The Fresh Loaf

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battle of the bulge and soudough bread

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lindaz's picture
lindaz

battle of the bulge and soudough bread

I have been baking sourdough bread since January of this year.  I finally have two great starters, whole wheat and white.  I am having trouble with the baking. I put the dough in a bread pan for the final rise.  When ready, I put the pan in a cold oven, set the oven to 350 and bake for 15 min., turn 180 degrees and continue baking for another 15 -20-min.  I always get the oven rise, but its the conundrum of the bulge where I need help.  Sometimes its there and sometimes not.

Help Please.

Lindaz

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When someone tells me they are having trouble with baking and they tell me they use a cold start, I suggest they stop doing the cold start until they work out their bread issues and then try the cold start again.  A cold start just adds SO many variables to the mix - how fast does your oven warm up being a key one.

 

Also, 350 seems a bit low a temperature and 30 minutes too short a bake.  However, that depends on the loaf size and recipe.  Which you haven't shared.

 

So, could you share your recipe?  And tell us what you mean by "the bulge?"

Thanks,

Mike

 

lindaz's picture
lindaz

Good Morning!

There is a pic of the bulge in recent posts called baking sourdough bread.  The bulge is an eruption on the side facing the back of the oven.  I think it takes 10 minutes to reach 350.  I have small sized built in ovens.  The bread tastes great it just doesn't look great.

My recipe I got off the internet:

2 cups sponge

3 cups bread flour (I adjust flour according to wettness of sponge)

2 tbs olive oil

4 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

I develop the sponge the day before I bake and then put it in the fridge for the night.  I take the 2 cups out an hour before I mix to warm up and then mix, knead till the dough feels right and passes the windowpane test.  I let the dough rise till double, shape and put in loaf pan.  I let it rise till about double and bake.

Sometimes I slash the top and sometimes not, but it doesn't seem to make a difference.

I didn't weigh the dough, but I always use the 8.5 x 4.5 inch pans.

Thanks for responding.

Linda

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It was a mantra when I was running a bakery. It takes a consistent process to create a consistent product.

 

If you get the bulge sometime and not others, you have some inconsistencies in your process. I tend to think the "adjust flour according to wettness of sponge" line is a hint as to where some of the inconsistency might be. I usually counsel people to feed a starter for 2 to 3 days to get it ready. I also don't understand the fetish some people around here have about putting the sponge in the fridge. I prefer to time my starters so I use them when they are ready. It makes life easier. No warm up, a consistent starter, and so on.

 

The bulge is explosive oven spring. The French like a little oven spring but feel too much of it is an indication that the bread didn't have time to fully rise and develop.

 

We tend to obsess about the dough doubling in size. Far too many books and web sites talk about "let it rise until it doubles," including mine. Many doughs can, and will, rise farther than that. However, it's a lot harder to tell someone how to tell when their dough has gone about as far as it should go. You normally want to bake the bread when it's at its peak. How far is appropriate depends on the style of bread and you dough. In general, a bread will rise to a peak, hold the peak for a while (how long it will stay there is called a bread's tolerance), and then begin to collapse. The collapse can be a slow thing or a sudden thing.

 

Softer doughs tend to go through the life cycle more quickly than firmer doughs. Rye doughs have very little tolerance.

 

Some people like to gently poke a dough to see if it has fully risen. If the dough springs back, it will probably rise some more. If it collapses, it had probably over risen. However, if it collapses, you don't have a very nice loaf of bread. (Hint, if a loaf collapses when you poke it or slash it, don't poke or slash the other loaves in the batch.) Other people will gently lay a hand on the dough to feel the tension in the dough. This takes a bit of experience to gauge, but it is far less likely to collapse a loaf. Also, you can put a cup or so of dough in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup (or 1/4 liter into a graduated liter container). You an watch the dough rise and get a very good idea of how far it will rise. You can feel it and poke it, and if it collapses, that's OK.

 

Another issue is how full did you fill your bread pan? I see a number of beginning bakers who overfill, or overcrowd, their bread pans. When you fill the pan 3/4 full, when the bread has doubled in size it will be 1 1/2 times the size of the pan. Is the dough strong enough to support itself? Some are, some aren't. But, when the dough goes above the top of the pan many bakers panic and bake the bread. LONG before it's ready. And then get killer oven spring. And the bread has a lot less flavor than it would if had been allowed to fully rise.

 

You can put dried beans into a bread pan, banneton or brotform to determine how much they will hold. It can be harder to get the amount for a semi-spherical shape like a banneton right.

 

When you get explosive oven spring, which is what I think your bulge is, it is most often due to the bread not having been allowed to rise fully. Slashing the dough creates a weak spot where the oven spring will occur. Your bulge, in the picture, came out the slash but was more than the slash was ready to handle.

Now then.... let's pull all of this together....

 

Start by getting a more systematic way of feeding your sponge if it is a sourdough sponge, yeasted sponges tend to me more consistent. You want to have a sponge of known activity levels and the right quantity.

 

If you have more sponge than you need, don't just put it into the recipe as this will change the recipe drastically.

 

Determine how much the dough will rise, check the size of your bread pans, and then scale your loaves so they will fully rise and fill your bread pans to the desired height when they have fully risen.

 

Until the issues are resolved, preheat the oven to at least 375 and then bake the bread. 350 is a bit too cool. Start the oven heating while the bread is rising. Putting bread into a cold oven has a lot to recommend it, however consistency is not one of the things that recommends this process. When you have the bread under control, you can try using a cold oven again.

Bake the bread until it is done. This depends on the size of the loaf. but for a 1 1/2 pound loaf I usually bake around 40 minutes at 375 or 425.  I think that 30 minutes at 350 is too short and too cool.

Hope this helps,

Mike

 

 

 

lindaz's picture
lindaz

Thanks for the recommendations.  I'm baking again on Thursday and will try the preheated oven and weighing my dough first.

Thanks, Linda

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Mike, nice post with lots of good information.

The fetish you refer to I believe is the product of a lot of people's reading Peter Reinhart. I am pretty sure two of his books (Bread Baker's Apprentice as well as Crust and Crumb), if not more, suggest that refrigerating the refreshed starter prior to building the dough builds more flavor than not.

I have not tried this technique so I don't know if it does add flavor, but I think that's the source.

Soundman (David)

lindaz's picture
lindaz

sourdough breadsourdough breadsourdough crumb I have been weighing my starter instead of using a measuring cup for the recipe and the bulge is gone.  I also switched from the cold oven start to baking in a preheated 375 oven and baking for 40 - 45 minutes.

My dough weighed 1# 10oz. and I baked this in an 8.5"x4.5" pan.  I let the dough rise to an inch above the pan before I put it in the oven.  There was a little oven rise.

I would like the loaf to be a bit higher.  Do I add a little more starter?

LZ

 

Russ's picture
Russ

Hi, I went and looked at the photo you posted of your loaf. It looks very nice, other than the bulge. Looking at the edge of that loaf, I'd guess that the seam of the dough was too high and not sealed well enough.

When you shape your loaf, you want to pinch the seam together as much as you can and set it so that the seam is on the bottom of the pan if possible. This should help to prevent the bulge problem you're encountering. I also usually tuck the ends under as I think it helps to create the surface tension I want as the loaf proofs.

Also, are you using any sort of steam in the beginning of the oven time? Moisture in the oven will help keep the crust from hardening too soon, which may have contributed to the tearing.

 

 

Russ

lindaz's picture
lindaz

I checked the loaf and the bottom seam was on the bottom.  Tomorrow when I bake I will tuck ends under and make sure all seams are pinched tight.  I will also try the steam in one of the ovens and see if that helps.

Thanks, LZ

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Steam isn't the answer here.  You have a problem with too much oven spring.

 

Steam helps give you more oven spring.

 

I really don't suggest steam.

 

Also, I would suggest trying the suggestions you have recieved a few at a time so you'll have a better idea of what took care of the problem.

 

Mike

 

lindaz's picture
lindaz

Okay. Good suggestion.

LZ