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