The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Back to basics - semi-success

woefulbaker's picture

Back to basics - semi-success

Well here it is  - my first vaguely edible result from the oven in a long long time.

It's nowhere near perfect but I thought I'd share in the hope I can get some feedback about where I'm going wrong. 

What I did:

Whisked 2 tsp yeast in 250g warm water + 2 tsp sugar and let it stand until it started frothing. Mixed this into a dough with 400g flour and about 5g salt (scale kept wavering) Kneaded for 15 minutes.




Bulk fermentation for 1 hour 20 minutes at room temperature in a plastic bowl covered with plastic wrap.  Here it is after bulk fermentation:


Basic Bread 

Degassed and attempted to shape into a loaf shape but it ended up more like a baton.


I then let it sit for secondary fermentation for about 1 hour on oiled baking parchment  and loosely covered with oiled plastic wrap. Here's how it turned out:

Transferred to a baking sheet (lined with baking parchment) and slashed the top with a sharp knife (I'm not too good at slashing)


Sprayed water on top and baked at 450 for 15 minutes with 3 'steam injections' 30 seconds apart at the beginning of baking.

 I then reduced temperature to 375 (I think...the thermometer was not in the oven at the time - had to remove it to turn the baking sheet around) and baked for another 20.


After removing from the oven, I left the bread to rest on a wire rack for 1 hour. Yes it looks pretty burnt.  I blatantly had the temperature too high.  I noticed that there was no real expansion during baking around the slashed areas unlike most of the pictures I see of slashed loaves.


 Crust softened about 10 minutes after removal from oven. 

 Taste was yeasty (not a good sign I know) but not entirely inedible either. The crust was surprisingly chewy.  Here's the crumb:






Thegreenbaker's picture

Well, it looks good.

a little burned but the crumb is something most beginner bakers wish to replicate! I never had crumb as good as that when I was new!

As for the burned crust, you mentionmed you had it up too high. I often have the same thing happen and I bake at around 395-400 for hearth breads, sometimes I turn it down to 375 if it is browning too much and leave it longer.

You look like you are doing very well actually. Perhaps you need to work on your shaping to get the full potential of the gluten to work for you. (I dont always hit the nail on the head in this department.)

Learning some easy shaping techniques is what you could try.

Floyd and Jmonkey posted a couple of videos on here early last year (or late the year befroe) and they helped me immensely. I use these two as the basis for my loaves. Jmonkeys (at least I think it was jmonkey) sandwich loaf shaping is how I do it all the time. Floyds Batard is how I shape mine and begin making bagguettes.

Also, aside from the shaping, I would suggest using 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and leaving it for a second rise. So after it rose the first time (bulk fermentaion) take it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and flatten the dough out and pull from either side to stretch it and make it long then fold it back in on its self. Stretch and fold, (just in case you hadnt heard of it) do this a fet times rotating it as you go then onces the gluten is too tight to do this easily, put it back in the bowl for a second rise. DOnt time it, just wait till it doubles.

Then shape it and bake it. :)




Thegreenbaker's picture

here is the shaping a sandwich loaf turotial.


and here is the batard tutorial.


Watch them both a few times. (I think I watched them more than a few) choos eone, I'd suggest the sandwhich loaf as it is the easiest to begin with and floyd batard shaping teach you alot about gluten structure as well. So choose which ever really.

But listen very intently to what they say and pay attention to their commens on gluten structure and making use of surface tension. :)


woefulbaker's picture

Thanks greenbaker

I realise I have seen that sandwich tutorial before and was trying to emulate it when I was shaping (minus the loaf pan) but try as I might to fold I could not get enough tension on the dough.

I did let it go for a second rise after the folding..which is probably where it all started going very wrong shape wise. 

I'm worried this again was due to insufficient gluten development but seriously there is nothing more I can do (kneadingwise) to that dough to develop the gluten.  After 15 minutes kneading it had not changed texture at all from how it stood at 10 minutes.  

 Anyway I'll watch the video again as well as the batard tutorial.  See if I'm missing something.  I wish there could be 'feelovision' so I could get some idea of how much tension there is on the surface of the dough as well as the texture of the dough. 

Time and time again I've tried to follow instructions but in practice it never works out the way it's shown in videos, books etc.  I wouldn't mind if I thought I was learning in the process...but it feels like I'm backsliding.


SourdoLady's picture

It's a great start and I've seen much worse looking loaves before. Another tip if you want your slashes to open up more--you have your slashes running across the width of the loaf and they really should run the lengthwise direction. Most newbies make this mistake. I know I did it for years, unaware that it was not correct.

I also agree with TBG that you need to work on your gluten development with some stretch and folds (they work miracles!) and better surface tension in your shaping. Possibly let the final proof go a bit longer to get a lighter crumb.

Keep on truckin' cause it will pay off!

Thegreenbaker's picture

I agree with sourdough lady.


I think youre dough actually looks good to be honest. 

What you might do is this.



bulk ferment for 2 hours (depending on your yeast amount-add about 1 1-1/2 teaspoons no more.) In that time, take the dough and stretch and fold every half an hour. so you should get 4 S&F in. 

Then place it in an oild bowl and cover it, and leave to double in size.

Then once doubled, take it out, stretch and fold one more time and leave it for 10 mins to rest.

Upon returning to your dough, have a look for the side with the best looking gluten development. Iyou can usually tell. It looks similar to latex or a membrane. Smoother.

This is the side you want to develop further. This is the side you will use as the top of your boule, batard bagguetter, sandwich rll etc. It will be the outer part.


So place this side on the bench. As in if you are looking at it as the side facing up, lay down as the underside of the bench. Then If you are doing a sandwich loaf, roll the douch like a swiss roll. You will see that the outer part of the douch is the stronger side.

As for the batard, again working from the position with the stronger side flat againt the bench, do as floyd shows you in the video.

Try this, believe me, shaping actually takes longer than you think to get the hang of.

Really pay attention to those videos and the gluten in the bread dough.




Good luck and keep trying!




Thegreenbaker's picture

sorry about the typos! I will fix them later gotta cook dinner now!



SourdoLady's picture

This is a visual of how it is done:

Pat dough out into a large, flat circle. Gently stretch and fold the left side over the middle, then the right side over the middle (like folding a letter). Pat down with the palms of hands and repeat the folding with the remaining two unfolded ends. You will notice that the dough firms up a lot after folding. Always keep the folds going in the same direction, regarding top and bottom. This is very important! You can do multiple folds spaced up to an hour apart, but don't go over an hour between folds. Usually 30 t0 45 minutes is best. If your dough begins to be so strong that it wants to tear from the tension, do not continue to do more folds. You will feel the dough firm up substantially after each fold.

Shape loaves, always keeping the folded side as the bottom if your loaf.

Rosalie's picture

Thanks, SourdoLady, for the great photo tutorial.  Your post has been printed out so that I can refer to it when the time comes.


AnnieT's picture

Great pictures, SourdoughLady, but I had never heard that the folding needed to be the same way every time. Now I'm a nervous wreck - can't remember how I have folded in the past. I'm about to fold some sourdough and hope I have got the idea, A.

Thegreenbaker's picture

wow SDL. My dough has never had such good tension- as to threaten to burst it seams! how awesomme!


I know you said not to go an hour between folds, but I do do one last fold right before I shape to give it that extra oomph.

It helps for me, but I suppose I am just one person!

Thats great help with the photos. I think that will do alot for woefulbaker :)

SourdoLady's picture

Oh, I fold the dough when I shape also but I just think of it as part of the shaping of the loaf. It is fine. Glad you liked the photos.

woefulbaker's picture

Thanks SDL, Greenbaker.

The pictures were very helpful.  I can confirm I have been using that stretch and fold technique however I have been flipping things upside down (duh) after the stretch and fold which may be the reason I'm losing tension 

Also I don't S&F nearly as much as you both have mentioned (always scared I will lose bulk in the dough -something I realise now is only temporary as the dough will continue to rise and be all the stronger for it). 

It's going to take a lot of practice but at least I think I'm starting to understand the principles.  

Question: why do I need to rest between S&F - could I not do multiple S&F all at once?  What confuses me is that on the one hand we have to leave the gluten to 'relax' but on the other we are trying to build up tension??  It seems like contradicting processes...? 

SDL - when you say to use the folded side as the bottom of the loaf - which side are you referring to? the side facing up when you are doing the S&F??  Sorry I'm not too bright about this stuff.





SourdoLady's picture

The rest period between foldings is necessary because if you don't let the gluten strands relax then they will tear. That will result in a lumpy, bumpy surface and poor rise.

Yes, the folded side is facing up when you are doing the folding. When you shape your loaf, always keep this same orientation and then flip the loaf over when you are done so that the seam is facing downward.

Thegreenbaker's picture

yes I second that :)

Thegreenbaker's picture

I stretch and fold until the dough is so tight I cant do any more...probably 3 or 4. Sometimes more sometimes less.

Then I let it rest.

You let it rest so that a. the gluten relaxes and you can work it more in half an hour.

and b so that the yeasties get a chance to feed again, creating gas which helps loosen the dough. (or so I believe)

Each time we S&F, we build up tension and align the gluten strands more. When we rest it is so the gluten gets a chance to settle, but each S&F strengthens the gluten further.

Think oif it as a muscle. Work them enough with weights they become tight. Let them rest for 24 hours, they relax but still have sustained the strength we have built with the weights.


AND you ARE bright, it is just confising reading. It is so easy to mis interpret!

I think SDL means, each time you rest, rest it with the folded side down.

I think........



SourdoLady's picture

It makes no difference whether you rest it folded side up or down in between folds. The important thing is that you remember which side is the top and which is the bottom so that you are always folding with the same orientation.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Toby I think you can mix in a wee bit more flour.  I think the burning might have something to do with your oven coils, when you see the loves getting too brown and you don't think the inside is done, make a foil tent to protect it.  (or bake one notch lower, could also mean that the lower coils are not as hot as the top coils in the oven, worth checking if you suspect it.)

What happened between the oiled parchment picture (this picture says "put me in the oven NOW") and the slashing picture, it looks like it deflated a little moving it to new parchment? I hope you don't mind me asking why new parchment?  Once I shape and lay dough on naked baking parchment, I leave it stuck to the parchment and slide the whole thing into the oven onto the hot baking sheet.  

For the slashing: try spraying it with water before slashing, makes it easier. 

And my last observation, I think you waited too long to slash, try doing it a little sooner, it looks borderline to being overproofed.  You're really coming along!  Yeasty is a good smell, it's the smell of the ferment leaving the loaf, I would not reduce the yeast any, the aroma can be quite overpowering when first opening the oven, learn to enjoy it as you tell the world, FRESH BREAD HERE!  

Keep up the good work!  

Mini O 

TRK's picture

I thought that slashed picture looked a little overproofed too.  I have a knife set that came with a "tomato knife."  It is paring knife sized and serrated and very sharp.  I use it almost exclusively for slashing loaves.  I find a serrated blade helps sometimes.  Spray oil on the blade also helps with pulling. 

woefulbaker's picture

Thanks again guys for all the good advice. It's starting to pay off!

I tried to take all the advice in account (lots of stretching and folding) as well as the 'shaping' videos.Basic Bread 2nd Attempt 3

I'm still struggling with the shaping. I couldn't form a batard in the way outlined in the video because the result was not giving me enough surface tension. I ended up re-shaping like a 'modified' boule instead.

Also I didn't bake long enough so the crust was not fully developed. Amazingly the oven spring prevented me from removing the bread from the oven (I had to remove the baking stone first)

The taste was much better than the first attempt.  It was still yeasty but in a nice, sweet way (no bitterness).  Texture was creamy and cool.  Crumb was OK but I feel I should be aiming  for a more open crumb (I was using 63% hydration) - I put it down to my poor handling.


Thegreenbaker's picture

That is fantastic bread.

All you need do now, is build on the skills you have just learned and  practice! And try new recipes etc :D


you go woefulbaker! Perhaps you DO need a name change now :D 

ehanner's picture

I have been following along on this thread, not wanting to pile on since you were getting such good advice from the group. I think your latest bread is a breakthrough effort, good job!

I do have a question about where your oven rack is positioned. You say you had to remove the stone to get the risen bread out? Unless you are using a small oven I think you should drop down a notch. The heat in a standard oven is higher at the top of the oven and a standard size oven should have plenty of head room for bread.

I think your crumb will improve if you are a little more careful in handling the last stretch and shaping. You want to avoid degassing the dough. I like the shape and slashing and the color is perfect. When you lower the rack, you will get a more golden color all over. Try scaling back the sugar to 1 teaspoon, I think that's what is burning.

One other thing. From the looks of your crumb shot, it looks like you are not letting the stone warm fully before loading the dough. The color is nice on the sides but appears a little pale on the very bottom. It takes nearly an hour to get the stone up to temperature which will help your spring also.

Keep up the good work WB.


woefulbaker's picture

Thanks eric.

Yes it's a pretty small oven but the rack could still have come down one notch.  I just wanted a little clearance between the stone and the oven floor as I used the oven floor to create some steam. 

There was plenty of spring but you are right - not enough colour.  Will let it warm up longer next time.  



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Can't wait for the next loaf (when you get a browned bottom)!  This one is looking really good!  And look at those slashes!  :)  

syllymom's picture

I think that second loaf looks great!  I personally don't like really thick crusts so that looks prefect to me.  I still struggle getting an open crumb, but what tasty hobby to practise with.

Pat yourself on the back.