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Advice on wetness, shapelessness, guminess and self-critiquing

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boshek's picture
boshek

Advice on wetness, shapelessness, guminess and self-critiquing

Hi fellow Fresh Loafers. I've been sponging info off this wonderful site for some time now and been baking my own bread for about 6 months. Recently I've had some trouble with my doughs (although to be fair these questions have always niggled at the back of my mind) and despite more and more reading, I seem to be getting worse and worse results. So finally I decided to post and ask for some advice.

Background - I tend to bake free-form lean loaves (no fats/sugars/additives) using instant yeast in an electric oven using a baking sheet (without stone or covering or loaf tins). I prefer a thin and slightly softer (but still crunchy) crust so I don't tend to steam too much and bake at slightly lowered temps. The first bread I made was from a post here titled "My Daily Bread" (MDB) and I have stuck to that recipe (with some variations of my own) for pretty much all the breads I bake. Most of the recipes here produce more bread than I can eat so I tend to scale down and bake single loaves that contain 250-300g of flour. At the moment, I yearn for soft, rustic style bread with a open crumb that I can reproduce consistently. I will concentrate on flavour later on as I plan to explore active starter/sourdoughs as I further my baking.

My problems:

1) Wetness. I think I have always struggled with this to be fair. The recipe from MDB has quite a high hydration (>70%) and perhaps starting there as a complete novice was not a great idea. The first few loaves were so wet, sticky and shapeless I was unable to fold, shape, oven spring it. I dialed back the hydration to 65%-68% and immediately started getting better results. I experimented with adding a bit of spelt and had improved oven spring as well as texture. I was so happy with this I kept going with these hydrations and I did not go back and tackle my original issue with the wetness. However recently I noticed my crumb closing in (struggling with trying to add WW and rye to my breads - both of which I have always had problems with) so I did some more reading and decided I needed to up the hydrations. However this just got me back to where I started.

2) Shapelessness. I realise that I need to S&F in order to get gluten development. I seem to do ok with this doughs at 65% but at >70%, the more I S&F, the more the dough seems to lose shape. After autolyse, the dough seems pretty solid and has some structure so I start the S&F sets at 20-30min intervals. These go ok for the first 3-4 times - I generally S&F 2-4 times per set turning 1/4 turn. The first couple of times always show promise as the dough forms a ball well and is noticeably harder to stretch out offering more resistance. However the dough gets noticeably more fluid as time goes by and each time I look into the container, the dough is spreading out more and more. By the end, my dough looks like Peter Reinhart's starting dough that he uses to demonstrate his S&F technique on youtube. Mine is exactly like his wet glob that he starts with.

3) Wet S&F. I am thinking that this is because I am using a wet board (I just spritz it a few times), wet scraper and wet hands when I S&F because the dough starts to glisten from the water. Am I adding too much water to the dough? I didn't think I would be because I just spray a thin mist and then I shake all the excess water off my hands. This stems from the higher hydration doughs being too sticky and difficult to handle and my fear of adding too much flour to the dough if I dust with flour instead of using water. Is there a definitive S&F guide somewhere? (how many times, how long, how many sets, how much water/flour, when to know you are doing it right, when to know you have enough gluten formed etc). I also watched all of Back Home Bakery's shaping videos and I notice that at no point have I ever had doughs that look like what Mark is working with. Mine are never so puffy, strong and non-sticky. Mine are so sticky that I need to wet-shape most of the time because otherwise the shape would be destroyed by just sticking to my fingers or the board. I also find that sometimes when I am shaping the dough tears somewhat easily - obviously I am not getting enough gluten formation but this was already after multiple S&Fs and quite a long time so am I supposed to keep going until such a time that it no longer tears? It seems I must be doing it wrong.

4) Guminess. As I mentioned, I tend to prefer thinner softer crusts so I found that sometimes baking at recipe recommended temps yield crusts that are too hard or too brown so I just spritz the dough slightly and the oven once or twice when it goes in. I experimented with lowering the temperatures but extending the times. But I have found that most of the time, my bread is bordering on being undercooked and has a gummy texture. It would always leave a residue on the bread knife. Again I read TFL posts and tried methods such as extending the time a lot , leaving the bread in the open oven after baking for 10mins to let the water evaporate, leaving the bread overnight before cutting but nevertheless my breads turn out on the undercooked side. The knock test produces a hollow sound and it tastes like it's cooked but there is nevertheless some wetness in the bread. I am afraid that if I bake it any longer, it will produce a rock hard brown crust and turn my bread into a biscuit!

5) Finally I would like to ask how I should go about doing post-mortem analysis on my breads when sticking to 1 recipe. I understand the basics such as higher hydration and gentler handling if the crumb is closed, wet/gummy bread needs longer bake times etc. but it just seems to me like there are so many other variables (temperature, number of S&Fs, type of flour, how I absentmindedly handled the dough at any one stage etc. etc) that can affect the end result, it all seems a bit overwhelming unless I make each loaf like a robot (which I am incapable of doing!) it seems like even sometimes just browsing on TFL for an extra 10mins might make a difference to my bread! I realise I need to improve my consistency with regards to method and recipes also but any tips on things to look out for and any other tell-tale signs of things I am doing wrong in the final loaf would be extremely helpful.

I apologise for the lengthy and repetitive post but I am just having some frustrating experiences recently and it made me realise that perhaps I just settled for very edible loaves before but now I want to consistently produce high quality loaves and reduce the variability and frustration of baking pancakes out of my repertoire! Thank you for taking the time to read my post and any advice will be gladly taken!

I attach a photo of one of my "better" (IMO) results (a 40% spelt white at 65% hydration) and a WW rye walnut unintentional pancake/biscotti that I just baked this morning... =(

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

I was so eager to read what your problems were, but it looks like you didn't finish the post.

ldsheridan's picture
ldsheridan

I was on tenterhooks.. 

Maybe I should finish it, as wetness, shapelessness, and gumminess are all areas within which I could use some instruction..  well, maybe not gumminess since I don't really have any idea what gumminess feels or looks like...

boshek's picture
boshek

Sorry, I was still in the process of composing my thoughts and I used the "Save" function in the new post form - I thought that would merely save my progress and not publish the post until I had finished it! Now I understand that the Save button means the post gets posted to the forums! I will try and edit the original so the post is complete.

ldsheridan's picture
ldsheridan

Hi, boshek. You may need to repost as a new message. If you look at the home page, your edit/update is not reflected as a new comment or message, so maybe people will think there's nothing new here..  Good luck. I'm looking forward to the answers.

boshek's picture
boshek

Thanks for your advice. I see that the topic has been bumped to the top of this sub-forum but I'm not sure if this is the correct one to post in. There seems to be a few "General" forums.... Also I couldn't find a way to delete this post so I did not want to have multiple posts everywhere. I will see how this one goes before I re-post!

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

Hi Boshek ...

Is this the recipe you refer to:

My Pain Sur Poolish (Daily Bread)
Makes 2 loaves

Poolish
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Final Dough
1 pound flour
10-12 ounces water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
all of the poolish

If it is, then it would be useful to know what ambient temperatures prevail when you are making bread. Some of the problems you are describing suggest overproofing. If you are working in a fairly hot environment, that would explain why. For instance, I could never make this recipe using the quantities of yeast stated, here in the Caribbean. I'd have porridge - unless I resorted to using the fridge for the best part.

Secondly, your troubles with wet doughs might well be solved in a nano-second, by using Bertinet's technique. It works a charm with wet doughs - and turns sticky shaggy gloop into sleek, well-behaved dough. I haven't got the link to hand, but us the TFL's search box and you'll find a very instructional video showing M.Bertinet at work on a slack sweet dough using a special technique for working wet doughs - which should put you wise. (Forgive me if you've already seen this already - but you make no mention of it, so I'm assuming you haven't.) 5-10 minutes of Bertinet slam-dunking, followed bya few interval SFs if still required will give you all the gluten development you need.

Spritzing your dough and work surface as you work it will increase the hydration levels. And if you're doing that every time you SF then the increments of extra water are going to mount up. Have you tried SF-ing in a large, lightly oiled plastic box - I use a huge tupperware container - it will spare you the need to spritz the dough or work-surface at all. Just do your SFs keeping the dough in the container. Dipping hands in water, shaking off the excess, to handle the SFs will make it all very manageable. Incremental water is then minimised.

How long is your bulk fermentation? Could this be where the over-proofing is setting in - if that is one of the problems?

As wet doughs ferment, they tend to get slacker, so it's a good idea to bring your SFs closer together prior to pre-shaping and shaping if that is occuring - but always with an eye on the clock. Although you must be guided by the dough, it helps to clockwatch too - time has a nasty habit of slipping by allowing the dough to over-proof by the sneaky back door, as it were. One minute you're fine, then the next your dough starts to go into meltdown.

So in summery here are some ideas you might want to try:

  • Check out your temperatures and consider the possibility of reducing the yeast content if they are on the high side.
  • Try the Bertinet technique after autolysing and a few SFs during bulk ferment if necessary.
  • Try bulk fermenting in lightly oiled food-grade plastic box for ease of handling without resorting to spritzing.
  • Keep a sharp eye on the clock and how your dough is behaving. With good gluten development, you will get a better idea of when your yeast is coming into full swing, and when to move on to shaping, then baking etc.

Those photos you've put up show you're almost there ...

All at Sea

 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Boshek,

I second AsS's suggestions, especially adopting 'French Folding" (aka, the Bertinet Procedure, Slam-Dunking, Slap & Fold, etc.).  It has helped my doughs immensely, is fun, and gives the practitioner a very close, hands-on monitor of dough development, from shaggy to smooth to medium windowpane to full windowpane, with some digressions along the way.  However, you would be advised to abandon spritzing your dough if you adopt French Folding, unless you don't mind adorning every surface in your kitchen with little dough comets.  French Folding requires nothing but dough and a sturdy, dry surface (and perhaps warning spouse and pets, obtaining permission from neighbors, etc -- it can and should  be fairly violent).  No flour, no water.  Babette's is among the best online video tutorials on the technique.

I've also found that substituting straight AP with a combination of 55% AP flour + 45% Bread Flour has helped improve my doughs' qualities -- a little more protein (training wheels) than straight AP.

Good luck and happy baking.

Tom

 

shastaflour's picture
shastaflour

Thanks Tom -- Babette's video is terrific. I've used Bertinet's French Fold before, but didn't realize until viewing Babette's video that I wasn't picking up from the side before I stretched the dough. That makes a big difference. She is so methodical about it, and so careful with the details, that you can't miss anything.

It really is a fun method, and my kids get the biggest kick out of all the slapping sounds. (They like eating the bread too, of course!) Things will only improve with the correct technique!

:)

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Shasta-

Glad to hear it helps.  Babette (Beatrice) is a fine online teacher for my peseta euro.

fwiw, I've found that the frequency of strokes (i.e., # of strokes/min) seems to affect dough development in unexpected ways.  At one point in her video, Beatrice really gets to slapping fast.  When I shift to that speed, the dough becomes significantly smoother, faster.  The same number of strokes with more leisurely intervals between each doesn't seem to produce the same result.  This is a casual observation and may be totally bogus.  But it's as if there is a very short timescale dynamic to dough/gluten development that higher rates of slap 'n fold can affect, beyond just total number of minutes passed slapping the dough around.  Maybe this isn't news -- those who use electric mixers and write recipes written for them (e.g., Jeff Hamelman), specify "Speed 2" or "Speed 3" on the KA at various stages of mixing.  This is just the manual equivalent.

Happy baking,

Tom

 

blacktom's picture
blacktom

Hi,

Your spelt loaf looks great - I'd be proud of that.

Regarding your point 5 - you're absolutely right, there are a great many variables involved, and I feel that no post-bake analysis can be completely reliable. I have quite a few scientist-friends, and something they frequently say is that even with all the technology available to them, it is often impossible to be entirely certain about particular results or completely consistent in the way experiments are performed. If that's true of scientific research, it's certainly true of bread-making. From what you say in your post, it sounds like you already have a pretty good grasp of how bread dough behaves under different circumstances: I'd just keep on doing what you're doing. It took me a lot longer to make a really satisfactory loaf than it seems to have taken you!

Neil

boshek's picture
boshek

Thank you for the advice so far. I'll answer some of the points.

@All at Sea (aptly describing my bread making at the moment!)/@Toad.

-Yes that is the recipe I am using. I live in Switzerland and started baking in the winter so ambient temps were pretty low (I don't generally central heat the house much) - I'd say mid-to-upper teens? And now of course it's much warmer so probably around 20-23C. I would not say that the temps were over warm though. I was under the impression that the recipe was already quite low on yeast?! Perhaps I was mistaken.

-My process generally involves making the poolish in the morning or the night before which I allow to activate until early evening. I then autolyse the main dough, mix in the poolish then start the S&Fs whilst keeping the dough in a bowl shaped tupperware container on the counter in between. The S&F sets take up 2-3hrs at which point I put the dough into the fridge. The next morning, I allow the dough to acclimatise for about 1hr on the counter and then pre-shape and final shape before baking. I do not think that the problem is "overproofing" as I find that the "puddle-dough" effect occurs over the course of the S&F sets and by the time I am ready to put it into the fridge overnight, it's more or like thick porridge in the container. Could I be over-fermenting? Do you think it's fermenting too quickly during my S&F sets? Like I said I don't think the room temps in Switzerland are that warm. Perhaps I should try to reduce the yeast I use further and try fridging in between S&Fs so that the bulk ferment takes place overnight in the fridge?

-Yes I have seen RB's video and I will definitely give it a try as I have been a bit afraid of it (and still am!). I was thinking that PR's (gentler) S&Fs would be more appropriate to retain air pockets. I will try RB's slaps once I pluck up the courage.

-Spritzing. I was under the impression that if I started with a 65% recipe it would be ok to spritz/wet-work a bit which will naturally bring the hydration towards/into the 70s. I didn't think I was being overly generous with the spritzing but perhaps I underestimate just how much water gets absorbed. I will try RB's method as well as continue trying for better control of my spritzing.

-S&F in a container. Do you mean S&F like in PR's video except inside an oiled box? I have not tried that. I have also seen some videos showing S&F method inside a bowl which is performed only with a scraper - pushing and folding the dough over using the scraper - is this also a viable method?

-Further question: do you ever need to wet-shape because of dough stickiness? Or is it a case that if I need to wet-shape then there has been insufficient gluten development? As it should be tacky rather than sticky if the gluten has been well-formed?

@blackthorn. Thanks for the compliment. I'm trying to get it so that all my loaves look more like that!

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

-Yes that is the recipe I am using. I live in Switzerland and started baking in the winter so ambient temps were pretty low (I don't generally central heat the house much) - I'd say mid-to-upper teens? And now of course it's much warmer so probably around 20-23C. I would not say that the temps were over warm though. I was under the impression that the recipe was already quite low on yeast?! Perhaps I was mistaken.

Your temperatures are cool enough not to rush the yeast - yes, agree.  And the yeast quantity is fine for those temps. What I meant by saying the yeast quantity was too high for me - was in the Tropics, if I used both a pre-ferment (with 1/4 tsp yeast) and 1 x tsp yeast in the main dough - I'd have dough with such go-faster stripes, it would overproof in the blink of an eye. But you don't have that problem with your climate.

-My process generally involves making the poolish in the morning or the night before which I allow to activate until early evening. I then autolyse the main dough, mix in the poolish then start the S&Fs whilst keeping the dough in a bowl shaped tupperware container on the counter in between. The S&F sets take up 2-3hrs at which point I put the dough into the fridge. The next morning, I allow the dough to acclimatise for about 1hr on the counter and then pre-shape and final shape before baking. I do not think that the problem is "overproofing" as I find that the "puddle-dough" effect occurs over the course of the S&F sets and by the time I am ready to put it into the fridge overnight, it's more or like thick porridge in the container. Could I be over-fermenting?

In a nutshell, yes. I generally refer to over fermentation whether bulk or in the final proof as overproofing - sorry to confuse. But yes, with that much yeast, it will be running out of food by the time it hits the fridge, I think.  So it's downhill from thereon in.  If you want to retard the dough for extra flavour, you'll have to cut back on the yeast and speed up your SFs before you retard.

Do you think it's fermenting too quickly during my S&F sets?

My feelings are the yeast isn't fermenting too quickly - its more to do with the whole process is taking too long for that quantity of yeast - see above.

Like I said I don't think the room temps in Switzerland are that warm. Perhaps I should try to reduce the yeast I use further and try fridging in between S&Fs so that the bulk ferment takes place overnight in the fridge?

Go for it! See what happens. You may find it can go a whole night in the fridge without running of steam doing that. I take it you're keen to retard for extra flavour - yes? If not bothered, then after the pre-ferment, let the whole process happen at room temperature, but with a very keen eye on dough development, so you avoid overproofing/ over bulk-fermenating (whatever term you prefer).

-Yes I have seen RB's video and I will definitely give it a try as I have been a bit afraid of it (and still am!). I was thinking that PR's (gentler) S&Fs would be more appropriate to retain air pockets. I will try RB's slaps once I pluck up the courage.

Haha ...don't be scared - it's fabulous fun! Like Tom says, you might end up wearing some of the dough at first, but you'll soon get the hang of it.

-Spritzing. I was under the impression that if I started with a 65% recipe it would be ok to spritz/wet-work a bit which will naturally bring the hydration towards/into the 70s. I didn't think I was being overly generous with the spritzing but perhaps I underestimate just how much water gets absorbed. I will try RB's method as well as continue trying for better control of my spritzing.

I regularly add extra water as I work, if I think the dough can take it and if it feels necessary. So yes, with a 65% hydration that's possible certainly. And with Bertinet's method incorporating extra water is a doddle. I just dip my hands into water, give a quick shake, then return to working the dough - the water on my hands is soon incorporated. But it's essential to achieve a good gluten structure at the same time, so you don't end up with porridge as you add that extra H2O.  With Bertinet's method you can easily work 80% hydration doughs into smooth puffballs of airy satin, because the gluten  develops quickly. If you're spritzing without the gluten development happening, it's going to be problematic.

-S&F in a container. Do you mean S&F like in PR's video except inside an oiled box? I have not tried that.

Yes, that's the idea exactly.

I have also seen some videos showing S&F method inside a bowl which is performed only with a scraper - pushing and folding the dough over using the scraper - is this also a viable method?

Yes, too. Providing the dough is being stretched sufficiently to build structure without tearing, it's all good.

-Further question: do you ever need to wet-shape because of dough stickiness?

No. I always shape using a little flour. Shaping with just a lightly dusted work-surface and lightly dusted hands. Once the dough is properly developed  (ie you can form a windowpane well enough), then given that little dusting with flour and even very high hydration doughs can be shaped without nuisance stickiness.  

Or is it a case that if I need to wet-shape then there has been insufficient gluten development? As it should be tacky rather than sticky if the gluten has been well-formed?

Absolutely spot on ... You said it, brother!  But that stickiness can also be - and I suspect it is - because your dough is overproofed. Then the gluten structure breaks down and you get an increasingly runny, gunky mess as a result.

All at Sea

 

boshek's picture
boshek

@toad.de: Finally had a chance to watch Babette's video. That technique is amazing! I'll definitely have to give it a go.

@AaS: I'm retarding for flavour but also because I like to have fresh bread during the day and this schedule allows me to have fresh bread by lunch time. I will definitely take all of your suggestions into account. It sounds like all my troubles stem from not having proper gluten development. Would overproofing or under-developed gluten also be the cause of the guminess in my bread? I think the main problem is that because I've never had any external input into my bread making, I've never known what properly developed dough (at whatever hydration) should look and feel like. I see the doughs in the videos of the professionals and I'm thinking to myself: "how on earth do I get from where mine is to where that is?!" I see exactly what you describe as " smooth puffballs of airy satin" but I just can't seem to get there. Perhaps if I worked all of your suggestions into my dough I can go some way to achieving that.

-When will the dough achieve that texture? Will it become like that at the end of the RB slaps and interval SFs ie. before the bulk ferment (be it fridged or not)? Or will it only get to that stage after bulk ferment? And if it is latter, when do I know to stop and let it ferment in order to get that as I guess I have to stop a bit before? And therefore how do I know if I am getting into overproofed zone? I think in the past I have been more haphazard with the initial stage of dough making such that the gluten formation and bulk ferment stages kind of melded into one and take too much time because I didn't know when to stop and let the fermenting do its thing. After that I would let it bulk retard-ferment again overnight! I think this also came from learning to make bread in the winter when the ambient temp allowed me a larger margin of error to work with the dough than the summer.

So, for clarity in my own mind, I think this is my plan of action:

-Try reducing yeast slightly

-Autolyse followed by 5-10mins of RB slaps then a few ever-shortening-intervaled SFs if necessary

-Don't spritz water, instead SF and/or "scraper-SF" in oiled box 

-Speed up the initial dough handling/gluten formation stage with better control of time and temp, using the fridge between SF intervals if it gets too warm

-Distinct separation of dough handling stage and bulk ferment stage

-Gentle handing of dough after ferment and careful control of time and temp of proofing after shaping

I'm so excited! I feel like I am starting to understand the process more. I think I will probably be baking tomorrow if I find the time so I will try these steps and report back! Thank you all again for taking the time to troubleshoot my baking.

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... you are on the right track, boshek!

@AaS: I'm retarding for flavour but also because I like to have fresh bread during the day and this schedule allows me to have fresh bread by lunch time.

If you follow the instructions of that recipe to the T - you will have fresh bread by lunchtime - only a day earlier. No retard necessary. But if you want the flavour benefits of a retard, then yes, you will have to adjust your yeast quantity downwards. To explain:

That original recipe you're using doesn't retard, but cracks on instead and after a 2 hours (or so) bulk fermentation, briskly moves into pre-shaping and then final shaping and final proofing. From the moment of mixing in the pre-ferment into the main dough ingredients, the whole process takes only about 4 hours to baking.  Those are the sort of times I got when baking bread (500 grams of flour, 380 grams water, 1 teaspoon of active dried yeast, salt etc) - back home in the UK with temps a little lower than yours. 4 hours from when the yeast first came into contact with the flour to popping the dough in the oven.

But under your current practice you're trying to make that same quantity of yeast hang on for say, 2 - 3 hours of SFs + 8 hours overnight in fridge + 1 hr rest at room temperature + preshape and bench rest + final shaping and final proofing. That's got to be something like a total of what - 14 hours? That's why the yeast conks out and in desperation begins attacking the gluten - feeding off the protein of that rather than starve. Th gluten structure, under attack by enzymes in the yeast, breaks down and it's porridge here we come.

If you want to retard for flavour, then yes, smaller quantity of yeast would be excellent idea. But I'm getting ahead of myself - lets deal with your other questions first.

It sounds like all my troubles stem from not having proper gluten development.

Not quite all - I think it is a combined problem of not enough gluten development and yeast that runs out of starch food before the dough is baked. That being caused by too long in bulk fermenation mainly. Either you speed up the bulk fermentation period or you reduce the yeast quantity - or try a little of both.

Would overproofing or under-developed gluten also be the cause of the guminess in my bread?

Absolutely! That's why I think it best to worry about oven temperatures etc after you've addressed the gluten development and over-long fermentation times.

I think the main problem is that because I've never had any external input into my bread making, I've never known what properly developed dough (at whatever hydration) should look and feel like. I see the doughs in the videos of the professionals and I'm thinking to myself: "how on earth do I get from where mine is to where that is?!" I see exactly what you describe as " smooth puffballs of airy satin" but I just can't seem to get there. Perhaps if I worked all of your suggestions into my dough I can go some way to achieving that.

I promise you that if you try the Bertinet technique - as demonstrated beautifully by Babette (was it?) - you will have satin puffball dough. You'll notice as you start to work it his way, the dough comes together as a whole - the shagginess disappears, and there is a magic moment when it stops sticking hopelessly to you and the work surface, and instead sticks only to itself as a united ball of living, flowing dough. As you get more confident handling it that way, you'll find the time to achieve smoothpuffballsofairysatin-dom shortens. At first it might take you 10-12 minutes. After a few practices you'll only need 5 minutes.  There will be no turning back after that!

-When will the dough achieve that texture?

See above. When the Bertinet slam dunks have had their effect, you gently shape it into a ball, tensioning the outer skin, without deflating it, and pop it into your proofing basket (oiled plastic box) whatever. It will behave itself from there on, providing you don't let the yeast run out of food.

Will it become like that at the end of the RB slaps and interval SFs ie. before the bulk ferment (be it fridged or not)? Or will it only get to that stage after bulk ferment?

As above - but need to clear up something here. The dough you can tame to s-p-b-o-a-s-dom by 5-10 minutes of Bertinet work. But the SFs are to add extra strength and body, if your dough starts to relax too much after you've popped it into your proofing bowl or oiled box. However, bulk fermentation begins even while you are working the dough - it begins the moment the yeast hits the flour and water and starts to feed.  And so if you spend 5-10 minutes Bertinet slam-dunking/slap-folding, then put in a couple of SFs at 30 minute intervals, say - that is 1 hour 10 minutes of bulk ferment already over.  If your yeast has only enough food to last for 4 hours at room temperature, then you can see how easily you run out of time. That's why the caveat about keeping an eye on the clock, as well as the dough. Because SFs slightly degas the dough, it's not useful to apply the "let it rise until nearly doubled" advice, often given out to describe when bulk fermentation should stop. So the window-pane test is a more useful indicator. See below. However, if you only need to Bertinet the dough, and no SFs necessary, then there will be a period of bulk fermentation after you've Bertined the dough, where you just let it sit and develop, becoming airier with CO2 until time to preshape.

And if it is latter, when do I know to stop and let it ferment in order to get that as I guess I have to stop a bit before?

The moment you think the dough might be ready to give you a good windowpane, regardless of how many SFs you've done or not done, stop and test it. Cut off a small slice of dough, and with wet fingers, try to make a window pane out of it - if you can stretch it so that it becomes thin enough to let light through, but without tearing, then you're there - or as good as. That's the moment to push on to pre-shaping and then shaping. By that stage the dough should have become lovely and light and airy.

And therefore how do I know if I am getting into overproofed zone?

Again, to play safe, once the window pane test is successful, then press on to pre-shaping, shaping and final proof.  You can always retard the shaped loaves to gain flavour - providing you've got them ready before the yeast runs out of food. And that's unlikely to happen if you use a good technique for swift gluten development, and don't let the bulk ferment go on beyond the window pane test, providing it is already nice and light and airy. Once you feel more confident you can recognise what stage the dough is at and what it needs, then you can play around with your schedule.

I think in the past I have been more haphazard with the initial stage of dough making such that the gluten formation and bulk ferment stages kind of melded into one and take too much time because I didn't know when to stop and let the fermenting do its thing. After that I would let it bulk retard-ferment again overnight! I think this also came from learning to make bread in the winter when the ambient temp allowed me a larger margin of error to work with the dough than the summer.

Yes, winter and summer require substantial tweaking of recipes if the temps vary a lot.

Wonder if this may help with any confusion about the different stages:

  • Pre-ferment (often overnight).
  • Mix flour and water of main dough - Autolyse. (30 mins)
  • Add yeast, pre-preferment, salt - any other ingredients and mix.
  • Work the dough, (Bertinet - SFs - whatever) during which bulk fermentation begins
  • Rest dough in proofing basket while bulk fermentation continues or until window pane test proves successful
  • Pre-shape dough
  • Bench rest (about 15 mins)
  • Shape
  • Final proof
  • Bake!

There are of course variations of the above, but that will do as a rough standard. Times for bulk fermentation and final proofing will vary hugely depending on temperature, yeast quantity, water content etc. But if you're using commercial yeast rather than wild yeast, things will happen a lot quicker.

So, for clarity in my own mind, I think this is my plan of action:

-Try reducing yeast slightly

Great idea if you still want to retard.

-Autolyse followed by 5-10mins of RB slaps then a few ever-shortening-intervaled SFs if necessary

Again - yes! Don't need to do more than 30 mins autolyse. If you are adding your pre-ferment to the autolyse, then remember the clock starts ticking from that moment - the preferment will be feasting off the flour, so yeast food starts to diminish at that point. This needs taking into consideration so yeast doesn't run out before you get to baking stage.

-Don't spritz water, instead SF and/or "scraper-SF" in oiled box 

Check!

-Speed up the initial dough handling/gluten formation stage with better control of time and temp, using the fridge between SF intervals if it gets too warm.

Check!

-Distinct separation of dough handling stage and bulk ferment stage

Not necessary as explained above.  SFs run over into bulk ferment stage. Think of bulk ferment as the time from when the yeast gets to work till the window pane stage is achieved and the dough is puffed with gas.

-Gentle handing of dough after ferment and careful control of time and temp of proofing after shaping

Brilliant! (Using the poke test to help establish when shaped dough is ready to bake).

I'm so excited! I feel like I am starting to understand the process more. I think I will probably be baking tomorrow if I find the time so I will try these steps and report back! Thank you all again for taking the time to troubleshoot my baking.

You're more than welcome - lovely to hear your excitement and best of luck!

All at Sea

dwfender's picture
dwfender

Looks like everyonee has covered most of your bases. My two cents would be that your probably definitely sound like gluten problems. 

Slap and fold method also incorporates air into your dough, or oxidizes it. This will change your flavor and crumb so keep that in mind. 

If you are mixing dough by hand it is incredibly difficult to over develop the gluten. It's definitelypossible to over oxidize the dough but even that is pretty hard. Make sure you are using a decent quality bread flour and just keep stretching and folding and kneading until after a five or ten minute rest you have a very nice windowpane. 

I can't think of the detailsfor my last point but I remember having a similar problem and discovering that my gluten was being destroyed by either an enzyme or a hisic acidity level. Basically, I was leaving my preferment too long and it was affecting the gluten in my final dough. Don't forget that preferments change the strength of your final dough. 

Oh yeah, you mentioned you like softer crusts. When baking a loaf with hydration around 70% or higher, it will almost always naturally have a soft crust after the loaf cools properly. Unless you play around with the ovenrot get a crisp crust just right most home ovens will force you to bake it Again to get that crisp crust. P

 

Hope this all makes sense. Is late and I'm tired but felt like writing s bit. Good luck man. Keep envy one posted. 

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi, do you have a stand mixer? If so, you can change your procedure and get better results. After a 30 minutes autolyse turn on the mixer at medium speed and let it work for all the necessary time until your dough comes out perfectly solid.

Even at 75% hydratation a decent flour WILL come together as a solid dough, no need to stretch and fold, but it may take  one hour or even more. Have patience and you will be rewarded. The crumb will be softer and more regular and you shouldn't sense gumminess anymore.

Don't worry for the oxydation of carotenoids: there are so few in white flour that you won't notice any difference:). What will give taste to your bread is fermentation.

dwfender's picture
dwfender

The main reason I mention oxidization isn't so much the flavor as it is the crumb. I usually assume that if you are working with 70 percent hydration or better on a lean dough you are looking for an open crumb and just beating thetough in a mixer for s long time makes it much much harder to get that right. 

This siwe mentions a little about gluten development and mixing methods. 

http://modern-baking.com/bread_pastry/mixing-methods-making-1109/index2.html

 

boshek's picture
boshek

@nicodvb: Thanks for the input. No I do not have a mixer so I am using hand mixing techniques.

@dwfender: Indeed I am looking the open crumb of artisan breads and yes I think I definitely have gluten problems.  I appreciate your tips, I think the flours I am using should be pretty good so I will try to get the gluten right before worrying about oven temps and crusts.

I started a poolish in the fridge this AM so I will put it together later today and let you know the results.

dwfender's picture
dwfender

Cool man. Or woman...

What is your recipe and technique? Are you making sure to not over ferment your preferment? 

Is your autolyse just flour And water.  Are you adding salt directly to the dough or a few minutes into mixing? Are you using fine salt rather than kosher salt?Tell me more!

boshek's picture
boshek

For those interested this is the bread I am making today:

Preferment:

36g Bread Flour, 16g Spelt Flour, 10g AP Flour, 1/8 tsp yeast, 52g water

Main Dough:

85g Bread Flour, 85g Spelt Flour, 30g AP Flour, 1/3 tsp yeast, 132g water, 1tsp fine table salt

If I am not mistaken this makes it 70% hydration.

1) Preferment, fridged for 8hrs (did not look overly active but was volumised)

2) Mix all flours and water for main dough, autolyse for 30mins

3) Add in yeast and preferment, rest and Bertinet-ed for 45mins* (no water, oil or flour on surface/hands)

4) Placed in lightly oiled tupperware box for bulk ferment

5) Out of bowl: 2xS&F sets (S&F twice per set) at 30min intervals, folding in the salt the second time*

*Notes:

-It was a pretty cool day and I had reduced the yeast in the main dough because I knew it would take me a while to get the hang of Bertinet-ing for the first time. It was very slow going to begin with but I got better with practice. I didn't mean to do it for that long but I was wasting a lot of time at the beginning so it remained a shaggy mess for a long time. Towards the end it started to come together. 

- In my haste to get on with the Bertinet, I had actually forgotten to add in the salt after the autolyse.

-Overall I think it was ok since it was quite a cool day/evening so it gave me a little extra time to work with the dough

This is the dough at the end of these steps:

Observations:

1) Definitely no porridge or spontaneous falling apart of dough despite being of higher hydration than my normal range.

2) I got the hang of the RBs eventually and definitely think it's a good technique.

3) I thought that my quantity of dough was actually too small to RB properly, perhaps double the size would be better. When I started off, the dough was no bigger than a baseball.

4) I found RB-ing gave me good live feedback on what the dough was doing and how far along I had gotten.

5) I mainly had trouble with a) really stretching it up due to the small dough mass and b) right at the end of each fold over and before I went to pick it up again I found it hard to remove my fingers from the sticky dough - I ended up peeling them off in a kind of faning/circular motion back towards myself. I will keep looking at the videos for guidance.

6) The dough definitely got less sticky and more tacky and at one point was pulling the dough that was stuck on my fingers back into the main bulk - although I still ended up with a lot of dough (some dried) stuck to my fingers.

7) I window-paned after 45mins of RB and got an ok pane but still with some fairly easy tears. I know that it could probably take more RBs to get to a super pane but I thought that my education was sufficient for one night!

8) It was definitely the best looking/feeling/most structured dough I had work with so far. It was still not looking like those I saw in videos but it was for sure getting closer to that than I've ever been. It was quite smooth but not so airy/puffy and still a little sticky.

9) Window-paning after some bulk ferment time definitely saw an improvement to the pane strength although there were still some surface tearing despite maintaining the full pane integrity ie. the dough was tearing a bit on the surface but there was still a dough membrane beneath it - if that makes sense.

10) I decided to S&F outside of the bowl because my bowl is rounded and difficult to S&F in but also I thought that I had worked the dough outside for too long during Bertinet and it might have dried out a little. So I very carefully applied a small amount of water to the counter and my hands before S&F. The water seemed to be absorbed without any ill effects on the dough structure.

11) Folding still produce some tearing of the dough like the lunar pock marks you can see in the second photo. But in any case I was pretty satisfied with the pane at this stage and the dough definitely got puffier after bulk ferment.

12) I then pre-shaped, rested and shaped using a light dusting of flour.

11) To my surprise, there was no evidence of tearing during pre/main shaping that I had grown used to in the past.

This is what the shaped dough looks like:

Questions:

1) During Bertinet, does the dough ever get to a point when it is completely no longer sticky? (Given a hydration of >70%)

2) Any tips of how to keep the dough off your fingers? or is it a case of it is what it is?

2) Is the tearing I see during folding normal? Or is it a sign that I still need more gluten formation?

3) Is what I described for the final window-pane test (above) normal? (having surface tears but having dough member underneath)

ie. Should there be zero tearing whatsoever if I have done it right?

This has been such a learning experience. I feel I understand the whole process a lot more rather than just robotically going through the steps. Thank you all.

I will post the final results soon.

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... at this rate of dedication and application, you are going to be one helluva baker :0)

Thoughts and answers as usual in italic bold below:

I thought that my quantity of dough was actually too small to RB properly, perhaps double the size would be better. When I started off, the dough was no bigger than a baseball.

I agree with you. It's much easier to handle a larger bundle of dough than one that small.  Try 450 grams of flour next time or - even better - 500 grams (flour). That will make % calculations a doddle, and will give you enough to do 2 x small loaves or one large one. If you keep to your 70% hydration - it's a lovely one - you'll need 350g water.  Easy, isn't it?! Did you choose so small a batch for a reason?

b) right at the end of each fold over and before I went to pick it up again I found it hard to remove my fingers from the sticky dough - I ended up peeling them off in a kind of faning/circular motion back towards myself.

I think it's just a question of refining your technique which will come with practice - 45 minutes is a marathon, and won't be necessary ever again!

1) During Bertinet, does the dough ever get to a point when it is completely no longer sticky? (Given a hydration of >70%)

Not at the hydration levels you were using > 70%. But there are tricks to help with stickiness.

a) Hold back 50 grams of water and keep that in a bowl beside you while you Bertinet. Then every so often, dunk your hands in it and wash them over the dough - meaning clean the dough off your hands using the water so that the rinsed dough falls back with the water on to the dough ball. Then carry on working. That way you use all the water, but you keep your hands from getting dried dough on them. The dough will then stick less to your hands.

b) To test if the dough is Bertinet-ed enough - slam dunk it flopping it into a tightish ball - you can see this on that video, and leave it while you wash your hands properly under running water in the sink. Then go back and give it another quick flick and flop without stretching it too much and you'll probably find the dough doesn't stick to you at all - or the worksurface. That's your queue you've done enough. But if you keep working the dough on and on, it will get stickier again.  Once you get the hang of Bertinet's movement so that one slam-dunk/slap-fold just runs seamlessly into the next without stopping, you will only need about 5 minutes before the dough is ready to be put into the proofing bowl.  Lower hydration doughs will be Bertinet-ed in even shorter time. The wetter the dough the longer it takes to achieve non-stickiness.

2) Any tips of how to keep the dough off your fingers? or is it a case of it is what it is?

See above. Just to emphasise - if you allow dough to dry on your fingers you are making a very sticky surface that will ensure the dough keeps sticking. Same applies to your worksurface - clean up every so often using your dough scraper.  As you get better at the technique, you will be able to do the whole movement with your fingers only in contact with the dough very minimally - that helps hugely too.

2) Is the tearing I see during folding normal? Or is it a sign that I still need more gluten formation?

Do you mean when folding during the Bertinet session - or when Stretch folding in the proofing bowl  after you've Bertinet-ed? 

If it tears during Bertinet session, you might like to add some extra water - just a bit. Or try stretching it a little less - being a little more gentle with the stretch before you flop over.

If you mean it tears when stretch-folding in the proofing bowl, after Bertinet session, then that, I think (difficult without watching you work) is a sign you are SF-ing too often - not allowing the dough to relax enough. As you did such a thorough job of Bertinet-ing (45 mins!) you probably didn't need to SF so often or so soon together.  You may even have not needed to SF at all. You had done such a good job prior to that, the gluten was well formed and not in need at that moment in time . Again - let the dough be your guide. If it gets sloppy and too relaxed and floods outwards - time for a fold!

3) Is what I described for the final window-pane test (above) normal? (having surface tears but having dough member underneath)

Not sure I've come across this. Have you seen Wild-Yeast's tutorial on window-paning? But judging by everything you had already done, I'm sure your window pane would have been adequate.

ie. Should there be zero tearing whatsoever if I have done it right?

Not necessarily. It depends on just how far you stretch the dough to test it. Even well developed dough will tear if pushed to its limit.

Now a question for you: How long was it between adding the preferment and yeast to the flours (when mixing the main dough) and shaping?

All at Sea

boshek's picture
boshek

-Did you choose so small a batch for a reason?

It's actually the normal amount of bread I make on a regular basis. My better half does not eat much bread and I find that this amount suits my consumption rate best so that I have fresh bread every few days. If I double that I worry that it will go stale before I can eat it.

-I think it's just a question of refining your technique which will come with practice

Yes I will keep watching the various videos and refine my technique now that I know what I am looking out for. Thanks for the tips on how to avoid excessive stickiness.

-But if you keep working the dough on and on, it will get stickier again.

What happens if I keep going pass that point and it starts to get sticky again? Is it detrimental to the gluten?

-Do you mean when folding during the Bertinet session...... (tearing)

I mean that when I fold the dough over during S&F, sometimes where the dough bulges up (ie. at the fat fold point), the surface rips to leave a shallow circular mark (like on the surface of the moon). Also before I get to that point, when I am Bertineting, I noticed that when I stretch it, the underside of the dough is stringy on the surface so that part of the dough is tearing. What should I interpret from this?

-a sign you are SF-ing too often - not allowing the dough to relax enough.

I was Bertineting for a long time because I was trying to get to the silky-puffy-smooth texture with a very strong pane which I think I never quite got to just using the Bertinets alone. I guess I had to let it relax and ferment a bit in order to build up the gases and get to that stage? And during the ferment pane-test it every once in a while and only if I notice some oozing should I need to S&F it? I think that's what you are saying?

-Not sure I've come across this. Have you seen Wild-Yeast's tutorial on window-paning?

No I have not seen that tutorial. I will try and take a picture if I see if again.

-Now a question for you: How long was it between adding the preferment and yeast to the flours (when mixing the main dough) and shaping?

It was around 4.5hrs which I think was adequate given the smallish amount of yeast and the temps. I was definitely much more aware of the time and pace of the whole process.

I think before I was always looking for the dough to really grow in size  - but at the same time folding it down - which made it seem like nothing was happening so I just waited and waited and folded and folded (whilst incorporating too much extra water) allowing overproofing and over-hydrating as a result. Also I think it subconciously drove me to add incrementally more yeast which really exascerbated the problems. As I mentioned before it also stems from starting my baking in the winter.

Here is the final result:

I (fan oven) baked at 200 for 5mins after spritzing the dough and once inside the oven. Then turned it down to 180 and baked for a further 35mins, turning once. I checked the internal temp of the bread and it read 210F or 100C. I left it in the turned-off oven for 10mins with the door slightly open and then let it cool.

Oven spring was ok, not so huge. The crust was crunchy to cut but not crispy to bite, more chewy. The crumb is great but actually slightly less open than I had expected. May be I thought going from 65 to 70 would make a really big difference. I will try going to 72 and 75 soon. The texture and flavour of the bread is excellent and I think with a firmer bite than my previous bread - something I prefer. It was however just ever so slightly wet to the touch and left trace residue on my clean bread knife. I would not describe it as guminess but more like a moistness.

The original recipe calls for very high temps and much shorter time (max for 5 minutes and then equivalent of 250 for 20mins). I realise that all ovens and doughs are different but are there any general guidlines to how to manipulate temps and times for different crusts/crumbs and how to adjust for the smaller dough amounts and shapes?

Also any oven spring tips?! You seem to have all these tips and tricks up your sleeve - it's so great having my own teacher! Thank you All at Sea!

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... in that latest crumb shot. Well done!

It's actually the normal amount of bread I make on a regular basis. My better half does not eat much bread and I find that this amount suits my consumption rate best so that I have fresh bread every few days. If I double that I worry that it will go stale before I can eat it.

If you make a larger batch of dough and shape it into 2 small loaves, then you can freeze one without any noticeable loss of flavour or change to texture. Then, once defrosted, cut off a slice or several, and reheat the slices very briefly in a shallow pan on the hob top - it brings back the just baked taste sensation perfectly. You'll just find working the dough so much easier with a larger batch.

What happens if I keep going pass that point and it starts to get sticky again? Is it detrimental to the gluten?

It's almost impossible to overwork a dough by hand - machine, yes; by hand, no. But all that time you're working it un-necessarily, the clock is ticking and lots of the CO2 made by the yeast is being lost and the yeast is using up the available starch. Also, the more you work the dough un-necessarily, the tighter the crumb you will have. One caveat however - Don't scrimp on the Bertinet-ing in the quest for an open crumb. First get the gluten development, then everything else will follow.

I mean that when I fold the dough over during S&F, sometimes where the dough bulges up (ie. at the fat fold point), the surface rips to leave a shallow circular mark (like on the surface of the moon). Also before I get to that point, when I am Bertineting, I noticed that when I stretch it, the underside of the dough is stringy on the surface so that part of the dough is tearing. What should I interpret from this?

When you are Bertineting - if you get a little tearing in the early stages, that's not a problem. But dial back a little on the amount of stretch you inflict before you do the flop-over. As the gluten develops, it will give more and tear less until not at all. I add a little more water if I think the dough needs it - that usually stops any tearing in its tracks. If the tearing is occuring after say 5 mins, then that's usually a sign the dough is worked enough - and needs a rest. If it's not sticking anymore but just tacky - then you've probably done all you need and time to put it in its bowl.

If it tears during the SFs AFTER you've put it in the bowl - then you're definitely SF-ing too soon. Wait for the dough to relax. You may well find you just don't need that many SFs anyway.

I was Bertineting for a long time because I was trying to get to the silky-puffy-smooth texture with a very strong pane which I think I never quite got to just using the Bertinets alone. I guess I had to let it relax and ferment a bit in order to build up the gases and get to that stage?

Yes. While you are Bertineting, the CO2 made by the yeast, is being partially lost. But even so, the dough will puff up to a certain extent. More so if, as you flop the dough over on itself (the second part of his movement) you deliberately arc it to trap air.

And during the ferment pane-test it every once in a while and only if I notice some oozing should I need to S&F it? I think that's what you are saying?

Yes, you only need to SF,if you still can't get a decent window pane, and/or if the dough is getting slack and becoming very extensible. You need the SFs to put back some strength and to improve elasticity (the ability to ping back). You want the gluten to be able to hold a shape.

It was around 4.5hrs which I think was adequate given the smallish amount of yeast and the temps. I was definitely much more aware of the time and pace of the whole process.

That sounds much better. You may find you will get even better results shortening that bulk ferment time down even further. Bear in mind you are using almost 1/2 tsp of yeast for only 262 grams of flour. And 1/8 tsp yeast used in the pre-ferment, will have used up a lot of the starch in the pre-ferment portion of flour. Nothing wrong keeping to those yeast quantities, but if you want a longer ferment, then reduce them even further next time. Try just 1/4 tsp in your main dough, perhaps.

Oven spring was ok, not so huge. The crust was crunchy to cut but not crispy to bite, more chewy. The crumb is great but actually slightly less open than I had expected

It looks a very handsome nicely rounded loaf. But if you shorten your overall ferment/proof time, you will get better oven spring, I suspect. Always better to slightly under-proof than over-proof.

As for the crumb - that will get more open, the less you handle the dough. But first things first. Your long Bertinet stint has given you a well balanced crumb - lots of holes - some very pleasing lacy-ness - and no dense areas. That's a great start. As you get slicker with the technique, as explained before - you won't need such a long session of Bertinet.

Once you get a real sense of how the dough should feel, you'll find you can play around with how much Bertinet, how much SF to get the crumb structure you want. But it's important to get that dough-understanding firmly in place first. Bertinet's technique is so brilliant, because it gives you that understanding fast.

It [crumb]was however just ever so slightly wet to the touch and left trace residue on my clean bread knife. I would not describe it as guminess but more like a moistness.

Aha. That's not ideal. Did you let the loaf cool completely before cutting it? If not, that might be the cause. Or, I suspect, this is because the dough was still slightly overproofed. Also, with a higher oven temperature, you'll drive off more moisture - so would try a hotter oven.

are there any general guidlines to how to manipulate temps and times for different crusts/crumbs and how to adjust for the smaller dough amounts and shapes?

Here you need somebody better qualified than me to answer this one, Boshek. I settle for whacking the oven on as high as it will go (450*F) and making as much steam as I can - to caramelise the crust, delay crust formation, and give me oven rise as much as poss. Only if I'm baking a sweet dough do I dial back on heat. Your oven temps seem on the low side rather which won't help oven spring, I suspect. Have you tried baking in a DO? That will improve your oven kick. But it's usually a cocktail of get the proofing right, lots of heat, and get plenty of steam going for those first 5-10 minutes of baking.

All at Sea

boshek's picture
boshek

-... in that latest crumb shot. Well done!

Can you elaborate a little on the difference between this one and the crumb of the first spelt I posted above? This kind of goes back to learning how to self-critique my bread.

-If you make a larger batch of dough and shape it into 2 small loaves, then you can freeze one without any noticeable loss of flavour or change to texture. 

Do you mean freeze one loaf of bread after baking 2 loaves?

-You may well find you just don't need that many SFs anyway.

I actually think in my dough last night I was nearly there after Bertineting and then I rested a folded and it was my impression that the pane got stronger. In any case like you said in your reply, I will need to keep practicing and I'm sure I will "get" it before long.

-Did you let the loaf cool completely before cutting it? -Have you tried baking in a DO?

It was cooled through when I cut it. I think it was probably a combination of slightly over-proofing and the somewhat low oven temps. I am not familiar with that abbreviation: DO. I don't have a stone or a container that I bake in for now. I will look into those things once I get the dough right. As for temps, I am happy to experiment with it but I am mostly worried about what to do about time when I halve recipes I see on the boards here. Is it possible to over-cook bread? I mean sure it's possible to burn the crust or completely dry out but what if I was just 10-15mins over?

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... between those two crumb shots are these:

 The crumb in the first spelt loaf has some fairly large holes, which is nice, but there are areas where the crumb looks wet and rubbery and there's a suggestion of 'heaviness'. In your latest crumb shot, that rubbery quality has all but gone. The structure of all the holes looks drier and airier. The hole walls are fluffier - not so dense. The whole loaf just looks lighter - better aerated.  You'll find with a properly proofed and developed dough, the colour of the crumb when cooked is whiter than an overproofed or under-developed one, too. Now I can see there are different light levels when you took those two shots - the first and second attempts - and the first attempt is shot in much lower light. But even so, I think that first bake produced a darker, dingier crumb from what I'm seeing. The lighter second bake looks much more the ticket.

Do you mean freeze one loaf of bread after baking 2 loaves?

Yes. My apologies for not making that clear. Bake both loaves, then freeze one of them when it is thoroughly cold. I wrap my frozen loaf in kitchen towelling, then pop inside a zip-lock bag, squooshing the air out as much as poss. It seems to do the trick just fine.

I actually think in my dough last night I was nearly there after Bertineting and then I rested a folded and it was my impression that the pane got stronger. In any case like you said in your reply, I will need to keep practicing and I'm sure I will "get" it before long.

-Did you let the loaf cool completely before cutting it? -Have you tried baking in a DO?

I think it was probably a combination of slightly over-proofing and the somewhat low oven temps.

Yes, that's my conclusion, certainly.

I am not familiar with that abbreviation: DO.

Apologies again. DO = Dutch Oven. I live on a boat, so we have to keep weight to a minimum - so I use a large aluminium casserole pot. It's lightweight and not going to damage anyone if it broke loose in heavy seas. (!) Back home in the UK, I have a Creusot cast iron affair that's brilliant for baking, but easily turns into a weapon of mass and painful destruction if dropped!

As for temps, I am happy to experiment with it but I am mostly worried about what to do about time when I halve recipes I see on the boards here. Is it possible to over-cook bread? I mean sure it's possible to burn the crust or completely dry out but what if I was just 10-15mins over?

I think you can overcook bread, actually, though many here would probably disagree with me. For instance, I don't like to see the crust so carbonised, it turns black, for instance. And a loaf baked too long loses so much moisture, it doesn't keep well. But generally, bread can take a bit of over-baking without any harm to flavour and texture. So your 10-15 mins won't be a train, smash, I think. I gauge my loaf cooking time on an individual basis. I constantly bake with different flours, different hydrations, different quanitites of yeast etc - so have to just eyeball it as it cooks. But if a 500gram loaf isn't done after 45-55 mins, I know it's not going to improve with any further cooking. Alas, all I can suggest is trial and error, I think, Boshek.  You'll find your own optimal cooking times for each recipe if you repeat it enough times.

All at Sea

Ps: Having a high old time of it with this board - are you finding, like me, that when replying, sometimes you have editing options like italics or bold, and at other times not?

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... I think I must ask you to ignore those comments I made above about the difference in the two crumb shots.  Earlier, I was looking at them on my little Netbook and in fairly strong daylight. Taking another look now on a full size laptop with much larger screen, at night (so there is far stronger contrast to give definition) and then using software to enlarge them - they look different. Scrub the "rubbery" comment I assigned to the first crumb shot. It looks "wetter" than the later crumb shot, somehow, but not rubbery.  You have a more open crumb structure with the first shot too. But I think the prolonged Bertinet session made the second crumb a little less open - yet, even so, it does look a lighter bake. Which crumb did you prefer?

And out of interest, can you remember what fermenting and proofing times you used with that first spelt loaf?

All at Sea

 

 

boshek's picture
boshek

To eat, I think I prefer the 2nd crumb. It had a firmer bite and was a bit lighter in texture. The first loaf was definitely wetter as it left much more residue on the bread knife. As an aside I have in the past also made bread that were more rubbery. I think both loaves look like they still had a couple of spots that were denser so I can work on that. I also think there's a little bit of comparing apples to oranges here (sorry). Although the flour component was the same, the 1st loaf was a 65% and (probably) had a bit more yeast in it. It was also made qith quite different processes. I kind of made the 1st one in a hurry so I did not start with a poolish and instead I threw everything except the salt together and autolysed (with yeast) for 45mins before proceeding to do wet-S&F sets at 30-40min intervals. I do not remember the exact timing as those were the days that I was still more haphazard in my bread making. I do remember the dough was more of less "gleaming" with wetness by the end and when I went to wet-shape it, I was getting the surface rips (ie. as I was tucking in at the bottom, the top was tearing a bit). So it was definitely not so strong and I did not get that silky, puffy, delicate dough that I got the second time. On the other hand, they were baked using more or less the same method. Like you said the 2nd loaf was handled and worked much much more so I am sure the crumb will improve once I get the hang of not working it so much.

Do you mean you live on a boat that's out at sea all/most of the time? You have a pretty good internet connection! I have a Creuset pot here that I use for stewing too - how do I bake bread with that? Do I oil the bottom? Cover with the lid and then take of off later (or the otherway around)? What benefits are there to using a DO other than keeping the crust from charring too much and retaining more moisture?

I haven't had any issues with the editing options you mentioned....

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

Yes, comparing the crumb of two loaves formed by disparate methods and different quantities of yeast, water etc is possibly a little futile.  But it is useful in that already you can see a major improvement in the "wetness" you were experiencing before. Happily, things look a lot drier now.  (Did I mention before, that over-proofing makes a dough increasingly wet in the more advanced stages of over-proofedness? The whole caboodle turns more and more into a soggy gloop as the yeast enzymes attack the protein - gluten disintigration time!

Do you mean you live on a boat that's out at sea all/most of the time? You have a pretty good internet connection!

Yes, live on a catamaran in the Caribbean. Get back to the UK about 3 weeks per year (except for last year when we had 5 months back in Blighty.) June 1st is the official start of the hurricane season here in the Caribbean, so for insurance purposes, we have to stay south of Latitude 12* 40'N - which is deemed safe from general hurricane activity. (Though after a 50 year clear gap, Hurricanes Ivan and Emily crept in below that latitude back in 2004 & 2005.)

Yes, a sometimes good/sometimes patchy wifi connection here on the boat. During the hurricane season, as now, we spend a lot of the time in Grenada where many cruisers hang out for the season - also hurricane dodging. Grenada has several bays on her south coast - all with available wifi broadcast from the shore. We are at anchor just off shore, and use a wifi adapter which boosts the signal from the land, and Bob's your Aunty, so we have cyber contact with the rest of the world!

I have a Creuset pot here that I use for stewing too - how do I bake bread with that? Do I oil the bottom?

No - no oil. Use parchment instead - think you'll find it easier. Assuming your dough is fully proofed in a banneton or proofing bowl, and ready to bake you can do either of these:

  • generously dust the top of the loaf (which will become the bottom) with fine semolina or rice flour. Then carefully tip the dough out of its bowl on to parchment paper also generously sprinkled with fine semolina or rice flour.  Then lower the parchment (with dough sitting on top of it) into the Creuset pot. Mist the top of the loaf, flour if you like a floury finish (omit if not) then slash. Then pop the Creuset lid on and place in stinking hot oven. The parchment and semolina/rice flour will ensure there is no sticking at all. OR ...
  • Load your dough (as described above) onto parchment but instead of putting it in the pot, place it on the upturned lid (so the knob of the lid is down-most) of the Creuset. Then mist, flour (if required) and slash your dough as above. Carefully place the base of the Creuset pot over the lid - so the dough is inside the pot the right way up - but the pot itself is upside down, resting on its knob. Then put in oven and bake. 

The second method is my preferred one. It's a bit of a balancing act getting the Creusot pot to sit on its lid, but it is very stable once in the oven. The beauty of this method is you can remove the base of the pot 15 minutes into cooking and virtually all of the dough except for its base is exposed to the open heat. That makes for a very nicely browned crust all over.  Done the other way - ie, removing just the lid (after 15 minutes) - only the top of the dough is exposed. The other major benefit is you can load the dough on to the lid with far less chance of damaging its delicate structure, than if you try lowering it inside the base of the pot which is deep.

Either way, you remove the lid/base after 15 minutes - or perhaps a little earlier if you have a very small boule inside - and turn the oven down to about 220*C for the rest of the bake.

What benefits are there to using a DO other than keeping the crust from charring too much and retaining more moisture?

The biggest single benefit is lots of lovely steam! The pot turns into a  mini steam oven - steam that can't escape until you remove the lid (or upturned base, in my case).  Baking with steam like that will give you great oven kick (if your dough isn't overproofed), and work miracles with your crust. That's why everyone here works so hard trying to generate steam when baking - it's the key to wonderful, sweetly caramelised, glossy crust heaven!   The DO - or Creuset in this case - can give you all the steam you need and with no fuss or faff involving lava stones, dripping towels and ice-cubes etc that become necessary in an ordinary domestic oven if baking without a DO.

For the sake of safety, you can also try baking with a cold pot, too. I've always heated mine up prior to loading the dough in it, but there are folk here who have successfully baked with a cold pot.

All at Sea

 

 

boshek's picture
boshek

It all sounds quite dangerous - particularly the inverted method - given the pot is kiln hot. Unfortunately my Creuset has a long handle on it so the inverted method seems out of the question. I will try then straight-up method when I feel up to it. But first I need to get comfy with my oven temps. I am travelling a bit myself over the next couple of weeks so won't be doing much baking for now but will be sure to do some blogging on my temp experimentation or something once I get back.

Thank you so much for cyber-tutoring my way through a Bertinet and dough consistency course. Good luck with the hurricane season - it seems to have been a pretty quiet one so far - and happy baking!