The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too-slack dough. Could the culprit be a cross-country move? Or my stand mixer?

Amy7777777's picture
Amy7777777

Too-slack dough. Could the culprit be a cross-country move? Or my stand mixer?

I had been baking pretty successful sourdough loaves using Maggie Glezer's recipes for a while now. I recently moved to Berkeley, Calif. from Pittsburgh, Pa., and now I'm finding my loaves are way too slack. I also recently started using a stand mixer I got as a gift, when I used to knead by hand. Could either of these changes be responsible for the difference?

The recipes in the Glezer book are by weight, and I never added extra flour, even when I was kneading by hand (didn't flour the counter or my hands). The bread still tastes good, but it all looks like ciabatta even if I'm trying to make a nice round boule. Help!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

When you moved cross-country, did you also by chance buy a new sack of flour? If so, what was the old flour and what is the new flour?

Amy7777777's picture
Amy7777777

Thanks, Chuck, but it's the same flour-- King Arthur. But maybe it's from a different source on the West Coast?

fminparis's picture
fminparis

I live in NY.  My kids live in L.A.  I have found that when I bake there I have to use less water than here.  Before I realized that, bread was too hydrated, brownies were too runny, etc.  Try adjusting your water amount - cut down on the amount.

Amy7777777's picture
Amy7777777

That's interesting-- any idea why? And how much do you cut the water?

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Much of the difference may be in the humidity.  But, in all honesty Amy, whatever the results of our formula, each of us is specifically responsible for the outcome; it is neither the flour, water, nor your stand mixer.  You've gotta learn to read the dough from start to finish.  Your stand mixer will mix and knead the dough, but it has no program for determining how much of any ingredient is needed.  You may want to try running the dough hook a bit longer or changing the speed of the mixer during the kneading phase.  Just don't get the speed so high that your dough climbs out of the mixing bowl or overheats in the process.

Try starting with a little less water and increase it, about one tablespoon at a time, until you have the dough texture you're seeking.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I agree with flournwater, humidity may be a factor, but (thanks to Chuck) because it's a move from east to west, I doubt that it's significant (I originally misred and thought it was a west-east move; unless it's winter time, there's usually more humidity in the east then the west). 

Assuming your technique hasn't changed, I would suspect something about your ingredients has. 

Aside from flour dampness, you may want to investigate your water quality. It could be very soft compared to Berkeley water. IIRC water that's too soft can lead to dough that's too slack. Here's a thread with some soft water discussion. You may want to try baking the same recipe & ingredients with bottled water with the same technique to rule out the water issue.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

It appears that Berkeley gets its water from EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utility District), which supplies water from the Mokelumne River watershed in the Sierra Nevada. The only specifications for hardness I could find cover a very wide range: 17.1-120 parts-per-million (1-7 grains-per-gallon), which goes from the bottom of the "Slightly Hard" category to the top of the "Moderately Hard" category.

Much of the rest of the San Francisco area gets most of its water from the Hetch Hetchy valley reservoir in the Sierra Nevada. That water is a little harder (but in general quite pure).

Most of the L.A. basin uses a mixture that includes a lot of Colorado River water. Water in the L.A. basin tends to be quite hard.

Likewise for Pittsburgh the only specifications for hardness I could find cover a very wide range: 71-222 ppm (4-13 gpg).

So Berkeley water probably is softer than Pittsburgh water  ...although the difference may not be all that large.


When moving cross-country, did your measuring technology change (and if so how)?

Amy7777777's picture
Amy7777777

Wow, thanks for all the ideas, everyone! Chuck, I didn't change my measuring technology (digital scale), although I am placing the scale on a hard tile countertop, when before my countertop was formica. Maybe that's throwing the scale off? It seems like a stretch, though. A difference in the water makes the most sense, since I'm pretty sure it's less humid here.

jcking's picture
jcking

Amy,

I wouldn't rule out the new stand mixer. How long was the dough mixed? The end consistency of mixed dough should be the same as hand kneaded. Was it?

Jim

Amy7777777's picture
Amy7777777

I'm following Maggie Glezer's directions closely. She specifies a longe rknead with a mixer than by hand. The dough feels about the same to the touch (not too sticky), but it doesn't have a lot of body. Could the mixer not be developing the gluten as well? But on the other hand, I am getting a good crumb, with lots of big holes. The loaves are just really flat.

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Hi Amy,

When we moved into our new house a month ago, I, too found my bread had gotten really slack. I'm using the same methods and same equipment, but I'm working with water from a brand new well, and that's required that I change my approach to working the dough. Keeps me on my toes!

 

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Hi Amy,

When we moved into our new house a month ago, I, too found my bread had gotten really slack. I'm using the same methods and same equipment, but I'm working with water from a brand new well, and that's required that I change my approach to working the dough. Keeps me on my toes!

 

Costas's picture
Costas

Hi ! First try what "flournwater" told you and after go for a new mixer or go back to the hand kneading...i have a 300 euro(420$) kenwood and when i go over 70% water it is a really cross your finger thing... i am 99% sure that all your problems are coming from your mixer..thanks god it was a gift and you did not pay for this! 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

When you reported having relocated from Pittsburgh, PA. to Berkeley, CA. I ran a check on average daytime humidity for both regions.  Based on what I came up with, Berkeley enjoys an average daily humidity of 72% (range 60% AM - 89% PM) while Pittsburgh reports an average of 68% (range 57% AM - 70% PM) so with that 4% difference I didn't see how humidity could be the primary factor.  However, if you make a habit of mixing your dough late in the day it is possible, based on those ranges, for humidity to be a factor because it would represent approximately 22% difference in average high relative humidity readings.

Put the idea of counter top differences out of your mind.  As long as it's resting firmly the surface, your scale doesn't care whether the counter top is formica or tile.  Likewise, there is no reason to change stand mixers. Capitalizing on the idea the "Costas" alluded to, if you want to change something in the kneading cycle, you may want to look at an alternative dough hook for the mixer you are currently using.  But as long as the mixer has the power necessary to knead your formula the mixer itself should not be an issue.

"Chuck" has some interesting ideas regarding minerals in water.  I can't speak to that ... not enough of that kind of science study in my education (I'm essentially mechanical and electronics trained) but try a few experiments using the data that "Chuck" provides (e.g. using distilled/filtered water vs local tap water) and let us know if you experience any different outcomes.  Just keep in mind that, when you experiment, you should never change more than one step of the process for each experiment.

anthealee's picture
anthealee

hi amy, take some h2o out for startes, the humidity isnet a factor have u been in a bakery latly? mix it with your hands, the mixer is probably the cause, home mixes atr to fast and to small, they create  to much friction heat. dont mess with what works. now im in australia so im going to convert as best i can , i hope my conversion is correct. we need to get our temps right.. your finished dough tep should be   82.4f

2 x 82.4 =

-62   flour temp

-59 estimated figure for exess friction and air temp

=43.4 f is the temp ur h2o should be

then dont over work it, cheak your messaments are corect. sough calls for; 

 flour rye/white or meal whatever takes ur fancy.

% are on flour used

50% h2o slowly less is best

15% sour culture/starter

2% salt 

mix dry ingredians together on your bentch well up the middle and slowly add h2o and sour culture gently bring in the sides to mix.

doing it this way u can feel the hidration of the dough  and u cant stuff a hand dough...

once its all mixed together start the needing push it out for at least 20 mins if u know how ur kneeding , up to 30 mins .

mold and let rest for up to 2 hours on the benck coverd with cling film.

after that rest re mold into the shape u wish and polace in fridge for up 12 hours depending on the size of the dough.

take it out and let fest on the bench for a futher 2 hours.......have your oven on full ball and hot hot hot befor u put it in. put in oven for 10 mins on flat out then turn down to 440-450 until baked 30/40 mins u will smell it when its done.. leave it sit in the turnd off oven for a futher 40 mins then whalla presto your sough dough will be good to eat......

tips. 1. go slow on the h2o and more is not better in sour cultur land, if ur caulture is loose then so will ur dough 

         2. you keep your caultur for ever if the container it grows in is sterile and dry befor any flour touches it.     

         3. if ur sour is in doubt throw it out!!!

          4. you cant stuff a hand dough                                                                                                                                          

          5. get the temps right and no draughs ..