The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Runny dough

brødfyr's picture
brødfyr

Runny dough

Hi all, I'm quite a newbie to bread making but couldn't wait to get in to sourdough breadmaking.

I was hoping for some ideas on why when I use my sourdough starter, when I try to shape my bread the dough has become very runny. It stretches like crazy and has no elasticity at all. I have tried keeping the finished dough in the refrigerator which seems to help the handling a bit but my finished bread still comes out very wide and flat. The taste is excellent and the crumb is actually ok, it does rise in the oven.

I've tried different flour combinations of organic stoneground wheat, spelt, rye and emmer but still finish with a runny dough. I've tried using different amounts of starter in case it was something to do with that too. Also tried shorter fermentation times, it seems to double in size very quickly and become bubbly even though I have read that sourdough takes longer to rise etc. I prefer to have longer ferments as the flavour is better.

Any ideas what could be causing this non elastic runny dough? I don't have any of these issues with bakers yeast. Help... 

Thanks,

Chris

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... please Chris. In order to help, folk will need a little more information to know what's happening with your SD baking method. For example: quantities, fermentation/proofing times, ambient room temperature. Also feeding schedule for your starter, and what stage of development it is when you use it to bake (fully ripe? still rising? beginning to sink? etc).

Dough raised with wild yeast does get progressively slacker as the fermentation progresses, so it's best to allow for that by holding back a little of the allocated water and only using it if the dough needs it during the kneading/slap-folding/Stretch-folding working phase. But overly runny dough is also a symptom often of overproofing and enzymatic activity that results when the yeast runs out of starch food and so attacks the protein of the gluten. If you post up more details as requested above, am sure the cause will become clearer.

All at Sea

brødfyr's picture
brødfyr

Hi, thanks for your reply. I will try to explain a little further...

I keep my starter in the fridge and take a little bit out the night before I intend to make some bread. Usually 30 grams and feed with 30 grams water and 30 grams flour two or three times in the next 24 hours. I would say most of the time I am using after it has sunk since I'm either at work or out doing something else. At first I tried using the fed starter with additional water and flour in a poolish which I left for 8-10 hours then adding the salt and rest of the flour and kneading in a machine with 3-4 hours rising and 2 hours proving. I aimed for about 65% hydration. This probably gave the worst results. Maybe it is something to do with eating all of its food before I'm finished.

Afterwards I tried using less starter added to flour and water after autolyse and using the 1-2-3 ratio. This was waaay to wet so I had to add a lot more flour. Then I did about 20 hours in the fridge before taking it out to come to room temp and shape and prove. Again very hard to handle once it was up to room temp so I tried again but this time tried to shape after only 30 mins out of the fridge. This was easier but within 2 hours it was quite soft and  flat again and looked like it had some kind of cellulite on the top, maybe rose and sunk.

The last recipe I tried was sourdough ciabatte posted on here and that was a complete disaster, far too wet to do anything with and ended up flat with a surface like cracked dry mud.

My kitchen is about 20-24 C, even though I live in Norway it can get quite warm inside.

I think you may have something on the running out of food thing, but how can I slow it down?

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... agree with Wally, below.

The yeast is being starved of starch, hence the runny-ness and lack of elasticity. You need to keep your starter better fed and to use it before it sinks down. You can feed the starter on a 1:1:1 basis, but why not try a 1:2:2 basis instead - the yeast won't object in the slightest. As long as it has food and water it's happy as a sandboy! And you could even try using it before it reaches its full rise. I do all the time. It will give you a milder flavour, but the most important thing right now is to keep the yeast healthy and happy.

When you say the 1-2-3 ratio recipe turned out way too wet, were you adding the ingredients in the right ratio? That is the starter is 1 part; the water is 2 parts; and the flour is 3 parts. Not, perhaps with 2 parts flour to 3 parts water? If you got the ratios correct then there shouldn't be a problem with having too wet a mix. Or you need to get familiar with the Richard Bertinet technique which will teach you how to work with slack, wet doughs without any problems.

Then I did about 20 hours in the fridge before taking it out to come to room temp and shape and prove. Again very hard to handle once it was up to room temp so I tried again but this time tried to shape after only 30 mins out of the fridge. This was easier but within 2 hours it was quite soft and  flat again and looked like it had some kind of cellulite on the top, maybe rose and sunk.

How long you refrigerate your dough for, will depend on what state of development the dough is in when it goes into the fridge (how much food the yeast still has) - and how cold your fridge is. I have 2 fridges here on the boat and one is a lot colder than the other. 20 hours in the cold fridge is possible if my dough and yeast are healthy, but in the warmer fridge just 3-4 hours will have the same dough fully proofed and in need of baking or it will be overproofed. So check the real-life temperature of your fridge and see how that stands. Your ambient room temperatures are fairly warm, so the yeast is going to work fast, remember. But it will help a lot to start with a starter that is healthy, and not hungry when you add it to your dough.

Once you stop allowing your yeast to run out of food, and keep proofing times under control, you'll get much better results.

All at Sea

 

 

 

Ford's picture
Ford

I think you are doing too much proofing and the gluten is being hydrolysed by the sourdough acid.

My procedure is to remove the starter (100% hydration) from the refrigerator, the day before I am to make bread, and refresh it with equal weights of all purpose flour and chlorine-free water.  This ferments for about eight hours.  Then, the evening before baking I refresh again with equal weights of starter, flour and water and let that ferment overnight.  In the morning, I begin my bread making, mixing the liquid with about half the bread flour (no salt or butter yet), and letting them proof for about half an hour.  I do my final additions, mixing and kneading (by hand) and let that bulk ferment for about 1 to 2 hours.  I gently degas, weigh out the dough for the loaves, shape, and pan the dough and let it rise until it is ready, about 2 hours.  My kitchen temperature is about 22 - 24°C in the winter and about 25 - 27°C in the summer.  The dough for my sandwich bread is about 75% hydration.

I hope this helps.

Ford

brødfyr's picture
brødfyr

Hey, I really appreciate all your help and good advice. I was unsure about the overproofing since so many recipes I've read seem to call for longer times than with bakers yeast. It seems to be the other way around for me... although it has been quite warm inside lately (about 24-26 C)

Are you saying I should feed my refrigerated starter more often? I feed it once a week and it has usually has a layer of liquid on top by this point - does this liquid mean it has run out of food and I should be feeding more regularly?

In regards to the 1-2-3 ratio, I did use 1 part starter, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour. I think my flour may be wetter, it says on the side of the pack it can contain up to 15% water. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of choice when it comes to ingredients in Norway and this particular brand, Holli Mølle has been the best I've found in terms of not being bleached or having additives.

Thanks again for the advice, I have more things to experiment with. After my recent sourdough failures the last couple of loaves I've made have been with bakers yeast.... easier but hard to beat the great flavour of sourdough :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Make up a small loaf with baker's yeast and then add a little (ping pong ball size) of your thickened sourdough (add enough flour to resemble the dough)   mix them together and see if your dough goes flat.  

I suspect thiol compounds causing trouble in the starter.  If the loaf liquifies, then the starter may have to go thru a "cure" phase.  If the dough acts normal, then you found a way to give it some sourdough flavour.  :)  Try and report back!

Mini

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... and it will be fascinating to know what result you get, if you do it. No pressure (well just a little) - but I look forward to hearing an update, soon! :^)

In the meantime, in answer to your question regarding how often to feed the starter - you said:

Are you saying I should feed my refrigerated starter more often? I feed it once a week and it has usually has a layer of liquid on top by this point - does this liquid mean it has run out of food and I should be feeding more regularly?

In normal cases, that layer of hooch (liquid) you mention is sure-fire evidence your starter is hungry. I try to never let it get to the point that hooch appears. It's not a train-smash if it does, and old starters left in the fridge for several weeks will likely gather a lot of hooch, but can still be revived. But it's not good practice to stress your starter like that on a regular basis.

You'll be fine feeding your starter once a week if you give it enough food each time. How much food will depend on how much starter you want to refresh, and how cold your fridge is and how much water you add. All that's required is a little experimentation.

All at Sea

brødfyr's picture
brødfyr

No pressure? Hehe! I have to try this in the next couple of days :) Will update you when I see the results. Thiol sounds a bit worrying though, is it hard to "cure"?

I don't use a lot of starter so tend to keep it quite small, keep 50g and feed 1-1-1. Now I've tried to keep even less and feed with a bit more flour 30g starter, 30g water and 40g flour. I'll experiment some more with this anyway and keep my eye on the hooch

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

care for the starter.  Let's see what happens first.  :)  

brødfyr's picture
brødfyr

I've tried to explain in detail what I did this time. I also kneaded entirely by hand rather than the machine to try to feel the dough more.

Ingredients:

400g flour (10% emmer, 90% wheat)

256g water (65% hydration inc. starter water)

8g salt

3g instant yeast

30g starter (3:3:4)

handful of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme

 

Day 1 - room temp approx. 25-26 C

17:00 Take starter out of fridge, stir in hooch, keep 30g and add 30g water and 40g flour. Leave for 4 hours

20:30 Mix 255g water and 300g flour and leave for 30 minutes

21:00 Starter looks very active, lots of air inside, doubled in size. Mix in 30g of starter to flour and water. Add roughly half of the remaining flour and salt and herbs and mix. Turn out to worktop and begin kneading by hand for approx. 5 mins while gradually adding remaining flour. Leave to rest for 5 mins then attempt slap and fold technique without adding any more flour. Dough is very sticky at this point and sticks to my hands. "Slap and fold" and knead for approx. another 5 mins in total. Shape in to boule and put in to clean lightly oiled plastic bowl.

21:30 Put covered bowl in to fridge, approx. 4-5 C

 

Day 2 - room temp approx. 25-26 C

15:30 Remove bowl with dough from fridge and set on worktop still covered, leave untouched for 1 hour

16:30 Turn dough out on to floured surface, degas with fingertips, shape rough boule, leave for 5 mins

16:35 Flatten dough again and shape in to baton/batard, leave to prove for approx. 1 hour

17:15 Switch on oven to max with pizza stone just below the middle and metal tray in the bottom 

17:45 Slash and bake on max for 30 mins, I use the "tray in the bottom and pour in some boiling water" technique to create some steam. The dough seemed easier to handle at this stage and I didn't have any problems with it sticking to the board or peel which have plagued me in the past

The bread rose nicely in the oven and its certainly the best looking bread I've ever made. It was a little moist inside when eating, (I took a reading of 92 C before I took it out) and didn't have much sourdough flavour, maybe because I used the fresh herbs I can't taste it so much.

So all said, would it be fair to assume that overproofing is the problem and not Thiol? Or did I not use enough starter to be sure of that?

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

batter.  So I think your starter is safe, just terribly hungry.  Sourdoughs tend to soften or "get wetter" as they ferment so playing with the dough more often (folding) is the best way to insure your dough can still maintain its shape. 

About the starter, after 4 hours, did you pop the rest of the starter into the fridge?  If so, then no wonder it is hungry and hooching in a week.  Stir some fresh flour into what is left before popping into the fridge.  Two hours is long enough before chilling. :)

92°C seems too cool to me for an inside temp with wheat.  For rye maybe but I think you ought to let it get up to 96°C