The Fresh Loaf

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Fools crumb?

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Fools crumb?

Hello,

I started baking sourdough in the summer using Patrick Ryan's recipe and technique:

https://youtu.be/2FVfJTGpXnU

The recipe calls for kneading rather than autolyse and stretch and fold. 

My first few bakes produced very decent results- lively, vibrant dough with great oven spring and a nice open(ish) crumb. My starter lived in th fridge and was fed roughly X1 per week when I was baking. 

Over late summer I fed my starter less routinely, sometimes leaving it up to two weeks between feeds, although it wasn't dead and would puff up nicely when fed. However, my bakes since then have produced pretty disappointing results- the dough is lifeless, slack and very sticky meaning it is difficult to shape. It doesn't really climb the banneton, so often sticks and just spreads out, pre bake. I get a mixed and often uneven oven spring, with sloped (rather than round) edges and a crumb comprised of large cavernous holes and dense gummy bits. 

The research I've done suggests that what I'm getting is a 'fools crumb' and this is due to poor gluten development. To prevent this, I've tried to make my starter more active by feeding it more regularly but this didn't help. I've also read that fools crumb can be caused by an overly acidic starter (caused by leaving it too long in the fridge between feeds) so I've tossed my original and started again from scratch. However, this has also not helped.

Does anyone have any suggestions? 

 

Thanks

 

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

I have never heard of this "fool's crumb", but from your description it sounds like an underproofed dough. Large open holes and a gummy crumb are usually signs for that. Now in the cold months fermentation will take longer, I noticed that in my breads too.
So next time, do a nice long bulkfermentation until it's noticeably puffed up, bubbly and jiggly. When proofing in a bowl, the dough should release from the sides a little and dome. Also do a nice long final proof and use the poke test. When you think it passes the poke test, give it another 5-10 min. The window of opportunity is quite large with sourdough because it's a fairly slow fermentation and will take some time (or higher temperatures) to overproof.
Even if you only combine your dough and do a few stretch and folds, you still should get a good crumb when working with a properly fermented dough.

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Thanks for the reply, very helpful.

I had also considered underproofing due to colder weather. I've also moved to a new property which is a bit more humid. I've therefore stretched out the bulk ferment  for a little longer, doing the final post shape proof overnight in the fridge. That hasn't helped though. 

During bulk ferment, the dough does grow but never really 'domes' as you suggest. The best way to describe it as a very viscous batter rather than a stiff dough, if you see what I mean? 

Does this still sound like underproofed dough? If so, how long would you reccommend extending the bulk ferment period for during the winter months? I would typically do it for 3-4 hours, followed by a further 3-4 hours post-shape. 

Thanks in advance.

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Judging from the picture you posted, underproofing doesn't seem to be the problem, the crumb looks properly fermented (no super dense spots combined with 2-3 huge single holes), or at least fermented enough (could go longer).

Starter acids degrade the dough and gluten structure over time, leading to a stickier/slacker dough. So it might be that your starter was too acidic to begin with.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Dean, could it be that your starter has become overly acidic? If this is the case the acids from your starter may be ultimately degrading your dough. Degraded dough will become slack and difficult to handle.

If you suspect this may be the case, you can start feeding your starter 1:5:5. So, for 10g starter you would feed 50g water and 50g flour. It seems the high ratio of starter to flour will build the yeast population while decreasing the LAB. Just make sure to refeed (refresh) before your starter recedes too much. Once the starter starts to greatly recede the bacteria start multiplying at greater numbers.

If any of the above is valid in your case, the percentage of starter will make a big difference. High percentage of starter brings in more acids (“acid load).

Try to post pictures whenever possible. The visual clues are a great help.

Danny

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Hi Danny,

Thanks for this. Yes, I did suspect that my starter had become too acidic. I actually tossed it a couple of weeks ago and started it again from scratch. I followed Patrick Ryan's starter recipe and after a week or so, it looked really lively and vibrant but my first bake with the new starter gave me very similar results to my recent bakes with the old starter- sticky dough, gummy crumb, uneven oven spring etc. 

I've attached a couple of shots now of my latter bakes which I would describe as "fool's crumb". 

Do these help with the diagnosis? Is it an overly acidic starter? Or is it something else like underproofed dough as the other post suggests? 

Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I can’t say from the image if the acid was the problem. The dough was very slack and didn’t rise enough.

If you are open to try another bread, this bread was extremely successful for many bakers with varying degrees of experience. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/61572/community-bake-featuring-kristen-fullproofbaking  The corresponding video with the bake is excellent.

Danny

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Did the change in results happen at the same time that you moved?

If so, that is very telling, if nothing else changed.  I would suspect the water.  Are you using tap water?  Did you change from city water to well water or vice versa?  Did you change cities?  Did you change altitude?  Climate?

Does your new place have a water softener?  If so, is the tap water that you are using to bake with bypassing the softener and being filtered separately?

Did you change the brand of flour that you are using?

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Hi,

Thanks for this. Yes, these problems started when I moved house- I haven't been able to get a single proper bake in my new flat- the one in the pic was definitely my best effort. The others have been largely duds to be honest. 

Here is the thing- I've moved withn the same city, a 10 min walk in fact from my old flat. Water straight out of the tap. I had assumed it would be not different. The flat is also alot more humid as I moved from a new build to a period property. 

Could it be the water? Or the humidity that's effecting the gluten development? 

Thanks

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

get some bottled spring water.  NOT "purified water" but real spring water.

Your current place could have bad pipes that are putting something in.  Or, your current place has some kind of water treatment that the old place did not have, or vice versa.  A "water softener" device will also wreak havoc on bread.

Feed your starter with the bottled water too.

Also, just because you are close to your previous domicile, does not mean you have the same water.  You could have crossed the boundary between two water systems with entirely different sources or water treatments.

Actually, I'm placing my bets on the water-- something has changed with it.  That would also explain the change in behavior of the starter.

Does the tap water taste or "feel"  any different in your current flat than the previous one?

I suppose it could be the  oven, but you have described changes in the dough before it gets to the oven.

So, what's in dough?  Flour, water, salt, yeast. Which of those could even POSSIBLY have changed?   You can know for a fact that your flour, salt and yeast/starter hasn't changed.  Ok, if your starter has changed, what's in it?  Flour and water.  If you didn't change the type/brand of flour, the salt, or your procedures, that leaves.... the water.

So.. as Sherlock Holmes/A.C. Doyle said, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.  https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/arthur_conan_doyle_134512

Also, if your kitchen water faucet has a screen aerator, take it off and clean it.  There could be fungus or mold growing in there.

Also, if you leave your starter uncovered after feeding, it might be picking up airborne fungus or mold.

And, no, it's not the humidity, but it could be airborne contamination, for which ancient buildings are notorious.  That humidity could be providing growth to mold and fungus hidden somewhere  and it  is getting in the air.  However, it's cheaper to do an experiment with the water first to rule that out (or in).  

So,... get three days of good discard-and-feeding and growth in your starter with bottled spring water, then do a loaf with the bottled spring water.

One final thought, the humidity may have got into your flour supply, and if you are using the exact same formula, then your overall final hydration will be wetter than it was back at the previous location.  In this case you need to adjust the hydration by feel, so it feels the same.  But... I assume you have taken that into account as you would have noticed a difference in hydration.

good luck.

My bets are with Sherlock.... unless you've changed flour, or salt, or commercial yeast, or procedures, the only other thing that could POSSIBLY have changed is..... the water... (or the air.) 

 

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Thanks for this. I used evian water for the dough (although) not for the starter, which came from the tap. It was much easier to handle, not very sticky and rose up the banneton well, although stuck when i turned out for baking so lost all of its shape. I went ahead with the bake anyway to see if it got a decent spring and whether I could get an even crumb. 

What a disaster, even worse than before. The dough barely jumped in the oven and the crumb had huge dense bits with a few cevernous holes (see pic). I'm going to try and work bottled water into the starter and see if it makes a difference- not overly optimistic. Will post an update. 

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Unless your tap water contains huge amounts of chlorine, the water won't make a very noticeable difference except maybe change the fermentation time by maybe up half an hour or so. I tested that extensively in the summer when my breads turned out super dense too.

I think your problem is still too short fermentation. Sourdough can take a very long time, bulk fermentation alone can last anything from 4-10 hours depending on hydration and starter amount. My bread contains 50% (based on flour weight) starter and now in the winter takes 4-5 h bulk fermentation, even with previous autolyse.
But don't take that as an example, might be that your starter is much faster.

How long were bulk fermentation and final proof with this loaf?

Southbay's picture
Southbay

And removing old starter is as important as putting new flour in if you want it very lively. Sounds like you’ve got your starter on a starvation diet. Try taking about a tablespoon of your starter out of the fridge and feed it twice a day or even three times. In a day or two it’ll be a rocket.

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Thanks- as above I tried feeding my starter more regularly. Whilst it looked alot more healthy (roughly doubling in size), it didn't help. I've now tossed that starter and started again from scratch but it hasn't seemed to help with my bakes. 

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

The photo of  Dec 18, 3:40 pm (web site time) looks undrproofed, but I'll defer to the more experienced folks on that.

Here are some more questions to rule-in or rule-out another variable:  

Did the type of oven change from old place to the new place?

Electric to gas, or vice versa?  

Conventional to convection, or vice versa?

Dean_morgan1's picture
Dean_morgan1

Hi all,

A quick update: I've been testing a few things, as advised. So it turns out my starter was the issue, or rather my feeding schedule. I was generally taking it out of the fridge, leaving it for a few hours to take the chill off and then feeding it before leaving it over night for use the next morning. It turns out that that this was causing my starter to reach and then pass its optimum point (double then collapse again) before use. I've starter to feed my starter around four hours before it is used (so around half the time I was giving it previously) which is giving me much better results (see picture below).

Thanks all for your help, input and advice. 

Best 

Dean