The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Troubles with My Sourdough Boule No.3

Justkneadit's picture

Troubles with My Sourdough Boule No.3

Ok, I'm officially frustrated. My first boule turned out pretty good, thought maybe just the shaping needed some work. Since then my past two sourdough boules have gone haywire and here are the results of this weekend's bake. Looks decent from the outside but just wait..

Crumb...tight in places...

what the heck is this...That's definitely the bottom...

I follow the original recipe found here.

Changes I made were as follows:

  • 21h 10m in the fridge for the cold autolyse with a flip after 12 hours.
  • I let the dough sit in the brotform for 2 hours after shaping and before storing in the fridge for 24h 40m.
  • Let the dough proof for 8 hours.
  • Used a 1/2 cup of water for steam instead of 1 cup. All the temps were nearly the same.
So why in the world did the bottom of the freakin' loaf rise. Please some one help me out!Lane



yy's picture

Here are some theories/observations:

1. Your crumb is quite dense, suggesting that your loaf is underproofed. It takes a while for the sourdough to "wake up" after being stored in the fridge for so long. Did you try the "poke test?" (The TFL search bar will bring up some helpful results on this topic).

2. The bottom exploded because you may not have used enough steam. The cuts you made on top of the loaf expanded very little, suggesting the crust formed prematurely, leaving the bottom of the loaf the only exit for your expanding loaf. Even 1 whole cup of water sounds like a very small amount to use. To allow for maximum oven spring for a boule like that, I'd bake with steam for at least the first 15-20 minutes. SylviaH's towel method is great for creating lots of steam, as is the dutch oven method.

3. The type of slashes you used do not allow for much upward expansion. Try slashing in the form of a # sign, or a chevron pattern instead. 

4. You refrigerate your dough for quite a long time. Depending on how your sourdough culture behaves, this may be too long, and the gluten structure of the dough may have broken down quite a bit, which could contribute to a denser, gummy texture. Was your loaf really sticky right before baking?


Justkneadit's picture

I did try the poke test but I really didn't feel confident that it was passing, but I baked anyways. I need to follow my gut. Thank you for the advice on the steam I wouldn't have thought of that and my scoring definitely needs work. The dough wasn't sticky before entering and I have left it in the fridge that long before with good results so maybe it was just the under proofing and steam. Thank you!

MarieH's picture

Hello. I agree with yy on the slashing point. Your slashes do not look deep or big enough. If slashing in a cross pattern, the slashes should meet at the top to allow for expansion.

You should also check your preshaping and shaping techniques. Hamelmans Bread book has great pictures on preshaping. Don't underestimate the importance of good preshaping. 

Good luck and keep trying!


Justkneadit's picture

Thank you for the advice Marie!

dabrownman's picture

I use two of Sylvia's steaming pan, half full of water, with kitchen towels in them.  They go on the bottom rack of the oven along with a 12" cast iron skillet.   The stone  goes on the next rack up.  45 minute pre heat at 500F minimum.  Throw 1/2 c of water into the iron skillet as you close the door for an initial burst of stream.   After 2 minutes turn the oven down to 450 F and steam for another 12 - 15  minutes .  Then out with the steaming pans and skillet.  If you have convection turn it on and set the temp to 425 F until done.

Make sure you are shaping well, review the shaping at KAF website making sure you are getting proper folding first and the the skin taunt 2nd.

Slash in a # or square until you get a nice bake every time then you can get fancy and be disappointed but at least you will know what caused it :-)

Bake on my friend!



Justkneadit's picture

Thanks Da. How do you use the towels? Just soak them?

dabrownman's picture

half full of water.  Fold the kitchen towel width wise and roll it up so it nearly fits perfectly in the pan full of water.  It will soak up some of the water ads steam like crazy after it warms up in the oven for 45 minutes.  The extra water will be needed as it warms up and after 45minute of preheat and 15 minutes of steam - it will still be putting out steam.  Greatest thing for bread since it sliced itself.