My first sourdough boule. This was a bit more dense than I was hoping for and the crust had a crackly texture but it tasted pretty good.
From the photo, one can see that there are well distributed gas pockets, even baking on bottom, sides and top and a eagerness to break open the bread and try it. Taste is # 1!
Yup. there might be a need to let it rise longer so I guess that's the next direction.
Looks pretty good from here! :)
The interior looks pretty soggy. Possibly because you didn't let it cool and possibly because it wasn't baked long enough. Be sure to check the temp in the center of loaves. On lean artisanal loaves you typically want to shoot for 205 degrees F or higher. I typically shoot for 209 to 210.
WRT proofing, the color suggests you aren't overproofed but the loaf didn't have a lot of spring/rip so I don't think you are too far under. I am going to take a wild guess and suggest your dough was directionally underdeveloped and that your shaping will benefit from more practice.
All the above assume your starter is truly robust. This is often NOT the case for new sourdough starters. IF your starter is new, it could be the primary contributor to the issues I note above. But do check the temp of the loaf and do let it cool for a couple of hours before you open the loaf!
Thank you all for the feedback! I got my starter from a local sourdough bakery and have been taking care of it for about a month now. Hopefully I haven't damaged anything along the way but it seems to be active and going along quite nicely. I most definitely tore this open before allowing it to cool properly, just a bit eager to take a look inside to see how it looked. I also probably took it out of the oven too soon for the same reason and the color of the crust made me fear I'd burn it if it stayed in much longer. I'll keep your comments in mind during my next try.
You are a long way from burning! Take a look at the loaves from Tartine Bakery or the Pane Genzano Casareccio. They are almost black. Now, that said, I typically bake on the dark side but that is personal preference. IF you want the color you have and you want the center temp higher you will want to drop the temp a bit and bake longer.
I uploaded a pic of the boule before I tore it open. I think this picture shows the crust better. What might be keeping itfrom coming out smooth?
That image helps a lot. IMO the cracks in the surface of the boule are clearly the result of the boule having a dry skin such that the skin did not expand, so the skin cracked at weak points. That it did not spread at the slash is a clear indication that the boule had a dry skin. If it was soft and flexible the slashes would have opened instead of having the crust crack. The color of the boule suggests that it was not overprooofed (the golden color tends to indicate the loaf contained sugar). Underproofing is USUALLY accompanied by major rip (oven spring) and you didn't get that either so I am going to have to surmise that you were pretty severely underproofed. As an aside the color you got is not usually gotten on loaves that have a dry skin. Sooo....I am also going to guess you had a pretty good steam method in the oven OR that you sprayed the loaf and gelatinized the surface a bit - but not enough to compensate for the dry skin.
Assuming I am right, you need to proof the bread under a damp towel so that the skin of the boule is soft and moist when you slash and put it in the oven.
I am also wondering a bit about your hydration. The torn image looks like a fairly wet dough but the crumb structure doesn't. It looks like lower hydration or underproofing and/or overdevelopment of the dough (which tends to result in more uniform crumb).
Getting everything right can be a bit tricky at first. You aren't really all that far off in most respects. I strongly encourage you to not change a bunch of things at once for it can get really confusing to figure out what happened. I would suggest doing the same thing but bulk fermenting in a bowl with plastic wrap over it and proofing under a damp towel and going longer on the final proof. Those should help a lot to resolve your "problems". If not, then the next suggestions will address different issues.
You say nothing of how you made the sourdough. Most of us do a double expansion - using the starter to make a preferment/levain on Day 1 which we then expand to make the final dough and bake on Day 2. IF you did a single expansion that could contribute to your underproofing but....let's leave that for a later decision...
Thank you very much Jay! To address the steam question first, I have a cast iron pan that I placed at the bottom of the oven. After heating the oven to 485 degrees and allowing the baking stone to absorb the heat for an hour I placed the boule on the stone and then poured about half a cup of water into the cast iron pan and closed the oven door quickly.
I let the dough proof under dampened wet paper towels while I was at work, so approximately 10 hours from the time I got back home. At that point I worked the dough 3 more times over the course of an hour (5 minutes to pull, fold, then reshape) then rest for 15 mintues before placing in the oven (preheated for an hour at 485 degrees). My gut told me to hold off for a couple of hours after the last pull/fold/reshape but I was a bit antsy to get my first boule in the oven.
I keep my starter at about a 70% hydration, the dough before going into the oven was probably down to about a 60% hydration but the skin might have been more dry.
I just moved my starter to an 8QT food prep container so I'll be getting lots of baking time in over the next few weeks hopefully.
Be careful with cold water and cast iron. You can break cast iron that way - I have done it. Better to use boiling water or other alternates.... So you should have had steam - that helps with the color.
But I think you explained the fine crumb.... and the lack of oven spring. At 10 hours the yeast should have been approaching peaking. And you kneaded ita nd degassed it! Yes, that reinvigorates the yeast to a degree but... you baked it pretty quickly thereafter. The yeast didn't have time to work. That is why the crumb was so tight! The bulk fermentation on sourdough levain expanded from 100 grams to 500 grams is only about 2 to 4 hours followed by about 3 hours for the final proof. You were overproofed (but I am not sure how you got the gold color if you were that far over???)
Your hydration is a great staring point. You should be proud you were able to handle a dough that wet first time out.
Not everything adds up (color vs. overproof, and steam and wet towels vs. the cracking crust in particular) but mostly it does. In this case shorten the bulk fermentation. Put it in the fridge if you have to be gone for 10 hours. Then form the loaf and proof it about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. And keep it in high humidity.... Should work better!
Gave it another go yesterday. This time i kept the dough at a hydration equal to the starter, roughly 70%. This gave me fits with shaping so I finally gave up and placed the dough in a mini loaf pan I had laying around. I also lowered the oven temperature to 425 degrees. I placed the loaf pan on the baking stone and poured a cup of hot water into my cast iron pan at the bottom of the oven. Half hour later I poured another cup of hot water into the cast iron pan and pulled the loaf half an hour after that, then let the bread cool overnight on a wire rack.
Here are pictures
Crust - http://instagr.am/p/NAoTRGREeR/
Sliced - http://instagr.am/p/NBqymMREXw/
First, where are you located? And what flour are you using? 70% is definitely troublesome for most beginners but I thought that was what you used the first time and you didn't seem to have trouble so I assumed you somehow had the touch. If you can't handle the dough you can't get good loaves for you will degas them. As a result I have no ability to diagnose much from this except that hydration was too high (for your touch and experience). At that hydration you should be able to get an open crumb.
I am forced to guess that your dough development was WAY short. And I strongly suspect your starter is not robust. This could be because it is still fairly new or improperly fed or expanded, or all the above.
While sourdough is a great destination there are other issues to work out such as dough development, dough handling, loaf formation, slashing, etc. that do not require sourdough. Using commercial yeast makes the whole process a lot more reliable. I would strongly urge you to make some regular loaves and demonstrate to yourself that you can make a proper loaf and then try sourdough. You are facing way too many problems right now. And your proofing seems WAY off. You don't tell us what you did so I can't begin to guess what is wrong in that regard. (If you use commercial yeast and a good recipe and don't have problems then we can have more confidence you are having trouble with your starter. If you do have problems with commercial yeast it will be easier to fix.)
Also...steam only does you good for about the first 15 minutes. After 20 or so you don't want steam. That is when the crust starts to brown.
I'm located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland specifically. I'm using King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour. I try to keep my starter at about a 70% hydration. For my first boule I went dryer with the dough mixture (125 grams of flour to 75 grams of water + 50 grams starter + salt). Yesterday I wanted to try a 70% hydration so I used 125 grams of flour, 87 grams of water, 50 grams of starter, & 3 grams of salt. I want to keep to a very simple flour/water/salt dough for now as my focus isn't so much making great edible bread but instead working on those fundamentals that you mentioned. Of course the end result should give important clues as to what i need to work on to reach a more desired result. I'm not worried about making mistakes and would actually like to make a lot of them so I can learn how things go wrong in the bread making process.
I typically feed my starter twice a day, in the morning before i leave work and in the evening before i go to bed. Here is my starter 2 days ago, although its more wet than it normally is in this picture but almost always looks this active - http://instagr.am/p/M9r90lRESj/
Yesterday I wanted to make another small boule. If I had thought that I'd have difficulty with shaping a wetter dough and used a small loaf pan I would have doubled my weights to fill a loaf pan better.
I mixed all of the ingredients yesterday morning then worked the dough with a stretch/fold/shape technique that we used in the sourdough starter class I took. I did this 4 times in the 2 hours before Ileft for work. Before leaving for work I put the dough in a glass bowl covered with wet paper towels and wrapped the bowl in saran wrap to hold the towels. When I got home from work about 10 hours later I took the dough out and worked it with one stretch/fold/shape as before, being more gentle than my first round. The dough was quite tacky so rather than worry about refining the shape later to get a smooth surface and possibly overworking the dough I found a loaf pan and scooped the dough into that, covering it with wet towels and letting it rest for 3 hours before putting it in the oven. It did rise in the pan.
Thank you so much for your help so far. It may have taken me quite a while to figure out how the dough hydration helps achieve the right crust texture and how over or under proofing can effect the end result. I'm going to try this again on Saturday with double the weights as yesterday and the benefit of being home all day to keep a close eye on the dough development.
I happen to be in oakland (the hills), if you want some one-on-one help with diagnosing a problem with process, I'll be off work all day.
Always happy to help out a beginning baker into the obsession...I mean...hobby.
70% hydration is not terribly wet for KA bread flour. I routinely do 70 to 72% with KA AP. Your loaf looks like it had NO integrity - perfectly flat - which is totally wrong. Some serious error must have occurred in weighing or something???? The reason I asked where you were/flour was that IF you were in Asia or deep Latin America you might be using really low protein flour which could contribute to the problem but.... if you are using KA bread flour something was really wrong.
You again say you bulk fermented it for 10 hours but you don't indicate at what temperature. If it was at room temp it was overproofed. You added 200 grams of flour/water to 50 of starter for what I call a 4X expansion. That should only need about 3 hours of bulk fermentation at normal room temp. It need not double. If you go longer you should retard it in the fridge. The final proof should be in the 2 to 4 hour range and it need not double either.
But something is seriously wrong with the dough in the pan loaf! It looks more like 100% or even 120% hydration...
Good luck tomorrow.
Sorry, I forgot to mention that I put it in the fridge this time while I was at work. I think visually it has the appearance of being flat because I wasn't planning on putting it in a loaf pan from the beginning. When I realized I wasn't going to be able to finely shape the loaf before proofing and I scraped it into the pan I spread it out across the bottom of the pan. The final result you see in the pictures is noticably thicker than what was first dropped into the pan. I should have taken pictures but my hands were covered in tacky dough.
Tomorrow the two factors I'm changing are doubling the weight and eliminating the ten hours of sitting (on the counter or in my fridge). I'm sure by being able to monitor the dough all day I'll have much different results, or maybe I won't and then it's time to focus on what is really driving these results (starter as you mentioned).
Baybakin, thanks for the offer! Once I'm comfortably past the egg breaking stage and into refining I'm sure I'll take you up on it.