The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough Spreading Out After Proofing

krustyone's picture

Dough Spreading Out After Proofing

I'm very much a beginner with bread and have been having some struggles with my sourdoughs. I'm using 75% hydration with strong bread flour and a very active starter. After the autolyse of 30 mins, I do 4 stretch and folds, then a bulk ferment until it doubles in size, then shape and proof in a banneton.

However, after I transfer from the banneton into my Dutch oven, the dough kinda flattens out and spreads. It still rises in the oven, but because the dough is spreading very wide and not retaining the boule shape, the loaf is a lot longer and flatter than it should be. 

Is this an issue with my shaping and a lack of tightness in the dough before I transfer it to the banneton? Or are there other issues that might cause this?

Thanks for all your tips and suggestions.

tgrayson's picture

When shaping, I would shape and reshape until the dough starts to resist a bit. I've found this increases the ability of the loaf to retain its shape when working with the wetter doughs.

stantonfinley's picture

I shape entirely with an oiled flat plastic dough knife on an oiled board. I never touch the boule with my hands until I flour it and invert it into the banneton. I drag the dough in one direction, then move the scraper 90 deg. around the boule and drag it that direction and repeat this many times. The leading edge of the boule gets dragged under creating a tension on the top surface which forms a tight elastic bubble of gluten around the boule, helping to retain its shape. You can feel it firming up as you work it.

alfanso's picture

I've seen others make a comment to a similar problem as yours.  Does the size of the boule match the size of the D.O. or is the D.O. too big?  Would a smaller D.O. or, much easier, a larger boule produce the same spreading and result?

As an aside, strong bread flour or not, 78% is a pretty high hydration for an all or mostly all white flour dough.  For a beginner, as you describe yourself, that in itself may be a tad more of a challenge than your skill set is up to.  If you suspect that may be a culprit, then drop the hydration by as much as 5-6%.  It won't hurt anything, just recalculate the other ingredients to match the flour component.  And, as a bonus, it will teach you something about manipulating ingredients to get desired or anticipated results as you may wish.

nystate's picture

I've been making the Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman's book, Bread. My starter is about 5 years old, very active, works well. For the final fermentation, I usually make 2 boules, and let them sit, covered with baker's linen, on a pizza peel on which that I've sprinkled some cornmeal. In warm weather, this final fermentation is about 2 hours.

I know how to form boules, but no matter what I do, the loaves tend to spread out quite a bit. I also find it next to impossible to keep the fermented dough from sticking firmly to the peel. When I use a dough scraper to (as gently as possible...) loosen the loaves in anticipation to off-loading them onto my baking stones, I tend to deform the spread-out dough even more.

When the loaves are loaded into the oven and steamed with a sprayer, they show excellent oven spring, and the final product is a nice, light sourdough with great crumb and excellent taste. But the shapes are irregular and kind of "odd" - looking. I have played around with a bit less hydration, but I don't think that this is where the problem might be. FWIW, I'm using KAF bread flour and Hodgson Mills whole rye flour.

Any ideas on how to (1) keep the dough from spreading and (2) sticking to the peel while fermenting?

dabrownman's picture

1. I you are in the UK where the flour quality is comparatively poor, it cannot take as much water as N American flour.  78% here is no big deal but in the UK that would be like a 73% hydration.  Are you including the water and flour in the levain as part of the hydration calculation like you should?

2 Weak flours cannot be bulk fermented with SD until double and then fully proofed either.  50% - 70% bulk is plenty

3. and then get it in oven at 90% proof so it will spring and bloom properly.

My guess is that all 3 are the problem to some degree.  Make sure you know what 50% , 70% and 90% proof looks like with your bowl and basket.  Next time you make bread make some extra dough that you can put into a small straight sided glass container when it rises 50% and 70% in the glass then note what it looks like i your bowl  When you put it ion the basket for final proof take the dough out of the glass and shape it too and put it back into the glass to see what 90% looks like in the basket.

I was always over bulking and over proofing stuff before I posted before and after pictures of bulk and proof and Mini Oven took one look at it and said you are way over proofing!  What I thought was 100% was really 150%:-)  After that no more worries as long as i didn't get it too wet.

Happy baking