts to form bubbles (look at the bottom and sides of glass) before popping it into the fridge.  Look for a high warmer spot like the door near the eggs and butter and stay away from the back and bottom of the fridge.  

Mini

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Thanks Mini. I am always very wary of messing with the dough during the "final" rise as I am fearful of breaking the structure, releasing all the air and ending up with a pancake :)  Looking at this, it seems I am a bit too paranoid?  Will give this technique a go at the weekend.

thanks again

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Sorry for the delay, was super busy over the weekend. Everything's looking a LOT better, including the bake!

The conversion to 85% was for a couple reasons. I had suspected that soon you would be going to the refrigerator with it, and having it firmer than 100% seems to help there. Also, it's a lot easier to keep your container clean when doing refreshments. If a recipe calls for 100%, just use it as-is. If it calls for 70%, just use it as-is. It's the 'middle of the road' hydration, and any recipe should accept it with good results. If you end up really liking a recipe, you could do a 2 or 3 stage 'build' to the actual called for hydration the next time you bake it.

I'm not real convinced your starter is healthy enough to be refrigerated for long periods -yet-, but certainly if you wanted a break for a few days, it should be fine. I'd try to keep it countered and very happy for a minimum of six weeks. You will probably notice that each time you bake every weekend or two, your loaves will handle and taste just a little different, and usually for the better. This is a normal maturation process that is slowed down when you refrigerate.

The first time I experienced a real cloth sticking issue was when trying to do the Tartine Country bread. Adding the extra 50g of water at the end caused me to experience exactly what you wrote, with exactly the same results. What was really different was that I did not retard to the refrigerator the final shapes in the bannetons. I normally do that with my go-to recipe, and have never had a sticking issue. Coming out of the refrigerator cold seems to make the stick almost unnoticeable. It almost happened again with DiMuzio's SF SD, but since I wasn't going to retard, I was prepared ahead of time and really floured my cloths - almost double or triple my usual amount. I also dusted the tops of the final shapes before inverting them into the baskets. It was a bit sticky coming out, but no disaster. On cloths, make sure you buy ones with very dense threading, as they hold flour much better. Hold it up to light like a windowpane test, although thinner is not better here. ; ) I saw some flour clothing at Walmart a few weeks ago and had a good laugh at how thin they were... they were just a tad denser than what would pass as cheese cloth. So yes, use liberal amounts of flour.

Your starter is looking great, the container looks cleaner, and you can only get more positive results as the weeks tick by. I agree with much of what Mini posted above... you definitely over-proofed the final shapes by going double. By all means go double on your bulk, but err on the side of under-proofing the final shapes. After baking for a few months, watch the kitchen temps rise or fall with the seasons changing. You will need to adjust proofing times a couple times a year. It's nice to have 'starter issues' moving to the lower end of the priority list, and having dough techniques move up the list. I raise a toast your general direction for better bakes going forward! = )

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Thanks Keith - I have been missing you words of encouragement and push in the right direction :) Hope you had a fun weekend even if it was hectic.

Sounds like I should keep going with the 85% feeding hydration and hopefully the starter will grow stronger and rise higher? When you say go "double on bulk", does this mean the feed or the 1st rise?

thanks

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Bulk refers to bulk fermentation. This is when you're making dough and has nothing to do with your starter. As far as the starter is concerned, time your initial dough mix to the peak of the starter. You should know how long that is by now. ; ) After you do the initial mix and (hopefully) an autolyse period, you should do some stretch and folds per Mini's advice. This technique isn't real intuitive, nor easy, which is why she provided a link for more details. Doing it in a bowl/container is but one way, there are others. For sourdoughs, we want a S&F every 30 mins to an hour. Depending on recipe, this is usually 30 mins apart for the first 2 or 3, then a 4th or 5th at hourly. This process, when done correctly, will only de-gas the largest bubbles, and this is actually desired, since yeast are not mobile. Removing the biggest bubbles and re-distributing the other bubbles brings the yeast to more food, or vice-versa. The dough should start becoming smooth around the 2nd or 3rd S&F. A 4th or even 5th might be necessary to complete the gluten development, this must be learned over time. Once you have the right amount of structure, round it up into a boule, and place it back into the container (some do a last S&F, not bothering to round). Now you are set for bulk fermentation as mentioned above. The dough should no longer be disturbed, and allowed to double, or darn close. Then you can remove and do your final shaping. Again, per baker's choice, some do a pre-shape, rest the pre-shapes 10-15 mins, and then do one last final tightening before retiring to banneton, brotform, or whatever. The final rise should -not- double (we are talking sourdoughs here). If you do a light poke test and are on the fence whether it needs another 15-30 mins, it's probably ready right now. ; ) Make sure your oven is ready before you need it! All these little timing details are frustrating at first, but become second nature over time.

As a last suggesting prior to a next bake, I would use a piece of paper and jot down -exactly- what you did, including what time you did what, and if you can, what temperature the air was around the dough. This information will become invaluable next time around! Your family and friends are fortunate that you are willing to take the time to learn all of this! I'm sure they will eat and enjoy everything, including the mistakes, but focusing on your skills will satisfy YOU. Bakers enjoy their own bread too, but knowing just one more thing came out perfect can make you royalty in your own mind for the day.

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi All,

Firstly thanks to mini and Keith for their help once again...

This weekend I have done a fair bit of baking...  Friday made 3 loaves (plain, sun dried tomato, rosemary/ thyme) for a family breakfast on Saturday morning. I didn't have enough time to proof properly to be honest, but result was enjoyed by all.

On Saturday, I decided to do a more controlled experiment so we could see what was actually going on....

Starter - was fed on Saturday morning following Keith's technique

150g original starter : 138g flour (50% WW, 50% white bread) : 162g water.

It started at 40mm high, peaked at 95mm after 6 hours.  I used it after around 6.5 to 7 hours and it had dropped to 90mm.

Dough - made in one batch as follows

400g starter from above : 600g water (luke warm) : 600g white bread flour : 328g WW flour.  ! tablespoon salt.

Then divided the batch into 3 x 650g loaves, each one "cloaked" into a small ball.  Ambient temp around the work area was 20.4 degrees C. After 4 hours all looked to have risen by 3/4 although difficult to really tell given the bowl shape etc.

Loaf 1

Put it in an oiled plastic bowl and followed Mini's technique. Folding first 3 at 30 min intervals, then next 2 at hour intervals.  This one had an extra 40min rise as I had to wait for the other 2 to bake.  After the rise, I took it out of the bowl as was, shaped it a bit then baked it. To be honest, I forgot I was suppose to put it in the towel lined bowl!!

Loaf 2

Left this on a floured chopping board covered with plastic wrap - periodically moving it off the dough if it started touching to stop sticking.  The dough spread out across the board rather than hold its shape and rise upwards. After the rise (4 hours), I shaped it a little then baked it

Loaf 3

Put this into a tea towel lined bowl (same type bowl as 1).  After the rise (4 hours) went to take it out of the bowl and it had stuck as before. I guess no surprise but wanted to make sure it was a controled experiment. I shaped it making sure to put the broken crust (caused by the sticking) at the bottom.

The bake

Oven heated to 250 deg C with baking sheet in.  Loaf in, spray oven with water to get lots of steam.  Wait 3 mins, spray again.  Reduce to 220 deg C and bake until inner temp is 99 deg C.  Leave to cool on wire rack.

The results

Nice crust. Crumb is much better than before.  Not very sticky and a little softer but not a lot.  The interesting thing was that I didn't really get much of an oven spring.  The loaves rose a little but usually I would loaves where the widest bit is around 1/3 of the way up  but these were more or less at the bottom (if you see what I mean).  Anyway, I took a picture of them... Loaf 1 is at the bottom, loaf 2 in the middle and loaf 3 at the top.  Not really sure I could see much of a difference but I'm sure you guys probably can.

I would love to hear what you guys think.  I guess my starter still needs to become more active and I was wondering whether I let them rise long enough.  Also, does the technique make a difference?

A huge thanks once again.

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hi Lee -

A huge 'your welcome' back atchya. It's a pleasure to see someone stick with a plan and see it through! It has certainly been a long road, but hey, look at those loaves!!

Over 1/3 of your flour by weight is WW, therefore it's a little more challenging to get softness. That being said, realistically any type of flour changes, or a multitude of types, is going to affect the outcome. It's one of the fun variables. As you venture away from 'starter issues' into technique, the best advice that can be passed along to you is, pick a recipe that is a favorite and make it exclusively every bake. This is done to ensure that we don't have 'new' variables inserted into the process that might cause us to have specific failures in unfamiliar territories. You want to be able to do the same thing with your starter each time, the same mix, the same fermentation, the same shaping, the same baking, until you become absolute expert at each of these things. You can, of course, bake other things, but always be sure to bake at least one of your 'expert' loafs. Keeping a baking log of how you did each process, how much time was spent, what the temperature was, etc., will help you concentrate on specific areas of weakness, and/or get help here with questions and advice.

On the oven rise, well, trudging through some similar threads, one will quickly conclude that it can be many different problems. From the pictures, I don't see any obvious 'scoring', but there are no pics of the actual tops (the bottom loaf is our best look, and there doesn't seem to be much). So... did you score at all? If you did, I'd say that's a weakness right now, and needs to worked on. If the loaf is not properly scored, there's no way for it to spring much - nowhere for it to go. Also, keeping the tops moist during the first 10-12 mins of baking is extra important for good oven spring. This is usually achieved by getting steam to them via various techniques you can search about. A scored area that hardens too fast will become 'grigne', and stop the springing early. A scored area that is kept moist will allow 'bloom' from the core of the loaf to burst out for a dramatic effect.

Your loaves might have over-proofed during final proofing. Sourdoughs made with a natural starter need to get to the oven a little early. Judging by the pics, it looks like you went too far on the final, but not SO far that you ended up with bricks. It looks like 15-30 mins earlier into the oven might have gotten you more spring. The top loaf appears to have the best looking crumb, as far as it being very evenly distributed. You can see that the crumb along the bottom crust isn't all that compacted, or dense, in comparison to the rest of the crumb. That's a great sign. We can expect a little bit of compression due to the weight of the dough. What I see visually is a loaf that was final proofed to almost the exact minute where the outcome would have started plummeting if you waited any longer. Every extra 5 mins would have caused more compression along the bottom, and less spring. If you back that up by 15, maybe even 20 or 30 mins, you'll start getting the oven spring (assuming there's some scoring where it can expand). You've stated that this loaf is the one that 'stuck'. You're gonna hafta get that problem solved, as we can't have that as a factor each time if we're trying to nail down a particular technique or timing issue! ; ) You say loaf 1 had the extra 40 mins. As I stated above, this is what #3 would have looked like if given more time. That loafed bricked on ya! ; D Certainly seen worse, but yeah, it underscores that you need to start getting dough into the oven earlier. Watch those proofing temps as the season starts changing on us here! It's turning Fall here in the US, and already average kitchen temps have dropped 6-8° F. If you time the dough from final to oven faster, and the kitchen temp has dropped as well, you could end up under-proofed just as easily! haha! That being said, make sure you poke and prod your final shapes and know what it 'feels' like. Relying on an exact amount of time is only valid if you have a temperature controlled proofer. You will spend a lot of time learning this area. There will be successes and failures, but looking at your pics, any 'failures' are going to be successes to the hungry public-at-large!

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

Yes you are absolutely right..... no scoring at all.  To be honest, I usually do score the tops but this time thought (mistakenly) that I would not do it so it would retain it's shape better - clearly a bad move :)  In terms of the dough and WW ratio, again I deviated from my usual recipe to add more WW flour thinking there would be more food for the yeast to feed on (based on your earlier suggestion of kick starting the starter with some WW flour).  This coming weekend I will go back to the usual recipe and remember to score the top :)

Based on this, do you still feel I should have put it in the oven sooner.  These loaves I did in a single rise if that matters.  In terms of the sticking, I deliberately tried the old technique to prove it was the technique rather than the dough recipe or proof time.  I was going to follow Mini's advice as put the stretch and fold one into a towel but forgot!!  On that front, I had a question.... When the dough is in the bowl, since the technique flips it over each time, at the end of the cycle there is a light covering of oil all over the dough.  When I take it out and put in my floured towel, will this be an issue?  I have visions of the oil and flour mixing as it rises and ending up with glooop.

Based on the 3 techniques, it seemed that the easiest/ safest was to put it on a floured chopping board as the result didn't seem too much different (and I avoid the drama of S+F and sticking to the towel).  Or, I guess putting it in an oiled bowl and let it do it's thing.  What impact does the technique have on the finished product?  When I first started making bread, I used to let it rise in an oiled bowl.  What I found was the cloak seemed to lose its ability to wrap the dough nicely (almost like there wasn't a cloak - if you see what I mean) and I thought this impacted the oven rise (looking now though this may have been over proofing instead based on my new found knowledge :) ).

Last question..... in terms of keeping the top moist, do you suggest spraying it directly?  My oven has a "hydrobake" setting (which I assume means it doesn't vent the steam in the oven so much as normal) so I use that and spray a lot of water on the sides/ base which generates a lot of steam.

Hopefully I could tweek things based on your feedback and make a fresh batch on Friday ready for the family breakfast on Saturday. I will post some fresh pictures :)

thanks

Lee.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Techniques are based on three criteria - what you're comfortable doing, what equipment you have, and the hydration of your dough. Likewise, there are basically 3 types of S&F that are most popular - S&F in a bowl, S&F on a work area with bench flour, or S&F on a work area with water. S&F on a work area requires you to remove the dough from the bowl, perform the S&F, and then return it to the bowl. S&F in abowl requires, obviously, a bowl or container that is large enough to accomodate the process. For my 'go to' recipe, I actually use both bowl and work surface. This is due to the fact that I do not own a machine mixer and do everything by hand. My first S&F's are done in a bowl, with multiple turns, because I need to get something near a 'mixer' dough development fairly quickly. Let's be honest here, S&F in a bowl with multiple turns is more adequately described as kneading in a bowl. ; ) I'll describe a typical process for me, but you'll find out what works best for you and your target recipe.

I'll do an initial mix by hand, then a frisage on the work surface to make sure there is no dry flour in the mix. Chad does this by hand in the bowl for Tartine, and Mike Avery also does this in a video on his sourdoughhome website. I use the heel of my hand on a work surface rather than both hands in the dough. It just works for me - less mess IMO. Either technique is achieving the same end, which is a mix that has no dry flour bits in it. If you have a dough capable mixer, then your mixer does this for you within the first 30 secs to one minute. Let's see if we can find some videos for this part:

Mike Avery - hand mixing and initial S&F

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gSP6V45dt8 - part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxqmWxWBDSQ - part 2

Mike does an initial mix all by hand, then a 45 autolyse (rest), then does the first S&F, where he also looks for dry lumps of flour and does a 'spot frisage'. I do all of this basically the same way, but much differently, lol... My initial mix is done with a wooden spoon versus whole hand in the dough. Instead of autolysing right there, I go ahead and do the frisage, except I do ALL of the dough, not just an area here or there (I will link you to another video for that). Lastly, Mike folds up the dough a fairly classic way (letter-style, or 1/3'rds). I do this last step the same way, except I haven't autolysed yet, so my first S&F is less stretching. I'm just folding up rather loosely the frisage'd mix and setting for autolyse. I also use 45 mins to an hour (I lean towards an hour on normal days, 45 mins on very warm days). As promised, a video showing how to frisage an entire mix:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGLDBZys8pw

This is Julia Child with guest baker Danielle Forestier. The technique is shown right within the first 3 mins of the video. Again, my approach is slightly different. She adds the water to a well in the flour - I do this part in a bowl. She then does the frisage all at once. I will use my wooden spoon, and pull out about 1/3rd of my dough at a time. Once that 1/3rd has been processed, I scrape it out of the way into a corner, and do another 1/3rd. Note Danielle's rest is only 15 mins, that's because she is making a commercially yeasted recipe. Also note that Mike Avery suggests that frisage 'damages' the dough structure. That might be true in his case, because he autolyses first, and therefore there is 45 mins of structure already at work. My frisage is done at initial mix, so I'm not damaging anything (nothing there yet to damage). Also note that Mike's dough for that recipe is rather low in the hydration department. The fun part, if you continue to watch the Julia video, is where Danielle demonstrates a 'slap and fold' technique for kneading. It's pretty shocking. ; D not really recommended for our purposes, although if you have unruly kids around the house, it can impress them. ; D So there's the techniques for getting to the point where S&F's can begin. If you have a mixer, all of this is done for you. To re-cap where I am at this point:

  • Mix water and starter in mixer bowl
  • Add flour, mix with wooden spoon. Might add salt here if desired.
  • Perform frisage on work surface, working in parts
  • Loosely fold (no stretching to mention), return to bowl to autolyse
  • If salt was withheld, it will be added after autolyse

So now, at the end of the autolyse, we're at the point where classic S&F's can start, however, I'm going to do some intense gluten development using S&F in a bowl. Before doing this, I will add the recipe salt if it isn't in the mix yet. S&F in a bowl is performed by pulling up an edge of the dough, folding it over into the middle, pressing it down lightly, rotate the bowl, and repeat. Many use a plastic bowl scraper, I just use my hand. This is because from all of the processing done above, by this time, my dough has already developed enough that I can just grab an edge and fold it over. If you're working with a higher hydration formula, the scraper would indeed come in handy. Here's a video with Mark Sinclair performing S&F in a bowl, and he's working with a very high hydration dough - hence the scraper is really necessary:

http://thebackhomebakery.com/Tutorials/NoKnead.html

Since my dough is not quite that wet, after folding an edge, I need to press the fold into the core of the dough - lightly. You do not want to handle the dough in a way that will rip or tear it. Gentle persistence is key here. I will do this until the entire bowl has rotated completely 3 or 4 times. I will then do a quick and dirty letter type final fold (in the bowl) and let it rest. When you do a letter type fold, you can clearly see where the layers are by looking at the side of the dough ball. It looks like a snail shell. It is important to watch that area, and how it melds into itself over time. This happens quickly at S&F 1 and 2, but takes longer with subsequent folds. This is why we generally S&F twice at 30 mins, and then do a 3rd, 4th, or even 5th fold at 45 mins to one hour apiece. Watching this area crash into itself is a good indicator of when that S&F session has done its work, and is ready for another. The condition of the gluten dictates whether another S&F is even needed, so starting with S&F three, I will grab an edge of dough, pull it away from the bowl (stretching, not breaking it off), and press the backside with my fingers. This is how I check my windowpane. When I can push with my fingers to the point of translucency, and almost see my fingerprints through it, I know I'm done and the dough will be able to hold a skin during final. Ok, so adding to the list above, here's where we are:

  • Autolyse completed - S&F in the bowl (salt added if necessary) approx. 3 or 4 bowl rotations
  • Quick and dirty letter fold in the bowl
  • Rest 30 mins

The next S&F's will be done outside the bowl. As mentioned, there are 2 ways of doing this - using bench flour, or using water. I use water. Here are some videos, one with Mark Sinclair again, doing bench S&F, and one with a  home baker (and TFL member - his name escapes me atm - Bill something??) doing the same thing using water.

http://www.thebackhomebakery.com/Tutorials/KneadFold.html

Here, Mark has a very nice marble or granite work surface which negates any need for either flour or water to prevent sticking. He also works quickly, and is expert at it. Most people will need to to toss some bench flour out there to avoid disaster. Notice things about folding that are not narrated. There are two sides to folded dough, the smooth side and the other one. When you do the final 1/3rd folds, the smooth side will be facing the work surface. When retired back to the bowl, you will want to invert this, so that what was facing the work surface is now facing up (towards you) in the bowl. You can see him do this. When you pull the dough back out to the workbench for another S&F, this smooth surface should again be face down to the work surface. Watch him do both of these things. They are not commented on, but important to good technique. Now here's a video with the home baker doing the same process, but using a water and bench flour approach:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3052252168119120428

This is the technique that works well for me - but I work on a wooden pastry board. I also do not use any flour, but instead, use a spray bottle to wet my board. I do wet my fingertips periodically to do the folds and rounding up back to the bowl. There is no sticking issues. Again, notice technique here - when a flap is lifted, it is stretched AWAY from the center before it is folded over. This is done for every fold (or stroke, if you will). This process is repeated x number of times until the dough is fully developed, then I round into a medium-tight boule, and retire to the bowl for the bulk fermentation. It will not be disturbed further until final shaping.

Each time you handle the dough, you will see and feel changes. Visually, it will start to get puffy, pillowy, softer looking. The smooth part will go from shaggy (initial mix and autolyse) to goose bumpy (1st and maybe 2nd S&F), to glossy and almost silky smooth (nearing full development). Each time it will be even puffier than before, because the yeast is releasing CO2 all of this time. Our handling should be reverent enough to not expel much of this gas - it should just accumulate. Feel-wise, you will notice how squishy it is due to the gas building up each time. All of these changes are leading you to the decision of when to set for bulk.

Your bulk time should be loosely based now on dough volume. We want doubled, but we want doubled from our initial mix. In the several hours doing stretches and folds, it has already gained some volume, so take that into consideration. You don't want it doubled from HERE, you want it doubled from where we started. For my go-to recipe, this is going to take between 5 and 7 hours from here. Overall fermentation will have been from around 8 to 10 hours from initial mix. Your times will vary depending on the ratio of starter you use, and temperature, so you need to watch the dough - just use the clock as a guideline/reminder to check the dough.

Hope this is helpful to get you good experience from initial mix through bulk fermentation. Final handling is another essay altogether. ; )

There is always a fair amount of time between each step. Make sure you have a plan for the next step, and that your tools are ready. Review any videos if you are planning to reproduce a technique. Do it in your mind several times before you touch the dough. Record on paper what you're doing, what time, how long, what temperature, did you make any mistakes you will want to focus on improving next time? Don't really stress much over any failures from final shaping to bake. Note them, but don't fret. Initial mix through bulk fermentation is what we want to become absolute EXPERT at before we start narrowing down final shaping, scoring, and baking. Believe me, you will want no mix/bulk issues to dog you while you are focusing on final and baking. You will have your hands full there with a hundred more variables than you had here. If you enjoy all of this, you are going to really have a lot of fun soon. = ]

- Keith

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi Keith,

Thanks for this very complete picture.  I'll watch some of the videos this evening in prepartion.  I do have a mixer so tend to do the following (would you mind checking if I have goofed anything?)

- put starter into the mixer's bowl

- add water and mix with wooden spoon until all blended in

- add salt and mix again

- add all the flour and mix in with the wooden spoon until it forms a ball (ish) and most flour is in it (i.e there isn't a ball of dough sitting on top of a load of flour!)

- mix on setting 2 (of 4) until dough is smooth and when you pinch and pull a bit from the hook it returns back relatively slowly. around 6 mkins If I do this too early it feels a bit like a bunch of tendons under the surface and almosy fights it back!

- move on to floured granite worksurface, check it feels about right, put into an even shape (make it easier to judge 1/2 or 1/3) split into loaf sizes and shape into cloaked balls

From now on, I did the 3 techniques mentioned above.

Does this sound right?

thanks

Lee.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and then add to the liquids OR add the salt later after the flour has soaked up the water.  Adding the salt to the starter makes me wonder if the beasts aren't getting too much of an osmotic shock before the flour buffers the effects.  I wonder if that might be slowing down your bulk rise.   Don't know what Keith's thoughts are on the subject.  I think the bulk rise should be faster with such a high amount of starter.  ...or am I really off here?  Try it sometime as see...

leenowell's picture
leenowell

Hi All,

A few weeks have now gone by and I wanted to give you an update of where I am after following all your great advice...

- Starter is now behaving itself well.  It triples in volume over night and has a lot more bubbles (not quite as much as Keith's piccy though).  Following mini's advice, I now feed it before putting it in the fridge :)  Routine is,

1. take the starter out of the fridge Friday morning and do a 50:46:54 feed.  Leaving on the worksurface

2. Friday eve - do the feed ready for tomorrow's baking

3. keep 50g of starter and feed it 50:46:54.  Leave it out for an hour then put into the fridge.

This now seems to be working a treat and in fact, the yeast seems to be getting better still.

- My issue of the dough sticking to the cloth was solved by returning to my original 2 rise process and therefore the dough is only in the cloth for around 1.5 hours.  So far, sticking issue has gone - yipppppeee

- Crumb issue.  Originally, the crumb was very moist and had a similar texture to English crumpets/ muffins.  I have made the following technique changes and it seems to be much much better.

1. After my second spraying of water into the oven, wait for 3 mins and open the door to let all the steam out. 

2. about 3/4 of the way through the cooking, poke a few holes in the crust to let the steam out

3. I was cooking on the oven's hydrobake setting.  Once I have let the steam out, I then cook on regular fan

 

So all in all, great progress thanks to Keith and Mini.  Ironically, my main issues now are

1. as it rises so much in the oven, the top can get a little dark - will put the next ones down a rung in the oven and see

2. getting rid of the bigger bubbles as the bread has a few big ones in it.

Otherwise, a vast improvement.

Thanks again for all your help

Lee.