I've been making bread for a while. Yesterday for the first time, I saw the dough cracking while beeing fermented and proofed. Never had that problem before. All the steps I took yesterday have been done before, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why it happened (well maybe because of mixing, but not sure). I took pictures of the process and I will post them.
The recipe: Starter (very active), flour (70%), Rye flour (30%), Water, Salt. Hydration was 68%. I've baked with hydration levels before ranging from 60% to 85%.
I followed one of Dan Lepard's methods (which I've also done before).
Here are the steps and pictures of the process.
1. The dough at initial mixing. (starter, water, flour). No salt was added yet. Mixed for a few minutes by hand. Covered and let autolyse for about 1 hour (I've done this autolyse time before and never had problems).
2. Here's the dough after 1 hour Autolyse
3. Added salt and mixed a couple of more minutes. It looked like this
4. Covered for 10 minutes. then turned out on a lightly oiled surface and kneaded for about 15 seconds, covered for another 10 minutes and kneaded again for 15 seconds and put the dough back in the bowl. Here's what it looked like then.
5. Covered it another 10 minutes, briefly kneaded and back in bowl.
6. What it looked like after 30 minutes
7. Same procedure. brief knead, back in bowl and covered 1 hour
8. Same as before for another 1 hour (This is where the dough started cracking)
9. Didn't make much of it. I figured it will be ok when shaped, but it didn't work out like that. this is what it looked like when shaped
10. I let it be. I wanted to see what was going to happen in the final proof. Final proof was supposed to be about 4 hours. This mess below was only after 40 minutes.
At that point, I was not going to pursue it any longer. I couldn't figure out why it was doing that, so I improvised. I put the dough back in the bowl added a tablespoon of water and mixed it real well this time. I was digging deep to try to get it cohesive. Then I covered it for 20 minutes, put it on an oiled surface, gently folded it, put it back in bowl for another 20 minutes, folded it again, and back in bowl for a final 45 minutes. It seemed to be working fine. The dough was not cracking and it was looking good. So I shaped it and covered it for 1 1/2 hours. About 30 minutes after shaping, It cracked again, so I waited until it was proofed and threw it in the oven. I wasn't going to bother with it anymore. It turned out a mess. Real ugly looking, but I expected that.
The only thing I'm thinking that might have contributed to this disaster was the fact that the initial dough was undermixed. I normally go through about 6-8 minutes of hand mixing, then autolyse 30 minutes to 1 hour, add salt and mix about 3 minutes. This time. mixing time was less than usual, and by reading the handmade loaf, Dan suggests to barely mix the dough and cover it and let it do its work (unless I misunderstood what he said). Maybe this is what cause this to happen, or maybe it is another factor that I can't figure out. By the way, the dough was raised in the same place it always rises, there was no draft, or wind to cause it to dry out and crack. So I don't think it was the environment. If anyone has any clues as to why this happened, pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase let me know. Any comment, feedback or idea is really really appreciated. Thanks a lot.