The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New baker - sourdough crumb

JenK's picture
JenK

New baker - sourdough crumb

I started my first barm from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb book. Then I continued on to his sourdough recipe and made some baguettes tonight. They were okay, but they were mostly dense with a few larger holes. I don't think they puffed up much. I probably overbaked them, too. So, a bunch of problems. So, I guess I'm wondering what I can do so that my next batch works out better. Where do I think I may have gone wrong? I probably didn't knead the dough enough. I'm embarrassed to say I was little discouraged during the kneading as I had been hoping that my mixer would be able to do it, but it gave up on me. So I did it by hand, and probably gave up too soon. I also think I may not have let the dough warm up enough after taking it out of the refrigerator before putting it in the oven. It was probably a bit cool.

Here is a photo of my loaves out of the oven.

Loves out of the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is the crumb.

Crumb of baguette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm open to any comments about how I can improve and problems that I may have missed. Thank you for your time.

Jen

 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Jen,

Here are a few things to try out.

1) Make sure your starter is well refreshed. Feed it at room temperature 1:2:2 (starter:water:flour by weight) and let it double and then rise further for a few hours. Repeat the feeding a few times. Make sure it is rising consistently, has lots of bubbles, smells good, and so on.

2) Avoid drying out the dough, especially if hand kneading with floured hands and counter. Try doing some of your initial kneading with wet counter and wet hands. It's different, but you can get good results by squeezing the dough through your fingers repeatedly, then folding it a couple of times, wet hands and counter when sticky, and repeat for 15-20 minutes. I'm not sure how hydrated the recipe you are using is, but you could also add a little water to the recipe to make sure the dough is supple.

3) Try folding the dough during the bulk fermentation 1-3 times every 1/2 to 1 hour. You pour the dough out on a lightly flour dusted counter, stretch it out gently by reaching under and spreading the dough out, and then fold the corners in to the center on top of each other to make a bundle, then turn the dough upside down and drop it back in your rising bowl and cover. Fold more times if the dough seems loose and floppy, less if it seems stiff and springy. Brush the flour off after each fold to avoid getting flour in the dough or flour streaks in the folds.

4) Avoid overproofing the dough during the bulk fermentation or final proof. It's OK, maybe better, to shape when the dough is puffy and rising but not yet doubled completely.

5) Avoid overproofing during final proof. If you poke the dough with a wet finger, it will bounce back at first. When it starts to bounce back more slowly, it's time to bake. Don't let go for way too long.

5.5) Avoid extreme temperatures during the bulk fermentation and proofing. At first try to use room temperature. It's easy to complicate things with refrigeration or heating strategies that backfire. You can kill sourdough if you overheat the dough trying to put it in the oven or near a burner on your stove or similar approach, which is a common mistake. If you want to warm the dough or the loaf, use a cooler or a Ziploc Big Bag or similar that is airtight and put a bowl of warm water in there with the dough. It's a very gentle warming that will also provide some humidity to keep the dough moist. Or, if you have a warm spot near the TV or the coffee machine that you are sure is not too hot, leave the dough near but not too close to a gentle heat source if you want to warm the dough. However, you can get wonderful bread from a cool long rise, so being patient and letting the dough rise at winter kitchen room temperatures can be very effective.

6) Small point, but your slashes will work better if almost straight up and down the length of the loaf instead of across the loaf at all. You will see that they will come out looking slanted after baking because of the way the dough expands during baking.

7) Try a very light spray of water on the surface of the loaves just before you put them in the oven. You can also paint them with water very lightly with a pastry brush. It helps to get a more steamed crust.

8) It's hard to overbake bread. I think your crusts look fine. However, if the crust is getting scorched or burned, you can try using a lower initial bake temperature, or drop the bake temperature after the first 5-10 minutes. Also, you can tent the loaves with aluminum foil to avoid scorching them. It's hard to overbake to the point where there is a problem with the crumb, but you can get a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature. A typical loaf is done internally when the temperature is around 205F, but you can let the temperature go up to 210F if the crust isn't done yet, and it will still be good bread.

9) I'm not sure what flour you are using, but it should have enough protein to work with a hearth bread. Bread flour or a high protein all purpose flour like King Arther AP or organic AP works, as an example. Also, you can see if you get a little more boost in your sourdough rise by adding a small amount of rye and/or whole wheat - like 5% of the flour in a recipe like this.

Is this the basic sourdough recipe?

Good luck figuring it all out. Your first one is already pretty good, so you're off to a great start.

Bill

JenK's picture
JenK

Thank you for the advice, Bill.

 I'm using mostly Stone-Burh Unbleached White Bread Flour, which is supposed to be 12% and some Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour that I used at the beginning of the barm process.  I just built some more loaves and made sure to knead the dough longer, though I'm not sure that my windowpaning is quite right, yet.  I think maybe my dough was a little dry last time, so I used a bit more water this time.  I think my refridgerator is really cold and that had an effect on the loaves.  This time I'm doing the final rise in a cool room and see what happens.  It may overproof, but if so then I'll know better next time.  I used additional whole wheat flour this time as well.  I'm excited to see how my results will differ.

Thanks,

Jen 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jen,

If your objective is to figure out the handling issues, I would stay away from making too many changes. For example, keeping the amount of whole wheat the same each time is a good idea, and it might be better to keep the percentage of whole grains down around 10-20%, so that you can really figure it all out first. Whole grains add a whole new set of challenges.

Refrigeration and changes in temperature in general greatly confuse matters. The difference in rise times is big for even small changes in temperature. The ideal thing right now is probably to stay away from refrigeration or especially cool environments. If your room temperature is somewhere between 68F and 78F in a particular spot, try to do everything just in the one spot at the same temperature each time.

What is the temperature in that cool room? OK, I'm nagging here, but try to find a temperature between 70F and 76F if at all possible and stick it for a few recipes.

Refrigerator temperatures are too cold for any true rising with sourdough. Putting loaves in the refrigerator has some uses, particularly to just delay the fermentations if you need to for convenience, and it does change the flavor in subtle ways, but I would avoid any refrigeration strategies until you've made the bread the way you want it to come out at room temperature first. Basically time in the refrigerator doesn't really count toward the total rise time you need to make the bread come out right. In fact, anything below about 65F will take a very long time to rise, if ever.

It's possible to make good bread by just kneading or just folding. In fact there are those no-knead recipes where you basically don't do anything but barely mix the dough. However, my best results were from doing a little of each. Definitely try out folding. It can make a world of difference to some recipes.

Good luck. I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

Bill

 

JenK's picture
JenK

I may have changed a lot of things, but it worked out for the better.

Here is the crumb on this batch of loaves:

Crumb

 

 

 

And here are some of the loaves:

Boule1

Boule2

Boule3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made six loaves, but don't want to put up too many photos.

Thank you so much for all of the advice. I'll be more careful from now on with how many things I change at once.

Thanks,

Jen

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jen,

Very nice loaves. The crumb and crust look great. Nice work.

Don't mind my nagging and scolding about making changes. Trying and changing things is part of the fun. I was just suggesting that to get a couple of good results under your belt, it helps to stick with room temperature, simple recipes, and only change one or two things at a time.

When I look at the crumb photo, it looks like it may have been cut into before the bread had completely cooled off. If so, then one of these times, check out what the crumb is like after it has completely cooled. The flavor and texture is different, but it's good, too. If it was completely cooled before you cut into it, then maybe the bread was slightly underbaked this time. It looks slightly too moist, but I might also be misreading the photo. I could be accused of nitpicking at this point.

The crust on the loaves looks great as is. Again nitpicking, maybe try baking them a little longer and see if you like them slightly darker and drier. Some like their bread really baked dark and dry, others like it more moist and light colored. I'm in between on the amount of baking and lean toward slightly underbaked for bread that will be put in the freezer or fully baked if the bread will be used within a day or two. Frozen loaves can be thawed and reheated in the oven and come out great that way, almost like freshly baked.

Jen, good luck with your bread baking.

Bill

JenK's picture
JenK

Thank you, again, Bill.  I did cut into this one before it was completely cool.  I had a friend over who wanted to try it while it was hot, and I didn't get a later picture of one of the cool loaves.  I was going to turn the oven off and let them sit for a few minutes longer, too, for additional crustiness, but then forgot.

-Jen