The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough bread is damp, help!

Sourdoughsmitten's picture

Sourdough bread is damp, help!

Hi all. So I'm a newbie sourdough baker, so far attempted only white high protein sourdough boules a few times. Here's what I'm doing - 50g starter, make a pre-ferment with 20g water & 15g flour (resting for 6 hours, I'm in sunny singapore), roughly mix in 150g water &  225g flour, rest for 40 mins, add 6g salt, knead till smooth. Rest for 30 mins, stretch & fold, repeat. Rest for 20 mins. shape. Rest for 10 mins. shape finally, rest in flour lined basket for 1hr 30 mins (or till poked dough doesn't spring back fast). Bake uncovered in a cast iron skillet with steam 10 mins at 250*C, then at 190*C for 30 mins more. I'm getting good oven spring. I slice it only when completely cool. But the crumb feels slightly moist/damp. What am I doing wrong? Please help me, I'll really appreciate any and all inputs :)

ccsdg's picture

You could bake it for longer, on lower heat after the initial oven spring if it browns too fast. I'm fairly newbie to sourdough too :)

Sourdoughsmitten's picture

Thank you ccsdg. I tried 15 mins at 250*C then 30 mins at 190*C today. Still a bit moist. Perfectly browned though.

ccsdg's picture

Neat :) I'd go more along the lines of still 10 mins at around 220-250 followed by 50-60 minutes at around 180, or even lower depending on oven. The first 10 minutes I believe is when oven spring is happening (hence the initial high heat). When the bread doesn't rise any more, I would assume your structure is stable, so the temperature should only affect the speed with which the water evaporates, and the speed of browning, not the shape of the bread. At that point you'd want to give the water more opportunity to evaporate (longer baking time) whilst still slowing the browning to prevent burning the crust (lower temperature).

I'm still figuring out the right temperature and timing too. Today's loaf was both not browned enough and not dry enough. What a good thing we can still eat our mistakes :)

ericreed's picture

I"m still quite new to sourdoughs myself, so perhaps someone else will correct me, but 50g starter seems like an awful lot to only feed 15 g flour and 20 g water. Is it rising ok though?

What's the hydration of your starter? If we assume 100%, that 25 g water and flour each, so total water = 195 g and total flour = 250 g. That would  be 76% hydration, slack but well within reason. Are you letting it cool fully? The gelatinization of the crumb while still warm from the oven can make it seem too moist. Lean hearth breads usually need to be fully cooled before slicing to get the best flavor and texture, at least 2 or 3 hours. (And up 24+ hours is recommended for some rye breads.)

Bakingmadtoo's picture

I bake at 230-240c for at least 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for 25 mins at 200c. I think you are not baking hot enough for long enough. Remember that it is really difficult to over bake bread. If baking hotter for longer does not solve your problem, you may need to check that your oven is baking at the temperature it says it is. 

Baker4life's picture

What's the internal temp ?. Assuming you are able to check it.

is the crumb a very open one ? Sharing some pics of that would help.

But just looking at your formula and the hydration its been my experience that even after 24 hours it will still have a moist crumb. Personally its a positive thing for me as that combined with  proper storage means having moist bread until its gone.






dabrownman's picture

205 F (96C) - 210 F on the inside middle it is done.  Get a cheapo instant read thermometer to test every bake.  After that no worries at least half the bake time should be under the lid and steam.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...white high protein sourdough..."     How high?

"Bake uncovered in a cast iron skillet with steam..."   Cold or pre-heated iron?  

Now back to where I think the problem lies...

"...50g starter, make a pre-ferment with 20g water & 15g flour..."     Also strikes me as low, help increase sour but not yeast.  

If the 50g starter is coming straight out of the fridge, it would be important to know the activity of this starter.  If the yeast activity is low when the dough is mixed, perhaps the rise is low also.  We have no way of knowing how powerful the yeast is responding in the post.  I'm guessing that even with a large portion of starter (85g to 225g flour or 1 to 2.6 ratio) in the dough, there isn't enough power or yeast activity for the total rise time of just over 3 hours.  Rare to see a 1,2, almost 3 sourdough formula rise that fast.  I didn't say it can't be done, I'm just comparing it.

"...shape finally, rest in flour lined basket for 1hr 30 mins..."    Too long for a final rise.  Sounds more like the dough is relaxing too much before baking resulting in the heavier crumb.  Perhaps even rushed thru bulk rising part of the recipe.

Shift the times around.  Try adding another fold to the bulking dough or even several gentle folds so the final rise is only about 30 minutes long.  (Use that hour for making dough strength.)  This is also a better way to feel your dough and know  how much it is expanding.  


Sourdoughsmitten's picture

Thank you everyone so much, for taking the time to guide me. I truly appreciate it and will give each and every input a thought. Also will post pics of the next bake and request you to critique it.

@ccsdg lol about eating out mistakes!

@ericreed I think it's rising ok, though I've nothing to compare it to. I feed 10g of starter 30g water & 30g flour everyday at 8am & 6pm. I shall remember to hold off slicing until after 3 hours.

@bakingmad I am baking it uncovered the entire time in a cast iron skillet. Will try the next one in a coved Dutch oven according g to your suggestion and report back, thank you.

@Baker4life will share pics soon :)

@dabrownm Noted. Will get one of those.

@ Mini Oven its12%, pre-heated iron. What proportions do you suggest please? Will move the times around a bit and get back. How do you figure out when your dough is ready for baking?

ericreed's picture

You might also just a try a known good recipe and see how things are turning out. Something like Hamelman's Pain au Levain.

This site has a cool calculator with that recipe so you can adjust your size. Personally, I find for my dutch oven that starting with 500 g total flour is a good default size for me. On that calculator that would be a total of 850 g. Also with my dutch oven I tend to preheat the oven and pot at 500 F (260 C), then lower to 450 F (232 C) when I put the bread in for the duration of the bake. 30 minutes covered, 20-30 minutes more uncovered.