The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Weekday baking - Ideas for improving based on the tight schedule?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Weekday baking - Ideas for improving based on the tight schedule?

In the elusive quest to figure out how to bake a good loaf of bread during the few hours a day I have at home during the work week, I baked these loaves according to *my* schedule. I would like some input so I can figure out what to adjust.  I am pretty sure the bread was under-proofed based on the fact that it had not risen much.  The crumb is kind of dense, though it looks better depending on how it is sliced.

My concern with making the bread was that it was going to become super sticky and not come out of the brotform, but I think I may have moved things along too quickly and am hoping that if I simply leave the dough out of the fridge for a couple of hours before baking, it will vastly improve the crumb.  My reason for this hope is that it is the easiest cure from a timing perspective.

The Formula

489 g home ground whole wheat
270 g home ground rye
241 g AP flour

820 g Water (74 deg.)
20 g salt
200 g levain (100% hydration, 50% WW and 50% AP - made with 17 g. week old starter).

Wednesday Morning (630 am)

1. Mixed the levain and left out.

2. Autolysed the flour and water, and left out.

Wednesday Night (715 pm)

1. Mixed the dough, levain and added the salt.

2. Did a turn at 7:50pm. Dough temp is only 73 degrees. Dough is sticky and tears easily. (I was afraid to warm up the dough because I did not want to over proof. I took it out of the oven with the light on because it had started to have a bubble on the surface at the first turn).

3. Turned at 8:20pm, still sticky

4.  At 8:45 I did some slap and folds (This should have been done after the mixing).

5.  At 9:20 I did a turn. Dough is still weak and tears a bit.  I put in fridge.

6.  At 10:15 I do a turn and go to bed.

*Note - the dough did not rise much during the bulk ferment. It was a bit under 2 quarts at the start and a bit over 2 quarts at the end.

Thursday Morning

1. Divided dough and benched for 20 minutes.

2.  Shaped and in the fridge by 6:30 a.m.


Thursday Evening

1.  Out of the fridge by 7:15pm

I floured one of them and left the other as is, for this picture. It is moist and sticky to the touch, but looks like it will come out of the basket as it has not "melted" into the seams.

The dough turned out easily and I brushed excess flour off before scoring.

2. Baked at 8:10 pm.

Things I could do differently:

1) Slap and folds after the autolyse to strengthen dough.
2) Keep the dough warmer during the bulk ferment before sticking in the fridge the first night.3) Keep the dough out longer Thursday evening/take dough out earlier Thursday.


The Crumb:

Depending on how you slice it, the crumb looks worse or better. The bread is most and chewy but not soft. It tastes find with or without butter, made good toast and an okay sandwich. Not at all one of my favorites. I would prefer a taller rise and a somewhat less dense crumb.

Things that went well:

1) Ground the flour the night before, and measured the other ingredients as well, so it would be quick to mix in the morning.

2) Dough came out of the baskets -- using milled whole wheat works very well because it is course enough to get an easy release. I use a tablespoon or so, drop it in a sifter and shake over the basket for an even coating. Also added some rice flour just in case.

3) I realize that I need to coat the dough better at the dividing/bench stage before flipping, since one stuck to the counter pretty good. After flouring the other, it was easier to pre-shape.

PetraR's picture

Good looking loafs my friend.

I do not flour my countertops when shaping, if the dough is a bit to sticky I use 2 Dough Scrapers for help:)


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I don't flour the counter, but I flour the "top" of the dough before flipping it, which means the added flour only stays on the crust.  This dough, with the rye is super super sticky so it would be too difficult for me to shape it if the outside was not floured.  Maybe if I oiled the scrapers though!

PetraR's picture

I put some flour on my scrapers when I shape a higher hydration bread, I also only shape Boules when I use highe hydration breads * which do not do very often *.

You can use those scrapers like your hands and turn the dough and tuck dough under... 


dabrownman's picture

the 'Rye Spread'  coming out of the basket even though the dough is still cold 50 minutes out of the fridge.  Your baskets are too big for the amount of dough you are making so it wants to go out before it goes up while in the basket too.  I like to use baskets that have a more vertical side and the dough rises up to the top of the basket when 85-90% proofed.  You can try baking them cold tight out of the fridge.

With 25 % whole rye and 50% whole wheat at 83% hydration and using those baskets,  you will have spread rather than rise in the baskets and in the oven.  I'm guessing this bread would be great in a pan or smaller basket proofed to 85% in the fridge and baked cold right out of it.   I would slap and fold this bread for 3 sessions until it didn't stick to the counter anymore during the first set and then do stretch and folds to make sure the gluten development is where it should be - there is plenty of gluten there to round into shape.

Happy baking David 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I will use a smaller basket next go if I use as high % of rye. And, I'll definitely slap and fold more.

dabrownman's picture

Bet It Tastes Great!  When we do an autoyse of more than 4 hours - it is put in the fridge after 2 hours.   With high % whole grains a long autolyse seems to really work its magic.

PetraR's picture

That is great advise with the baskets and the spread.

This only happens when I make bartards , never with my Boules, so that could well be my proofing basket. hmmm

I do not proof mine in the fridge though and only for a short time.

What did help with the spreading is using 50% hydration Starter, it makes the world of a difference. * to me anyways *

ElPanadero's picture

According to your schedule there, you began the autolyse (flour + water) at 6.30am and left it until 7.15pm in the evening. That's seems a long time. Have you done this successfully before?

I also notice that all the large air pockets run along the bottom of the loaf which would have been the top whilst proofing in the banneton. I have a feeling that's a problem usually associated with proofing times.

I agree with DA that the banneton looks too big for the size of your loaf. If you haven't already got some take a look at the oval versions of those bannetons, they have much steeper sides and might work better for this.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

It is definitely a long autolyse.  I had moderate success with that once, written about here.  The Tartine Book suggests that for whole wheat loaves some people do an overnight autolyse.  I am not sure what the harm would be, but I can't say that I've had great success with it.  Maybe I should try it with the basic country loaf formula which I know I can bake well when I have time to do it, and see how it comes out.

I have the oval/narrow brotforms which I will use the next time I am using a rye formula.  These have been fine for the wheat blends, but I see that a smaller diameter round basket may not be steep enough so will use the narrower baskets for the next bake.

The large air pockets are what made me think of the proofing problem. That, and the density of the crumb.  Am I correct that that usually means under proofing as opposed to over proofing?  Just want to make sure I am working to correct the right problem, for instance, if I am going to use warmer water to speed things up or cooler water to slow them down.  I can't see how this would have overproofed given the temperatures but that doesn't mean it didn't!

ElPanadero's picture

ATB = All The Best :-)

Yes I think where I've seen these holes in other people's pictures it has tended to be at the top of loaves that were tinned. Since yours was upended in a banneton I presume it's a similar condition and I agree it's underproof rather than overproof but others more experienced than I will confirm I'm sure.

I also noticed in that last picture that there was something inside the larger holes. Looks like nuts of some kind or dates? Did you add something like that ? Only ask because nothing additional was listed in your recipe. If so, at what point were they added?


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.


In the last photo you are seeing peanut butter.  It was added this morning, after I sliced the baked loaf and made a sandwich. :)

emkay's picture

I don't really have much to add since I'm still learning my way around proper proofing, but I agree with dab and EP about the brotform being too large for the amount of dough. A smaller brotform would give you a taller round of shaped dough.  So when you turn it out of form and it does that "Tartine dough spread", you'll have a fighting chance of getting a taller loaf of bread.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Finally noticing the rye or other flavors in the bread. Exciting stuff.