Beginner Questions about proofing, loaf size and the "shape" of oven spring
Hello everybody. I’m new to the world of making (not eating!) sourdough bread, having only baked it three times, and have been reading through this site and various other internet blogs, websites, and videos to try and learn as much as possible. After receiving Tartine Bread for Christmas, I started my own starter, and subsequently started a second one a week later using the pineapple juice method as described here by Debra Wink. I admittedly have never seen someone else’s starter, and am still unsure of what exactly the sights and smells are supposed to be, but 3 bakes and 58 days later, I think I know enough to be dangerous and ask questions! Forgive me while I stumble over how in the world to ask you the right thing!
Does anybody have any insight into how much the diameter of a given loaf can impact the shape of the oven spring? The first time I baked (4 weeks ago), I failed miserably at transferring the round to the dutch oven but the loaf still rose and came out baked nicely. The second round was transferred beautifully (don’t even talk to me about scoring right now) and came out nice and round with a lovely even rise and dome shape. This first time, I also did a poor job of sizing the loaves equally, and the second loaf was probably only 8.5 inches in diameter where the rest have been over 10. Ever since (3 weeks ago and last week), the dough still gets a nice rise, and good hole structure, but the rounds have a much more linear fall from the central peak to the edge, instead of being a full-figured dome shape, I’d describe them as more “conical”.
A factor of the baking that I’ve noticed the last two times was the tendency for the dough to get extremely relaxed during the rest period, and spread out quite a bit in the pan upon transferring. When this happened the first time, I thought that my shaping was to blame, and also considered that I had let the bread ferment 2 hours longer, and rest an hour longer in the name of flavor development, which may have caused over-proofing? The second loaf was even more relaxed and “oozy” than the first, but both still rose on the oven, albeit their diameters were quite large, and the rise didn’t seem as dramatic as the first time.
The third time, I cut the fermentation back to the original amount of time, the final rise by 1.5 hours, and I seemed to still notice a pretty significant relaxation of the dough prior to baking. I invested much care and attention to shaping this time around, and think I did a good job of that, so my initial perception was that I may still be proofing for too long. These loaves rose very well, had a nice round shape, but exhibited the same sort of triangular peaking that I’d seen before after the relaxation upon transferring the dough.
Whew, I am really rambling here, and the more I put it into words, it sounds like I’m just letting the dough over-proof, but as I don’t know enough to tell before, and am only speculating I am still a little curious about how I managed to get such a nice shape the first time, and am seeing the conical shape now.
I’ve seen vague mentions online that the fermentation and proofing times are drastically overestimated in the Tartine book, so if that’s the case, confirmation, and maybe some insight would be nice to bolster my confidence and assist in my planning for next time!
Please let me know if there’s more information that I need to provide to help people understand what I’m trying to say and thank you for your help! Matt