The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wet loaves... close to giving up.

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davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Wet loaves... close to giving up.

I appologize in advance if this should be posted elswhere in the forum, or if the topic has been already addressed.  I did search the forum and the closest I came to a solution was something along the lines of checking to make sure the seal was good on the oven.  Anyway, here's what's going on.

I just moved to Mesquite, NV (elevation 1579 ft) from Laughlin, NV (elevation 535 ft) about three months ago.  

For the year that I lived in Laughlin, I baked a variation on a simple sourdough (Norwich Sourdough) maybe two dozen times without issue.  I baked on a crappy little broken circular pizza stone that we inhereted from somewhere.

Once we moved to Mesquite, I invested in a large 15" x 20" Fibriment baking stone that is almost an inch thick... Furthermore, I have my old pizza stone pieces resting on the top rack of the oven for some extra thermal mass.  The oven is a brand-new Frigidair.

During a visit from my mother couple of months ago, I tried the Tartine Country Bread using a combo cooker (forming a good seal, and adding additional thermal mass).  What came out of the oven was an absolute embarrassement.  I could feel it as soon as I picked them up... it was like moving loaves with rocks hidden inside.  Dense, heavy... and worst of all wet.

I was at a complete loss as to what could have happened.  A week later I decide to bake my old sourdough right along side the Tartine country bread for the purpose of comparrison.  Both loaves came out dense and wet inside.

Now I was scared.  I went out and bought a hanging oven thermometer to verify temperatures, and over the next three weeks I tried everything.  I verified the ripeness of the starter, I double checked the gluten developement during kneading, ensured that the loaves had fully proofed before baking...  nothing.  And yeah, I checked the seal on the door of the brand-new oven.  Each time, they still came out wet.  This has become a nightmare.

This week, I am pulling my brand-new baking stone out of the oven altogether and baking on my old crappy pizza-stone, in order to almost ritualistically reproduce every condition that I used to have in place when my loaves came out beautifuly.  But I don't think it will fix whatever is going on.

 

I'm open to any ideas.

 

Thanks guys. 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

your oven is 100% OK? We just figured out that ours was baking WAAAY too cold, it was off by 50 F, I had to re-calibrate it. Other than that, micro-climate CAN influence outcome.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I think the hanging thermometer may not have indicated the temperature of the baking stone.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

If you bake as soon as the oven indicates that the desired temperature has been reached, the thicker stone may not have heated as much as the air surrounding it.  Numerous posters here mention heating their thicker Fibrament stones for 45-60 minutes so that the stone is as hot as the rest of the oven.  If your desired temperature is, say, 450F, the oven's thermostat may sense that the temperature has been achieved.  Meanwhile, the stone's temperature might only be 300F (I'm totally making up the numbers).  That could lead to underbaked, wet bread.

There are other possibilities.  However, since you've changed both oven and stone, and since you've already used oven thermometers to verify that the oven temperatue is acceptable, you may want to run an extended preheat with the new stone to see whether that gives better results.

Paul

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

This has got to be it!  I think you may have nailed it.  I'll try an extra hour pre-heat and report back.  Thanks again!

jcking's picture
jcking

The second upper stone could be fooling the oven thermostat. I've had that problem when attempting two stones, upper and lower, in the oven.

Jim

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thanks for the tip.  I'll be sure to check the temperatures of both stones on the next bake.

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

Don't give up it's only flour right? I can feel your pain though as I have had great sucess with a recipe for awhile now and yesterday's bake was a mess! I do believe my error was over proofing. Anyways I felt a stab when I read close to giving up keep on keeping on you will find the answer. I still have so much to learn I couldn't even possibly guess what is wrong. Don't give up!

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thanks for the encouragement!

Costas's picture
Costas

Hi there!I think that all your problem is the temperature...you need 27c for bulk and final proof...don even think

about humidity a pro proof box set at least 75% so you should make sure someway to have this temperature...the easiest

way is to prov them in your oven only with the light on and checking with the thermometer to be at _+ 27 and of course think3 months before it was summer!

Salilah's picture
Salilah

Costas - I'm not sure from the description that the issue is proofing - and certainly I've bulk & final proofed at way below 27C with successful results!

Agreed though that we do need to consider longer proofing times as the winter comes in :-(

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I second the advise on the Fibrament.  Lots of mass there!  I gave up on minimalist energy-saving preheats when using the baking stone and I don't bake sooner than one hour after putting the stone in the oven and turning on the preheat.  That gives the stone itself about 40 minutes at a full temperature oven to come up to speed ...then all works well.  I don't think there are any shortcuts on getting the stone up to temp.

 

Brian

 

Salilah's picture
Salilah

I don't have the Fibrament - but I did notice that with my stone (3/4cm thick granite) when we tried our usual cooking of fish, it came out well under-cooked, and I can only reckon it was because the stone had not heated up, and was taking a lot of the heat rather than the fish baking!

loydb's picture
loydb

I give my Fibrament a full hour pre-heat before I bake on it. Like you, I also have my old junky pizza stone on the top shelf.

 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I will try this!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Is the "Picture of recent bake" a picture of the wet,heavy loaves? They look pretty good to me. The crust looks wonderful- all blistery and even. The crumb has some nice holes and doesn't appear dense or wet. Or is this a pic of loaves baked after the issue was fixed?

Do you have any pictures of what the loaves used to be like?  They must have been absolute clouds!

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thanks for the kind words.  No these were pictures from the problem loaves.  

It's not the structure so much as the texture and feel.  Imagine taking a nice slice of sourdough and thowing in your steaming basked with your veggies and leaving it there for about a minute.  That's what cutting into these loaves is like.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

David,

You have the experience to do this diagnosis in a straight forward way.  And you have posed the problem in a way that this group of folks can understand and perhaps help.  Thanks for the completeness.

I like your notion of going back to what you did before to make sure you can replicate it in your new oven.  That way the only thing that changes is the oven.

I suspect, along with others above, that your stone may not be as hot as you need it to be.  If you don't already have one, get an inexpensive IR thermometer.  The last one I bought for somebody was ~$45 at Harbor Freight (for you, in either Henderson or Las Vegas) and it was within a few of degrees of what my Fluke was showing at both hot and cold temperatures.  There are lots of choices at Amazon as well.

PTC has a griddle thermometer that will also do the job quite well for $28 (link below).  I have one of these too and it is quite accurate, though you can burn your fingers it you are not careful.

http://www.ptc1.com/public/thersur570f.htm

If your oven has a convection mode, use it.  It will help preheat more quickly. 

An hour of preheat is not unexpectedly long for a thick stone (an hour after the thermostat starts cycling, indicating that the oven has reached the set point).  Even then you should use the IR thermometer to check the stone surface temperature to make sure you are getting what you want.

When you try to repeat your baseline conditions with your old stone, check the surface temperature of the old stone.  If it comes out OK, you will know what to be looking for with the new stone.

After you get your old baseline to work for you, start making changes one thing at a time so that you don't confuse the issue of what is causing you to be off the mark.

Cheers,

Doc

 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thanks, Doc.

I think I will return to the baseline if my hour pre-heat doesn't solve the problem.

Thanks again!

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Oh!  And I do have an IR thermometer.  They're great!

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That bubbly crust only comes from retarded dough. I've never seen it result from anything but retarded dough. Peter Reinhart himself got a lot of negative feedback from the professional baking community for putting emphasis on this dough quality–professional bakers didn't want a bubbled crust to become synonymous with "good bread"–and his books after Crust & Crumb make almost no mention of it.    

Are the doughs being retarded? If so, are you giving them time to temper (come to room temperature)? Not that tempering is a necessary step, but if you have other temperature-modulating variables (multiple stones, combo cooker [I've never once produced an edible loaf in a combo cooker/covered cast iron vessel!], new oven of questionable operation), you could be exacerbating your problem.

-

I think someone mentioned it above, but it would be very helpful to check that 450 F on your oven really is 450 F. It's very simple to set new ovens +/- 50 F. All I have to do on mine is press a couple of buttons. Someone might have set yours to 400 F and you won't know it, because the digital display will say 450 F.

-

I wouldn't worry much about the elevation. I live 6000 ft above sea level and it doesn't make a great deal of difference in my bread baking (although everything else, like baking cookies or making candy, is a nightmare!). 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Neither my starter nor my dough are ever refridgerated.  My entire workflow begins and ends at room temperature.  My understanding of blistering crust was that it came from baking with steam.

 

Thanks for the help and suggestions!

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Here is a photo of a roll that is blistered but was never retarded:

If the gluten is well developed, the dough fermented and proofed properly, and the oven has lots of steam, you will get blisters.  It is even more dramatic if you initiate the bake with steam only then raise the temperature to 400°F or higher to brown it.

70% hydration dough; 30% of flour in pre-fermented starter; mixed in the Assistent N28 mixer for 30 min on low speed; bulk fermented 90 min @ 90°F; counter proofed for 30 min; pan proofed at room temp for 120 min; baked 9 min with steam @ 470°F in combi oven at high fan speed.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I never get them unless I retard the dough.

Do you spray the loaves themselves with water or spray oil or something else?

Just checked the source (Crust & Crumb, French Bread II) to make sure senility wasn't progressing, which says "Using pre-fermented dough allows you to achieve a great loaf without retarding. There is also the advantage of having a finished loaf on the same day. However, the long, slow rise of overnight retarding produces a more spectacular loaf, richer in color with a dramatic blistered crust."

He doesn't say it's the only way to a blistered crust, so there's plenty of room for me to be wrong on this point. 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

A combi oven has the effect of spraying the loaf with some of the water that is injected into the convection fan to create steam but which does not instantly vaporize (a small amount). The larger effect is from the condensation of the saturated steam on the relatively cool dough which (in my opinion) simultaneously saturates the surface with water and cooks the outer layer of starch forming a gas-tight membrane through which CO2 cannot escape.  As the temperature of the dough immediately under the skin rises, the CO2 can no longer remain in solution and thus outgasses forming blisters under the now impervious but not yet brown crust.  Thus a retarded dough, because the solubility of CO2 is much higher at low temperatures, does not rise as much as it would at room temperature in part because some of the gas is absorbed (in addition to a general slowing of CO2 formation due to lower metabolic rate of the yeast).  I believe it is the higher dissolved CO2 in retarded dough that makes blisters more prevalent in (but not exclusive to) such a loaf.

A more highly colored crust is probably not related to retardation either.  The browning depends on the presence of sugars, and is especially enhanced by pentose sugars.  There are a number of papers that deal with the origins and fate of sugars in sourdough bread.  If I remember right, the LAB does not compete very strongly with the yeast for access to the ~2% of glucose, fructose, and some varieties of glucofructans which are almost entirely consumed by the yeast (this is the limiting factor in how much total gas is produced in a batch of sourdough bread).  The LAB do not fully consume all of the maltose (about 8% of the flour by weight after it has been combined with the water and the amylase enzymes have had a chance to do their thing) and it is the residulal maltose that is the primary agent for browning.  If you really want to get a brown crust without using an egg wash, add a little unsweetened condensed milk to the dough.  The relatively high pentose sugar content of the milk is not used by either the LAB or the yeast and it hangs around to contribute to a rich final color.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

When I was typing the paragraph last night, I found the part about retardation contributing to a "richer color" rather strange, as I understand it the way you do (re: long fermentation reduces sugar content and, as such, should not contribute to increased Maillard reactions–quite the opposite; and, that's been my experience with long-retarded doughs: less color, even pale loaves). Then I remembered that, at least in Crust & Crumb, Reinhart was on a diastatic malt kick, recommending its addition to just about every dough. Diastatic malt almost certainly contributes to a richer color (I've made some almost rust-coloured loaves with it (and other neat colors)), but I don't think the retardation alone would have an effect.

I'll try "rain droplets on my dough" to see if I can achieve a similar effect. I almost always get the blisters via retardation, but seldom without. Would love the find a way to get that blistered effect all of the time.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I forgot about using diastatic malt (probably because I have never tried it) though I have seen it recommended as a way to boost the browning.  I don't know what kind of sugars it would add to the mix, but now that you have reminded me I will have to do some research followed by some experimentation.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

That crumb looks beautiful!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

By any chance is your pizza stone sitting on the bottom of the oven (rather than on a low rack)? Or is the bottom of the oven lined with foil for spills? And is there at least one inch of open space on all four sides of your new baking stone? (Rather than playing twenty questions: how about just posting a picture of the inside of your oven?)

Despite the apparent convenience of a flat bottom (no visible heating coil), newer ovens do not react well to anything (not even a piece of foil) sitting directly on the bottom of the oven (or a baking stone that's "too low"). What was the right thing to do with older ovens has become the wrong thing to do. The most common symptom of something sitting on the bottom of a new oven is erratic temperature variations (especially after the oven has risen to the pre-heat temperature for the first time).


Also, any chance you reduced the baking time (probably because your old oven ran hot), and forgot about it, and are still using the reduced time in your new oven (even though it doesn't run hot)?

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Here's my setup:

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I know you said the oven was new, but one of the more common oven failures is one (seldom both) of the oven elements.

They either don't work at all or they stop working after so many minutes of heating.

I'm assuming the oven doesn't feel like it's lost temperature midway through the bake, does it?

If so, could be a bad oven element. 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I haven't suspected anything like that, but I'll look for it on the next bake.

Thanks!

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Yeasts are not known to be too picky about the flour, but it's possible that something's happened to it.

This being Nevada an all, just about anything from radioactivity to aliens could be culpable. Who knows what flour-destroying (or even yeast-destroying) technologies are being tested in that desert! 

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Your comment had me cracking up!

 

Thanks.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I noticed no one mentioned the higher elevation. I believe that unless you go over 3000 ft above sea level, then there really shouldn't be any difference. Like others, I would guess that the stone was not heated long enough. But that is only a guess since it was not mentioned. I recently got a Faberware stone as well and it definitely takes 45 minutes to an hour AFTER the preheat is over before it is ready. I would say that an hour is a better bet. But if you did do this, then I am at a loss until you try other things out. About the only thing I can think of to add is to check the temperature of the refrigerator. But that really shouldn't make a difference unless it is freezing the dough.

One other thing that wouldn't make this kind of difference, but is worth mentioning... Make sure the stone is the ROUGH side up and smooth side down. Also, make suer you did the drying of the stone before first use as mentioned in the instructions (where you start at 100 deg F for an hour and increase by 100 every hour until you get to 500, then leave it for 2 hours).

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Baking stone has been dried, and it is rough side up.

My dough is never refrigerated.

Thanks for the suggestions.  I'm going to add an hour to the pre-heat time.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thank you guys!  I'm so glad I took the time to ask the question.

I think you guys nailed it.  I think the pre-heat time was not great enough!  I think I took for granted that the hanging thermometer would tell me that everything was ready to go.

I'm going to take the time to do an extra hour pre-heat to completely eliminate the possibility of an unheated stone.

 

I'll have time to bake some loaves in the next couple days.  I'm excited.  

 

Thanks again!

 

David

clazar123's picture
clazar123

No one else has commented on the appearance of the loaves in the picture labelled "Recent bake". I am still confused-they look good to me. What am I missing?

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

clazer-

The problem with the loaves was moisture in the crumb... they have been "moist", to "damp", all the way up to what I would call "wet".

My best guess now was that my baking stone was not fully pre-heated before baking the loaves.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

 

In your first pix above, it looks like the crust on the bottom of the loaf is lighter than the crust on the top.  That would corroborate the idea that the stone wasn't preheated enough.  Did you mention if your old and new stoves used a different type of heat?  Gas v. electric v. convection?  Normally if a loaf is too moist inside but browned properly on the outside, it means the oven was too warm for the mass/size of the dough that you were baking.  If preheating your stone gets you closer to target but not quite there, you might want to consider an alternate baking schedule, e.g. 10 minutes hot on the hot stone, then reduce the temperature by 25 to 50 degrees for the remainder of the bake.

Aside: Do you really knead the dough for 30 (thirty) minutes at first speed?  That's nearly three times longer than I've ever kneaded anything ...is that from a book?  Just curious ...obviously what you are doing works.

Hang in there and keep us updated!  Figuring out these mysteries is fun!

 

Brian

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Hey Brian,

Nice observation.  No they were both electric, neither were convection.  This is all particularly frustrating because the old oven was really crappy, and that was the one I had no problems with.

As far as the 30 minute knead, I think you confused my posts and pictures with the post from Doc.Dough.  Personally, I rarely knead for more than a few minutes.

 

Thanks again!  

 

David

You're right, it is fun... until it isn't.


Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Brian,

I went back and looked in the record to see why the mix time was 30 min (it seemed long to me too).  It turns out that I had just received my Assistent N28 mixer and was trying to establish an operating point for a high hydration dough.  That 30 min mix is now accomplished in 9 min at speed 6 after combining ingredients, mixing for 1 min and waiting 20 min for it to autolyse.  Speed 1 is now reserved for occasionally incorporating olives or anchovies into a ciabatta or fougasse as the last step before bulk fermentation.

Doc

jcking's picture
jcking

Set the oven temp for the crust and the length of bake, for the crumb.

Jim

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I've never heard this before... can you elaborate?

jcking's picture
jcking

It's a balancing act. Darker/Thicker crust = Higher oven temp. Lighter/Thinner crust = Lower oven temp. Longer bake = drier crumb. Shorter bake = moister crust. Other things such as dough hydration and steaming can have their own effect. So it's a general guide meant to be the final adjustment to the loaf. The home baker can have an advantage over the professional because at home you can turn down the oven temp as needed. Experiment, take notes, use all 5 senses, the bread will tell you what it needs.

Jim

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Interesting... I hadn't even thought about having that kind of control.  Thanks for the tips.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

The way that I look at it is that you bake as long as it takes for the crumb to finish with the right amount of moisture ('dryness'?) ...and if that amount of time results in a darker crust than preferred (or burnt), then use a lower temperature ...and vice versa for light crusts.  I taught the kids the same thing with making pancakes.  Turn them when the bubbles have been coming through the pancake and the edges are just starting to dry ...if they are too dark at that time, follow exactly the same rule but at a slightly lower temperature.  They've learned to judge the temperature by bending over and looking at the size of the flame under the pan... not bad for 11 and 13 years old.

Brian

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

which can only be seen when the door is pulled open.  I think it is a vent to let steam out of the oven.  Which brings me to the idea...  Is your oven vent closed or is steam trapped in your oven the entire bake?  It could be too steamy in there.  Do you rotate the loaf or open the oven door about 20 minutes into the bake?  Stand back when you do.  I know you checked oven seals, does it seal too well?  

Mini

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Hi Mini,

I do open the door about 12 minutes into the bake to remove the parchment paper, remove the cover (for steam), and rotate the loaf (I do one at a time).  As far as the vent, there's one in the back left of the oven, but I've always blocked mine with crumpled tin-foil in order to increase maximum heat (I make pizza on the cleaning cycle as well).  Removing the wad of foil is on my checklist for resolving this issue as well, but because I've always blocked it without problems, it's not very high on the list.

Sealing too well?  I had considered that... I may have to revisit that consideration.

Thanks for the ideas!

David

Davo's picture
Davo

I agree with jcking. Once the oven spring has finished, try turning the oven down and stretching the bake out another say 10 minutes or even 15. I find it really hard to overbake bread unless the oven is really really hot. An option is to bake much as you are, then turn off the oven and leave the loaf/loaves (I do two side by side in a 800 mm wide oven) in the cooling oven for a while, perhaps with the oven door cracked for the first  minute or two to let some moisture out and shed a bit of the high heat (if the crust is already as dark as you want). Give it 20 mins extra, even.

Or make smaller loaves. Mine are >900g usually so I do have to turn down and stretch out the bake - 50 mins typically, pretty hot for the first 25-30 mins. If they were 500-600 gm I'm sure I wouldn't be doing this duration.

Also gas gives a thinner, moister crust and keeps higher moisture in the loaf from the bake, owing to the water made in combustion. I see you have been and still are on electric, but there might be something in those points others have made about how much steam can get away in your new oven, even if electric.

And, not wanting to tell you how to suck eggs, I assume they are well cooled before you cut them... As I'm sure you are aware, they are all a bit wet/gummy until cold. In fact I reckon they are optimal the day after baking...

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Thanks for the help.

I think even more than  getting the results I am wanting, I am wanting to know what was so easy and great about my old oven set-up.  If adding an egg yolk to my dough right before the bulk fermentation would fix the problem, I really wouldn't care, because I wouldn't have learned anything, and I wouldn't understand why.

I agree with you about the day after (morning after?) bread.  I'm betting it's because the flavors have a chance to mellow.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

I was just curious if the preheating of the stone fixes the problem. All things considered, I really think this is the problem. Your older "thin" pizza stone would not need as long to heat up. This is the one variable that seems the most likely to me.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I'm giving the stone an extra hour preheat as I type this.  I'll report back with the results this evening.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Looking forward to the results, but I know it will have to rest for a while.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Well, things didn't go well tonight, guys.  

I gave the Fibrament stone an extra hour to pre-heat... but the loaves are still dense and damp.

Yeah, I know the crumb doesn't look dense and damp, but it is.

 

I noticed something else tonight.  The shape of the loaf is all wrong.  My sourdough loaves usually 'plump' up like a balloon.  My scoring on a loaf never sits there slack like they are now...

 

I mean look at it, it's all flat and oval-shaped.  Not even close to the lift that should be there.

 

Which leads me to another issue...

 

I weigh my loaves at 400 grams before baking.  Tonight I weighed one of the loaves about half an hour after it came out of the oven at 346 grams.  Does that sound right?  That's a loss of 13.5%... does that seem low to anyone else?

 

The only thing I can think of to try now is a loaf of bread with regular baker's yeast to ensure that something weird isn't going on with the starter.

 

Just for reference, here is my procedure and ratio...

 

 

Flour Water Starter Salt Weight Hydration

750.00 450.00 225.00 18.00 1443 65.22%100% 60% 30% 2.4%

 

Combine all, autolyse for 30 min.

Knead until medium gluten development.

Bulk fermentation for 135min with folds at 45 and 90 minutes.

Shape into loaves, place on parchment paper for 4-6 hours.

Bake for 12 minutes with steam at 475 degrees.

Remove parchment paper.

Bake without steam for around 18 minutes.

 

 

 Again, thank you guys for all your help and support.

 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Hopefully someone with more experience will chime in on this one, but I do have some thoughts. For the wet interior... My first thought is that the bread is not being cooked long enough. Do you have an instant read thermometer? The internal temperature is the best way to tell if the bread is done. Going by time only works if you make the same bread with the same equipment enough times to know the timing to be correct. 475 may be too high. This might brown the outside and make the bread look done, but not cook the inside enough. I think preheating to 475 is fine, but you might bring it down for the actual bake (maybe around 450). Either that or just let it cook longer and get a darker crust. The internal temperature should be around the 200 mark (I usually shoot for 205, but I know some go as low as 190).

For the flatness... 4-6 hours is a long time to leave a bread without support. Use either a basket of some sort or a couche. Also, you could add more time to the bulk fermentation to reduce the time the shaped loaves sit. That said, the bulk fermentation time looks okay. Looking at the proofing time, it might be overproofed. Do you press on the dough to see when it is done based on how the indentation springs back? I would think that it would take less than 3 hours on the counter once shaped. What is the temperature of your new house? I guess if it is cold, then 4-6 hours might work. If I were timing this to have a 4-6 hour final proof, I would probably be doing the final proof for 1.5 - 2 hours on the counter, and the rest of the time in the refrigerator. Then bake straight out of the refrigerator. But I would think 2.5 - 3 hours on the counter without refrigeration sounds more reasonable. Also, the direction of your slashes look like they favor a wide rather than tall loaf. The slashes might be too deep too, but I cannot say for sure. I really think the lack of support during the final proof is the main culprit here.

For the weight, I don't think that is unreasonable to have that much weight loss due to water evaporation. But I am the first to admit I really cannot say for sure.

A couple other things that I noticed: 1) I don't autolyse with salt. Adding the preferment during autolyse is debatable and I keep flipping between the two. However, salt fights with the flour for the water and the point of the autolyse is to hydrate the flour for easier gluten development. 2) I don't see any preshaping of the dough. Doing a preshape and letting it sit for 15 or 20 minutes wil help you end up with a tighter "skin" to help maintain shape. This might be one of the things that would help with the flatness. 3) What strikes me is that you say you used this same procedure with success in your old house. I really wonder if your house is at a different temperature (and maybe even humidity). Are you using the same flour? Is the flour old? Is the water harder or softer or have more chlorine? Is the water temperature you are using different? I am now curious to see if the pizza stone you used to use makes a difference.

Again, my experience is limited compared to many people on here. So everything above is just how I have learned and someone else will hopefully answer with more difinitive answers. But I really think you are not cooking the bread long enough if it is wet and you are not using an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Maverick -

My thoughts on your thoughts:

 

First of all, thank you again.  You've given me a lot to consider, I appreciate your help.

 

1.  Bread temperature.  

I don't have an instant read thermometer, for better or for worse I have always judged by color without issue.  On my list now is to try baking at a lower temperature.

 

2.  Flatness / loaf support.

I started proofing the loaves unsupported on parchment paper when I found I could get them in the oven without deflating at all... and had fantastic results.

 

3.  Potential overproofing.

I have always used the 'wiggle test' while the loaf is sitting on the pizza peel.  The indentation test always seemed somewhat subjective.  I think that overproofing might be the culprit, so that goes on the list as well.

 

4.  Weight and evaporation.

I honestly had no idea if those numbers were high or low either.  I realize now that the crumb texture, weight, and shape of the finished loaf is what made me think that they were retaining too much water.  It could be that 13.5% is an optimal loss of weight for a baked loaf... I have no idea.  What I can tell you is, if you were standing next to me and I handed you the loaf you would agree that it feels way to heavy for its size.  Which brings me full circle back to the issue of spring.  At my old house, I used to literally watch my loaves slowly (very slowly) inflate like a balloon.  I remember always thinking 'Are these slashes too deep?' as I would put a loaf in the oven.  But nope, they would fill up to a nice round, golden brown, bread balloon.  Something is very different now.

 

5.  Autolysing with salt.

I have heard both arguments.  I have experimented with both, and have never noticed any difference at all.  In theory, I completely agree that salt should be counter-productive in an autolyse.  I find that salt incorporation is so much easier if I add it with the flour.

 

6.  Other factors (flour, water hardness)

I have used King Arthur bread flour for about a year now.  I never have it for very long as I also use it for my starter's daily feedings.  As far as water, as soon as I had trouble, I switched from the local tap water to bottled spring water.

 

At this point, I'm going to do the same things I've always done aside from ensuring that I'm not over-proofing, and we'll do a test bake on my old pizza stone... in order to return completly to the original method.

 

Thanks again.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Have you thought about ingrediants being used?

Just putting it out there ... What flour? What's the water quality like? Tried bottled water and new/different flour?

Phil

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

King Arthur bread flour for about a year now.  Unsure of water quality, but I did switch from tap to bottled when I encountered problems.

lumos's picture
lumos

Late comer, here. :p

Any difference in water quality?   Dough can behave quite differently depending upon hardness of water, especially if its relatively high hydration of 70+% and the flour is not very strong.  In Japan where  originally come from and with quite soft water, a lot of people (both pro and home bakers) use imported bottled water from France to make French bread with high hydration + soft French flour, because Japanese water is can be too soft to give sufficient firm structure to the dough. I can cause dense crumb.

Also, you said the altitude are quite different. Not sure the difference is big enough to effect, but that can be one factor. I remember someone posted about the troubles she/he(?) was having in trying to bake good bread at very high altitude while ago.

best wishes,

lumos

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I did switch to bottled once I encountered the problems, I'm hoping the slight change in elevation isn't the issue, because I can't change that!

lumos's picture
lumos

You can easily dig a 1,000ft deep hole and bake in there! :p

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

from one house to another has happened in the starter.  Work at getting the starter up to max health.   

I would also add some more folding as the dough ferments and stretches.  Flours do vary from season to season and the batch you have may require more folding for the same result.  

When I mix up a 1-2-3 sourdough (much like your formula)  I leave the dough alone until it shows signs of rising, then start in using folds, folding closer to the end instead of the beginning of overall rising time.  After final shaping, the rise should last somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 minutes to 3/4 of an hour or shape suffers as the dough softens and looses integrity.  

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I have fed my  room-temperature wild-yeast culture everyday for a little over a year now.  It rises and falls predictably.

My thinking now is that I may be over-proofing.  If that isn't it, then I may be looking at the dough too long.  =)

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The bread doesn't look bad at all so you have to be close.

Since you had success with your old oven and old stone, perhaps going back to the old process with the new oven would help isolate the differences.

A 15% weight loss during baking is reasonable but "it depends".

Check the crumb temperature with your Thermapen and shoot for at least 200°F.

As Jim said a while back - oven temp controls crust browning; oven time controls final crumb temperature.  You have to find the combination that works for your specifics.

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

I need to get an instant read thermometer.  Next week's bake will be on the original stone, at a lower temperature, while ensuring that I'm not over-proofing.

Thanks for your help.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is not being listed in the "Latest Comments in the Forum:" making the link hard to pull up?   I can't save a "Comment:" without filling in the "Subject:" 

What gives?

lumos's picture
lumos

No, you're not alone.... Noticed that a few days ago, too. Only with 'davidcwilliams'.  Interesting.....

davidcwilliams's picture
davidcwilliams

Hey, sorry for the confusion.  I didn't like how the subject would be automatically filled with the first few words from my post... found it kind of awkward, so I just put an 'blank' character (ALT+255) in the subject so that could just leave it blank.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That's a neat trick (I thought you were using an &nsbp;), but the problem is that, when your replies show up in the forums, no one can click on them.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

There's always a "subject" line (just above the box for the main text of the post) when you're creating a post. Whatever's there will become the "title" of your post, with several advantages:

  • summarize your response in just a few words for ADHD readers who don't read the whole thing
  • allow others to skim threads for only content interesting to them
  • provide a convenient handle for finding the post through a "search"
  • show off your cleverness

Only if you forget and leave that line completely empty -which is almost never a good idea- must the system resort to its fairly dumb fallback of simply repeating the first few words of your post text.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I've had sourdough starters that would seem to "break down" the dough (can't remember the actual science behind it) and if I let the dough ferment just a tad too long, it would flatten out and not rise nearly as well, and the oven spring was far less than expected.  That was a starter that was started in the mid-Willamette Valley long ago and it's long gone.  I haven't had starters that acted that way since.  My 'fix' back then was to really make sure the starter was as active as possible and then to never let any ferments go too long.

Brian

 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Since you are going by color, it is possible that your new oven is more efficient and browning the outside faster. Actually, the Fibrament might be keeping the temperature more even and this makes the crust darken faster. You also have the old pizza stone above it, which could make it more like a brick oven. You don't have to get an expensive thermometer, but the thermopens are great (brown is on sale on their site right now).

Good luck and let us know.

jcking's picture
jcking

In Hamelmans' Bread, he states a loaf can lose between 10 ~ 20% of its moisture during the bake. SO if you were to weigh the loaf pre and post bake, divide the difference by the weight of water in the formula, you would find the percent of moisture loss. Smaller loses for large rounds and greater losses for rolls and bags.

Jim