The Fresh Loaf

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Loaves lack structure after proofing

donnepat's picture
donnepat

Loaves lack structure after proofing

I need help.  I have been baking sourdough loaves for a couple of years, using the Tartine recipe, but usually adjusting the flour quantities in favor of more whole wheat.  My problem is that, after proofing, the dough is almost completely lacking in structure (gluten development?). Bulk fermentation is usually three intervals of 45 minutes with stretching/folding 3 times - total duration 2 1/4 hrs.  I usually shape boules and proof them in linen- lined couches for  about 3 hours.  When I turn the boule out of the couche, it is always too slack.  Baked loaves have excellent flavor, crust, and usually pretty open crumb.  Due to what I interpret as lack of structure, oven spring is as horizontal as it is vertical.  I have experimented somewhat with varying the amount of kneading as well as fermentation and proofing time, but results are stubbornly consistent.  This is a call for help to all you experts out there.  What am I doing wrong???

Thank You

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

time into the "bulk time."  I might delay the first fold adding it later.  I would shorten the time the dough lies in the couche say to under 45 minutes.  I know that my sourdough dough gets wetter and more relaxed with time so as it nears baking time, my folding tends to be closer together as the dough ferments more.    So in plain words, move 2 1/4 hours of final proofing time into the bulk rise in the beginning.  Then 2 1/4 hours into the bulk rise start folding.  Keep the total fermenting time the same (from start to bake.)

Mini

donnepat's picture
donnepat

Mini,

Thank you for responding to my post.  If I understand your suggestion, the proofing time will be reduced to 45 minutes, in the couche.  Seems that the folding will have to quite delicate so as not to deflate the dough, especially toward the end of the fermentation time.  I've been doing about six or seven fairly aggressive folds, assuming that this would promote gluten development.  Would you mind describing the stretch/fold procedure that you would recommend?

Thanks again

donnepat's picture
donnepat

Minnie,

Many thanks!  Your advice has proven to be spot on?  I just pulled four loaves from the oven that have the best gluten structure and oven spring that I have ever achieved with a wild leaven.  I followed your advice regarding shifting proof time into fermentation time, etc.  So again, thankyou!!  Now,  I gotta go eat some bread.

Donnepat

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

  :)    

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

In addition to Mini's great advice,  you might need to change the hydration of your dough ever so slightly.  Flour changes, weather changes,  and these factors can have a substantial effect on a dough that is "on the edge" relative to hydration.  That is, a dough that needs just a bit more water to make it too slack.  I deal with such doughs regularly and vigilance is necessary relative to these changing factors.  Taking out a bit of water or adding a bit back in is a fairly regular event.  You can make this adjustment after your initial mix of the final dough with the addition of a bit more flour or water.

One other area to keep an eye on is your shaping of the final loaf.  A good tight dough surface will hold up much better than one that has been casually and insufficiently shaped.

Jeff

donnepat's picture
donnepat

Thanks, Jeff.

My problem with shaping has been that the dough is so slack that it can't hold the shape - lay it on the bench and it seeks a low angle of repose.  Oven spring will add 20-30% additional height.   End product is usually about 10" in diameter and 3" high.  When I flip the boule out of the couche, the diameter immediately goes from 8" to 10".   Sometimes I wonder if I am over shaping, or shaping before the dough is ready.  In the latter case, the outer surface of the dough looks like it is tearing rather than holding and building tension.

Regarding hydration, I have noticed quite a variance from one formula to another - 65% to 80%.  I suppose I need to be more scientific in isolating and controlling all the variables.  I am baking year-round, in Seattle.  The temp and humidity in my kitchen are usually around 65 degrees and 50%.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When you feel like the dough wants to tear, stop whatever you're doing and let the dough rest.  Wait 10 to 15 minutes and then continue with shaping when the dough has relaxed again.  I would still reduce the time spent in the couch esp. with a very high hydration dough.

Yes, as you advance toward the final proof, be less aggressive with degassing.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Let me state the obvious here.......something is not right.    Too acidic and the acid is attacking the gluten structure?  The hydration is too high?  The dough is being worked to death by a mixer?  Venus is not quite properly aligned with Jupiter, the color of the kitchen walls doesn't go with the color of the flour...SOMETHING is wrong. 

See if any of my comments strike a chord.  If not, posting your recipe and techniques would be the next step.  This would include details on your starter.

Jeff

sunyfun's picture
sunyfun

I usually add some vital wheat gluten to the dough mix if I am using more whole wheat than bread flour.
I have used the Tartine method very successfully but I usually go 3-4 hrs for the bulk fermentation. The dough should slack slightly when you transfer it to your bench. Let it rest 30 minutes covered before folding and shaping into loaf. I don't use linen lined couches--I transfer the shaped dough onto re-useable parchment with seam down and just place it into a bowl that is the shape of a boule (covered and without any additional flour). I have found that if you retard the dough in the fridge for 8-12 hrs it does have a better oven-spring. I have found that the loaf taste more sour without the cold proofing but it does not have the same oven spring.

Alvaremj's picture
Alvaremj

I had a similar problem with the Tartine Method. In my effort to make a "young" starter it was not active enough. Also I tried working the dough very little but ended up with under developed gluten. The fermented dough seemed depressed and would not hold its shape after the proof.  I ended up going back to some loaves that I know worked well and am baking better bread now. I would sugesst using a recipe that you know works well and try only changing your process by one thing at a time.

Good luck

J

ldavis47's picture
ldavis47

Donnepat: I have had tHe same issue with whole wheat or rye breads tearing during the final proof. Thrissue seemed to be toolittle gluten developmentfor the level of hydration.  For my breads that are 30% whole grain, Ido more turns and or reduce the water sometimes by oiling my hands and surface instead of wetting them in the Tartine method.

Hope this helps. 

Lloyd

donnepat's picture
donnepat

Lloyd,

Please see my latest reply to Minnie. Her advice solved my problem.  I did the oil bit as you suggested.  It made the handling easier during fermentation.  

Thankyou