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My first sourdough! Suggestions?

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NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

My first sourdough! Suggestions?

 

 

I just finished baking my first sourdough bread - using the Vermont sourdough formula in 'Bread'. My starter is about 2 weeks old and triples in volume between feedings (once per day). The flavour is good but I think the loaf could be somewhat larger and the crumb, while uniform, seems a little 'dense'. I used a 9 inch banneton and made 700 grams of dough. I did one s/f at 50 minutes. I did a bulk fermentation for 2 1/2 hours and a final proof at about 85F for 2 hours.I ran into a problem early - 128 grams of liquid levain instead of what I needed, which was 142. So I added 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast.

It seems I got not enough rise during proofing and no oven spring.  

I did get some nice singing when I removed the bread from the oven. 

Any suggestions for improvements would be appreciated

Muskie's picture
Muskie

Two thoughts.

  1. Possibly you over-proofed. Did you poke the dough to see if it sprung back, that's the alleged indication that proofing is done. Proofing too much could leave you with  no oven spring.
  2. Did you bake at a high temperature (e.g. 425F)? If so, did you provide steam? If not, your crust could have set too early, preventing spring. If that was the issue, however, you should've had bursts in the crust and I don't see any.

Still new at this myself, so hopefully you'll get better advice from others.

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

I did a couple of poke tests, one during bulk fermentation - and I got little, if any, spring back. Because of this, I decided to proof for 2 hours anyways ( as per Hamelman's instructions). I did a second poke near the end of proofing and got the same result (no spring back). So maybe the dough wasn't strong enough? Another s/f? More mixing? I am new at this. 

I baked at 460F, as per the instructions. 

Muskie's picture
Muskie

Its after 8:00pm here, if I were you I'd simply put the whole thing in the fridge and let it retard overnight, then pick it back up in the morning. You should get additional rise overnight, and the dough should strengthen also, so there should be no downside that I know of.

But, if its earlier for you, then sure, why not do some additional S&Fs at 30 minute intervals. The more you work with it (gently of course) the better you will be able to feel what's happening. I have been doing S&Fs on a dough since 8:00am this morning. It was overly hydrated, so I finally added some more flour at 6:00pm and the difference is amazing.

Retarding, covered with plastic in the fridge overnight, really slows everything down so you can take a fresh look tomorrow. Of course if you do this, you'll need to bring the dough back up to room temperature (RT) in the morning before you start to work with it more.

Another short-cut is to put it into your stand mixer. Start with your regular blade (what I think most call a cookie dough blade) and when it starts to come away from the sides, switch to your dough blade. Its done in there when its not too sticky and comes completely away from the sides and bottom. Then start your proofing regiment again. That's what I ended up doing today.

Muskie's picture
Muskie

but mixing the levain is one thing, mixing the dough ball another. What I call the dough ball is all of the ingredients other than the salt, and what's called for to make the levain. When I make the levain, I usually also make the dough ball and then put that into the fridge to autolyse. Look that term up, its basically just allowing the gluten to develop in the rest of the dough you're using for your final combine. Its supposed to strengthen gluten.

Muskie's picture
Muskie

and Mini get's credit for this...did you forget the salt? Its so easy to do.

adri's picture
adri

Did you bake yeast breads before?Or better: Do you know how dough should feel like when it is fully developed or when it is proofed?

Coming from rye, I'm still amazed how much strength wheaty doughs can develop and how long it actually takes to knead them (If you don't take no knead approach that still needs S&Fs). I still do windowpane tests to check.

Of course a young starter can have troubles to raise the dough. But with the yeast added It shouldn't have been a problem. If there is little raise before and after putting it into the oven, my guess is, that the dough wasn't fully developed.

In my 22cm banneton (9inch = 22,9cm) I bake up to 1,2kg (dough weight) rye/wheat mixed breads and maybe a bit less with wheat. My 700g no knead wheat also doesn't fill the banneton, but has nice large holes. Maybe there was more rise than you noticed?

The bread itself looks very fluffy. I like it. (I usually don't like the big bubbles but more tiny ones.) And I'm sure it tastes very good.

Adrian

 

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Nice looking bake and scoring.

The formula suggests one S&F at 1.5 hours, or two S&Fs at 50 minute intervals, depending on dough strength.  Mr. Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough is best when it's retarded overnight in the refrigerator and I think if you give that a try, you'll wind up with a more complex flavor and a lighter, more open crumb.

The recipe calls for 10% whole grain - did you use whole wheat or rye?

Edited to add that if you are looking for a sourdough to do in one day (without an overnight retard), give Mr. Hamelman's Pain au Levain a try.   It's a lovely bread - but as with all of the Hamelman formulas, pay attention to the desired dough temperature (DDT).  It makes a difference.  

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

Adri, I am new to bread baking. So I am learning what the dough needs to feel like. Your experience with larger dough sizes for the 22cm banneton gives me encouragement. - that my loaf is not THAT small since the ban neton can take a LOT more dough. 

Linda, I have Hamelman's 2nd edition of Bread - the formula specifies whole rye flour (10%), which is what I used. When I bake this bread again I plan to retard overnight. I am interested to experience the changes retarding makes. I was going to do two s/f's, but after doing the first at 50 minutes I thought that the dough seemed strong enough - just a gut feeling based upon no experience. If a poke test at this point showed little or no spring back would that be reason to add one or more s/f's?

Muskie, I autolysed for 45 minutes then added salt. Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough formula calls for making a liquid levain 12 to 16 hours before the final mix. 

adri's picture
adri

For being new to bread making and starting with sourdough, this is a great bread you made, really!

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

Thanks Adrian. Second attempt at sourdough, first actual sourdough loaf. I have baked a half dozen or so non-SD loaves with mixed results. Descriptions like 'medium consistency', 'dough strength' etc are difficult, almost just words. Last week I wasn't even sure that I actually had a healthy starter (see my starter woes thread). It turns out that my (well) water has a 7.6 pH. Things picked up when I switched to bottled water. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What is the pH of the bottled water?

But it won't hurt to squeeze a little lemon juice into the water to lower it.  Those with water tested at pH of 8.0 or higher should.  

Anyway, I think your loaf turned out very well and I think the difference of a tablespoon of starter would have caught up in time adding maybe half an hour to your rise times.  1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast however might have made the difference with the crumb rushing the rise and shortening times.  Still a lovely loaf.  (And I would never had asked you if you forgot salt as it doesn't even cross my mind with this lovely crumb.)  

I know how hard it is to let that first pure sourdough loaf rise without additional yeast.  It's like wanting to hold on to a baby the first time they try to walk alone.  Bite your lip and go for it!  :)

LindyD's picture
LindyD

 

No poke needed at that stage.  Folding the dough during the early part of bulk fermentation helps organize the gluten network, which gives it sufficient strength to hold the gases produced during the fermentation.  The poke test has no application in determining whether to S&F; the strength of the dough can only be felt in your hands.  You didn't note if you mixed the dough by hand or by machine and if the latter, how long the mix was and the gluten development of dough when it came off the mixer, so it's impossible to guess whether another S&F was in order.  

The 85F proofing temp is high; the formula calls for 76F.  I pay a lot of attention to temperature.  Never did until I read the first two sentences of "Step Two: Mixing" in Bread.  Was like a light bulb went on in my head.  Controlling dough temperature has made a major difference in my baking.

I think you'll see positive results retarding the dough overnight.  Check the fermentation when you pull it out the next morning and follow Mr. Hamelman's advice:  "When it's ready, bake it."  And enjoy.

 

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

Linda, I used an electric mixer. After the autolyse I mixed for 2 minutes on medium (3) speed. After mixing the dough temperature was 73F. I forgot to do a windowpane test. I hear you (and Hamelman) regarding temperature - I need to pay closer attention to this. Thanks. My oven proofs at 85F with no ability to adjust proofing temperature (I think - maybe I need to check the oven manual). The warmest place in my house is 73F. So it's either that or buy a proofing box. 

Mini, I, thanks for your comments. I don't know the pH of the bottled water. The only reason I know of my high (7.6pH) water is because our local water authority publishes their tests - so MY water could be a lot higher.  My experience is that bottled water definately helped my starter. I think, though, that I will give your lemon juice trick a try. 

adri's picture
adri

I don't know your machine, but 2 minutes with mine on medium speed is really just mixing the ingredients and not developing much gluten. For this I'd need ten to twelve minutes.
From the King Arthur Videos I know, that Hamelman just mixes just 2.5 minutes and then does the rest of development with folding. But look at his machines. 2.5 minutes on his is 5 minutes at mine.

Adrian

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

Adrian, the electric mixer I use is a Kitchen Aid top line model I think. It is certainly not a commercial model. From what you say it sounds like I should have at least doubled my mixing time, probably trebled. Thanks for mentioning this. 

adri's picture
adri

Well, watch the king arthur videos with hamelman. I think you can download them for free on youtube. He shows how the dough should look and feel like after mixing in the 2nd video "Mixing Folding". Also "Dividing Preshaping" is worth watching.

(I cannot say anything about Kitchen Aid, sorry. I've seen them in a store and they look like the ones in the American movies. Here Bosch, Kenwood, DEMA and Ankarsrum Original (former Electrolux) are the ones used here more often. I use a cheap Bosch)

Muskie's picture
Muskie

Do you happen to have a smoker? I use my smoker, which has digital thermostat control, as a proofing box. I just don't put any wood pucks in. Works amazingly. Of course if you're going to buy something, then choose whether you only want to proof, or if you might also want to do some smoking...if the latter, consider a smoker like mine;

Bradley Digital Smoker

 

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

...and use volume instead (or better or worse).  For the bulk rise, I put the dough in a straight-sided clean container and mark the dough's level.  When the volume has doubled, I tip the dough onto the counter and divide or shape the dough. 

For the final rise or proof, I use a small, straight sided juice glass and a 2 oz piece of the dough to judge the rise in volume.  If the temperature of the dough is similar to the proofing room temperature, the rise of the sample will be similar to the rise of the shaped dough.  For proofing, I usually bake once the dough has risen to 1 1/2 times it's original volume or height in the glass.

FF

NanooseGuy's picture
NanooseGuy

Why did you give up on the poke test?