The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

BBA Basic Sourdough

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

BBA Basic Sourdough

I wrote recently about being disappointed with my loaves and several kind people suggested overproofing was the problem. Katie urged me to keep trying, so today was the day - I used my starter instead of barm and spiked the final dough with instant yeast as suggested by PR. My firm starter rose nicely and stayed over night in the frig and this morning I chopped it up and left it to warm up. I think I added too much water as the final dough was a little softer than I expected - PR says you can adjust that with flour for kneading but I was planning on using Dan Lepard's method, oil on the counter and no flour. I ended up doing the stretch and fold 3 times and the dough was "abundant", really springy and beginning to rise. It had doubled in just over 60 minutes in my cool kitchen. I shaped one half into a boule and the other into a long batard. The boule went into the rice flour coated banneton and the long loaf onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. Just for fun I baked it from cold, up to 450*, and it rose beautifully - and I used my brand new instant read thermometer to be sure it was cooked properly. The boule had a nice firm skin which was easy to slash, and that went into the heated oven (both with steam) and the oven spring was terrific. Both loaves had nice holey crumb, and I took pictures in case I ever learn how to post them. So thank you all for telling me to persist! I can't believe how much my bread has improved since I have been absorbing so much good information from this wonderful site, A

Comments

bwraith's picture
bwraith

AnnieT,

It does sound great that you got it to work. One thing that strikes me is the comment about the dough seeming too wet and that you could add flour to adjust. One thing I've discovered is that it generally is a good idea to resist adding flour. The wetness at the beginning usually will go away with a few folds. One way to have a dense loaf is to make it too dry with added flour.

I'm not great at knowing the feel of the dough at the early stages. It always changes so much, that I can never tell. Given that weakness, I've made up for it by being completely silly as far as weighing my flour and water very carefully and keeping notes on the exact amounts and types of flours I used. After doing this a few times with different recipes, I know the exact amounts that work. I don't use oil, as in the Dan Lepard method, but I alternate between water and flour for dusting the counter and my hands, so the dough doesn't change hydration too much while I'm handling it. You would be amazed how well water works. If you just wet your hands and shake of the excess, wipe the counter with your hands to wet it slightly, then try kneading. I've found it easier to use water. I change to flour when I do my folds, but unless it is a very, very wet dough, I dust only very lightly with flour and wipe off any excess.

Good luck going forward. I would bet your loaf will come out well with less instant yeast and may pick up a little flavor from a longer rise, if getting the dough too dry was causing a problem before.

Bill

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Bill, thanks for your comments and encouragement. I didn't add any flour, but I was surprised to read that Peter R prefers to err on the wet side and kneads in extra flour as needed. Or at least that is what I thought he meant. I do weigh and measure but get a bit confused when 2 amounts of liquid are given. I would definitely cut back on the instant yeast in future and maybe even try the recipe without. Guess it is all part of the learning experience - but what a great time I am having, even if the family think I am over the edge, A

bwraith's picture
bwraith

AnnieT,

It's great to hear you're having such a good time with it. 

When you say you are confused where 2 amounts of liquid are given, do you have an example of what is confusing in a recipe in BBA or elsewhere? If I read the same passage, and you explained what's unclear, maybe we could unravel it (or maybe I'll end up confused, too, but it might be worth a try).

Meanwhile, I'll go look at the recipe again.

Bill

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Bill, in the basic sourdough recipe it calls for 12 to 14 ounces of water. I always start with the lower number and then start second guessing myself. I understand that the humidity in the air might have some effect and we have been having rather cool and wet days. I had warmed 12 oz of water yesterday and didn't add it all, and then felt there was too much dry flour in the bowl and added the rest. I probably should have worked the dough more to be sure. As I said, all part of the learning experience. Looking back over the basics in the BBA I was surprised to see that Peter Reinhart doesn't think that chlorine in the water is a problem. I buy the gallon bottle of purified water from the grocery store because while our water here tastes good I know it has a lot of chlorine - and I thought it was to be avoided. Ho hum. Thank you for taking the time to straighten me out. I gave away both halves of the sourdough boule today (to neighbors) and I am embarrassed to remember the poor examples I gave them before I started to be so obsessed and hopefully improved. Nobody ever complained and they are all still alive, but it makes me cringe. A

bwraith's picture
bwraith

AnnieT,

I found a number right in the middle worked well for the amount of water w/BBA recipes most of the time, if the recipe gives a range. However, there are a few cases where a higher number would be better, like the poolish ciabatta, which is too dry, I think. These days, when I make a "basic sourdough", I use a little higher hydration than the BBA sourdough recipe suggests and prefer the results. In any event, the flour you use may require an adjustment because flours vary in their need for water, so you can experiment. I would suggest trying to keep the dough a little wetter and see if you like the results.

If you use more water and the dough seems wet, instead of adding flour in the mixing/kneading stage right at the beginning, just mix with a spoon or scraper by scraping the edges in toward the middle as you work around the bowl a few times, then let it rest, and then try folding at 30-60 minute intervals to bring the dough together after that. I don't think Peter Reinhart has folding built into the Basic SD recipe, but if you use a little extra water and get a somewhat wetter dough, just be patient with the dough for the first hour. Knead/mix it around the bowl some just to get it mixed and the gluten development started, then let it rest a half hour, pour it on the table and fold it. Then let it rest another half hour, and if it has relaxed and still seems wet and is flattening in the bowl, pour it on the table and fold it one more time. That should be enough to get the dough to come together well and become more elastic, and it should need no more folding after that. The folding is somewhat like what he suggests for the focaccia recipes. You pour the dough onto a light bed of flour. Let it relax a little, and stretch it out gently by lifting the edges up and out to spread the dough out. Then just toss each of the 4 edges, north and south, east and west, in toward the middle or a little past the middle to make a bundle of dough, dusting off any excess flour after each side is folded into the middle. Place the dough back in your rising container with the folds down.

The other great trick for the very first kneading of a wet dough is to use a "French Fold" as described by Ehanner recently in the "eye opening techniques" thread. Wet your hands and rub the counter with your wet hands to wet the counter, too. Drop the dough onto the wet spot on the counter. Then pick one end of the dough up with both hands and lift it all in the air, letting the end away from your hands stretch downward with gravity. Drop the hanging lower end down on the counter so it sticks. Gently pull back the upper end you are holding in your hands toward you a bit to stretch it just a little, but not enough that the end on the counter lifts away. Then, with a bit of a rotation of the wrists drop the end in your hands toward the end on the counter and down on top of the end on the counter so that it folds over itself. You can then pick up a side of the rolled up dough and do it again. Doing that about 3 or 4 times is enough. It will probably get stiff and elastic and resist any stretching or it may even tear a little on the surface after doing this a few times. That's the indication to stop doing it and let it rest. At that point put it in the bowl and let it rest again. Then do the folds described above every 30-60 minutes a couple of times.

Sorry if all that is more than you wanted to hear, or if you are already very familiar with the techniques. However, if you haven't tried this way of developing gluten, it really works to get a dough to come together, especially a wetter dough that will usually have a more open and irregular crumb. It's fun, too.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Annie,

Bill gave some great tips on working with wetter doughs. And I agree that in general it’s best to a void adding flour to adjust the consistency – not only because this can make a dough too dry but also because it upsets the balance between the flour and the other ingredients. However, wetter is not better in every case – there is such a thing as being too hydrated. You don’t want to end up with ciabatta when you wanted a nice boule, and past a certain point no amount of folding will help you if the dough is just too wet.

Different flours vary greatly in the amount of water they will absorb, and even the same flour will absorb differently depending on its age. Therefore a recipe can give you only the amount of water that might be needed (even if it gives a range, your need might fall somewhere outside it, although that’s less likely). Therefore, what I do is hold back a portion (10-15%) of the water initially, to be added in as I’m mixing, if needed, to achieve the consistency I’m looking for. I often add even more than what the recipe calls for. I realize this can be challenging if it’s the first time you’ve made a particular dough, but it gets easier with practice.

Congratulations on your success with the BBA sourdough!

Susanfnp

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Bill and Susan, Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions. I saved the French folding video and would love to try it, but I wonder how much dough he was working with? I have old and arthritic fingers which might make it difficult, but it is really fascinating to watch. I didn't remember reading about Peter Reinhart's folding - I was doing the Mike Avery type and it seemed to work. Whatever, it's more fun than a picnic and I intend to keep trying! A

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi AnnieT,

Sorry if I went overboard with the wet dough ideas. I didn't mean to suggest going beyond the recipe's suggested water range. However, I remember when I was first playing with "basic sourdough" in the BBA being surprised by how wet a dough could feel at the beginning of mixing when you use the higher range of water, yet it would come together if I resisted the temptation to add flour. I was mainly just trying to mention some ideas to deal with the dough when it seems a bit too wet just after mixing.

I understand not wanting to get into any heavy kneading techniques. I have some arthritis problems, too. Probably the easiest thing is to mix minimally and use folding more, like in Mike Avery's video. The so called "french fold" I was describing is not all that bad on the fingers, since you only lift , swing, and drop the dough, rather than manipulate it very much. You only need to do it a few times, too, which is good as far as arthritis - literally like 10-20 seconds. The amount of dough I've used it with is typically around 1Kg of flour, or about a 1.8kg dough weight.

Bill

 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Annie, congratulations on your loaves. I'm glad they both came out so well.