The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Troubleshooting flattish loaf - Reinhart's ABED Pain au Levain

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Troubleshooting flattish loaf - Reinhart's ABED Pain au Levain

Hiya. I've attemped Reinhart's Pain au Levain from Artisan Breads Every Day several times. I'm used the mixed method, which calls for 2+ tsp yeast in addition to the sourdough starter. Baking after a couple of days cold fermentation, and then after a couple more.  My sourdough is active - I typically refresh it the night before baking, my sponge doubles, and my dough triples in the refrigerator.  Flavor is delicious, and I think I'm getting enough oven spring, but the loaves are a bit flat, and maybe the crumb is too spongy.  The flatness, I'm guessing is caused by one of four things:

1) Not enough hydration: I'm mixing the dough in my Kitchenaid stand mixer with the paddle and then the dough hook.  The dough is very wet and forms a sticky area at the bottom of the bowl, so I add more flour until the dough is still tacky but the dough at the bottom no longer sticks.  I was thinking maybe I'm adding too much flour and it's affecting the hydration levels and I don't know maybe somehow that affects the tightness of the boules or the oven spring.

2) Boules aren't tight enough.  I'm using Reinhart's method as he demonstrates in this video, but his dough looks much more hydrated than mine, and his boules definitely look tighter.  

3) His instructions are to take the dough out of the banneton (I'm using a floured towel in a mesh strainer) 15 minutes before baking, but over those 15 minutes my dough starts to flatten out. I know some people take their dough out right before baking... in your opinion are those 15 minutes essential or are they dispensible?

4) Oven spring - I think I'm getting enough, judging by how much the loaves rise during their first 10 minutes or so.  I have a baking sheet below my baking stone and I heat both at 500 for 45 minutes.  I slide the dough onto the stone, pour 1 cup of hot water onto the sheet and mist the walls.

Thanks for any advice.

golgi70's picture

Looks pretty good to me.  Nice whole grain with an open crumb.  I'm not familiar with his formula but if you are following it to the "T" and using the same types of flour I'd resist the urge to add more flour.  stretch and folds will help along the way with a slack dough.  

So you are turning the loaf out onto your baking peel/pan what have you and lettting it sit 15 minutes before loading in the oven???  If so this is certainly a culprit.  As soon as you turn it out, score it and load it in the oven.  He may be suggesting taking it out of the fridge for 15 minutes before baking just to take some of the chill off the outside of the loaf before you turn it out and bake.  

Anyway I think it looks great.Hope some of that may have helped.  Others on here have made this loaf so they may have more inside info



pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Um, so I just looked again at the recipe and he doesn't say to turn it onto the peel 15 minutes before baking.  I must've made that up, and somehow I never double-checked.  I've done that every time, too!  I'll try it again in a couple of days without the 15 minutes of sitting.  Thanks!

dabrownman's picture

quite a bit  I find when i go more than 36 the dough can begin to break down especially if using spelt, rye or other whole grains.  I'm also with Josh  with not waiting for 15 minutes before loading and doing some extra S&F's or fora longer period of time

I think I would try his recipe without adding the extra flour while mixing too.  You are very close as this result looks pretty darn good and just little tweaking will put it just right.

Happy baking

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

96 hours is what Reinhart uses as his limit.  The focus of ABED is on making sufficient dough for 2 loaves, retarding them and baking at any point between 24-96 hours.  These breads are only about 110 ww to 600 bf, but I've tried his recipes with 100% ww or ww plus rye and had delicious results.  Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.  I'm going to try and be scientific and only change one variable at a time, so next time I'll so the extra flour but turn it out right before baking, and next time I won't add the extra flour, and then maybe a third time I'll try extra s&fs (he calls for 3).  I've got another sponge sitting on my counter and I'll bake with it on Tuesday and Thursday.  Thanks!

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

I figured out where Reinhart says to score 15 minutes before baking - in his WW sourdough.  I guess there he prefers to let it proof on parchment, so it's already right-side up and supported on both sides.  Anyway, got a much higher loaf this time when I didn't turn it out 15 minutes prior. Thanks!

hanseata's picture

I agree with DBM and Josh - don't add more flour. Working with highly hydrated doughs is always a bit tricky when you are not used to it, therefore using either wet or oiled hands and countertop is crucial.

But there might be another culprit - too much instant yeast. I routinely cut down on all the yeast in Reinhart's breads, since I retard almost all my doughs in the fridge overnight. Try reducing the yeast a bit next time.


pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Thanks for the help.  Refreshing my starter today and I'll make my dough tomorrow.  I'll try with maybe a 1/3 less yeast and without extra flour.  The problem I have with the dough in the stand mixer is that at the bottom of the mixer the dough doesn't seem like it's getting kneaded with the rest of the dough, so I added flour so it would adhere to the rest of the dough.  I could do it by hand and keep it that wet if it didn't require as many minutes of stirring - I'm arthritic and it starts to hurt quite a bit after a few minutes.  So is it fine to let that dough at the bottom of the mixer stay there while the rest of the dough gets kneaded?  I guess I could stop it every 30 seconds or so and mix it in.