The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First successful Sourdough loaves!

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

First successful Sourdough loaves!

I'm so excited! :) I've tried sourdough twice before, and twice I couldn't keep the starter alive. This rye starter has been alive for 2 weeks (his name is Clyde), and is still vigorous.

I didn't have time to rise these guys as long as they really needed, but got a great oven spring out of them. I look forward to cutting them open tomorrow! I'll post pictures of the crumb when I do.

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-Joe

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Those look great! I'm looking forward to the day I have those results!!

pizzameister's picture
pizzameister

Joe,

Those do indeed look marvelous. I'M looking forward to the day I can eat this stuff again. :-( (Wheat intolerant) This site is really getting me annoyed!!!!

Trying a few loaves of Kamut bread, hopefully today or tomorrow, thanks to a recipe from nschol. Tried this grain a year or so ago, but was not sure of results, either breadcraftingly or medically speaking.

Wish me luck. I need bread!

P.M.

p.s. Me thinks me recognizes your peel by its tip.

Gary

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Thanks for the kind words :) Gary, good eyes! That's my 'fake' Superpeel.

Here's what it looked like when I cut one open this morning. The crumb is a bit dense, but I expected that. My kitchen was very cold last night, and I didn't have time to let it rise long enough. It was still delicious! The crust is awesome; thick and chewy, just like I like it! Just a hint of a sour tang, and a delicious flavor.

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-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

Boy don't I wish my loaves looked like that. They're beautiful! I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but mine only spread outward, not upward. The one I made today is lucky if it's an inch and a half high. :( Maybe my dough isn’t stiff enough? Guess I’ll try adding more flour to the next one…. *sigh*

Suiseiseki's picture
Suiseiseki

Actually, that sounds like either the yeast you used wasn't as good as they should be, or you didn't get enough oven spring (try the high heat trick from lesson 5 if you haven't already). But it is also possible that you need more flour vs. liquids if your dough feels more like a pancake batter and looks like one.

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

You may also need some support on the sides of the bread to help it rise in the right direction. I use a couche and support the sides with cookbooks (of course ;) )

Although 1" thick is pretty flat, and sounds like something else is wrong.

What does your finished doughball feel like? Is it batter-like, and sticks to your fingers? My finished sourdough rye was a on the stiff side, but still just a little tacky.

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

This was the first loaf I made from a two day old starter. The starter itself bubbled and rose quite well and the sponge got all foamy with a pleasant "beery" smell. Too, the dough did all right on the first rising, but when I saw that the loaf was heading east and west instead of north I figured there was no point in waiting any longer and popped it in the oven, hoping it would have a little upward growth spurt while the oven heated up.

I will go have a look at the tip you mentioned from lesson 5, Sueseiseki - thanks!

As for the finished dough ball, no, it wasn't batter like or very sticky. I'd say it was pliable and kind of velvety, but slightly tacky - not much different in feel than any other regular loaf I've ever made with store bought yeast. The recipe called for a "stiff dough" which is why I thought maybe I didn't add enough flour. I plan on trying another loaf tomorrow, although I must say, even though that one was relatively flat, it had a very good taste and texture (my best yet, actually!)

So maybe it is just a matter of the sides needing support like you mentioned, Joe. I have to confess that I didn't know you could do such a thing. Generally, when I get fed up with my French loaves resembling pancakes more than a loaf of bread, I start using the loaf pan again, but then the results I get with that don't please me either. I've never heard of a couche so I'm going to have to investigate and see what that is! :)

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I have the exact same problem with my sourdough..see my post re
Lilliputian sourdough!! My loaves also spread ... they came out
about 1 1/2" also..looked nice, colorwise, nice crust and the best taste! This has happened twice now. The first time I thought it was because I overkneaded. Let me know if you have any success and I will do the same for you. Good Luck!

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

We do sound like we're in about the same boat! I didn't mention it in the post I just made, but with today's loaf I made sure it was a "stiff" dough and I could tell a difference from the first loaf when I tested it by poking two fingers in it to see if the indentations kept their shape (I'm sure there's a more proper way to say that but I'm drawing a blank at the moment, sorry). Today's loaf was much more firmer at that time than the loaf from the other day, so I really had high hopes for it.

Please see my other post in this thread regarding my success...or, rather, lack thereof; thanks and good luck to you as well! :)

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

And I've used a dishtowel as a couche before with fine results.

I eventually broke down and bought this one from the Baker's Catalog:

Baker's Couche

It's easy to use: just dust it with flour, put your loaves on it, and make walls by pulling up folds. If you put the loaves on seam side up, you can roll them right onto your peel when they're ready.

Or, if you have a Superpeel, you can just scoop 'em up.

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

I had to go look that one up, too - it seems I'm more of a neophyte than I realized! Thanks for the explanation, though...I am learning. :)

Actually, I was quite psyched when I started out making my bread today because last night I read Floyd's lesson 5 as per Sueseiseki's suggestion and picked up a few good tips, plus I Googled a couche and found out what that was.

I discovered that I was doing the oven thing all wrong. I had been following the advice in this article which says not to preheat the oven. No wonder I wasn't getting the “oven spring

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Surface craters? That's odd. The outside of your loaf should remain smooth. It could be your shaping method. When you shape your loaves, you want to create surface tension in it. If you're just kind of wadding the dough into shape, that could be your problem.

Do you have a good book on bread? The Bread Baker's Apprentice is a good resource, and one of my favorites. It's got a great section on shaping, with tons of pictures. I also have Bread Alone, but I don't like it's section on shaping: it doesn't have pictures.

You also may want to post your recipe for us so we can take a look at your hydration.

We'll get you good bread, don't fret! If I can do it, anyone can :)

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

The thing is, though, that they aren't there initially - they only show up after the loaf has been rising for a few hours. In fact, on the last loaf you could barely tell I'd made any slits in it when it was all said and done. I'll be baking a loaf tomorrow and if it happens again I'll see if I can post a picture...of course, if I do that no one will be able to reply because they'll be too busy laughing at the pathetic glob of soggy flour I call a loaf! ;)

I'm hoping you've hit the nail on the head with regards to my shaping method, Joe. I don't think I have one! But I'm also not totally sure what you mean when you say "surface tension." I'm going to have to investigate this further.

I only have one bread cookbook and I don't know if it qualifies as "good" or not. I have my doubts now because I've read the thing from cover to cover many times and not once have I seen anything about "surface tension." The book is kind of old (late 70s) and is put out by Sunset Books. It’s simply called Cookbook of Breads. And, since I live in a very rural area, the local library is small and unfortunately has little to offer in the way of specialty bread books. Plus, if the truth be told...I'm cheap and can rarely force myself to fork over the bucks for a new book - I'll buy cheap, used ones by the bushel but my typical modis operandi is to see if I can find the info on the web. :)

As for my recipe, until I can master the basics I'm keeping it as simple as possible, or at least trying to...
2 cups starter
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. sugar (I use raw sugar, not refined white)
2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour

My starter got started with one cup of warm water and one cup of whole wheat flour. I've subsequently been adding half whole wheat and half unbleached bread flour (plus the same amount of H2O) like when I make my sponges. And I only add bread flour when making dough, no whole wheat.

Thanks again, I really appreciate your help! :)

KazaKhan's picture
KazaKhan

I have some photos on flickr showing how I maintain surface tension (pages 2 & 3 on flickr), similar to what joe says below.

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

Don't I dream about making such beautiful looking loaves! You and Joe must be related. :) Sheesh, and you guys expect me to believe you're amateurs? Ha!

Well, after posting last night I did a search on "surface tension" and read Floyd's lesson 6. I gave it a try on my loaf today, but I realize now that I didn't do it quite right. Close, but no cigar. (I didn’t see your photos until after the fact.) My semi-correct method did seem to eliminate the majority of the craters, though, so that's progress! :)

I couldn't resist looking at all your bread photos...since I was already there and everything. :) And, this is unrelated to this thread, but I've just got to tell you how impressed I was with your lunch loaf! I honestly don't think I've ever saw a more perfectly shaped sandwich loaf - not even amongst the fantastic loaves the Amish ladies bake or even those my own mother used to make! I am curious about something though, I noticed that you used two balls of dough instead of filling the whole pan with one lump of dough...is that your secret to such a work of art, pray tell? :)

KazaKhan's picture
KazaKhan

Thank you for your nice comments I will have to take and post some more photos. I started a baking bread a little over six months ago and I'm currently in the 5th week of a commercial baking course which is a day a week each of bread and cakes. I'm an amateur but I've taken to bread making like a duck to water.
There are a few options for shaping lunch loaves, you can toss in a single ball or 2 balls, you could also roll like in my pictures and either cut the roll in half and turn the ends in on each other or put an uncut roll in, you could also cut a roll into quarters and cross-pan it although that works better with bigger loaves. In my pictures I've used the 2 balls and single roll methods. Remember to keep the seams of your to dough balls on the bottom of the tin, for a rolled piece of dough you can place it a little on its side to create a nice single sided rip during baking.
Those photos are related to my first blog entry here, if you haven't seen it yet I think clicking on my username will lead you there ;-)
Practice makes perfect, you'll soon be making much better looking loaves it doesn't take long, good luck...

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Where'd that recipe come from? Sounds like a lot of sugar, but I don't make many breads that use extra sugar, so I could be way off. There should be more water, too, no?

Anyway, back to surface tension. From another site, I found this quote:
"The whole exercise of giving loaves this shape is based on creating a tight surface tension to allow the loaf to rise up and not just out; the tight skin causes the dough to retain its cylindrical shape rather than spreading and flattening. "
If making a torpedo-shaped loaf, here's how I create my surface tension (trying not to degas the loaf to death):
Gently flatten the dough into a rough rectangle.
Fold one long edge in a third of the way, like folding a letter.
Seal the fold with the side of your hand.
Fold the other edge over, again, like a letter.
Seal with the side of your hand.
You'll notice while you're doing this, it's pulling the outside of the loaf tight - developing a "skin".

Hope this helps!

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

It came from S. John Ross' Sourdough Baking web page; the only difference being that his recipe calls for 4 teaspoons of sugar. I upped it to 2 tablespoons because the recipe I used when I made bread with store bought yeast called for the same ingredients except for the differing amount of sugar. Keeping the amount the same as the oil made it easy for me to memorize the recipe. Lame excuse, I admit it. :) I don't have my heart set on this recipe by any means, I was just trying to be consistent until I learned how to do this sourdough business. I'm more than willing to try a different recipe if you'd care to recommend one, the only thing is I'd want one that didn't call for any dairy products or eggs. Any suggestions?

As I mentioned above, I did try to find out a little more about surface tension last night and I did put into effect on my loaf today the little I gleamed from what I read last night. There definitely was improvement with the craters compared to the last loaf, but it didn't do much for my northward expansion, I'm afraid. Between the quote you so kindly posted here, KazaKhan's photo tutorial and Floyd's lesson six, I think I'll be able to do the surface tension thing more properly next time.

However, I don't think surface tension, or lack thereof, is the reason my loaves are turning out like they are. Here's what took place today: at six o'clock this morning, I formed my dough that was rising overnight into a loaf. Being the brain-child that I am, I didn't try the foil and wax paper thing again. :) This time I put the loaf directly on the cookie sheet I'd be baking it on and wrapped the wax paper around the saran wrap and wax paper boxes. It was too dark to take a photo at that hour of the morn, but this is what my loaf looked like two hours later at eight.

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I should have known it was going to be one of those days when I saw that my camera has no clue that we're pert near a quarter of the way into a new year. *rolling eyes*

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Now, I allowed this loaf 8 hours to do something worthwhile with itself. Here's what it looked like at 2:00 PM just before I threw it in the oven. (P.S. if anyone has to use the privy, now would be a good time to do so. :))

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I cranked the oven up to the max for a spell, put a pan in there with water, turned it down to 350ish, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best...

But expected the worst...

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It's edible at least...

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But shorter than his cousin from the other day... :)

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andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I don't use sugar - or olive oil - when baking bread. Just water, flour and starter. The proportions of these are all-important as is the folding and shaping, to get a good surface tension. When risen, slash the loaf and get it straight into the very hot oven as quickly as possible to stop it collapsing and to get a good 'oven spring'.

An excellent book is "The Hand made Loaf" by Dan Lepard - you might be able to get a 2cnd hand one on Amazon? Or ask your library to get it in for you.

Or look on the Dan Lepard bread site, (www.danlepard.com), go to Baker's Forum, then the dough making section. There are some excellent recipes and methods there - look for Bethesda Baker recipes, for example.
Yous should have good loaves coming out of your ears in no time!

Andrew

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I got a copy of "The Hand Made Loaf" yesterday. I ended up ordering it from a bookseller in Ipswich through Abebooks. That was cheaper than ordering an already imported copy from the US Amazon or having a copy shipped to the states from Amazon.co.ca or Amazon.co.uk. It took 5 weeks to get here, since I selected the cheapest shipping option, but I definitely saved some money.

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

Doesn't that make your bread really dry, like "chewing-on-cardboard" sort of thing? Years ago when I first started making my own bread, the majority of the recipes I used called for milk. I took a few years hiatus from bread making and when I resumed my hobby I was no longer using dairy goods. Immediately I noticed that my loaves and other baked goods were not at moist and fluffy as they used to be; I mean the bread is okay fresh out of the oven, but two or three days into to it and I can hardly stand to eat the stuff, much less top it with something like peanut butter! Perish the thought! :)

You mean I'm not supposed to slash my loaves right after I form them? One time I tried slashing a loaf after it had risen. I haven't attempted it since. No doubt you can guess what happened. :)

Thanks for the tips, I'll check the site out. I am determined to produce a decent loaf of bread and I'll be more than happy to have some coming out of my oven - never mind the ears! :)

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Help Kneaded, your dough looks really ragged in the pics like it was not kneaded enough to develop the gluten. That in itself would cause it to not rise properly. Your dough should look smooth and satiny on the surface when it is properly kneaded. How are you kneading--by hand or mixer? Have you tried doing a 20 minute autolyse and dough folding? (Floyds tips has instructions on how to do it)

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

I'm not sure how long I did knead it exactly, but I'm pretty sure it was at least ten minutes. Now, on the previous loaf I know for certain that I kneaded it 30 minutes and it was nearly flat as a pancake, too. I confess that I don't knead the same length of time each time I bake, as I generally go by the feel of the dough as to knowing (or hypothesizing) when it's ready, but I do always do it for a minimum of six minutes. What length of time do you recommend?

I am guilty of not doing an autolyse...I didn't even know what it was until you asked me about it and I looked the word up. *blushing* :) I may have read over it in Floyd's lessons and not realized it in much the same way as one might not see the forest for the trees. I’m so dang intent on getting this figured out that things are starting not to register!

By "folding" do you mean when I shaped the loaf? I tried it, but I didn't do it quite right I don't think.

I'll take a picture of my dough after kneading tomorrow, but in the mean time, I've been reading over some of your stuff and got to thinking about what you said about throwing out part of the starter so that the yeast population doesn't get overcrowded and basically have to fight to survive on the lessening amount of food available to them (not your words exactly, buy you'll know what I mean no doubt) and I wondered if it was possible that I'm using too much starter in my mix? I mean, wouldn't the same general principle apply?

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

No oil, milk or butter - just flour, water and salt. And yes, the sourdough loaf keeps very well for about 5 - 6 days. And no, I don't slash when it is just formed - IMMEDIATELY before popping into a very hot oven. I do use a linen lined basket, dusted with rye flour, to proof the dough in.

I agree with SourdoLady in her comment above - your dough doesn't look like mine does when it is kneaded!

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Looks like dough straight from the mixer. Here's what my sourdough loaves looked like after kneading (note that these are stiffer than yours will be, since mine are destined to be bagels):

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-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

For posting the picture and thank you, Andrew and KazaKhan for your comments and suggestions, also! I knead all the help I can get! ;)

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Try anything new yet? I'd be curious to hear your kneading procedure.

Myself, I usually give it a couple of minutes with the dough hook, then finish by hand. I normally shoot for a dough temperature of 77 ish degrees, and a smooth, resilient dough. If you poke it, it should spring back.
Unless, of course, I'm working with a very wet dough (like ciabatta). Then it's the pull-and-fold method you can find in the lessons here.

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

LOL! Boy did I ever! I accidentally used every last drop of my starter in today's loaf! I can't believe I did something so airheady, but since I had already added the oil and honey to it before I realized my error, I figured there was no turning back at that point and said, "What the heck, may as well go for it."

Aside from that, I did switch to using honey (as mentioned) in place of the sugar. I also added a box of spaghetti and two lids from Vegemite jars. The loaf is still rising right now, it's been going about three hours...keep your fingers crossed...it's about made it to the top of the boxes! :) (Although that could be because of the spaghetti and Vegemite lids and not because I did anything right in making the dough!) Still, it's exciting to finally see it more than an inch high...even if it did take all my starter.

As for how I knead, I take the top edge of the dough and bring it toward me to about three-quarters of the way from the bottom edge of the dough, then with the heels of my hands, I push gently down and back toward the top edge, give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process over and over. Fold, push, turn, fold, push, turn.

I don't have the capability to test the temperature of my dough, so I can't tell you anything about that. I do try to knead it until it's smooth and kind of velvety-feeling, or as my bread book describes it, "until it feels like a baby's bottom." :) I didn't try poking it, the only time I thought you poked it was after the first rise, but I would say that if I had poked it right after kneading it would have sprung back, I think.

I also tried an attempt at an autolyse...I let it sit, covered, [while I had my morning coffee (at least 25 minutes)] after adding the salt, honey, oil and enough flour to make a really stiff dough.

I don't think I'm anywhere near ready to try ciabatta - not that I know what it is, but it must be more complicated than what I'm trying to do now! I'll be happy just to master the basics! :)

Here's the photographic evidence for today's loaf...
Does my dough ball look like it should in your opinion? I kneaded it for 15 minutes.

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I thought the lighting might be better outside...

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Then when it had doubled I gave it the indentation test.

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I still don't think I'm doing the shaping and surface tension stuff right, though. How does tri-folding the dough like a letter create tension? I just looked at my loaf and see it's starting to get craters in again... *sigh*

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

The dough ball still doesn't look right in the first picture. It should be smooth like a baby's bottom, as in your text, and my pictures. I'm not sure where you're getting that texture from. I've never seen any of my doughs do that, so I'm not really sure how to help!
SourdoLady's suggestion of too stiff might be part of it. When you say 'very stiff,' is the dough tough to knead? It should be tacky, like wet paint. It doesn't have to be wet, or sticky like honey, but shouldn't be dry and tough to knead.
Your kneading technique sounds fine. A half hour sounds like an awfully long time to knead, though. I'm usually at 6-10 minutes, tops.
I don't think autolyzing (or the lack thereof) would cause your problem, as I've never done it (like you, I had never heard the word until a few weeks ago).

Re: tension. When you fold the dough like a letter, you're stretching the outside of the dough, like the skin on a drum. This stretching creates your surface tension. It's a little hard to describe in words.

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

It seems to me, Joe, that I've always had that texture ever since I started using whole wheat. Granted, my memory isn't what it used to be and I can't say I was particularly paying specific attention to it, but years ago when I first starting making bread I used commercial yeast and only made white bread. Those were smooth like yours, I'm sure of it. Then when I started back up with my baking I switched to whole wheat, and thinking back on it now, I can't say that I recall any of them being as smooth. Hmmm...

No, the dough isn't tough to knead - I mean, not to the point where I'm ready to hire a bulldozer or anything! :) The dough doesn't necessarily feel tacky to my hands when I've finished kneading, but if it comes into contact with an unfloured section of countertop it's definitely tacky...does that count?

I guess really the only reason I would knead for 30 minutes is if I didn't think I had gotten enough of the flour used (see reply to SourdoLady) or if I was trying to get a fine grained loaf (one of my cookbooks said kneading for 20 minutes, I believe it was, would produce that and that you couldn't "over knead" so I just went 10 minutes over their recommendation for good measure.) But as mentioned earlier, I don’t always knead the same length of time.

By "outside" do you mean the edges/perimeter of the dough, or the entire underside surface? I understand that it's hard to describe in words, 'cause I'm having a hard time asking what I want to know! ;) See, it seemed to me when I tried it last time that any tension I gained from stretching it I lost when I made the fold because it seemed to be slouchy, like a sock that won't stay up. It didn't actually have any ripples in it, it just felt like laying it back down to make the fold made it flimsy again - if that makes any sense?

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Nope, I'm confused :D It's the limitation of the communication medium.
Next time I make a loaf, I'll be sure to take some pictures specifically of the shaping process for ya.

-Joe

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Wish I had an update on my progress..but I have been a bit under
the weather with my head under the covers! Things look good for baking tomorrow, but I won't have time for sourdough, darnit! With my work I can only make some (or should I say attempt) if I start on Friday night. Keep on truckin Help Kneaded!!!

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

You sure make a good cheerleader, especially for someone just crawling back out from under the covers! ;) Glad you're feeling better...Friday will be here before you know it! :)

Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

That bagel dough looks amazing! I'm so impressed, even though I don't eat bagels. You may have inspired me to try some rye or pumpernickel breads in the near future. Mostly I have been making whole wheat and multi-grain breads for the last year or so.

Teresa

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Help Kneaded, your dough looks better than the last batch did but it still doesn't look like it should. It still looks 'dimpley'. It should look quite smooth. Also, you said you added enough flour to make a very stiff dough. That may be part of your problem. You want a soft dough for a good rise. It should feel slightly sticky to the touch. I usually spray my hands lightly with cooking spray and then it doesn't stick to my hands while I work with it. Keep trying and you'll get it right soon!

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

It's very helpful to have my dough critiqued like this. I will try going a little easier on the flour next time around. I must be getting too generous with it while kneading because I find that the dough becomes too hard to stir in the bowl before I've even got all the flour added that the recipe calls for. Usually I'd say I get roughly half of it added before I'm ready to take it out of the bowl. That's why I didn't think I was adding too much because I figured what I was putting down on the counter and using to flour my hands with made up for what I didn't use in mixing that the recipe called for (although I do realize that flour amounts can vary from one person to the next or one day to the next and so forth).

Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

Excuse me, SourdoLady, but you are referring to the dough pics posted by Help Kneaded.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Sorry, Teresa, you are right--I meant Help Kneaded! Hope I didn't offend you. I edited it to be correct now.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Help Kneaded - I really think you'd find it a great help to find a good recipe (Dan Lepard's White leaven Loaf from "The Hand Made Loaf for example) and stick to that exactly for four or five times.
Then you'd get a good idea of how it responded to more kneading, to less kneading but more folding, to a longer proof etc.
Once you are used to how one recipe performs, you'd be able to try another one with a good idea of whether it was going well or not from the outset.
I've been baking yeasted breads for 25 years, but it was with the sourdough in May that I started following the advice of professional bakers like Dan Lepard and Richard Bertinet (both of whom suggest using with just water, flour and starter to begin with) and my bread has improved out of all recognition.

My two penny worth!

Andrew

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

I think that's good advice, Andrew, and I'm more or less doing it. I say that because I used honey in my bread before I attempted sourdough and other than the recent change from sugar to honey, I have been using what amounts to the same recipe. Granted, it might not be that good but seeing how I haven't gotten it to the point where it would be worth comparing to another, I don't know if I should change now or not. Surely it wouldn't hurt for one go, although I’m pleased with how this one tastes, but maybe I'll do that just to see what happens after I get another starter started... :(

As an aside, I did manage to track down a sourdough book through my library which I'm waiting for now. It's not any of the titles you've mentioned to me, but it should be better than nothing...at least I hope! :)

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Help Kneaded, I uploaded pictures of today's loaf. It's a sandwich loaf, but the way the kneaded dough looks, and the ideas of surface tension would still apply. Hope they help!

Thread here. Clicky clicky!

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

I was taking the edge of the dough a third of the way into the center, which is why, by the time I got it there, it lost it's tension and was all flimsy! Duh! :) I also see, from your finished loaves, the spiral formation on the ends - I can do this now, I'm psyched!!

Compared to your dough ball, mine does look rather like a moon rock or something. I'm all anxious to have it again, but I haven't been able to get my starter started the past few days. *sigh* If it isn't one thing, it's another... *rolling eyes*

Thanks very much for posting those, Joe! I really appreciate it. :)

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

The procedure shown in those pix is for a sandwich loaf. For a torpedo shaped loaf, I just do two folds. Take the one edge (let's say the right hand edge) and go 2/3 of the way across to the left (like folding a letter) and seal with the edge of your hand. Then take the other edge (left edge in this example), and fold it to meet the new right side of the loaf, and seal it. Then I rock it on the seam to smooth everything out.

That said, another book I have recommends shaping baguettes in the same way that I shape my sandwich loaves. So as long as you maintain the surface tension, it probably doesn't matter much how you get to the shape you want.

You mentioned whole wheat in one of your posts. Are you using a large percentage of whole wheat? Just curious, since I'm having such a hard time getting my 100% whole wheat loaves to rise properly.

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

When I made bread like a normal, sane person - i.e., before sourdough :) - the highest ratio I ever used was half and half. Everything I read about it seemed to imply that life would be much grander if I only would keep the amount of whole wheat to a minimum, typically this was considered to be two cups of whole wheat to three cups of bread flour. Who was I to argue? If it makes you feel better, I couldn't get my "2 to 3" to go over the edge of the pan most days, then when it did, it would fall flat in the oven for some reason. I ended up with nearly perfectly formed bricks of bread, so, even though yours aren't rising properly either - take heart knowing that they look a far sight better than mine! :)

Of course, in my case, I wouldn't dare think to put all the blame on the whole wheat: no, sir-ee! Maybe my flour doesn't like living in West Virginia 'cause it sure hasn't co-operated with me since moving here...and to think, my family used to consider me quite the baker! Ha! Not anymore. :(

Joe, can I ask you to set me straight on something regarding my starter? This is the second or third batch I've attempted since *the incident* and I'm confused about how long I should continue trying to nurse this thing to life. I've read conflicting information and my head is just spinning. One guy said if it didn't take off (get bubbly and rise) after the first day: ditch it, it's dead. Others say keep feeding it.

Take today for example. I wasn't pleased with the last attempt so I started over from scratch. I mixed one cup of whole wheat with one cup of warm water, stirred it real good and covered it loosely. I purposefully cranked the wood stove today because I assumed that the reason the other attempts didn't go was because it wasn't warm enough. Now some 12 hours later and feeling like I've been in the tropics all day, this starter looks dead as a door nail too!

I know what will happen from this point on - it will develop a layer of hooch by morning and I'll be back to debating with myself if I should feed it or pitch it. Can you give me any advice?

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

I'm confused enough as it is :) Only last month did I get a starter to do anything right ;)

If you pitch half of it, feed it, and leave it on the counter for 8 hours or so, do you get activity? If not, it sounds to me like its dead. After 8 hours, my starter doubles, and looks like a kitchen sponge when you look at the side of the jar.

I just took mine out of the fridge. Going to try pumpernickel again tomorrow. Wish me luck :)

-Joe

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

Well, I wasn't getting much activity after doing those things, but looking at it now, it seems to be sort of all right. My other "successful" starters did the same thing as yours...kind of - after a few hours they were bubbling and doubling, but they didn't look like a kitchen sponge through the side of the jar. That's why I thought this new one was dead - I couldn't figure why it wouldn't have done the same things in the same time span if no other factors were altered.

Quite possibly I am guilty of being impatient. :( I took SourdoLady's advice to keep feeding it and I now, for the first time in history, am seeing sponge-like holes in the top half of it! My apologies to all who have been trying to help me...I didn't get this fretful over the birth of my first child!! Maybe I haven't been letting the other starters go long enough and that's part of the reason my loaves weren't turning out? Ah, well, live and learn.

Good luck with the pumpernickel, Joe and thanks for all the help! :)

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Help Kneaded, sometimes it will take several days before you see any activity in a new starter. Give it some more time. Also, you don't need that large of amount of flour/water. Go read my blog where I have instructions on making a starter. Try using the pineapple juice (or you can sub orange juice). It really does help to get things going on the right track. It usually takes a good week to get things growing well. Don't give up! You aren't using too warm of water, are you? It should be just barely warm, not hot. Actually, it can even be room temp and not really warm at all.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Help Kneaded - I can't offer ANY advice better than - get a copy of Dan Lepard's "The HandMade Loaf".

The questions you are asking are dealt with there - in detail. His recipes WORK - he is a professional baker and very highly regarded. he gives lessons on baking sourdough in the UK, Australia - the world!

And if you follow his methods - you'll be making ace sourdough.

If you try to amalgamate tips / ideas / recommendations from loads of sources - you're going to end up with loads of unresolved problems

Help Kneaded's picture
Help Kneaded

Thank you both for the feedback.

SourdoLady, as I mentioned to Joe in the post above, I took your advice to keep the what-I-thought-was-dead starter going and there is definite improvement this evening - at least it appears that way to my untrained eye. I have noticed that the layer of hooch appears to be under the starter at times...I guess this is normal? I've also taken to stirring this one periodically, which I don't know if that does anything one way or the other: perhaps it was the "little talk" I had with it that did the trick. ;)

The only reason I'm using that amount of flour and water is because that formula is the only one I've found so far that meets my specific needs. Earlier, when I was reading Floyd's lesson or article, I did go to your blog via the link he provided. The thing is, my circumstances are not what you'd call "the norm." I live off the grid (by choice) and don't have refrigeration, so it's really not practical for me to use juice as your recipe calls for. Now, if you think some other acidic liquid - such as apple cider vinegar - could be substituted for the juice, I'd be more than happy to try your starter recipe and follow the instructions in your blog. No doubt I'd be a lot better off since I'd be able to ask questions of the recipe's author (or at least some one who has been using it for five years with success) which I can't do now with the fellow whose recipe I'm trying to use.

I did make the mistake in an earlier starter attempt at using too warm a water temperature, and although it sure doesn't sound like it from my posts here, I am a quick learner and won't be making that mistake again! I also intend to dehydrate some of this batch, if I can get it going, so that in the future when I decide to go into idiot-mode and use all my starter, I won't have to go through this again!

Andrew, I mean no disrespect and don't wish to come across as not being appreciative of or ungrateful for your advice because I have no doubt it is very good advice, I just don't think Mr. Lepard's book is right for me. In order to benefit from it, like I need to benefit from such, I feel that I'd need to be able to use the starter recipe in a book like that in order to follow the directions from start to finish. You said in another post that Mr. Lepard uses yogurt (as I recall) in his starter. I don't eat dairy products so that kind of puts the wicky-whamy on it for me right from the get-go.

I hope I'm not being unreasonable and I agree completely with what you said about an amalgamation of problems, but - and please don't mistake this as a complaint - as I've mentioned before, I live in a very rural area: my local library system is limited in resources, I don't have electricity (except for what we generate ourselves) and therefore have a limited amount of time available to spend each evening on the net researching the data I need. That is why I came here. :)

Really, you've been baking longer than I've been an adult so I do value your input and experience; I'm not trying to be a difficult "student," it's just that my situation is a bit unique. :)

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

help Kneaded - you don't need yogurt. Or pineapple juice. My sourdough starter is purely organic rye flour and water for the first day, then water and organic white bread flour for the rest of the first two weeks . By then it is ready for action. Dan Lepard's would work perfectly well without the yogurt - the method is excellent. Just use rye and water the first day.

I don't think having a life which excludes mains electricity excludes making good bread! Nor does not eating dairy - I don't touch dairy either (asthma). But it doesn't alter the fact that making bread is a well tried and tested (over about 6,000 years!!) procedure - more of a science than an art, in many ways - and a mix and match approach to recipes / methods will sometimes produce a decent loaf - but more often won't.
It is amazing how many breads from different cultures, dfferent areas, have almost identical hydrations and ingredients. But it is not a coincidence - it is simply that flour and water to a 100% / 65% (up to 70%) hydration work - without oil, sugar or any other ingredients - and produce moist, well flavoured breads which - very importantly - keep well.
What you need is a good, reliable recipe and a good reliable method - stick to that for a few weeks, then you can start to experiment slightly; add flavours or fiddle with rising times etc to suit you - but a good basis is the beginning - in my opinion.