The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! Newbie at large, loaf won't hold it's shape.

Cat's picture
Cat

Help! Newbie at large, loaf won't hold it's shape.

Hello there!

I am definitely new to bread baking and no matter what I read, I can't seem to remedy my problems. The dough will tighten after the bulk ferment but it won't hold it's shape. I leave it in a banneton and it comes out fine most of the time, probably because I have it so heavily floured, but it won't hold its shape once it is out. Baking outside of a loaf tin results in flat, pancake like loaves. The second problem, which I hope can be seen from the pictures accompanying this post, is the texture after the bake. After baking and letting it cool for a few hours, the texture is rubbery and while not completely unpleasant it is not the texture I am aiming for.

I live in Ireland and the temperature the last few months has barely gone above 15'c so my bulk ferment has been quite lengthy. I've tried and tested 4 hours min and 10 hours max with my best results coming back after 8 hours. The dough has actually grown in size after that amount of time. I have been watching the second proof very carefully and am aware that my problem seems to point at over proofing. I feel like I'm catching it in time, but obviously not. Is there a better test than seeing how fast your indentation comes back out? 

I have this starter about 2 months now and she is built from scratch and fed once a day with strong white flour (Odlums, since anything else is fairly unheard of). I have included pictures of how much it grows after it has been fed. By the looks of how runny it is, I think it could be over fermented.

The recipe I work off is as follows: 500g flour, 150g of starter, 5g salt and 325g water. I recently increased the starter to 200g which made the dough far easier to work with. The internal kitchen temperature where the dough rests and the starter sits ranges from 17'c-19'c. I have tried 2 different methods where I either stretch and fold the dough 3 - 4 times over a 2 hours period before leaving it to proof or work it for 10 mins until the windowpane effect is achieved and then leave it to proof and cook it at 240'c with a tray of hot water to create steam at the bottom of the oven. 

If anyone has any idea on how I can make a decent sourdough loaf, I would really appreciate the help. 

Thank you.

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

How do you feed your starter, and at what ratios? From the amount of growth your picture indicates it seems to me like you're feeding it far less than it needs - typically the minimum is feeding it as much flour and water as it weighs (1:1:1), and most people go for 1:2:2.

I'm honestly surprised you managed to get the loaf to rise as far as it did - when baking with starters like that my loaves went absolutely nowhere! Your crumb looks pretty good to me; do you let the loaf cool before you cut into it? Generally sourdoughs do have a chewier texture than yeasted breads..

Cat's picture
Cat

I feed it once a day usually when it's a room temperature, definitely too long to leave it. I have started again with 20g of starter 40g of flour and 40g of water. I'll continue to feed it on a more frequent basis and see how it goes. Thanks for the advice! :)

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

To keep it active for baking, you want to feed it again everytime it peaks (i.e. rises to its maximum height, be that twice the original level or thrice) to keep the yeast growth at its peak at all times - after it peaks the yeast start dying so when you refresh it there's less yeast in 20g of the starter than there otherwise would be. So each time you feed discard until you have 20g and then feed another 40/40 - I generally do 10/20/20 to prevent waste. If you have an active starter which can peak multiple times a day and want to feed it less often then refrigerating the starter is also an option! But take more advice from the rest of the far more knowledgeable people on this board; I'm dealing with a lazy starter so I'm telling you what works for me (:

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

"The recipe I work off is as follows: 500g flour, 150g of starter, 5g salt and 325g water."

Some questions. (A) Do you dump 150g of your starter into the mix? Typically a sourdough recipe will call for some amount of your starter (more commonly along the lines of 20g for a 500g amount of flour) to be combined with some flour and water to create a levain that sits for awhile and is eventually included with the final dough. (B) Does the recipe call for 5g of salt?  That is only 1% of your flour (ignoring the additional flour that is part of your starter).  More typically recipes call for salt to be in the range of 1.8% to 2.1% of the amount of flour, which for 500g of flour would mean 10g of salt.  (Among other things, the salt affects the rate at which the yeast acts.) (C) What does the dough look like, feel like, and act like as it progresses through your bulk fermentation?  Ideally you want it to become a uniform mass that shows the formation of bubbles, retains its shape for a bit following a stretch-and-fold session, and feels like an inflated billowy pillow.  Those are signs that it is time to divide and shape.

Cat's picture
Cat

Ok so I do just dump the 150g straight in, I wanted to get a basic recipe right before I went into autolysing or creating a  poolish and for some reason a levain seemed in that realm for me. The first sourdough I made successfully was done on a course that mixed it all together but it's entirely possible that it won't work for me. 

Yes that's what the recipe calls for but I'll have to up the levels for my next go, thank you. 

It feels quite wet but I do see some surface, cloudy kind of bubbles. It really feels like it's strengthening but it's not as smooth as I have seen in tutorials or videos and sticks to the bowl quite a bit. 

Ru007's picture
Ru007

levain had risen much before before being added to the dough. Or maybe that's just because of the high hydration? Do you have an overhead picture?

Ru

 

 

Cat's picture
Cat

I think you're right and, from the advice of the others as well it has not risen enough! I think I'm thrown by how active it appears and once it started growing, I stopped marking by how much and just went by the look of it! I'll include a picture of the overhead from the same day now. 

Ru007's picture
Ru007

let your levain mature a bit more before you added it to the dough. That being said,I always work with fairly stiff starter so I might not be the best judge of what a liquid starter looks like when its ready.

Let us know how it goes! 

Happy baking! 

Ru

mutantspace's picture
mutantspace

hi Cat

im in ireland too - down in Cork - my tuppence is:

feed your starter 1:3:3, keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week. do a build over 3 feeds before you want to use it. yeast breaks down the starch in the flour so you need to give it more food.

if its a white flour starter a float test is always a a good sign its ready....As for temperature the best proofer you'll ever have is a microwave. do you have one? if so put a cup of boiling water into it and bulk in there. take it out. bench rest for 10 minutes or more to let gluten relax, shape, put into banneton or receptacle of some kind and back into the microwave.

i would double your salt - should be around 2% of flour weight. if you have a cast iron pot you have the best bread cooker ever. put it in to preheat. take it out. score your bread, put your bread in pot, cover with lid for 20 minutes, take lid off for 20 minutes. no need for steam as the pot captures steam from moisture escaping from bread. You get a great rise from it.  

finally as far as starters go. theyre pretty resiliant. what you could do is split it into 2 jars and play with both. 

they need food though. warm water too. 

good luck with it.