The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Quick staling

ivrib's picture

Quick staling


I've been baking for a while, including with a sourdough started I've made from scratch which works pretty well producing breads with nice holes, and yeasted breads using instant yeast.

I work with two basic bread recipes - a 70% whole wheat sourdough bread with nothing but starter, flour, salt and water) and Challah (30% whole wheat, 70% AP flour with about 10.5-11 percent protein, about a tablespoon of  wheat gluten - since where I can't get bread flour, sunflower oil, eggs, honey, instant yeast). From time to time I make small changes to the first recipe - changing the ration of ww to ap flour.

No matter what I do the bread seems to have a pretty short life span. A couple of hours after being baked the bread will have the appearance of being a bit on the stale side. When cutting a slice instead of making a clean fresh cut, white greyish crumbs will appear, and the same coloration will appear on the surface of the bread. The color seems off somehow. It's as if my bread practically goes straight from the oven to being stale without being fresh for some interval of time in between.

Another phenomenon which may be connected is that my loaves come out very heavy, even when they have moderately sized holes in them. The crumb texture between these holes is dense and moist. When I toast a slice of bread it takes longer for it to toast than for store bought bread.

I've been trying all kinds of adjustments to the recipes - level of hydration, baking time etc. but with no luck.

If this is familiar to anyone or if anyone can give me a pointer on the matter, it would be appreciated.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I think the key here may be your comments about the density of the bread and how long it takes to toast.  To some extent, that is to be expected from home made and artisan breads compared to Wonderifitsbread.


Still, I wonder if you are baking the bread long enough.  If the bread is too wet after baking, the moisture will allow all sorts of things to happen that you don't want.


I will ask about/suggest thermometers.  One is an oven thermometer.  Many oven thermostats are very far off.  This causes all sorts of problems.  Using a thermometer will let you know your oven is at the right temperature.  Next, a chef's thermometer will let you check the temperature of the inside of the bread you are baking.  For most breads, about 205F is where you want to be.


You can get these thermometers at most grocery stores, and certainly on the internet.  Together, they shouldn't cost more than $12.00 or so.  Check it out and get back with us.




ivrib's picture

Thanks Mike.

I bought a chef's thermometer a while back and used it for the first time in last weekend's baking. It got to around 205F inside the loaf, or maybe 200F but it was still moist and heavy after the loaf cooled off. Not wet but moist in the sense I spoke of - toasting slowly and staling quickly. How do you suggest to get the loaf drier? I baked it at about 420F (according to the oven thermometer which may be off) for 45 minutes, then on account of the heaviness of the loaf put it back in for another five minutes.

It was a 70% whole wheat loaf made with some wheat gluten and with a sourdough starter. there were 850 grams of flour and 595 grams of water (=70% hydration, including 150 grams flour and 150 grams of water from the 100% hydration starter), 2% salt and a tablespoon of gluten.

The dough was on the tacky or even wet side so I did four 'stretch and fold's during the first proof, which was around seven hours. Then I let it proof again in the fridge overnight and baked it in the morning on a stone preheated for an hour at 480F which is the maximum for my oven. On putting the loaf into the stove I lowered it to 420F. I threw some water in during the first ten minutes to create steam.

Altogether the weight of the dough was about 1500 grams. I didn't think to weigh the loaf after cooling to see how much water was lost in baking/cooling.

Could it be I'm not baking long enough? But the crust came out very chewy and thick and had small cracks in it after cooling. Could the temperature be too high or too low?

What is the recommended temperature and baking time for such a loaf?



Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When I see people having problems with baking bread, I usually suggest eliminating anything that could complicate the picture.  Things like overnight rises in refrigerators (which you did), things like starting the bake in a cold oven (which you did not do).


First, I am surprised at a 7 hour first rise.  Is this deliberate, or "just the way it works"?  When you use the starter, is it active and healthy?  I like to feed my starters a few times before I use them so they are frothy and active and will double in size after they are fed.  Some people use a starter right from the refrigerator and lose out on flavor, rise and repeatabillity.  Bread that hasn't risen well can have some of the characteristics you describe.


Next, the bake time and temperature seem excessive.  With so long a bake at so high a temperature, I would expect the crust to burn.  I think an oven thermometer is called for here.


Finally,  I'd work on baking on a day off so you can allow the bread to do its final ruse at room temperature and make the bread from start to finish as a single process.  This eliminates a number of variables.  Once a recipe is reliable, then you can move to refrigerator risings.


A few clarifying questions - what shape loaf are you making?  How much does it rise in the final rise?  And how do you know that? 




JERSK's picture

   Maybe you're not cooling it enough. The internal temperature should be down to about 70 degrees. If the bread feels warm when you cut into it, it's too warm. It also may be too much hydration, artisan type breads generally have high hydration and some people just don't like them.  Another possibility might be in the final profing. If it's not enough, it comes out too dense and if it's too much. it can deflate and be too dense. One other factor; you mention adding whaet gluten. You don't really need high gluten dough to make good bread. Whole wheat and all purpose flour should have plenty. Try it without the added gluten and see how they work.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Although it doesn't quite fit all the problems you're having, maybe you're overproofing a bit?  It does ruin the texture and the fresh feeling to a bread.  It might be a problem you're having in conjunction with other problems.


ivrib's picture

First of all thanks to all who've tried helping.

Second of all, Wow. There are so many unknown variables I have to try eliminating.

As to cooling the loaf -  I cool it for at least two hours, and usually when I cut it it's at room temperature and not warm.

Both the long 7 hour first rise and the overnight rise in the fridge were unintentional. The first was long since it seemed to me the dough didn't rise enough, but I probably misjudged because of the wide bowl I had the dough in, in which it spread out more than rose in height. The second was done in the fridge because it was late already when the first was over.

I don't know how much the dough rose overnight, but it seemed less than double. I was afraid that after such a long, albeit very low temp. rise it would be overproofed, so I didn't allow it to rise more.

My starter was quite active. I had been feeding it for a couple of days and it was at least doubling after the last two or three feedings. It was very frothy and bubbly.

The shape of the loaf was a boule. Shaped by flattening the dough out gently and folding it little by little towards the center to form a ball shape. Then I put it in a makeshift banneton - plastic spaghetti strainer lined with floured kitchen towel.

I don't think the dough doubled in volume in the second rise in the fridge. But since it was a long rise (despite taking place at a very low temperature) I was afraid to let it rise more and get overproofed. I thought maybe the low temp. caused the dough to behave differently so that double volume would be smaller than room temperature double volume.

I'm still not confident about the over/underproof issues. I go by the 'poke test' - when the dough is poked lightly and indentation doesn't spring back it's risen enough.