The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Trouble

Et480hawn's picture
Et480hawn

Sourdough Trouble

Long time lurker, first time poster. I've been attempting sourdough since December of 2018 with very few good results. I've read books and spent hours online and for the life of me I can't figure out what's going on. My levain is active and passes the float test prior to baking. I typically go for 75% hydration, 10 % whole wheat and about 1.8% salt. I have tried adding more and less lavain. I bulk ferment between 3-5 hrs and cold proof for 12 hrs. I bake in a ditch oven at 475F for 30 mins covered and 15-25 uncovered depending on how it looks. The past 3 weekends I am.having the same problem. The loaves rise unevenly...have a tight dense crumb and usually one big hole in them. Like a big pocket of gas expanded and left a crater. 

 

Am I underproofing? Overproofing? Is it my shaping? I will try and post a picture but honestly I just uncovered a loaf and threw it in the trash in frustration. My new years resolution was to bake bread or try to and this is the longest resolution I've kept up! But I am getting to the point where I feel like giving up. Baking has always been my Achilles heel. I can cook well and have worked in restaurants professionally but baking has always intimidated me. 

 

I used Ken forkish's book as a baseline btw. 

 

Any help would be appreciated greatly!

ralphyo's picture
ralphyo

I've been baking sourdough for years.  Sometimes things go great, sometimes I get some less than stellar results.  Frankly, the absolute best recipe I've found, that gives me consistent results every time, is found by searching the Fresh Loaf site for "sage and onion levain".   I absolutely love the results and I've made many variations with different ingredients.  I recently took this bread when my wife and I were providing lunch at a Habitat for Humanity build site.  The comment I heard was "this is the best bread I've ever had!"  Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

ralphyo's picture
ralphyo

Forgot to mention that I bake in a dutch oven (combo cooker) heated in a 500 degree oven for 15 minutes.  When the bread is loaded, I drop the temp to 450 for 25 minutes and then remove the cover and bake at 435 for an additional 25 minutes to an internal temperature of at least 205.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

could be.  A picture would really help.  Perhaps the fridge is too cold or too warm. Got any readings on the fridge?

meanwhile... how expanded is the dough before it is shaped and retarded?  

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

Check the temperature of the dough when you finish mixing. It's crucial. I would also increase the % of salt. Salt is important not only because of the flavour, but also to control fermentation. Even my doctor says to reduce the salt in meals, I use from 2% to 2,4% in sourdough bread, depending on hydration and the quantity of sourdough in my bread.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I use between 1.6 and 1.8 % as my standard. 

Check on your dough inside as it is fermenting.  Slice into it with a sharp knife and look at it from time to time and slap it back together without a lot not fuss.  Get an idea as to what is going on.  You may have to shape after retarding for a quick room temp rise but you will be wiser for the learning experience.

More than likely the starter needs a little TLC and larger feeds to peak out before feeding again to up the yeast numbers.

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

I would use more salt. More flavour and more control of fermentation.

albacore's picture
albacore

For a long time I have vetoed 2.0% and gone for the healthier 1.8%.

Now I am taking a further step and going for 1.7%. I've already done two bakes at this level and didn't notice any difference in flavour.

Many of you will have read this article about salt in bread - worth a read if you haven't.

It's also interesting that in olden-days baking, salt content was not a constant based solely on flour weight. Higher hydrations and longer time ferments were given increased salt rates. I'm not suggesting we go there, though!

Sorry for threadjacking!

Lance

Et480hawn's picture
Et480hawn

Thank all for the replies! I'll will post pics once I return from a vacation. Our fridge seems to stay around 33-35F. I also live in a very hot and dry climate which I'm sure has something to do with it. 

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

I would reduce the % of sourdough if I reduce the % of salt.

Truth Serum's picture
Truth Serum

I understand your frustration and I would recommend doing something simpler with a wee bit of commercial yeast.  This is supposed to be fun, not an anxiety producer.