The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I thought I had it..

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

I thought I had it..

So I've been slowly plodding along on my sourdough journey, have gotten a few decent bakes in so far. But one thing I struggle with is getting a proper rise - my best examples are still rather round and not exactly tall, like this

I can hardly get the massive ears I see all over the forum. I've tried everything - from underproofing to overproofing and in between, from large inoculations to small inoculations, from overnight retards of the bulk ferment or the final proof, from shaping loosely to shaping tightly.. nothing seems to work.

The only thing non-standard I do is the actual baking - because I don't possess a baking stone (nor want to waste the electricity to heat one up everytime I want to bake), nor do I possess a dutch oven, I bake uncovered on a sheet pan at the bottommost rack with a muffin cup of boiling water on the oven floor - this ensures the bottom heat radiates directly from the element to the dough, and also ensures the presence of steam in the oven. I was convinced that I had insufficient steam, and so I started using a greasepan with a shallow layer of boiling water at the top rack for the first 10-20 minutes, which filled the oven full of steam indeed but a curious thing happened: I got bread that looks like this

Completely flying-saucered, not to mention, my scores almost completely sealed themselves up. Curiously the bread crust was quite a fair bit darker than before, also all the cornflour I dusted on the surface had melded with the surface of the dough from all the steam. I thought maybe it was just that one time that I had overproofed, but then I redid the bread today, definitely underproofed if anything, and now have another flying saucer sitting on my table.

Edit: said flying saucer:

Should I just give up and buy a dutch oven, or is there something else I can do?

(For anyone wondering, my usual formula is 485g flour - any combination of about 75 white 25 wholewheat/rye - with a tiny inoculation of rye-wheat starter built into a 100% 140g levain, then the dough mixed at about 75% hydration, though recently I've been working with 80% hydration - 388ml total water - and 8.5g salt)

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Sorry to hear about your troubles. Maybe you have 2 oven proof vessels that you can use to bake in. Find a pair that can seal when placed together. Pots, pyrex, anything of that sort.

Baking stones don’t have to be dedicated stones. You can use fire brick, I think one master baker uses a peice of marble counter top. I bet you could check with a place that installs marble tops and get a free left over peice. They probably throw away the cutout for the sink. You can check with Lowes or Home Depot for ceramic tiles or something of the sort. They can be arranged on your oven rack just like they are laid on the floor.

But besides that, and I think it will help, I’d like to know more about your flour. What brand and type are you using? Have you considered dropping the whole wheat until you get the first few bakes right. I think whole wheat adds an unnecessary challenge for a new baker.

BTW, your crumb looks pretty good. Forget about the popular giant holes for now. Your crumb is really not that dense at all.

Just a few thoughts. HTH

Dan

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

I use Marriages' strong Canadian bread flour (on Lechem's solid recommendation) for the most part, but throw in wholewheat from Tesco (it's reputedly not great, but I figure 15% is there more for the taste and less for the gluten) and rye from Waitrose (which is supposedly decent). The previous successful bakes were with wholewheat (and going up to 50% at that) so I don't think it's the flour composition.

I really am not inclined to put massive thermal masses in my oven that will take ages (and much electricity) to heat unless that is the only thing standing in between my bread as it currently is and as I would like it to be - I'm not really after the massive holes, just wondering why I can't get it to rise the same way as commercial bakeries and other people on this forum! Dyou reckon it's just my lack of a dutch oven and baking stone then? I have read about plenty of people successfully baking with neither.. And what, with my current method, is likely to be causing my bread to 'flying saucer' on me now?

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Since the boiling point of water is 212 dF. There is a chance your oven is cooling off too much when you put the pan in there. The water acts like a heat sink, and your ovens energy is being consumed converting water into steam instead of keeping the oven hot. A colder oven might result in less oven spring. 

If your oven is like mine, once the oven is done preheating, it will not tell me when the temperature drops below the set temp. I have to use a thermometer inside the oven to check.

One of the popular methods to steam the oven is to superheat a wet rag in the microwave and then put it in oven inside of a bread pan. A wet rag is less of a heat sink than standing water and gives off steam better due to the increased surface area of the rag's fibers.

Put some thermometers in your oven, one next to the bread and one next to the water pan. Play around with it a bit. 

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

My apologies if you already know this. Commercial ovens avoid the water cool down issue by pumping in steam that is already at or near the bake temperature.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

is dough strength and gluten development.  I have made quite a few loaves like yours too, at the moment I am seeing much better dough strength by doing slap and folds at the start, followed by gentle stretch and folds.  The dough handling for me has changed significantly and a recipe I have made often in the past with results like yours has suddenly improved immensely.  

So, are you using a mixer or hand kneading or using the do nothing method? 

Perhaps if you detailed your method we can give you more help.

WatertownNewbie's picture
WatertownNewbie

Leslie's thoughts were mine too when I read your description.  In my case, oven spring definitely increased when I could shape dough that had a better gluten network, and that correlated directly with better initial mixing.  I also like Trevor's method, and I do not stop until I feel the dough coming together and sticking less to the sides and bottom of my Cambro tub.

As for creating steam, you might consider lava rocks.  Put some in two disposable aluminum pie tins on the bottom rack of your oven.  Just before you put the dough into the oven, pour about two to four ounces of boiling water into one of the pie tins.  Be very careful not to drip any water on the heated oven door.  (Some persons recommend draping a towel across the door to prevent any potential glass shattering.)  Put the dough into the oven.  Pour another two to four ounces of boiling water into the other pie tin (again being careful).  This will create a nice amount of steam, and the lava rocks will heat quickly.  (You can get a bag of lava rocks at your favorite Home Depot, Lowe's, or similar store.)

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

I use a DO - in fact an old enameled steel roaster, but on occasion use lava rocks plus “sylvias steaming towels”.

I did hesitate re the gluten development but would like to suggest you try 150-200 slap and folds. the difference it has made to my bread is nothing short of incredible and is in my opinion way better than Trevor’s rubaud method, with my flours.  Trevors method is excellent too, but maybe not quite enough with your flours.  

Leslie

albacore's picture
albacore
  • I'd start by reducing your hydration - try 68%. Once everything is good you can start to increase.
  • I'm also not sure about your levain built "with a tiny inoculation of rye-wheat starter". I'd go for a fresh young levain made with two 1:2 builds.
  • As regards baking and your unease about bake stones and dutch ovens, another option you could consider is a cover over your baking sheet. You can buy stainless steel mixing bowls from pound shops and the like very cheaply. I recently got a pretty enormous one (I think it's about 35cm diameter) for £3.50. Put your baking sheet (preferably big and heavy duty) into the oven to preheat. When the oven is up to temperature, slide in your loaf and put the bowl on top. Bake for 20 mins, then remove the bowl and bake for another 5 - 10 mins. You should have nice ears (I'm not allowed to call it grigne any more!) and a good crust.

Lance

 

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

Will reply to everyone at one go so as to avoid multiple posting!

Texasbakerdad: thank you for the suggestion; I was aware of the potential heat-sink issue but I figured a combination of direct heat from the bottom of the oven (since I usually turn the top heat off anyway in the first 20min to avoid crusting the top over too quickly) plus a small amount of water (about 100ml or so and no more?) into a preheated grease tray shouldn't have decreased the temperature of the oven too much! Will try the wet rag and see if that works (:

Leslie: I hand-knead with Trevor's Rubaud method for about 10-15min (I don't actually keep track - mainly just go by the tensility (tensileness?) of the dough); have had issues with insufficient gluten development before but I think I have an idea of when my dough is developed now! Also S&F intermittently throughout the bulk-ferment - usually try to aim for about 4 times or so!

Lance: Have also thought about the stainless steel bowl - don't seem to have seen them around, but am on the lookout currently! Really glad to hear that this is a likely solution - fingers crossed. I've done 70% with not too much issue, will maybe repent of my chasing of higher hydration and return to that again.. As regards the levain, could you quickly explain what makes a levain built 1:2:2 different from a levain built straight 1:4?

albacore's picture
albacore

Well, the way you described your levain production, the ratio sounded much more than 1:4! I think the higher the ratio, the more risk of producing excessive amount of acid, which can cause dough degradation - the last thing you want at the moment!

1:4 will work and lots of bakers here use it. I store my starter in the fridge and just find that two 1:2 builds works for me.

Lance

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

im going to have to try the bowl idea with my pizza stone. thanks for the idea!

albacore's picture
albacore

Credit to DanAyo - he mentioned the technique in a recent post. I had heard of the method before, but Dan's post made me try it - successfully!

Lance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Lance, I’m in the process of conducting a test the should provide us with useful data. The purpose of the test is to determine the ambient temperatures at various stages INSIDE each baking vessel. Hopefully, we can get some definitive data detailing how each method affects the bake. I have (2) 550g boules shaped and in the retarder waiting to be tested in a few hours. Both doughs are within a degree or so of one another. They will be baked simultaneously and side by side. One will be baked in a Cast iron Dutch Oven and the other on a baking stone covered by a Graniteware roaster using only the bottom peice as a cover. Since both doughs will need to sit on the same stone I plan to put a silicone trivet under the cast iron so as to not allow conduction from stone to cast iron. Probes will be placed in or near (not sure yet) each dough. A temperature data log will be set to update every 30 seconds for each of the 2 doughs. That data will output to a chart that will be available to all via web link. Here is a link to the chart for the retarded that is running at this moment. It is presently live and will continue to update until the retard ends. Play with it, there are a number of things you can do with it.

I plan to post the results in a separate link. I think the results will be of interest to many.

Dan

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

You could make a fortune selling your breads at Roswell ;-))

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist :-(  

All in fun, I mean no disrespect.

Dan

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

Sorry Dan, don't quite understand what you're getting at!

Lance, thanks for the bowl suggestion - after racking my brains for a bit I figured maybe my slowcooker's pot would do in a pinch, and here's how the bread turned out:

Have certainly got my rise back, but the bread still spreads out a bit - as you can see, it went from a boule to being slightly oblong because of the shape of my ricecooker pot! Also although the scores opened nicely, I hardly have any ears to speak of, and they've practically sealed over after I removed the pot after 20 minutes - am I just perhaps not slashing deep enough? Should I leave the pot on for longer?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Here in the US there is an infamous city called Roswell, Nevada. Some people think the government is hiding the fact that aliens were observed there in the 40’s I think. :-)) Thus the reference to flying saucers.

I’ve been baking for years and it is not uncommon for the breads I produce to bake ear-less. Sometimes I get them and others I don’t.

Dan

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

Any idea what causes the variation, though?

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Here is my uneducated and inexperienced theory. I'd love to hear what you all think of it. I think it has a lot to do with the final shaping of the dough. I have seen a lot of the instructional videos in which they shape the loaf by rolling it like a cigar as one of their last shaping maneuver. I believe this puts a significant amount of tension in the outer 3/4 inch of the dough and the tension is going the correct direction (opposite direction of the eventual scoring), so that when you score for the ear, it causes the scored dough to peel away to form the ear, instead of simply separating. I think a combination of having the right kind of tension, cutting the score correct angle to the surface of the dough, and scoring to the right depth must be very important.

Thoughts?

Watch these bakers shape their dough using the rolling maneuver I mentioned...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEG1BjWroT0 (rolling starts at 6:00)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WorJJfutYQ0

Jay's picture
Jay

That first video is great, thanks so much for posting it. Makes me wish I had some dough that'd be ready to shape tomorrow so I could practice.

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

I've seen the first video; he's shaping batards though? I end my shaping with this rolling motion which tucks the edges under the dough (a la Trevor Wilson); wouldn't that accomplish something similar?

sonorvinh's picture
sonorvinh

May i know what temperature/ hours /amount of starter you use to proof (bulk/final) this loaf?

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

Uh ambient temperature today was around 24-26deg or so. I inoculated 412g of flour with 150g of 100% starter for a total inoculation of about 30%, give or take. It was left to bulk ferment for 2.5h at room temperature, then put into the fridge for 4.5h, then taken out, shaped (and left to rest on the counter for a total of about 20min), and put back in the fridge for another 5h, then taken out for 15min while the oven preheated and baked.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I like the latest bake - the one covered with your slow-cooker pot. When I was living in the UK I hated baking in a British oven. I found it very hard to maintain a temperature and also there was that annoying fan that was on constantly. Made it difficult to bake good bread. So covering the loaf with something like a roasting pan (check out the local thrift shops) or a large steel bowl works much better.

Anyway, as the title of this post says, try putting more of the total flour and/or less of the total water in the starter, so your starter is quite stiff (maybe 60% hydration instead of 100%). Overall hydration of the dough (including the flour and water in the starter) can still be around 75% if you wish, though I would shoot for 72% instead. The dough is much stronger and holds a tight boule better, but you can still get a nice open crumb.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after the final shaping?  Or the time and temp between shaping and baking?

Now to back up a bit...

How does the feel of the dough when shaping compare to the feel of the dough during the last "folding?"

How long does the dough take to relax and lose its shape after a folding?

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

The time between the final shaping and baking was about 5h20min or so (approximate timings), with all that time spent in a (~)3C fridge except for 5 minutes' rest on the counter and 15 minutes pre-bake.

I usually, as a rule of thumb, give it about 20minutes between final fold & preshape and final shape; enough for it to relax some but it definitely doesn't go too slack or lose its shape.

@Lazy: How does changing the hydration of the starter affect the dough? And why choose 72% hydration of the final dough as an optimum?

Here is the crumb of the bake: what causes the series of large holes along the top? And considering my bulk ferment is pretty standard, should I adjust the way I final-shape to try to get a slightly less-dense crumb? This crumb is pretty similar to all the rest of the breads I have been baking so far.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Using a stiffer starter makes for a stronger dough. To tell you the truth, I can't remember why, but it actually works. Check out this link, as well as the embedded link within that thread.

I like the 72% just because it's a nice level of hydration - not too stiff but also not so wet that it's difficult to work. It's about what you will get when you make a simple 1-2-3 sourdough (1 part 100% hydration starter, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour, plus 2% salt).

And about those big holes under the top crust - do a search on this site for "flying roof" and see what you can find out!

pmccool's picture
pmccool

tell them that you were making a miche instead of a boule.  Et voila!  Perfection!

Paul

IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

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IPlayWithFood's picture
IPlayWithFood

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