The Fresh Loaf

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First loaves troubleshooting

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

First loaves troubleshooting

Hi all!

I recently got back into sourdough after dabbling in it a few years ago. My first two loaves came out of the oven this morning, and while they definitely are bread, I'm looking for some help fixing a few notable trouble spots. 

  • First, my scoring ended up very shallow on both loaves.
  • Second, my loaves had very little oven spring.
  • Third, the crumb is very dense, especially at the bottom, with a few large holes. 

My starter is doubling approximately every 12 hours.

 

I used the following recipe: 

1. Levain (I let this sit for 5-6 hours)

- 40g mature starter

- 40g whole wheat flour

- 40g AP flour

- 80g water at room temperature

 

2. Autolyse (I let this sit for 1 hour before mixing)

- 797g AP flour

- 110g whole wheat flour

- 641 g water

 

3. Mix

- I combined the autolyse, 184g levain, 18g salt and another 50g water and began bulk fermentation.

 

4. I did 3 sets of stretch + fold every 30 minutes and allowed the dough to ferment for 4 hours. The dough was around 73 degrees at the beginning of the bulk fermentation. I did not notice a big difference in the size of the dough by the end of the 4 hours.

5. I divided the dough and preshaped each half, let them rest for 25 minutes, then shaped the rounds. (I may have worked the dough a little too much during this step.)

6. I then put each boule into a towel-lined banneton, sealed each banneton in a plastic bag, and retarded overnight in the fridge.

7. This morning, I baked each boule in a dutch oven preheated to 500 degrees straight from the fridge.

 

Any pointers would be much appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The dough was under proofed. My best quess would be your starter may not be active enough. Tell as much as you can about your starter.

Dan

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Thanks Dan - I wondered if that might be the case. I keep the starter in the fridge Saturday evening through Thursday evening. When I get home on Thursday, I discard all but about 50g, add 50g AP flour, 50g whole wheat flour, and 100g room temperature water about every 12 hours or once it has doubled. This week, it seemed as active as it normally is by Saturday morning when I made the levain.

At its peak, it has small and medium bubbles throughout, smells sweet with just a hint of sourness, and has a lot of little bubbles at the top.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I am not familiar with a 100% hydration starter using 50/50 white flour and whole wheat. Because of this, when younsay it doubles in 12 hours, I am unable to gauge the activity of the starter. If your starter has the consistency of batter the amount or rise is probably not a good indicator. I say this because it may not have a strong enough gluten to contain the CO2. Wet starters don’t rise as much as drier ones.

What temp is your starter kept when on the counter to ferment? To consider a 12 hr ferment is not enough infor. When it comes to fermentation time is of little value unless we know the temperature. 

Also 50% whole grain should noticeably speed up the fermentation.

Reply back with a close estimate of your ambient temperature for the starter’s location.

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

The consistency is of very thick batter. It does not release immediately from the jar if I turn it over. I did notice that when I switched from 100% AP to 50/50 AP/whole wheat, the activity increased slightly.

I'm not exactly sure of the ambient temperature, as I live in the Bay Area where the temperature fluctuates a lot during the day, but I'd estimate that recently the average is probably around 70.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

If you are inclined it might be informative to see a portion of your starter mixed at 5:15:25 (starter:water:AP Flour). Put it in a narrow and small glass. Press it down as flat as you can and photograpgh. Wait 12 hours and photograph again. I would be curious to see those images. I am very familiar with that mix and timing.

Oh, since this starter will be dry, make sure to knead it a little to develop the gluten. This should give you an accurate measurement of the rise, since the gluten should hold the gas.

Danny

NOTE - it would be best if you continued to maintain your original starter while running this test. Once your starter is maximized and to your liking it is advisable to take some of the proven starter and dehydrate it for a backup. It is simple to do and the flakes are good for years.

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Ok - when I get it out of the fridge this week I'll start a portion of it at that ratio and let you know.

 

Thanks for the help!

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

I have an update for you! I've attached pictures of my starter at 5:15:25, the first just after being fed this morning around 6:30 and the second at 7:00 this evening. It's been quite warm today, so the temperature has been around 75-80 indoors.

Interestingly, my regular 100% hydration starter doesn't seem as active as it has been recently. It didn't even quite double before starting to fall again around 6:30pm, 12 hours after feeding.

Let me know what you think!

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The bottom image looks good, but I think you need to continue building up your starter on the counter. You’ll have to experiment with feed ratios and try using a small amount (maybe 25%) of whole rye or whole wheat. Initially, shoot for a 3x rise in 24 hours.

Keeping your starter on the fry side will help it to rise because of the gluten development. It also slows the activity so that the ferment can last 12 hours without receding too much.

Hopefully other will share their opinions also.

Dan

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Good to know, thank you!

I did notice that the stiffer starter had just reached its peak about 24 hours after the feeding, whereas my wetter starter required a feeding after around 14 hours. I'll try 25% rye tomorrow morning and see how it goes.

In building a levain from a dryer starter, would I follow a recipe as normal or add water to compensate for the low hydration? 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

So still on the rise at 12 hours but used after 6 hours. Why?

Why not wait till peaked and then use?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Smorkoch, stick with Abe. His advice is always solid and reliable.

Abe, how would you handle the starter in order to build it’s strength?

Dan

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Wholegrain and allowing it to peak each time.  I like 1:5:5 or 20% inoculation (water can be toggled) and getting some wholegrain in the feed. Keeping it at a good temp for optimal yeast growth too.

Thanks Danny :)

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Do you mean why was the levain used after 6 hours?

I was following a recipe to the letter since I'm pretty new to this. I've since read that I should perform a float test (something the recipe did not mention) prior to mixing to ensure that the levain is ready. 

 

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

That's probably the problem. 

Keep it simple so not a complicated recipe. One loaf at a time. Use the levain when peaked and bulk ferment is done when the dough is billowy and has a good matrix of bubbles.  

This is a good rule of thumb. Recipes are guidelines and there will be variables but you need to know (and follow) these rules before you 'break' them. 

1: use starter and levain at most active

2: bulk ferment till billowy 

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Thanks, Abe!

Is there a recipe you would recommend? I used Maurizio's beginner's sourdough this time.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

A young levain which is fine as long as your starter isn't slow to begin with. Since your starter is seemingly slow I would either recommend you try the recipe again but use the levain when peaked (12 hours?) or try Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough. Or... https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/sourdough-pain-naturel/

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Hi Abe,

Below is a picture of my starter (5:15:25) made with 25g rye and 50g AP about 15 hours after feeding. Would this be appropriately mature to use?

I'm also wondering if I can use this starter the same way that I would use a 100% hydration starter, or if I will need to add additional water when building the levain.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

From this side of the screen it looks ready to use.  

If you start off with a small amount of starter for the levain  (as in the my weekend bakery recipe, above) then don't worry about the low hydration starter. With just 15g starter being fed 115g each of water and flour the difference is minute. 

Is this your plan?

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Not sure! I don't know if it's better to use the same recipe as last time (beginner's sourdough) to minimize variables and isolate areas for improvement or try something new. 

What's your take?

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

But I think the my weekend bakery recipe is a very good first sourdough and it guides you through every step. What's more, the levain is mature and a high percentage which will address the issue you had with under fermented dough. 

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Thank you for the help!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

OK. I’m getting a better understanding. “The instructions called for 6 hours”. Those instructions take for granted that the starter is active. An active starter will triple or more in a feeding cycle.

I see that Abe just posted. I think we both agree.

Dan

UPDATE - Maurizio often uses a “young levain” in order to develop a more mild flavored bread. But for a new starter, it is best used at full maturity (for now).

smorkoch's picture
smorkoch

Thank you both so much! I'm feeling encouraged and ready to try again.