The Fresh Loaf

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Troubleshooting Zingermans Raisin and Pecan Sourdough Bread

Zoe's picture
Zoe

Troubleshooting Zingermans Raisin and Pecan Sourdough Bread

Hi There,

I've been experimenting with Zingermans Bakehouse cookbook and tried making their Pecan and Raisin sourdough bread. The above photos display the difference between Zingermans bread (taken from their website) and my baked bread. The top photo is Zingermans and the bottom is my little abomination.

I'm not really happy with the crumb ... it seems less 'holey' or open(?) as Zingermans. Is it underproofed, improper handling of dough during bulk fermentation, underbaked? Or is this as good a crumb as can be expected given that there is such a high volume of raisins and pecans? The ratio of pecans and raisins to flour was 1.3 by weight. Any help would really help. I'll detail some specifics of the procedure below in case it helps any:

1. Mix starter with water, flour, salt and knead by hand for 6 mins. -- I kneaded until the dough could hold it's form but was still sticky.

2. Knead raisins and pecans into dough for another 2-3 mins.

3. Ferment dough for 1 hour.

4. Stretch and fold and ferment for 1 hour.

5. Stretch and fold and ferment for 1 hour and 45 mins.

6. Stretch and fold and ferment for 1 hour. 

** The internal temp of bread during bulk fermentation was between 79 - 85 degrees. The dough seemed a little on the tighter side vs. loose during bulk fermentation but the dough had good elasticity based on the window pane test. I know the window pane test isn't always accurate but the dough didn't immediately tear ... which was what I wanted to avoid. **

7. Shape dough into baton and proof for 2.5 - 3 hours. ** I ended up proofing for 2 hours 15 mins. after checking it via the poke test and seeing how large the bread had expanded. The recipe specifically said to test the bread via these visual cues in order to judge doneness.

8. Bake at 450 degrees. ** I baked at 400 degrees because my oven runs hot.

** I bake in a toaster over (I know ... weird) and as a result I can't use a steamer system or a dutch oven (too large). I do preheat the oven with a tray which I then fill with water as the bread goes in to bake. It's not much but it's the best I can do create some steam.

** I used my starter vs. the starter recipe that was suggested in the recipe. My starter, Odo, is a year old and is vigorous. I have made Tartine sourdough breads with him in the past without too much trouble.

I would appreciate any help in figuring out why my bread isn't as airy. Any notes on technique or what I should be looking for in the bread dough during bulk fermentation or proofing ... Is this what's to be expected when making a sourdough bread with fillings like fruit and nuts? Thank you to anybody reading this and willing to help. 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

the two times I tried baking with raisins, I wound up with a crumb like that. I've used any number of dried fruit in any combination and things work out fine. But raisins? I don't get it. If I ever try to put them in bread again, I'll give them a brief scald first before using, just to plump them up and make sure they don't drink the dough water. Nuts have never posed a problem, nor have chopped prunes or dried cranberries… sheesh.

But I'll bet your loaf tasted great, looks like it was absolutely silly with goodies. If you find it unpalatable, you could always turn it into bread pudding (been there, done that!).

Chin up and keep on baking!

Carole

Zoe's picture
Zoe

 for responding and the kind words of encouragement. I'll try plumping the raisins first and see if the result is any different. I'm afraid that maybe I'm not handling the dough properly and not looking for the right things in the dough while stretching and folding. 

I was wondering, do you find that the dough feels different when you bake sourdough with mixings (like dried fruits or nuts) vs. plain sourdough bread?

Thanks again for responding Carole! Really appreciate it.

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

Sorry I took so long to get back to you. Now about dough texture with add-ins: I don't think I really felt a difference during mixing or folding/fermenting, otherwised I'd have added water. One needs to be a bit careful and gentler than usual, since overly large or hard add-ins could potentially tear the dough.

My raisin loaves always seemed to go south somewhere between the end of final proof and the bake. But that's just me; loads of people here add raisins with no problem. So, chopped prunes or dried cranberries work for me. Nuts and seeds of all kinds (be careful with hydration when using flax and chia, though) don't wreak havoc.

So go for it!

Carole

Zoe's picture
Zoe

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I'm in the middle of trying the same recipe again and I tried soaking the raisins as you suggested. The dough was a little wetter after I started kneading the raisins into the dough (I think I squished some of the raisins while kneading ... superstar baker over here ;D). Can't wait to see the result.  Thanks again Carole.

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

how'd it go?

Zoe's picture
Zoe

So this is my second attempt ... I plumped up the raisins the night before and I think the crumb is more satisfying as it has a more open structure. However it was very, very flat. It had some oven spring but for the most part it was a lot flatter than my first attempt.

I think while I was kneading the bread, the raisins burst and added additional liquid to the dough making it much more wet. I didn't want to add more flour because I was curious what the result would be with just the plumped up raisins. 

I'm going to try again (glutton for punishment and bread) adding a little more flour to counteract the additional liquid and see the result. I'm sure it'll be all sorts of tragic but at least it's a yummy tragedy!

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

and looks downright tasty. Aside from the soaked raisins, did any of your parameters change? Levain maturity/composition, flour blends (this crumb looks more chocolatey than the first, hydration, fermentation and proof times and temps, shaping? Also, just as an aside, you drained the soaked raisins well, right? 

Crumb does look much happier and I'm sure it tastes great. 

Whacky idea: unless you're married to raisins, what about some other dried fruit? Cranberries, currants, chopped prunes, candied orange peel... unsoaked. Go figure, but I've had better results with them.

Keep on baking! 

Carole 

Zoe's picture
Zoe

There were a few changes that I made with this dough: I hand kneaded the dough for an extra 15 minutes trying to form a stronger gluten structure (the dough was so wet from the additional liquid in the raisins). I also added an additional stretch and fold during bulk fermentation.  I drained the raisins using a strainer but I didn't "ring out" the raisins.

I think the bread looks more chocolately because the raisins broke up into the dough during kneading and colouring the bread a darker shade. The effect in terms of taste was quite nice since the sweetness was spread out evenly in the bread and contrasted nicely with the sourness.

Thank you for the encouragement ... I do like the crumb but would like a greater height vs. a biscotti-looking bread.

I've since made another batch using chopped dates which, in terms of taste, is my favourite. The dates broke up during the kneading process so the colour was the same as the soaked raisin version. The dates added a richer sort of sweetness vs. the raisins. The crumb was much less open, more like the first loaf I made.

Hope your baking projects are going well!

 

 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

is a great idea! Did you use the chubby and moister Medjool variety, or the skinnier, drier Deglat noor ones?  

I'm glad you're getting tasty loaves,  at any rate. 

We're all seeking lofty loaves. It'll come. 

Keep on baking!

Carole 

Zoe's picture
Zoe

Not sure if they're the same as Deglat noor. Sayer dates are fairly meaty but on the drier, stickier side (and they're pitted because my laziness is exquisite in its nature).

You should try it sometime ... super good in a nice sourdough bread. Incidentally, dates are a great substitute for raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies. The texture from the dates and the caramely sweetness is divine!

Hermit's picture
Hermit

The toaster oven might form the crust early since the element is much closer. Toaster ovens maintain temperature by alternating the element between "full" and "off" some fraction of the time. The temperature near the element when it is on can be much higher than 450. If the doughball is close to the element, it might be forming crust early which would prevent further rise. The water and pan won't really alter this, and the pan is likely shielding the doughball from bottom heat -- a double whammy.

Incidentally, I tried making "sourdough with fruit" bread recipes a few years ago when I started and I think they rank among the toughest yeast breads. Since there is not much oil, the doughball is naturally heavier and the gas also has to rise against the weight of the fruit and nuts.

Finally, consider that they might be using flour with higher protein / gluten. You can buy wheat gluten separately and try mixing small amounts to your flour to make your dough more elastic. This would support higher hydration and gas formation. You might have to bump up the yeast, starter sugar, and kneading just slightly to accomodate this. This last paragraph is my own conjecture -- it's a tough recipe to get right and needs attention to these fine details of gluten formation. However the added gluten will also form crust more readily, complicating your toaster oven approach.

Zoe's picture
Zoe

for your helpful suggestions and input. Yes, I do find the heat in a toaster oven is trickier to handle when I'm baking bread. I've been experimenting by putting a small tray of water beside the bread dough on a baking tray and tenting the whole thing with tin foil for the first ten minutes of baking. It seems to help to create a better crust vs. a super thick/overbaked crust and underdone crumb. I definitely need to play around more but it's produced a better product than the other loaves I've made.

Also, thanks for your experience with baking sourdough with fruit ... it's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who's finding it trickier to work with vs. regular sourdough.