The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recipe question

FlatBread's picture

Recipe question

Hi all, I am fairly new to free-form bread baking, and new to this forum. I made the below bread this weekend and while it tastes great, it never rose normally, It just spread out. Which was surprising because the dough was not wet and fairly firm. I did stretch it tightly while shaping, but that did not seem to help. I would like to make it again, but as a nice, tall loaf, not a ciabatta-looking flat disk. :) Would really appreciate any suggestions how to achieve that.


German Farmer's Bread

    2 1/2 c. white flour (all purpose or bread flour)
    2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat flour from King Arthur)
    1/2 c. rolled oats
    2 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. caraway seed
    1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
    1 c. milk mixed with 1 T. vinegar (sour milk)
    1 c. plain yogurt
    1/4 c. sourdough culture (optional)
    1-2 T. water


Mix flours, oats, salt, caraway and instant yeast together in a large bowl. Add the sour milk, yogurt and sourdough culture and begin mixing. This is easier if you have a stand mixer, but you can do this with a large spoon, too. Mix until dough forms a ball, adding water if needed. The dough should be slightly sticky.

Continue kneading, either with the mixer or on a lightly floured board for 5-7 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute. Form into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the top. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and form into a typical long loaf as follows:

    Degas as little as possible.
    Pat dough into rectangle.
    Indent with fingertips down the middle.
    Fold one third to middle, lengthwise, pulling dough taut on the bottom.
    Press seam a little to seal.
    Fold other third to middle (pulling dough taut) and pinch seam closed.
    Roll over, seam-side down and rock gently while rounding the ends and making loaf longer or fatter, as you wish.

Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet or cardboard, dust top with flour and let rise until doubled. About 30 minutes before you plan on baking, slash the top with a sharp razor blade or lamé at least 1/4 inch deep.

Heat oven to 500°F for 1 hour prior to baking. Use a baking stone if you have it, according to manufacturer's instructions.

Otherwise, place an old pan on the bottom rack and set the second rack in the middle.

Place the bread on the middle rack (still on the parchment or floured baking pan), pour 2 cups of hot water into the old pan and close the door.

Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray the sides of the oven after two, five and seven minutes. Turn oven down to 450°F. Bake for 20 minutes.

Turn oven down to 350°F and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until a temperature probe measures 190-200°F or loaf is brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove and let cool 2 hours before slicing.

golgi70's picture

Are you achieving with your dough?  Are you mixing to full development?  Can you stretch a windowpane?  How long does it take the dough to double during its first rise? If it's not too fast I might consider adding a stretch and fold half way through to strengthen the dough further.  You may want to use a proofing basket to do the final proof to help support the loaf while it rises.  I suspect either too little gluten development and/or the need for a basket are your biggest issues.  The formula seems sound.  


FlatBread's picture

I don't know what achieving with your dough means? I didn't do a window pane test, I thought kneading it for a total of 8 mins took care of the gluten development because the dough felt really nice and "right". If not, I wonder if it would help to add vital wheat gluten? I have a NY Rye Bread recipe which usually turns out quite well (beautiful rise, no spreading) and it requires vital wheat gluten.

The dough rose very quickly, it took around 1 hour for the first doubling, and once it was shaped I checked on it after 30 mins and it had spread out horizontally instead of rising vertically. There was no oven spring either, though I know I did not over-proof it. The entire loaf is like a flat disk and about 1 inch tall.

cerevisiae's picture

The full question was, "What type of development are you achieving with your dough?" There's a tendency on here to start a sentence in the subject line and continue it in the text box.

8 minutes in a stand mixer on a medium or high speed would probably be enough, but 8 minutes of hand kneading is not very much. It sounds to me like not enough gluten development, as well. There's a few ways to get better development:

  1. More kneading, probably about double what you're doing now.
  2. Autolyse, then some kneading.
  3. Multiple rounds of slap and folds, with resting in between.
  4. Regular gentle stretch and folds (probably not the best in this case).
  5. Some combination of the above.

Adding an autolyse is probably the easiest thing you can do to improve your gluten development, although I don't know if the fact that some of your liquid contains fat would make it less effective. It might not.

I'd recommend trying it again with more of a focus on strengthening your gluten. KAF's whole wheat flour is pretty strong, so you shouldn't need to add VWG. Work out a plan on how to get better development out of your dough (this is a good place for figuring out what the best approach may be for you) and give it another go.

Try to get it to windowpane, or at least close, and you'll probably see a marked improvement in results. The suggestion of doing the final proof in a basket or bowl is also a good one, but I think less essential.

FlatBread's picture

Hi cerevisae, thanks for the suggestions. It was 8 mins in my trusty kitchenaid mixer, with the dough hook. I can certainly let it go a lot longer than that. Re. the autolyze, I will try it with the yogurt/sour milk mixture. As flat as this bread is, it can only improve. I wonder if the starter I used was too active and caused it to rise too fast along with the instant yeast. Might that cause spreading out?

cerevisiae's picture

If the dough came out of the oven looking flatter than it did when it went it, then overproofing might have contributed to the problem, but I doubt that that would have been the main cause.

What speed were you doing with the mixer?

FlatBread's picture

I guess I didn't write that correctly, it wasn't flatter, but it did not achieve any oven rise. It was about the same height when baked as it was when it went in. I left it to rise on parchment paper and it just spread all over the paper, so I plopped the whole thing on the pre-heated pizza stone.

For speed, probably about a 2. The dough tends to creep up when I knead in the KA, so I keep it at a pretty low speed.

cerevisiae's picture

I was saying if it came out flatter, then I might consider overproofing a part of the problem. You wrote correctly, I was just suggesting a symptom to look for.

Since that didn't happen, nothing else points to that being an issue.

hanseata's picture

I agree with the others: your dough didn't develop enough.

The dough processing method you use is the method described in Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Breads Every Day". This is my default method - I use it very often. BUT this has to be followed by 4 stretch and folds in 10 minute intervals (total time 40 minutes) AND after the last folding the dough is placed in the refrigerator overnight for a slow, cold rise.
The added sourdough really doesn't have much time to do anything for you, you seem to add it just for a bit of tangy taste. To achieve a better performing bread I would advise you to try the combination of brief kneading, as you do, with S&Fs, plus an overnight cold fermentation.

Another thing I do recommend: invest in a good scale (ounces and grams)! You have much less variables (flour, humidity etc.) and It's much easier for others to guess what might be right or wrong when they have exact amounts to go by.

And don't be discouraged - your first loaves are flounders, mine were bricks!




FlatBread's picture

Hi Karin, I definitely didn't do any stretch or fold, nor the overnight chilling and rise. I will follow your suggestions and thank you for them! I do have a very nice scale which weighs both metric and US and since baking is so precise, I always weigh everything.

Flounders, hmmm, more like huge frisbees. :o)

hanseata's picture

As an example how to process the dough with this method: check this out. You can do the farmer's loaf the same way.

Happy baking!


FlatBread's picture

Thanks so much, Karin. I see I have lots of experimenting to do. :)

Viele liebe Gruesse und Dankeschoen fuer die Tips von Petra, auch aus Deutschland (Wiesbaden)