The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough problem

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Sourdough problem

I have been baking bread a few years, initially in a bread machine but more recently using the machine only for mixing and kneading the dough.I have a plain white bread recipe that gives me a perfect loaf every time without exception.

Recently I decided to try to convert this to a sourdough loaf, so took advice from various websites and created a starter using equal weights of rye flour and water which I kept in a cupboard that contains our hot water tank and has a constant temperature of 28deg C (82.4deg F). After 7 days of feeding (during which I changed to white flour), the starter was very active so I decided to try it with a loaf.

I deleted the instant yeast I normally use in my bread and put in 150g of the 100%H starter. To compensate for this I deleted 75g each of flour and water. I used the bread machine to mix and knead then placed the dough in a bowl in the warm cupboard to rise.

This took just on 9 hours till it had doubled in bulk and I thought everything was going well until I removed the dough from the bowl to knock it down a bit. The dough had turned into a very wet and unusable mushy paste.

I gave it another try this time using less water and making a much firmer dough, but after leaving for 8 hours the dough had doubled but was again a sloppy mess.

Can anyone advise how a dough that normally works well behaves like this when all I have done is replace the yeast and some flour and water with the starter?

I would very much appreciate any advice anyone can offer.

timbit1985's picture
timbit1985

Good day sir :) This sounds like you left it in bulk for too long. Try fermenting at roomtemp for 6-8 hours. 

 

I routinely make 100% 75% hydration sourdough. 

I start with 10-20% of my dough as a preferment. I stretch and fold a bunch of times until the texture and gluten development is good. I leave it at room temp for about 6 hours until about 1.5x in bulk. I then retard overnight. First thing in the morning, I remove from the fridge, let stand for 1 hour,  shape my loaves, proof for 1.5-2 hours and then bake. If your dough terms to gloop,

 

it means your beasties have eaten too much of the flour protein, and it just isn't holding together anymore. 

 

Try using less starter, bulk ferment at a lower temperature. 

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Thanks timbit I'll try your suggestions.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Are you adding salt to your dough?

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Hi mixinator, yes 9g salt

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

You've only told us that you've converted a recipe. 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

But want you to tell us original recipe and how you've converted it.

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Hi Abe

The recipe is one I have developed by trial and error and as I said before always gives me what I consider a perfect loaf. It uses high grade flour (high protein) and a small percentage of gluten flour which is described on the packet as "made from wheat flour which has had the bran and starch removed leaving behind the protein". If I leave the gluten flour out I get a reasonable loaf but nowhere near as good as it is with the gluten flour. Obviously this would not be suitable for those avoiding gluten.

The recipe is as follows:

27g (30ml) olive oil

9g salt

375g water

406g flour (381g high grade and 25g gluten flour)

8g sachet of instant yeast

This gives a pretty wet and sticky dough which I mix and knead in the bread machine then transfer to an oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk - usually about 45 minutes. I then flatten the dough on a board to remove bubbles then roll into a log and place into a 230mm (9 inch) x 130mm (5 inch) metal loaf pan. I leave this to rise again until it is above the top of the pan (about 20 minutes), then spray liberally with water and cover with a similar sized loaf pan. It then goes into the oven pre-heated to 230 deg C for 15 minutes. I then remove the cover pan, reduce the oven temperature to 210 deg C and bake for a further 15 minutes.

When I tried the sourdough I used the same recipe but without the yeast, I put in 150g of starter (100%H) and left out 75g of the flour and 75g of the water to compensate.

I figured I could treat it the same as I do my normal bread but obviously I was wrong.

 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

27g olive oil

9g salt

300g water

331g flour 

150g active starter

-------------------------------------------

Are you sure? Even if you don't take the oil into account you have a 92% hydration dough. WOW! 

Now if you take the oil into account you'll have close to 100% hydration.

Your starter is almost 50% of your flour and you bulk ferment it for 9 hours. Basically your very high hydration dough has been turned into starter!

---------------------------------

Why don't you try a 70% hydration dough, leave out the oil and decrease the starter to 10%

Try this...

500g flour

350g water

10g salt

50g active starter @ 100% hydration 

(= 71% hydration)

 

Method:

1. Night before take 10g starter and feed it 20g water + 20g flour.

2. Next morning, when pre-ferment is nice and active, mix in a bowl the 50g pre-ferment and 330g water till evenly distributed and milky white.

3. Add in flour and form dough.

4. Cover and leave to rest for 40 min.

5. Sprinkle salt on top and wet it with 20g water. Squeeze and fold dough till fully incorporated. Cover bowl and rest for 20 min.

6. Bulk Ferment for 6 hours doing a stretch and fold every hour.

7. Gently de-gas the dough and shape into loaf tins. 

8. Final proof till almost doubled (but not quite - about 1.5x) depending on your starter and temperature will take around 1hr 30min to 3hours but keep an eye on it.

9. Bake in preheated oven and try to get some steam in there. 

 

 

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Thanks Abe

Yes I realise it is very high hydration - I almost have to pour it out of the bowl to flatten it, and then use a scraper to get it into a log shape and lift it into the loaf pan.but believe me it makes a very nice plain loaf.

I will try your suggestions but it will take me a while because when my first sourdough attempts flopped I got disheartened and let the starter die.

I'll make another starter and try it your way, and will let you know how it goes.

Thanks for your help.

 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Looking forward to seeing some lovely sourdough loaves. The one I've given you is simple but effective. Once mastered it will be a good stepping stone for more complex stuff. 

Keep us informed.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

To properly calculate hydration you need to take into account the starter as well as the amount of water in the starter.

Your dough is approximately 93.7% hydration. That's awfully wet.

Here is what your recipe looks like in B.P.

Flour 100%

Water 92.5%

Salt 2.2%

Starter 37%

If you cut the water down to 255 grams you'll be around 59.5% hydration, and bring up the starter up to 182 grams. You can fool around with the values until you get the hydration you're after.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1P7RBFZle75Enp2dmxX3vPFXCiq0cphXtMnkGUiwdkoY/edit#gid=0

If your dough is soupy after proofing but OK going in, we have to consider the possibility of overproofing. Determining the cause of overproofing can be tricky.

mclean08's picture
mclean08

I am going to try a new recipe provided by abe after I make a new starter.

However I am still baffled by the problem I had because although my original recipe was a very wet dough, I tried a second time with a much stiffer dough (I cut the water down to 270g), but still ended up with soupy mess after allowing the dough to rise.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Your ratio of starter to flour was very high and you bulk fermented for a long time at room temperature. Your starter ate through all the gluten and turned it into mush. 

mclean08's picture
mclean08

Noted, thanks Abe

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Regarding Abe's process, you have kneaded the dough in step 5 (it should pass the window-pane test) and the gluten is developed. In step 6 you can leave it to bulk ferment and go to bed, go to work or walk away and not have to hover over it for 6 hours with hourly kneading.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Sorry! I put my own personal preference in there. I like to spread the stretch and folds out but no knead to ;)

By all means form dough, add the salt, do stretch and folds every ten minutes for one hour or knead till it passes the windows pane test. Then cover and leave it to bulk ferment. For 5-6 hours. You don't have to hang about all day and as mixinator says, if you can time it to just before going to bed then let it bulk ferment overnight. 

Thanks mixinator. 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

You can even leave up to 8 hours at room temperature if you wish.

Bulk fermentation allows you time to develop the gluten, flavour and for the yeasts to multiply. 

If you wish to shorten the process then increase the starter. However you'll have less time for the gluten to develop so you'll need more kneading. But taste will be different too. Not as sour as less fermentation. 

With less starter you'll need more time for yeasts to multiply but time helps to develop the gluten and longer fermentation equals more flavour. 

Time may be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the temperature. 

But one step at a time :) 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Abe, where do you get the notion that the purpose of bulk fermentation is to develop gluten?

Kneading is used to develop gluten, as is autolysis where the leaven is deliberately omitted.

If anything, fermentation can degrade the gluten structure when the dough overproofs, which is at the crux of the O.P.'s problem.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

We develop gluten through the bulk fermentation stage. Either through kneading and/or time. 

Time alone will develop gluten if given long enough. But too long and the yeast will destroy the gluten. That is why we have a balance. Less starter = longer time. More starter = less time. So we incorporate both.

There are many no knead recipes that will only use time to develop gluten by using less levain and very long bulk fermentation. 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

"Bulk fermentation allows you time to develop gluten, flavour, yeast etc"

doughooker's picture
doughooker

We develop gluten through the bulk fermentation stage.

That's not true. If the dough is kneaded prior to bulk fermentation, the gluten is already developed as I stated a few posts ago. This exposes you to the risk of overproofing. In sourdough baking, proofing or bulk fermentation allows the yeast and LABs to colonize in the dough.

But too long and the yeast will destroy the gluten.

That statement assumes leaven is present, which you did not make clear. And let's not confuse the discussion by getting into no-knead recipes.

If you're going to dispense advice, please dispense accurate advice.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

As soon as you mix the flour water and starter together. You can then knead till gluten is developed and then continue the bulk fermentation stage or incorporate stretch and folds with intermittent rests. Both kneading and time develops gluten. We incorporate kneading to speed things up in order to bring into sync the gluten development and culture development. If we have loads of time on our hands we can incorporate longer rests between kneading allowing the rests to develop gluten as well. I simply stated we use the bulk fermentation stage to develop gluten but in no way did I say bulk fermentation develops gluten. 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

You said:

We develop gluten through the bulk fermentation stage.

which is not an accurate statement as I've pointed out more than once.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Through the bulk fermentation stage we develop the gluten with kneading and/or time.

The wonders of English. 

One can read a sentence two ways. 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

You understood it as... Through bulk fermentation we develop the gluten.

I said... We develop the gluten through the bulk fermentation stage. 

Bulk fermentation starts when flour water and starter are mixed and ends with degassing, shaping and final proofing.

During bulk fermentation we develop the gluten by kneading and/or time.

 

 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

You're still learning the fundamentals of baking and haven't quite got it down. You're explanations are pretty muddled as yet.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Taking it very personally. Nothing wrong with what I've said. 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Sorry you're taking it personally. No offense, but maybe hold off on the advice giving until you have a better grasp of the fundamentals and have worked with it more? A lot of what you've posted has been misleading through errors of omission and this is going to confuse people who are trying to solve problems or are newbies.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

What lack of grasp of fundamentals? You misunderstood me and can't admit you made a mistake then you get all insulting. 

This hasn't only happened with me but you've done the same thing to a number of people.

You're a strange one.