The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

why is this happening and what can i do to fix it?

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kayemme's picture
kayemme

why is this happening and what can i do to fix it?

i can't seem to get my surface tension right. i have a feeling the dough is too wet, but i'm nervous about adding more flour.

 i'm using the recipe for san francisco style sourdough from crust & crumb

i'm at the shape & final proof stage but i can't seem to get enough surface tension. the last time i let it go this way, the loaf fell and it looked a lot like a big, ugly crumpet.  i couldn't get slashes, either.

 i'm experimenting and trying to get the right "feel" for the dough. it's been warm in the apartment and very muggy today. 

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I really don't think your dough is fully developed.  In the classes I teach, I suggest there are a number of stages of dough development.  First the dough is a ragged lumpy mess that barely holds together.  Then it looks like those ads in the back of ladies magazines about the evils of cellulite.

 

And that's where your dough seems to be now.  I'd knead a good bit more.

 

In classes, I also find many people don't have a good idea of how to knead effectively, so they spend far more time and energy on the project than they should and don't have much in the way of results to show for it.  I put together a page with some videos that might help at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/kneadingconverting.html

 

There may be other problems with your dough, but that is where I'd suggest starting. 

 

I am a bit curious - what kind of flour are you using to make the dough?

Mike

 

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i guess i'm just frustrated because at times i have perfect loaves and others, i don't. and i don't know the signs of what makes one perfect and another one not perfect. i'm taking notes (though i don't have them in front of me) and am willing to make a loaf a day for as long as it takes (though they are much smaller recipes because i don't like to waste and i try not to eat huge amounts of bread every day and i can't control myself around beautiful bread - or even lousy bread for that matter)

 i'm willing to accept the dough may not be developed, though i've kneaded it a lot and in  several stages.

 the first stage was to make a stiff starter. i let it ripen outside the fridge for several hours, then inside the fridge overnight. 

then i let the dough warm up and added the rest of the ingredients and let that sit out for several hours then kneaded some more, let it sit out longer, then refrigerated. it was still doing this thing where it looks like my grandma's inner thighs.

(okay, my inner thighs)

 now i'd like to shape it, but it won't take shape. i tried to french fold it, but it won't budge. it's back in the bowl wrapped in a ziploc as i type. i'm nervous to add more flour or water, but i will if i must. 

 

 

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

Hi kayemme.

With your permission, I'd like to disagree with you here just s tiny bit. I do not think that there is such a thing as one perfect dough. I think there are different doughs  with different feels and thereby different textures and different flavors. And this to me is the beauty, the wander and the blessing that is bread. So in my mind this is something to celebrate and rejoice in, rather than something to fret or be anxious about. From your description it appears as though you have made a dough with a high hydration percentage. Either by accident or on purpose. :) High hydration dough is very much an advanced baking technique, and it yields a bread with large irregular holes and moist elastic crumb, that is a badge of honor to those able to produce them. :) It's like a baking diploma that says I've graduated to the next level of baking skill. :) Now that you have this dough you have several options in how to deal with it.

1. If you'd like to develop gluten and structure in it you will only be able to fold it, as it is obviously impossible to kneed it. It sounds like you already tried the French fold, which was exponentiated by Richard Bertinet. However, if your dough has been bulk fermenting for a while, you might consider folding it on four sides as is often discussed on these forums, following Hammelman's technique. It sounds like your dough may be too wet to use Mike's kneading technique, but do check out the page he linked to above. Some great videos of a master working at his craft. Thanks Mike.

2. If you feel uncomfortable with the dough this wet, you can add more flour to it. Either a little to allow you to handle the dough more easily or a lot to convert it to lower hydration dough. :) And no it is not a sign of surrender.  :)

3. As far as baking it. You also have options. If you feel the dough is too wet to bake free form, you can bake it inside a preheated cast iron pot. Or bake it free form anyway and let it spread as far as it wants to and see what happens. Another little thing I learned over the years is that the yeast will never give us humans total control over itself. Although we are welcome to give guidence and general direction. :)

Thanks to the wonderful folks on this board, I'm slowly turning into a baker that uses scales. After several years of baking by feel and swearing by it, I finaly am starting to understand the importance of scales to me as a baker. As I experiment with a given formula more and more. Knowing the precise percentage of hydration and precise percentage of Whole Grain flour in my bread makes my experiemnts have more meaning to me. And educate me much more efficiently. Having said all of this have you any idea what hydration percentage your dough is? From your description it sounds like something between 65% and 70%.

Enjoy your experiments

Rudy

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i did go watch the videos, they were very helpful and well done.

 also i agree: i don't think there's a perfect dough, rather  there are times i have made a perfect loaf and the dough felt a certain way. what i'm having trouble with is when i'm using the same formula but it's not feeling the same when i mix it up... i am having trouble recognzing when there is too much water or too much flour.

 it has been very humid today... on the brink of rain. the air is so thick i might just drown by breathing.

 

 

 

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

So do you weigh your ingredients? Also what region of the country are you in about? How high of an elevation is your city?

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i'm in rhode island... about 7ft above sea level but it's extremelly  humid today. i don't know if you're familiar with east coast weather. it's like soup right now.

i think i will get a scale soon. i don't directly scoop flour, instead i scoop and measure into the right measure. 

 i have a feeling there was just too much moisture in the air. that's why i'm trying to get more of a "feel" for it as opposed to binding myself to explicitly measurements or weights. i mean, srsly, i hope it rains tomorrow because it's right on the brink of rain, but just won't quite do it. 

my garden and skin love it, but me? i'm looking forward to september. ;)

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

When we came to US in 1981 we landed in Cleveland, since that is where my Mom's boyfriend lived at the time. And every summer I would drive down to Florida where my father lived and spent summers with him working jobs like roofer and plumber. In the Florida summer heat. :) So yeas I'm somewhat familiar with east coast weather. Although I left the east coast in 1983 for Los Angeles, where I still am.

Anyway, I agree with you that humidity has an impact on the dough. The weather here in LA tends to be bone dry. For us 10% humidity is like the flood gates of Heaven have opened up. :) However, now that I'm starting to weigh my ingredients I've come to realize that air humidity plays less of role in my dough hydration than I originally thought. At least in a short time frame/period.

When I began baking bread, I too was plagued by inconsistent results of the dough. So to circumvent that. I adapted a technique in which I start with all the liquid that the recipe calls for and then add to it dry ingredients until I get the consistency I'm after. Granted knowing what consistency I'm after took a little while. But it comes soon enough. So on a particularly dry day I may not use all of the flour whereas on another day the dough will gobble it all up. Another thing I noticed is that if I add all the flour to the liquid right away I will end up with an extremely dry ball of dough. Whereas if I add the flour gradually my dough will be nice and elastic.

Hope this is helpful.

Rudy

Soundman's picture
Soundman

kayemme, don't despair. By Thursday it's supposed to dry out, finally!

Soundman (David)

kayemme's picture
kayemme

ugh.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The hardes part of learning to bake is learning what dough should feel like.  It is almost impossible to communicate in printed words.  But it can be taught in a class in a very short amount of time, the teacher has you make dough, watches you, suggests you knead like this instead of that, suggests your dough is too wet or dry and you should add some water or flour, and then feels your dough and tells you the moisture is about right, but it needs more kneading.  And then the teacher tells you that you're there, and you can remember that feeling....

 

Some printed word guidelines.,,, you want the dough to be tacky, not sticky.  Tacky dough would rather stick to itself than to you or the work surface.  Dough is happier when it is a bit too wet than a bit too dry.  (I won't go quite as far as to say, "wetter is better" because there is a point where that is definitely ot the case.)

 

Many people don't knead effectively, so they spend a lot of frustrating time kneading.  I typically knead about 10 minutes, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.  I knead for 5 minutes, let the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then knead for 5 minutes.  The rest period is very important as it lets the flour absorb moisture and the dough develops on its own.  I find that if I just knead for 15 minutes the dough doesn't develop as well.

 

When you start mixing the ingredients, the dough is a gloppy, ragged mess.  As you stir, it comes together and becomes one unruly mass.  As you knead, it smooths out. As I said, it then starts to look like the ads in the back of ladies magazines about the evils of celluite.  Then that smooths out.  (Don't we all wish it was that easy to get rid of on our less sightly areas?)  The dough begins to become resillient.  You press on it lightly and it springs back.  As you keep kneading, it will pass the infamous windowpane test.

 

Still, some doughs are firmer than others, and while the dough development follows the path disciussed above, there are questions about how soft and firm doughs should feel.  The easiest test I've found is how the dough handles when you fold it over and try to join the dough.  With a soft dough, the join is easy, smooth and seamless.  You fold the dough and the dough becomes one piece.

 

With a somewhat firmer dough, the join takes a little more effort.

 

With a firm dough, the dough forms a single piece, but there is a bit of a seam visible.  You can't force the dough to become one seamless piece.  Unless you are making bagels or pizza, you don't probably want dough this firm - you've  added too much flour.

 

And then the final step is where the dough is difficult to fold over, and when you do, the two pieces remain two pieces.  It is way, way too dry.  This is how you make  bricks out of bread dough.

 

On the humidity front, I've baked on the hunid gulf coast of Texas and in the arid mountains of Colorado.  While I have found that there are differences, they tend to be in the area of how much I need to protect the dough from drying out.  On the gulf coast, I didn't really need to cover my dough.  In the mountains, I had about 5 to 15 minutes before a skin would form on the dough that would act as a girdle and keep the dough from getting a full rise.  I sprayed the doughs with oil and covered them with plastic wrap.  It was a pain.

 

However, there wasn't that much difference in how the dough turned out.  The multi-layer paper sacks do a very good job of keeping the flour moisture levels consistent if you fold over the top.  I was in a discussion with several millers and professional bakers about this and we played with numbers.  If the flour takes on an impossible amount of moisture, that will affect the dough by about 2%.  One baker said he could tell that little difference.  The rest of the bakers thought he was being a bit boastful.  The same thing held true with flour drying out.  In the USA, the moisture in the grain is adjusted to 12%.  And the flour stays at that level for long periods of time. 

Hope all that rambling helps,

Mike

 

 

Soundman's picture
Soundman

kayemme,

You made me laugh! But your dough is a serious matter.

"then i let the dough warm up and added the rest of the ingredients and let that sit out for several hours then kneaded"

The part about sitting out hours before kneading caught my eye. I'm assuming your description is accurate, of course, and perhaps you left out a step. If you did leave something out, forget the following.

Your dough looks, pardon the expression, lumpy to me, and the process you describe might explain this. If you just put the ingredients together without mixing enough to hydrate all the flour, then clumps will form. These can be very difficult if not impossible to get out of the dough, once they're in.

It sounds like you were intending an autolyse. It's true you don't want to mix much, but you do need ALL the flour to get wet enough that it will all begin to form gluten. Without mixing, some flour is in contact with water and some isn't and the inconsistency will make for problems later on. Also, hours? If this is an autolyse, the purpose is to hydrate the flour so that gluten forms without over-mixing, but that doesn't require hours. Times I've heard for autolyse are 15 (short) to 60 minutes.

Good luck!

Soundman (David)

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i can't even remember what i did.. thank god i wrote it down

 

3:45p - temp: 75, humid

 firm preferment, appx 1/3c starter to 1/3c flour

kneaded until sticky, washed hands, did not dry but shook off extra water, handled dough to shape into ball, placed on top of stove (not on the part where the burners are but the part that's higher and sometimes has knobs) appx 8 hours

11pm placed in fridge for overnight

 next day

7pm - temp 82, super humid

allowed dough to warm up (about a half hour)

mixed in remaining ingredients, knead 10-12minutes

8pm - allow dough to rise 4 hours (according to directions)

 i went to a party. 

1am- (much cooler, still wet air) -

crust and crumb says the dough will not rise much but mine was impressively risen. it was actually quite lovely if i were to bake it right at that moment, in that bowl, had it could handle it.

ii attempted to shape it, then it started to go wrong. i placed back in fridge for the next day and you see where it's at. 

i ended up baking it off. it tasted all right, but had only the smallest amount of oven spring and was hard overall. i still ate it.  

 

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i kneaded it a bunch more an it started to smooth out, then i let it rise again and now it looks much better. i think that you are right, i just didn't knead it long enough. when i go to shape it is when i'll know for sure

thanks for now! 

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

Mike thanks for the great videos, and the bread looked amazing. A couple more notes for you to add if you like. In the video I think you said 1 cup of water is 229 grams whereas in the table it is 235. Also in the video you say that 7 cups of flour is nine hundred something grams whereas in the table it says 1,076 grams. These are from the big scale. Hope everyone check them out. Great stuff.

Rudy

P.S. WHile we are on the subject of Food Network vocabulary. You'll have work the phrase Quick and Easy into every couple of sentences or so. :)

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A man with two clocks never knows what time it is....

 

On the flour front, I measured the cups of flour at about 900 grams, however, I used a fair amount of bench flour which got the total flour up to around the 1,073 mark.  You may remember, I weighed the bowl of flour before I started and after I was done.

 

If I were making this bread again, I'd just put the whole amount of flour into a mixer or mixing bowl.

 

As to the water, a cup of water SHOULD weigh about 238 grams.  However, in realityville there are errors and inconsistencies.  You fill the cup a bit higher or lower one time, you spill a bit of water, one cup is a bit larger than another, and so on.   Measuring by weight makes things quick and easy!  It's much easier to have a consistent 235 grams each time than to try to get consistent cups.

 

Later,

Mike

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Kayemme,
You are where I was a couple years ago. Wanting to know what I did not understand by feel. I urge you to go to the Julia Child video with Danielle Forester and take the small amount of time to see first hand how to create a smooth silky dough. Many people have made the transition to understanding by observing the techniques shown here. The one exception I take with the video is in the need to slap the dough so many times. The use of some combination of French Fold and standard kneading works well for most people. There are so many good lessons to be learned in these 2 videos I know you will enjoy them as I have. Hope this helps.

http://www.pbs.org/juliachild/free/baguette.html#

Eric 

kayemme's picture
kayemme

and that video uses a windows plugin, so basically, me no get to see.

do you know if i can find them on youtube? 

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

If you don't find these on Youtube or anywhere else. Let me know. I have all of Baking with Julia episodes recorded on my computer in mpg format. Post your email address and I'll email them to you, or anyone else that wants it. I'd recommend that you type your email address out though like this: kay at aol dot com. This way the spam bots will not be able to pick it up. There is another episode with Steve Sullivan that I find extremely enlightning and helpful.

Rudy

dougal's picture
dougal

Quote:
i use a mac...and that video uses a windows plugin, so basically, me no get to see.

 

The Julia Childs videos are available in both Real Player and Windows Movie formats.

You can download a Mac Real Player (for free) either by clicking on the button on the PBS site's 'choose which format and datarate' page or from :

http://www.real.com/realcom/player/rp10/realplayer.html?pageid=realplayerPage&pageregion=bottomSpans3Columns&src=072902realhome_1%2Crealplayer_8020&pc...  (which is where you get to from the page the PBS link goes to, then clicking "Not running Vista or XP").

 

I wouldn't want anyone to be deprived of the amusement of seeing Ms Forestier's umm, unique, interpretation of the 'french fold'...

kayemme's picture
kayemme

kayemme at yahoo dot commie

 i searched it out french baguette julia childs on youtube, but came up with nothing. that's very gracious of you. 

my other breads i can make easily and very rarely do i have a flat or dense loaf, so i know once i feel it for real then i'll have it. at least i can tell when it's wrong; i just can't tell when it's right.  so in some ways, i guess, i'm half way there.  

Cooky's picture
Cooky

 If you cut and paste this address into your browser:

 

http://www.pbs.org/juliachild/free/baguette.html#

 

it will take you directly to the page with the recipe and the links to the two-part video. You need to go to the bottom of the page to find the video links.

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

kayemme's picture
kayemme

i had no idea there was a plugin for real media for mac! thanks again, perfect!