The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Persistent Loaf Issues

jthor's picture
jthor

Persistent Loaf Issues

Hi there,

Can anyone help?? I keep having similar problems with multiple loaves. They taste good, but rise really unevenly in the oven. There are huge holes some places and much denser areas elsewhere. The crust is also very tough and the crumb is a little too chewy, almost rubbery. Are there any red flags or dead giveaways I'm missing in the procedure and pictures below?! I'd love it if there were!

I've been doing 50g whole wheat flour + 450g white flour (a 50/50 mix of King Arthur bread flour & AP flour) and 350g water, 45 min. autolyse
Then 50g more water, 10g salt and 100g starter (100% hydration, fed the same flour mix as dough) all mixed by hand
Then a first stretch-and-fold in a bowl from 4 sides and a rest, covered with plastic, for 30 minutes, repeating this every 30 minutes for 2 hours
After 2 hours, I pre-shape into one round loaf and rest for 30 minutes, then final shape and upside down into a floured towel in a colander
I've been putting it straight into the fridge at this point, with the towel draped over top, for about 18 hrs
I've baked in a 6-qt dutch oven, (pre heated to 500F for about an hour then dropped to 450) for 25 minutes
Then the lid comes off and bakes another 20 minutes
Then I pop it out of the dutch oven and straight onto the rack to brown a little more

Is there anything here that gives me away?
Thanks!

P.S. The starter is relatively new, a matter of months. It usually rises a little over double about 5 hours after a feeding.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...denser areas elsewhere..."

You've got great crust color so eliminate overproofing

Big bubbles... try degassing more and fold carefully to not trap air into pockets, this may help the dough rise more evenly if you get your gas pockets about the same small size before retarding.  If you feel air pockets in the dough while shaping, pop those big suckers!  They just get bigger and throw your eyeballing off.  If there are no big bubbles showing up when shaping, give the dough more time to ferment before shaping.

Now how about that short bulk rise... either add more culture or give it a bit more time to get yeast going.  If you want to keep your schedule, try increasing the amount of sourdough.  Bump it up 50g and see what that does for your loaves.  Steal the flour and water from the recipe.  :)

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

IMO, the extremely dense crumb in the majority of areas screams under proofed.

Danny

Update - I did a little math. Your hydration is near 82% and the percentage of prefermented flour is 9%. According to your method, the dough bulk proofs 2 hours with multiple Stretch & Folds, then proofs in the frig. Then a first stretch-and-fold in a bowl from 4 sides and a rest, covered with plastic, for 30 minutes, repeating this every 30 minutes for 2 hours. After 2 hours, I pre-shape into one round loaf and rest for 30 minutes, then final shape and upside down into a floured towel in a colander. I've been putting it straight into the fridge at this point, with the towel draped over top, for about 18 hrs”

I think you need to bulk ferment the dough after the S&F until you see a 30-50% rise. The dough needs some uninterrupted fermentation time. 2 hours of bulk fermentation with 3 or more stretch and folds, followed by an 18 hr retard is not nearly enough fermentation time for 9% prefermented flour. Note - you don’t indicate the temperature of the room, but even if your room was warm, I don’t think there was enough time to build adequate gas.

Another thought - if your frig was warm enough, your process could work, but an unexperienced guess would be near 50F. I’m sure that is not the case.

I hope others share their opinions...

Danny

jthor's picture
jthor

Thanks Danny, I appreciate it. This method I've been using is one that's used in a pretty high-volume commercial/retail kitchen, so I assume there are some tweaks that need to happen to make it work at home. I imagine the room they mix and rise in is much warmer, for one, so maybe they can get away with that shorter fermentation time? My other thought is maybe their starter is more active. Just a guess, though. They're baking every day and feeding at least twice, while mine gets refrigerated all week and called up to active duty just before the weekend.

Anyway, thanks again.

jthor's picture
jthor

Thanks very much.

I'd been wondering if the bulk ferment was too short since I started paying attention to how my starter acts after I feed it. After 2 hours it hasn't moved much, after another 1-2 it has pretty uneven array of bubble sizes. But at around 5 hours it's at its maximum height and the bubbles are much more even in distribution and size.

I'm not sure if it's the most accurate way to actually judge what's happening in the dough, but it got me thinking.

Anyway, thank you very much for the replies.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and one asks, why bother folding the dough before 3 hours of fermentation have taken place?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

”why bother folding the dough before 3 hours of fermentation have taken place?”

I am under the impression that folding the dough at any time will stretch and organize the gluten strands. Am I missing something?

I appreciate your help. 

Danny

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Jeffrey Hamelman writes...(p 15 Bread) "Proper folding, at the right time, can make the difference between mediocre bread and exceptional bread."  Then goes on to explain why.  ..."By folding the dough correctly, we accomplish three important things.  First, we degas the dough... second, equalize dough temperature. ...third is... when to fold, and this is the most complex aspect of the three. (p 16, 17)  

Although Hamelman recommends the first folding at 1.5 hrs, his dough use a higher amount of prefermented flour and are most assuredly showing some signs of gas bubble formation and some rise in the dough.  He also gives a light warning about too much folding on page 150 which can "result in reduced extensibility and volume." 

So, if nothing is happening in the first 2 hours after feeding the starter and some bubbles are showing up after 3-4 hours with a starter fed 1:2:2, certainly with a dough ratio of 1:4:5 there is less rise 3 hrs into the bulk rise.  Starting off right away with folds, ok it's 80% hydration, but still, there is plenty of time to strengthen the dough while waiting for yeast numbers to increase.  

My logic is, if there are no gas bubbles to deflate, wait until some show up.

jthor's picture
jthor

Only because this is the method I was recently taught.

If I were to increase the bulk ferment time, what would be the best way to go about it? Keep my usual 2 hours of stretch-and-fold every 30 minutes, then leave it untouched until the volume increases a good amount? Or should I stretch and fold the entire time?

By the way, thanks for the comments about folding and shaping, as well. I'll keep a better eye on the bubbles.

Thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

whats going on...  repeat everything like before but change one thing.

I would up the amount of starter and see if the dough rises better.  Be sure to record the dough temps.  Yours might be cooler than the bakery and that can set you back too.  But that change comes with another bake.  One change at a time.

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi JT,

You can always nip off a small piece of dough place it in a small container and leave it to do its own thing in its own time, a tell tale of your doughs progress if it were left un-interrupted.          A control sample if you like!  The power of the carbon dioxide gas and its slow stretching action on a fermenting dough should not be underestimated.  A conventional timed yeasted dough that is allowed to bulk ferment over a period of time, say 4 hours with no stretch and folds does produce very good bread. Taking and processing a dough that has matured is most important in producing a good loaf of bread. Its the old Goldilocks story,  a matter of getting it just right!  A dough that is taken green (early) can be as bad as when a dough is over mature (late). The dough that has achieved its optimum fermentation will be Just Right and produce the best loaves with good attributes  of cell structure,crust colour,keeping qualities, aroma and flavour. With the use of commercial yeast in conventional doughs and attention to temperature one can be very certain and predictable on the ideal fermentation time. With Sour dough there can be quite a difference in the performance of the starter  and the rates of inoculation. People that are obtaining consistent good results are obviously finding that sweet spot, there are others than are having consistent results  but not necessarily good ones, probably missing the mark either side of what Goldilocks is wanting.

Coming from the trade and a professional background where i was dough making conventional doughs (600lbs of flour mixes), when i first got interested in Sour Dough my biggest hurdle was getting to understand the dough maturity especially with the stretch and folding that actually disturbs the  dough that would otherwise have been left to slowly mature on its own.

I do actually think that the stretch and fold is more important towards the latter stages as Mini says when there is  evidence that the s/d culture is actually getting on with the job. 

Kind regards Derek

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

YI hear what you are saying about waiting until there is some fermentaion (gas bubbles) before stretching and folding the dough.

I am under the impression the S&F are used to stretch the gluten and as it elongates; folding it over on itself is necessary to contain it in the container. The process not only elongates the strands, but the increased layers make for a stronger dough.

Why is it best to wait until the dough ferments? The only thought that comes to mind is that fermented dough is more relaxed and extensible.

I am not trying to challenge you. I want to understand the reasoning.

Derek, your statement, “People that are obtaining consistent good results are obviously finding that sweet spot, there are others than are having consistent results  but not necessarily good ones, probably missing the mark either side of what Goldilocks is wanting.” The part about “consistent results but not necessaries good ones” makes me think. My breads are fairly consistent, but when I choose to bake a different crumb, I keep getting the consistent one. I plan to look more closely at the fermentation in an effort to achieve different results. Thanks for the thought...

Example - I consistently bake a lacey moderately open and even crumb. When I attempt a very open crumb, I generally get my consistent one.

Danny

forever interested in learning...

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Dan  

Approaching my 68th birthday i too am forever interested in learning, in my comment i did say that the power of the gas produced is often overlooked in the fermentation process, it not only inflates the dough it also has a mellowing and conditioning effect on the dough and the gluten. The gas doing a great deal of the stretching for us. 

The knock back and degassing were always an important part in conventional doughs. and my old tech school notes state the reasons for Knocking and Reefing a dough  were

1/ breaks the gluten cells and releases carbon dioxide gas and brings dough into a compact form

2/ gives greater development to gluten strands

3/ brings new food to the yeast which activates the dough at a quicker rate

4/ evens up the temperature.

5/ eliminates the dry crust on top of the dough.

Whereas most  thoughts on S/D is to conserve and resist loss of gas from the dough, and i think does sometimes contribute to large holes where the gas gets trapped in reservoirs near the top of a loaf.

 As from the old notes Degassing helps to redistribute the food for the yeast and even up the dough temperature it also enables the gluten structure to receive the continuing supply of CO2, and a bit like a rubber ballon it is easier to blow up a second time after being inflated and then deflated rather than new out of a packet. 

regards Derek

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And that would be to emphasize the reduction in CO2 gas.  Which according to Hamelman can slow down fermentation when CO2 builds up in the dough. (The reduction in CO2 gas is more likely the reason behind more active dough mentioned in 3/.)  So there is an interesting thing going on with thetrend to be too gentle with sourdough  to keep lots of gas bubbles could actually be slowing down fermentation if there isn't enough gas release during fermentation.  So how slow is the fermentation in the refrigerator? Enough to degas?

If the build up of gas is occurring during a retardation after shaping, and the dough is not getting the release needed for proper crumb inflation, the resulting crumb looks under fermented.  The large gas bubble cells get baked instead of popped.  This crumb pattern is common in early phases of bulk fermentation.

The latest trouble shooting seems to be with high hydration recipes that reduce the starter or levain amount, have a short bulk rise (bulk rise ends with dough dividing and shaping) a long retarded rise (no hands on type timing)  with immediate bake resulting in underproofed loaves.  Loaves with big bubbles and dense areas of crumb. So the secret for the home baker using this recipe seems to be getting enough fermentation and deflation before retardation.  Perhaps dividing and shaping should be done after retardation, returning loaves to final proof at room temp or chilled to proof slowly and bake at a later time.  

Or maybe, just maybe there is too much water in the recipe. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Thanks Derek and Mini.

I will have to read and the reread both of your post. I wonder if I have been “too dainty” with my dough. As an eternal student, like Derek, I am always willing to concede that I don’t know everything. And even the things I know may be wrong ;-) After 66 years, there is still so much to learn. ...and that thrills me.

Danny

pmccool's picture
pmccool

A friend of mine is fond of saying (sarcastically) that something should be "intuitively obvious to the most casual of observers".  Your statement, Yozza, is in the category of things that should be obvious but are almost always overlooked.  

We focus so much of our attention and energy on what we do to the dough that we tend to overlook what the dough is doing for itself.  That's why autolyze and its effect on gluten development have been such a revelation in the baking world.  It was right there in front of us and we could not see it until Dr. Calvel called our attention to it. 

Now you have done something similar by calling our attention to something that was going on in front of our noses with every loaf of bread.  The gas stretches the dough.  Though I see it all the time, I did not consider that aspect of the dough's development.  

Thank you for opening my eyes.

Paul

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Thanks for your kind comment Paul! Hi Praise from a man that is most observant.

Gas although essential for the lift in our loaves is often overlooked. I always try to get students to gather around when a good sized dough is going to be knocked back so that they can see, feel and smell the wonder and power of fermentation. 

Not everyone has had the opportunity to knock back  over a bowl containing a  thousand pounds of fermented dough after a 4 hour bulk fermentation period, but it rates very highly in satisfaction factor, as does seeing  a line up of bowls of mixed doughs all progressing through their fermentation, from those that have just come off their 20 minutes of slow mixing  and having their temperature recorded and canvas covers thrown over, through to those that are requiring their extension rings added and recovered. and then to be at their peak when the bakers turn up for their shift. The knocking back degassing and dispatching down the chute to the floor below to be processed into our daily bread.  Now if only i had of taken photos! regards Derek

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I can't take any more!  Throw me into the ferment !!!

.

:)

.

I wonder if the dough has trained me when to fold.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Duplicate Post

hreik's picture
hreik

and wanted to keep using it as you describe, I would seriously lengthen the bulk rise and personally wouldn't touch the dough for at least 2 hours.  then do another S&F after 1 1/2 - 2 then wait again and  do a final s & f and then do my shaping. 
I note that you put your dough on a floured towel in a colander with towel draped over.  I wonder if it's drying out in that cold environment and sapping it of moisture and also hardening the crust..... Just thinking aloud here.  I would also do the final rise for shorter (esp, if lengthening the bulk rise) and if you are going to do it in fridge, then find a way to keep the moisture in.

Just my 2 cents.

Do you have pics of the dough before baking and also during the bulk fermentation?  As danny says, it should rise 30-50% during bulk.

hester

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Hester your point of dough drying  is a good one,  Bannetons  with or without cloth inserts wick a good deal of moisture in the time the dough sits in them  and the fridge is also likely to extract moisture also, and the reason why many of us tie up the banneton and its contents in a plastic bag, it may not stop some of the wicking to the banneton and cloth but at least forms a barrier to the fridge accelerating the process. In the BF that thin drying skin is rehydrarated in the knock back and reefing of the Bulk Fermented dough as in my 5.

Regards Derek

 

jthor's picture
jthor

Thanks everyone, I appreciate all the help!

First of all, I couldn't summon the patience to change just one thing, so with my last dough, in addition to upping the levain to 150g, I gave plenty more time for the BF. It ended up being a late night, so my record keeping wasn't the best, but basically I added about an hour and a half on either side of the 2 hours S&F. I also let it rise in a clear, straight-sided container this time, so I could see the change in volume and bubble distribution better. It's definitely moving in the right direction. The crust wasn't nearly as tough, and the crumb was much better!

I'd still like to see even more volume, and the bottom crust is still hardening and darkening quite a bit, but it's much much better.

As for the comment about the crust drying out in the fridge, you read my mind! I'd been wondering about that too. I've definitely been noticing a tough, thick rind on the dough after the fridge. It seems like it adds to a tough bottom crust especially, but also makes scoring more difficult. I'll maybe try plastic around the whole thing next time?

I also wonder if I should move my BF to a slightly warmer spot next time. Between now and the weekend, I thought I'd put the starter in the oven with the light on after I feed it, and see if there's a noticeable difference in the time it takes to get to its peak volume. Good idea/bad idea?

Thanks again everyone!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

That is a nice looking loaf.

Starters, when catering to yeast, thrive at temps up to 84F, but they will mature much faster. Try not to get any hotter than that. To be safe, you might shoot for 82F.

For the over browned bottoms, try to lift the pot higher in the oven if your heat source originates below.

Btw - no ones loaves rise high enough :D

Dan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

oh yes!   

About that oven light, do be careful.  Some lights can heat up an oven too much killing the yeast.  Suggest you try it first with a gass of water and then check the water temp.  Just to be safe. 

I would definitely bag a long retarding loaf.  

What about going up to 200g of starter?  (Remember when the weather warms up to reduce the amount of starter.)