The Fresh Loaf

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My Poor Boule

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Wynder's picture

My Poor Boule

So, I used a recipe from my school text, "On Baking" for a San Francisco Sourdough boule.

180 grams of start, 240 grams of water and 454 grams of flour.  Also, there was around 16 grams of salt and yeast.  It kneaded about 10 minutes, bulk fermented until it doubled, around 75 minutes or so.  I balled it and put it into my brotform that I had dusted with flour and cornmeal.

After about an hour or so, I dusted the top (seam side) with cornmeal, put my halfsheet on the brotform and turned it over until it released.  Scored it and stuck it in a 450F oven for 4 minutes with a cup of ice in a cast iron skillet in the bottom.  After 4 minutes, I dropped it down to 375 and ditched the skillet while venting the steam and baked it another 35 minutes or so.

I had high hopes, but some of the issues with the appearance alone are obvious and I'd like any tips:

  1. The shaping of the brotform didn't stick around.  Is this from using too wet of a hydration?
  2. The ears are pretty pathetic.  I don't have a lame, so I used my good serated bread knife -- I tried cuting on an angle to the bread, but it's not pretty.  Any troubleshooting ideas from what you can see?

It's cooling right now...  once it cools I'll cut into it and update.

UPDATE: Going to wait until tomorrow morning to cut into it, but I'm optimistic about the crumb...  picking it up and pressing in on the crust, I can tell there are a lot of structural weak points all over, indicating some good tunneling.  Can't wait!

LindyD's picture

You might enjoy David Snyder's excellent tutorial on scoring:  I think he could score a tennis ball and make it look great.

Perhaps the boule didn't spend enough time in the brotform for the coils to leave an impression?  That's just a guess.  I have brotforms but always retard my breads overnight and get good coil impressions.

dabrownman's picture

with a Pyrex loaf pan half full of water on the bottom rack from the beginning of a 500 F pre heat for 45 minutes and a 12" iron skillet next to it and the stone on the rack above.  When the bread goes on the stone pour 1 cup of boiling water in the iron skillet and shut the door.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  Turn down heat to 45o F convection after 2 minutes.  Take the steam out in 10-12 minutes (up to 20 minutes if the the loaf is a big one) and turn down the oven to 425 F  convection until loaf hits 205 F.

An hour in the form won't give you much character. You can try retarding the dough in the form for 8 hours in the fridge and see if that helps the marks or cut back the yeast and let it take 2-3 hours to rise in the form.  Looks like you got some good spring anyway?

Can you do a SD without a SD starter?  I don't see how you would get much, if any sour, out of your recipe.

dmsnyder's picture

I'm struck by your very low hydration - 52% - and your high percentage of salt - over 3%. It's hard to judge the appropriateness of your bulk fermentation and proofing times, because you don't give the percentage or type of yeast you used.

The baking time seems a about right for that size loaf at that temperature, although I prefer a higher temperature for this type of bread, personally. The steaming time seems short, but the crust isn't too dull.

Regarding scoring: First of all, the traditional scoring for boules does not aim at getting ears. The blade is held at right angles to the loaf surface. Second, for a low-hydration loaf, you should cut deeper than for a higher hydration loaf. I would say your cuts should be about 1/2 inch deep. Do take a look at my Scoring Tutorial. Lindy provided a link, above.

I'm not familiar with the book you cite, but if you want a real San Francisco-style sourdough, I'd sincerely recommend you try a different formula. A few that work really well include Hamelman's "Vermont Sourdough," SusanFNP's "Norwich Sourdough" found on, the formula in Suas' "Advanced Bread and Pastry," and Reinhart's from "Crust and Crumb." 

In addition, I might recommend my own formula, which is derived from Suas' with some of my own tweaks. See My San Francisco Sourdough Quest, Take 3.

Here are some links to other formulas I mentioned:

Reinhart's San Francisco Sourdough from "Crust & Crumb" with some new variations

Crackly Crust & Shiny Crumb: San Francisco Sourdough from AB&P

My New Favorite Sourdough (Norwich Sourdough)

I hope this helps.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a slightly wetter loaf (if using bread flour) would pick up more flour from a well dusted brotform.  So I'm guessing bread flour is involved here instead of all purpose.  

My first reaction to the recipe was why use yeast and so much of it?   If using bread flour, why not just skip it.  Timing in a bakery I suppose.  I would change the formula for a longer fermenting time if it were for my family.  If I did add yeast, it would be not more than 8g of instant for 500g flour. 

Scoring... if you desire "ears," try to avoid cutting perpendicular over the middle of the top of the loaf, as this causes even spread out.  Try different scores.  I find if I doodle on paper first, I can come up with more ideas than when confronted with the blank dough in front of me with a few split seconds to decide.  :)