The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Questions related to gummy bread

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

Questions related to gummy bread

I've been having some trouble with gummy, underproved breads lately. I do a 45m autolyse, 4hr bulk ferment, shaping into a boule, and then a 12hr final proof in the fridge overnight. I have made some genuinely fantastic loaves this way, but lately they've been coming out dense and gummy, even though they have a pretty good oven spring. Very discouraging. 

Two questions:

- Can the activity of my starter at the time of the leaven build have anything to do with this? My leavens always pass the float test, so I assume they're okay. But they don't always look super-bubbly or expanded. Can an underdeveloped leaven contribute to gumminess, etc? The dough often rises decently, and like I said, the oven spring is pretty good. 

- Can my scoring technique have something to do with it? I score in a cross shape, and generally it's pretty long---edge to edge on the boule. Should the slashes not be quite as long? Should I keep them more to the center of the loaf? Or is it acceptable to scour from edge to edge? 

Thanks!

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

A gummy crumb, especially in the bottom of the loaf, is usually an indication of overproofing rather than underproofing. Temperature of the dough during BF is a big factor.  If you are following techniques of Robertson (Tartine) or Forkish, they often push their BF to the limit, so you may be just on the edge.

Try to cut back on your BF and see if that helps. I've often retarded loaves 12 hours or more in the refrigerator without any ill effects, but my refrigerator is pretty cold (37˚F).

-Brad

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

If I'm doing the second rise for 12hr in the fridge, can I safely cut back on bulk fermentation? How will I develop the gluten in time for shaping if I cut the BF back?

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

What dough characteristics are you looking for when you shape the dough? The mantra on TFL is watch the dough, not the clock. If my doughs show signs of bubbling along the edge of the bowl, I will generally stop my BF and begin the shaping process. This could take 3 hours or it could take 6 hours depending on conditions. After shaping, the dough will continue to ferment in the refrigerator as it is retarding, although it slows as the dough reaches the low temperature.  Larger loaves take longer to chill than smaller ones.

-Brad

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

I generally try and chart the BF by gluten development. But maybe that's the wrong way.

That's interesting---whenever I've seen the bubbles on the edges, I've become encouraged and thought, "Now we're cooking! I'll let it keep fermenting!" I'll try finishing the BF when I see those. I feel a little more comfortable doing that now since it's been going in the fridge for so long. Thanks for the tip! 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I think it might be your starter. I've had the same problem from time to time. I'm just reading Trevor Wilson's book (find it at breadwerx.com) and it made me realize that my old starter was degrading from too much acid, so I've been giving it stronger feeds (1:3:3) for the last few days and it's sprung back to life! Smell your starter - if it smells strongly of vinegar or even acetone, you might need to do a little rehab on it.

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

I generally feed it once a day, with a fairly small amount of ripe stater + 120g water + 120g white flour. Does that work? It gets pretty active and bubbly. Could it be that I'm not using it to build my leaven at the right time? 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I'm just feeling my way through this myself, but you might download Trevor's book and have a read. I suppose it's possible that, if the starter is too high in acid (again, how does it smell when you use it?), it's degrading the dough during the long shaped proof. Trevor also discusses how to know when the dough is fully fermented (during the bulk ferment) - I find sometimes that my dough is still a bit sluggish after what I think is the right amount of bulk time, and if I leave it go for a while longer it improves (more strong, less sticky, more pillowy). I prefer to retard the bulk ferment so I can keep a close eye on the final proof, on the bench.

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

Wow, that book looks great. I'll check it out. Thank you!