The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie poster & newbie baker

Pufff's picture

Newbie poster & newbie baker

Hello to all my fellow bakers!I have been reading as many posts as I can fit between going to work and walking the dog! I've made a few attempts at sourdough bread with mixed results to say the least, but generally getting slowly better thank goodness! Today's bake was a small loaf of 76% hydration with a levain of 30% mixed wholemeal flours and 70% white bread flour. The rest of the dough was all white bread flour. The crust was disappointingly soft, but the crumb on the first slice looked great:



Since I've eaten enough bread today I decided to slice the rest for the freezer. Into the middle of the loaf the crumb was more like this:


Can you please tell me why the top has separated like that? It tasted lovely - not as sour as some of my loaves have been which is fine by be. I proofed it overnight in the fridge.

Also, it is pretty flat although it is very light. Is this bound to happen with a 76% hydration bread? I tried to score it but it hasn't worked. I'm not worrying too much about that just now as I want to get my basic loaf right first!


Any suggestions gratefully received. Thanks!

Rose (from Scotland)

CB85's picture
CB85 is my opinion! :) I think it looks really good! And delicious! I agree it's flat because of the high hydration, I have had a similar result when increasing the hydration in my dough. And scoring in a high hydration loaf is a beast...I have yet to sucessfully do it myself. I think that the top separation is probably from not slashing the top, or maybe a shaping issue. Does it always happen or just this time? 

P.S. Your dog is really cute! 

Pufff's picture

I've had this separation happen once before. Could it be the shaping? I'm hopeless at shaping. I can't do it on the work surface because my friend (pictured above) would insist on getting in on the action. I knead in a bowl to keep everything clean. Shaping has to be done in my hands. I did it by pulling the sides down from the top and piching at the bottom, turning it and repeating several times. Is there another way to do it in the hands?



CB85's picture

It sounds like you are probably getting ok surface tension with your method...although I imagine it must be really difficult to just shape in your hands, especially with the 75% hydration.

My other suggestion is to see if scoring it makes a difference at all. I am terrible at scoring but I have used a serrated knife on really difficult dough and it worked out ok...not the prettiest lines but it did help my final loaf and crumb.

And my last it possible it is overproofed? It doesn't sound it from the way the crust looks or the fact that you said it isn't overly sour but I guess it is possible. A final suggestion; I know this isn't required but it really helped even out my crumb when I started proofing the loaves in baskets. I don't know how you are proofing yours now, but I just got some wicker baskets at a thrift store and I line them with plastic wrap and proof.

Anyway these are just suggestions... sorry to not be much certain help. Hopefully someone who knows more than me will come along with a solution for you! :)

Pufff's picture

Would you believe I did actaully try to score that? You couldn't tell from looking at it! I did use a basket too, which leaves overproofing..... I'll give it an hour less next time and see whay happens. Surprisingly, it's not that hard to form a boule in the hands provided that they are wet!

Thanks for all the suggestions!

drewbags's picture

I have been baking for a couple of months and without doubt TFL is the best source of information - have learnt so much from here.

My initial SD attempts were not great, similar lack of oven rise; but I found this video by Barbara really helped with my stretch and fold technique and how to get better surface tension on the dough.

Tried her recipe the other day ahd had my best results yet - first time I ad baked in a covered cast iron container.

Here's the link to the video:

A.B.'s naturally leavened (sourdough) bread.

Here are my loaves using her recipe..


Ruralidle's picture

It looks to me as if the top crust is close to becoming a "flying" crust and, if that happened, it would indicate over proofing.  Your bread looks really good and the flat profile is a result of high hyration and, perhaps, a little bit of shaping method but, if you are not very careful, you will lose that lovely crumb texture if you shape too tightly.

Try just a little less time in the final proof.

Happy baking

ananda's picture

Hi Pufff,

Welcome along to TFL.

I wonder how did you bake the loaf?   Do you have any source of bottom heat such as a pizza stone?   This will make your loaf stand up taller in the initial baking, rather than spreading on account of the dough being quite wet.

To clarify, a flying top is usually when the crust breaks away from the loaf on one side and it is a classic sign of under-proof.   If anything your loaf is over-proved and the structure has begun to collapse in the early baking phase, but you have still achieved some lift.   The trouble is the lift manifests itself as big holes at the top of the crumb.

Investing in a stone from BakeryBits here, is well worth serious consideration:

Best wishes