The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough troubles

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Dhull100's picture
Dhull100

Sourdough troubles

I have not had this problem before, but it persists and has me wondering if it is my starter. I keep a liquid starter, feed at least once weekly. It still seems to react normally to feedings and smells normal. About a month ago, my bread started having a grayish crust. I thought maybe it was overproofed, but I haven't changed anything, and the problem persists. My whole wheat flour is probably 6 months old but refrigerated. Could it be that? I don't think so, but at my wits end.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated! I thought it wise to check here before starting over.

David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and the bread is overproofed.  Have you run a search thru TFL?   gray crusts 

Often subtle changes like turning on the heat in the house can cause this, the dough is proofing faster.  Try cutting hours off the rise times and see what happens.  

Dhull100's picture
Dhull100

Yes, I have searched. It looks like overproofing, but I keep the temperature the same year round. I will try to reduce rising times. I have not changed anything (to my knowledge), but it's worth a try.
Thanks,
David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as my starter adapts to weather, seasons, room temps,  humidity, and public water conditions, a new bag of flour and all kinds of variables.  Even dough recipes will vary just a little bit with seasons... so... if you are doing everything the same... that might be the problem.  Maybe watching the clock too exactly instead of the dough?  I've noticed my rising times shortening, maybe I'm in turn to the starter's needs and so it is preforming its best for me now, more than before.  Shortening the rises give me a better bread.  so...

There are ways of slowing down the fermentation.   I might be implementing some techniques soon.  I tend to lean toward longer slower rises.   The easiest way to accomplish this is to use less sourdough to inoculate a build using slightly more flour and cooler water.  The favorite warm spot in my kitchen, where I park my overnight starter build, gets warmer as the weather thermometer drops because it's next to the chimney.  So the colder the day, the more often the heater kicks in and warms up the chimney resulting in a faster fermentation in my starter and dough.   Sometimes I'm thinking I ought to use just a little bit more starter because of the cold weather.  Um, right.  Not for my current situation.   Because of the exponential growth of yeast, a small change can add up to a big change later after time has progressed.   I can also just move the dough to a cooler spot to rise.  :)

Mini

Dhull100's picture
Dhull100

I retarded one loaf immediately after shaping, and it's in the oven now with a lovely crust! I typically bake both loaves at once. I hadn't really considered all of the variables that could have come into play regarding proofing times. I'm somewhat embarassed for not having done this experiment earlier, though I didn't intend this bake to turn into an experiment. This is a lesson learned. I thought it looked like the pictures of overproofing. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck.... it's probably a duck.

Very grateful for the input!

David

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

  1. What proportions of flour-to-water are used with your starter?
  2. Do you keep it at room temperature after feeding, direct-to-fridge, some combination, or what?
  3. What flour (flours) do you use, and if more than one flour, exactly what's in the mixture?

Assuming that the flour you use is acceptable (and it probably is), then the key issues are almost always the manipulations of time of fermentation, temperature of fermentation, and the hydration used during fermentation.  Read up in Jeffrey Hamelman's book about maintaining starters and you should be fine.

-- Dan DiMuzio

Dhull100's picture
Dhull100

Thank you for your feedback. I use Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough recipe. 

1. 100% hydration. I think his recipes may be based on 125% hydration. Would it make much difference on such a small volume to build the liquid levain for the recipe? I allow the refreshed starter to mature before using it to build the liquid levain.

2. Feed, leave at room temperature for a 3 hours or so, then refrigerate

3. KA AP flour only and filtered water.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Would it make much difference on such a small volume to build the liquid levain for the recipe? I allow the refreshed starter to mature before using it to build the liquid levain.

I'm not sure what that means, but if you're implying that you took a shortcut or skipped a feeding, then you'd be wrong to do so.  Also -- keeping that starter at 100% hydration instead of 125% wouldn't harm the starter, but it would change it's nature by a bit, and when you use it in Jeffrey's final formula you'd be shy of some water (unless you add the difference in water weight to the final dough).  If you understand and use baker's percentage to keep track of formula changes, this can work out OK, but if you don't, then you're making an entirely different bread than what his recipe anticipates, and you may be in for surprises.

Replicate exactly what Jeffrey suggests and you should be fine.

Alter his directions for feeding his starters and you're way out on a limb (at least until you've mastered the process).