The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What am I doing wrong?

Marni's picture
Marni

What am I doing wrong?

So here's the thing, I'm no expert, but I can definitely bake a tasty loaf of bread. Most times, my bread comes out as I expect it to, or at least pretty darn close to it. I have always baked with *gasp* volume measurements, but since reading so much about how weight is better, I have tried following some formulas using weights. Without exception, they have failed. My recent attempt was not a total failure, but was not what I expected. I used the formula for Susan's loaf that David Snyder blogged about a few days ago. The bread hardly rose at all, had
practically no oven spring (I used a cloche), and is slightly rubbery and damp inside. The crust was not at all crisp by the time it cooled. The taste itself is quite good. Slightly tangy and sweet. Fragrant too.

I have to admit, I could not use those exact ingredients, so I substituted WWW for rye and added a gram or so of vital wheat gluten since I didn't have the high protein flour. That might be what caused the problem. Does anyone know?

Also would too few or too many french folds be a problem. The kids kept distracting me from keeping count. This was the first time I have used french folds ( I've been watching the videos posted on the site) and loved watching the dough develop. It's really a fun technique.

My last thought is that maybe I relied too much on weighing and didn't try to correct the dough at all. It was a pretty firm dough and usually
my sourdoughs are wetter and softer.

Thanks for any insights.

Marni

Flat loaves

Flat loaves

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Flat Loaf Crumb

Flat Loaf Crumb

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Marni, even if you weigh everything (though yeast and salt are used in such small quantities for most home baking that spoon measures are better), you must not forget about your dough sense.  Your other recipes succeeded because you adjusted the flour and liquid.  I like weights because I grind my own flour and because it's fewer dishes and less mess when it comes to sticky sweeteners and oils.  But weights, particularly for flour, can still be off for various reasons.  If you know how the dough should feel, then go ahead and apply your right brain.

Rosalie

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Marni,

First of all, that crumb looks awesome! That is not a failure, IMHO.

I believe you indicated that this is the first time you have baked this recipe. The tendency in that case is to follow it gram for gram. Otherwise, how will you know what it's "supposed" to feel like? Still, there are so many differences between flours, that like Rosalie I think you have to keep checking your new recipe against your long-standing sense of proper dough-feel.

Shape: you say that the dough was dry, which would suggest adding more water, and that would not likely lead to your dough's holding its shape any better. (Wetter doughs, think ciabatta, generally don't hold their shape as well as dryer ones.)

I haven't read the recipe recently, and will go check it, but does it employ overnight retardation? If not, my experience says that might significantly check the tendency of the dough to relax just when you don't want it to -- in the oven. (I have been repeating Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, and found that the retardation helped the dough to keep its shape as I took it from banneton to scoring to oven.)

You can definitely over-fold your dough. But yours doesn't look to me as if it suffered that fate. Over-folding in my experience makes the dough less extensible than desired and thus difficult to shape.

The part about rubbery and damp doesn't sound too good. I'm not familiar with using a cloche, do you use it often? Obviously a cloche keeps the moisture in and so perhaps you can over-cloche your loaf. Maybe less time under cloche next time?

Finally, I am thinking about a post Mike Avery wrote where he said in effect that dough height wasn't necessarily that important to him; flavor is. I'm with him on that. You said: "The taste itself is quite good. Slightly tangy and sweet. Fragrant too." That's still the bottom line on success or failure with bread, IYAM.

Soundman (David)

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

Hi Marni.

The thing about using weights for the recipe is that it will yield the exact copy of it, and if there are issues with the recipe they will show. Adjusting the recipe to what you think dough should feel like is tricky because some doughs have 65% hydration and some 75% and yet others use different hydration still. So if you do adjust, it has to be done to that hydration level. From the description you give above, and the pictures, I'm leaning towards the new folding technique as the culprit rather than the weighing of ingredients. Perhaps if you expand on that, the folding experts can figure out what may have gone wrong. I would also mention your final proofing time and approximately how large each loaf is, by weight.

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah. :)
Lshana tova.

Rudy

Susan's picture
Susan

Hmmmmm, we've all had the occasional flat loaf, so don't let it get you down. Usually, I can trace it to "oh, I'll just use this starter, it looks fine."--not. But, you've got nice big holes in that bread; perhaps we need to look elsewhere. So you did a few French Folds, waited 30 minutes, then folded the dough 2 or 3 times with 30 minutes in between foldings? Was the dough puffy and a bit difficult to fold the last time? That's the way it should be, in my experience. Retarding does help the dough keep its shape, so that was a good suggestion. I'm surprised that your dough was firm, as mine is usually soft and floppy by the time I start the Stretch and Fold sequence.

Since you feel comfortable with volume measurements, you might want to try the recipe that AnnieT likes so much, and let us know how that works out.

It's after midnight and I'm getting sleeeeepy. Let me know if you have any further thoughts after you sleep on it.

Susan from San Diego

Marni's picture
Marni

Thanks everyone. 

Rosalie and David, I think you have a great point, I usually adjust the dough as I go until it seems right to me.  I didn't do that this time. I thought if I'm being so exact in following the weights, I shouldn't mess around with it.  But I did change some ingredients, so it wasn't really the same formula.

David, I love using a cloche and that's pretty much the only way I steam now.  Great oven spring (usually) and no risk of steam burns.

Rudy, I followed the recipe for proofing, but it said four hours out of the fridge and then until doubled. (They were in the fridge for 12 hours.) They never came close to doubling. 

Susan, the dough was not at all puffy at the last folding, but had some dime sized bubbles under the surface. It was pretty dense.  My starter was very active, I usually use it as it starts to sink after the last feeding, but this time it was still high.  Could that be it?  Your recipe that AnnieT posted is my absolute favorite!  It is the first sourdough I made that I loved and I have made it with a few different flour combos with great success. I double it and make two loaves a week.  It is our regular bread. I also used it as a guide for hurrying things up and added yeast to it.  It always seems to turn out great. 

Susan's picture
Susan

In re-reading David's version, he mentions French Folding (FF), and has you do that three times. I FF once, wait 30 minutes, then envelope-fold (S&F) 3 times at 30 minute intervals. Oh, another difference from David's version is that in the beginning I mix the starter and water together, then add flour(s) and salt. (Again, individual technique differences.) The dough starts out hard to mix, but soon becomes easier. I use a chopstick. Mix, then rest for 30 minutes. And when it gets cold here in SoCal (don't tell anybody that it actually does get cold here), all those times will change, dadgummit! Proof it as long as it needs; don't pay attention to the clock--use your dough sense. I love that term, Rosalie, and hope you don't mind if I use it.

Good luck, and I'm happy you like AnnieT's Fav. Hmmm, that's a good name for it!

Susan from San Diego