The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Trouble with gluten membrane in sourdough loaves

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Trouble with gluten membrane in sourdough loaves

I've been a long time viewer of this site, but first time posting. I've had a number of great bakes with lower hydration doughs (60-70% hydration) using a fairly large proportion of starter in the dough -- about 15%. I decided its time I graduate to a higher hydration dough to try and achieve that very open, holey crumb you see in bakery sourdough loaves. I tried the "My Best Sourdough" recipe from The Perfect Loaf, if you're familiar. It involves a long autolyse, adding the salt after the autolyse, a series of 6 stretch an folds during the bulk ferment, followed by a retarded rise in the fridge after shaping. I noticed with this recipe my dough never felt like it was truly "coming together" throughout the stretch and folds, it would stretch but just start to tear with each fold. After the final cold proof over night, I could see the gluten membrane had torn (somewhat of an example in the above picture) and the dough didn't look very smooth. Very lumpy looking and looking like the gluten not very well developed.

 

When turning the bread out of the basket the loaf completely went flat, and only flattened more on the oven. After trying the same recipe again with the same results, i decided to try an in-between recipe. My usual good loaves are at about 65% hydration, and this recipe was at 86%, so i went somewhere in the middle with 75%. As an experiment, I proved one loaf in the banneton, and bench raised the other (pictured). So far it's looking quite similar. The bench raised loaf has a torn gluten membrane and is rising outward instead of up, and the loaf in the banneton's seam has ripped and doesnt look very extensible.

 

They're still proving now with the oven preheating so I'll post update photos after the bake, but I was wondering if anyone could provide some advice I would be quite grateful. It's very frustrating patiently waiting for my loaves to rise and prove onlt to have them bake into pale, dense, chewy flatbreads. 

 

I have have a feeling they may be overproving, as the flavor is very acidic and the crust is quite pale, which I know is a sign of the acids in the dough breaking down the gluten. Help!

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Loaf proving in banneton

Lechem's picture
Lechem

More details of recipe and procedure but that is over Fermentation.

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Recipe I used for the two pictured loaves:

15 oz bread flour

2 oz whole wheat flour

12 oz water

8 oz starter

1.25 tsp salt

76% hydration.

 

process is:
Mix flours together. Add most of the water (10 ounces) and autolyse dough at 80 F for 30 minutes. Mix remaining water with starter. Mix the thinned out starter into autolysed dough. Rest dough for 30 minutes. Sprinkle in salt and knead until salt is mixed in evenly. Underdevelop gluten during kneading since gluten will be developed by stretch and folds. Bulk ferment for 1hr20min, performing stretch and fold every 20 mins. After final stretch and fold, retard in fridge over night (I left mine about 9 hours in fridge). Next morning, turn out dough on counter, preshape and rest for 30 minutes. Shape and prove for 2-3 hours. 

I first noticed the breaking down of the gluten when I took the dough out of the fridge this morning. It looked like it had over proved, but 9 hours in the fridge doesn't seem like enough to do that, although I'm still a beginner so what do I know. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Salt % is low. 

It's basically starter by the time you baked it resulting in a dense pale crust. 

You could tweak the recipe or try your hand at this very nice recipe https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/sourdough-pain-naturel/

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Thank you for the input -- Makes sense that salt content is low, when adapting my tried and tested recipe to a higher hydration I kept the salt constant. Wound up adding a little too much water so had to add extra flour to compensate. Probably increased the size of dough by about 20% but kept salt content steady. Mistake #1.

Also, seems strange that my dough would be overfermenting in the fridge for only 9 hours but I guess with such a high percentage of starter, it doesn't take long to do so. I just took the second loaf out of the oven and it's not as bad (flat and dense) as my previous bake (at 86% hydration), but it definitely has the pale crust characteristic of overfermentation. Surprisingly these two loaves today don't taste very sour, which seems odd.

I think I'll try tweaking my recipe further -- increasing slightly the salt content, decreasing slightly the percentage of starter, and messing around with proving times. If I can't crack it, I'll try that recipe. Seems relatively straightforward. Thanks for the help!

drogon's picture
drogon

That recipe works out at 47% starter. The total hydration is (assuming 100% hydration starter):

15+2+4 = 21oz flour, 12+4 = 16 water, so 76%. Relatively high, depending on your aim. (I aim for 63-65%, but there is the theory that european flours are different from american ones))

So cut the starter down - I typically use 30% starter in my overnight fermented loaves (temperature aiming for 18°C) but I'm now experimenting with less starter, however they barely get 2 hours of proofing time before going into the oven, so a lot will depend on your timings - make it work for you wherever possible.

Do keep going though

-Gordon

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

However, an overfermented loaf should still develop color and not look pale. Often the cause for this is insufficient steam during the initial bake.

Dough will still ferment in the refrigerator, although more slowly. The amount of starter you used in the final mix, 8 oz, is 38% (bakers %), which seems a bit high. For example, Robertson (Tartine) and Forkish generally use 15-25% with long fermentation times.

-Brad

Lechem's picture
Lechem

And the little or next to no available sugars left will result in a pale dense crust. 

I make it 47% starter? and 1.4% salt. 

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Yes, the levain is 47%. I mistakenly included the 4 oz. flour from the starter in my calculation.  My bad.

-Brad

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

I think for my next attempt I'm going to scale back the starter and pay closer attention to my fermentation times. Thank you!

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Don't know where the 15% is coming from but the starter is 8 to 17 almost a ratio of one to two  and I also come up with 47% starter.  That would mean that the dough when mixed has about 4 hours before it turns into starter.  

If I were to retard the dough, I would do it after mixing it up and interrupt the retard after a few hours to shape the dough and return to the fridge for the final rise before baking.  

Even with too much water, this dough would rise into a nice loaf if put early into a loaf pan for support and baked.  I would do that or add oat flakes, chia, ground flax or other soaker-uppers to absorb excess water in the dough.  They will give a firmer loaf feel and give the water up as steam when baking.  

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

some of the things that you'll need to take in to consideration are:

- actual dough temperature at various points in the procedure (while it's fermenting on the counter, every hour or so once it goes in to the fridge --- to see how long it is taking the dough to cool down enough for fermentation to stop --- before and after it is shaped --- to see how long it is taking the dough to resume fermentation after the refrigerated retard)

- actual temperature in the refrigerator at the position where you place the dough (it can make a massive difference in the time it takes to cool the dough and in whether it is actually cool enough at the point for fermentation to be retarded almost to a stop).  You need to make sure that your fridge temperature is no higher than 37 degrees F (which is the optimum for safe food storage anyways).

- what timing fits in to your own personal schedule

I find the table prepared by a user here to be invaluable in tweaking recipes (there is a link to the actual table and explanations of how to read it in the main post and in comments): http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5381/sourdough-rise-time-table

You'll notice that the table works with percentage of pre-fermented flour / total flour (including levain), so your 76% hydration recipe would be using about 19% pre-fermented flour.  Your working temperature sounds like it was at 80 degrees F, and you had a period of time with no salt, and then only 1.25% salt (all of which will decrease fermenting time).  From a very quick glance at the table, it looks like you'd have at most 4-1/2 hours from the time the starter hit the flour until it should be going in to the oven.

You have it resting for 1/2 hour before salt, then mixing time, then another 1-1/2 hours of bulking on the counter with stretch and folds.  It is a large bulk of dough, so it'll likely take a couple of hours (or more) for the inside of the dough to get down to fridge temperature, so you're already at the point of needing to bake before it hits the fridge temperature.  You then bring it out and let it warm up and continue over-fermenting before getting it in to the oven.

To keep with your original timing and have it work out, you should be looking at no more than 10% pre-fermented flour, and maybe even 5% or so if your fridge isn't cold enough or if it is taking more than a couple of hours for the dough to cool to fridge temp.  If using a 100% hydration levain, and keeping your overall flour weight at the 600g that you're at, then you'd want your levain / starter to be no more than 120g total (4 ounces) with 60g flour weight, based on 2% salt content and no resting time with the starter in but no salt.  That should give you the couple of hours at 80 degrees for the stretch-and-folds, a couple of hours in the fridge for the dough to drop to temperature, and one to two hours out of the fridge for pre-shaping / resting / shaping / proofing and then in to the oven.

Once you've gotten your recipe and timing worked out, then take a bit of time to review your techniques in mixing / kneading / shaping.  All of these are what actually contribute to the open and airy crumb, as much as the hydration.  You might want to check out Trevor J Wilson's site to see what results he got with 65% hydration here: http://www.breadwerx.com/how-to-get-open-crumb-from-stiff-dough-video.

Good for you for wanting to figure out how to tweak a recipe to suit your own wants and needs!  Hopefully these links will help you as much as they've helped me.

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

What a well referenced response. That table is going to prove mighty useful for me...Thank you for taking the time to help me out with this. I'm hoping to get another attempt at this today. Will keep everyone posted with results

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Update: So I was able to give another go, taking everyone's advice I used the following recipe:

300 g bread flour

40 g whole wheat

246 g water

73 g starter 

7 g salt

 

Relatively much better crust, color, crumb, and flavor. Basically the same process, except didn't retard the dough overnight. Loaf was still over fermented because when it came time to bake, my fellow-kitchen-oriented roommate was using the oven so it proved for about 45 mins too long. At least this time I knew more or less when it was ready, and could tell it was over proving. Over all not bad. Going to try another go tonight or tomorrow. 

 

 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

I can see that it has over proofed but nevertheless it looks delicious. Over proofed or not you've got yourself a nice and tasty looking loaf. Much better then your first try. Enjoy. 

Keep at it! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You are on the way!

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Ok, wow. Just baked off my second re-do and it's come out amazing. lovely color, lovely oven spring, lovely shape. its still cooling so i haven't cut into it yet but here's the loaf: 

 

rusinphl's picture
rusinphl

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

in the background?  YES!  Celebrate!