Advice on scoring to get a better ear
Hi everyone. I’ve now made three loaves of sourdough with my starter which is nice and active. Each time I’ve followed the Beginner Sourdough recipe on The Perfect Loaf here https://www.theperfectloaf.com/beginners-sourdough-bread/
One change I made for the 2nd and 3rd loaves was to add an extended autolyze of 7-8 hours at the same time as I started the Levain build. Otherwise I followed the recipe. The 2nd loaf I decided after scoring that I would put it into the Dutch oven and then give it a spritz of water. That loaf was baked at 475ºF with the lid on for 20 mins and the lid off at 450ºF for 30 mins. I should have pulled it out earlier because it is overbaked with too much color.
I think that it turned out much darker than my first loaf I posted here earlier because of the much longer autolyze allowing more of the starches to be converted to sugars which then caramelized much faster even with the same temperature and bake time. Perhaps the spritz of water had an effect as well.
Then the 3rd loaf which had the same long autolyze and initial 20 mins at 475ºF with the lid on but then I dropped the temperature to 425ºF and baked for only 25 mins lid off. I took its temperature which was just over 209ºF so I pulled it and I’m much happier with the color, it also doesn’t have any burnt scent.
I’ll post crumb photos later after I cut them open, but I’m wondering what advice you can offer as far as achieving a better ear? Am I not getting enough tension when shaping? Do I need to score more deeply or more of an acute angle or do I need to score more shallowly? I think I had a pretty acute angle to the score of about 30 degrees and I had scored about ¼” when I scored my 2nd loaf. When I scored my 3rd loaf my blade was at a 90* angle to the dough.
Any other comments would be appreciated by this new sourdough baker, lots of skills to learn.
I think the oven spring was pretty good but could still be better. Again do you think this comes down to how I’ve scored the dough and how much tension was built in the shaping?
issue since I started baking. I make sure there is tension on the "skin" of the loaf. I wet the lame tip and try to make an angled and quick cut. One of the gurus of this site posted a tutorial that I have found really helpful.
Here's the link: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/31887/scoring-bread-updated-tutorial
Thanks Hester, I did look at that link prior to scoring, it was helpful.
Ben, a boule is not the best shape for ears. Try batards next time.
By the way, I have struggled for years with ears. They seem to come relatively easy for some and a super challenge for others.
Dan, I didn’t know that. I know it is hard to tell from my photo of the first loaf (overbaked one) but it was a boule. Funny because my Dutch oven is oval, both loaves turned out sort of oval, even the boule. The batard looked more oval than oblong.
I brought the better of the two over to a friends house last night, he said we would have it with dinner, so I thought I’d be able to see how it turned out. However, he had pita and dip for an appetizer and hamburgers for the main. So I didn’t get to try the bread nor even get a photo of the crumb.
When I cut the overbaked one today, I’ll post photos of the crumb to see how it turned out.
My friends cut the bread I brought them last night, I think the crumb looks pretty good. I’m pretty happy with how these turned out except that I think I should shorten the bake time with the lid off the Dutch oven and bake again at the lower temperature. Perhaps my oven is a bit hot.
I'm not sure I'd change a thing.... lol
Your crumb looks great to me! I’d be thrilled with it...
Thanks Hester and Dan.
I’ve just had an egg sandwich with the overbaked loaf. The crumb and flavour of the crumb was great, the crust was definitely over baked as it had a slight burnt flavour to it.
I think this week when I get a chance to bake again I’ll slash more deeply and shorten the bake by another 5 mins, or at least check it 5 minutes earlier at the very least. I’m not fond of the so burnt taste of the crust on this loaf.
Ben, you might try lowering the heat in your oven a little. That should help with the browned crust. It seems different ovens can behave quite differently. Some ovens bake hot and some not.
The recipe calls for 450ºF lid off do you think 425ºF as I did with the better loaf or even lower to 400ºF. I’m not used to making so many changes from original recipes, still lacking confidence.
Ovens are weird. For one thing, their controls and thermostats are very often inaccurate. When you find that your oven is mistreating your food in some way, you adjust things in whatever way gets the job done. Ovens can be permanently adjusted and fixed, for a price - but unless you have a very expensive oven it's unlikely to be worth the repair bill.
"Overbaked with too much color"... no it isn't. The loaf you said that about is much better than your others color wise, in my opinion. It should be dark, almost burnt. I know that isn't the way in American bakeries or the store, but its the classic and best way.
As far as your oven spring (which will get you those ears you're looking for) you have to make a choice:
Do you want that perfectly lacy, even crumb without a spot of density that you've been getting in your loaves (which is beautiful BTW), or are you willing to have a stringy, custardy crumb that is less even (artisan crumb), but still has enough gas for great oven spring?
Personally, I like lacy loaves like yours. They're just more practical. But those gravity defying artisan loaves are just more fun. Back your bulk fermentation off 1/2 hour at a time until you are able to get the ear you want.
Shaping may be a problem for you, but I doubt it, since you said that the loaf spreads to fit your dutch oven. That is a sign of overfermentation.
I am quite happy with the crumb, I didn’t think that it was overfermented but perhaps that is the case. Could it also have spread a bit because of the long long autolyze causing excessively extensible gluten?
I could certainly try shortening the fermentation a bit, at the warm temperature I was fermenting these two loaves in it could have gone a bit too far.
Thanks for the feedback it is all appreciated.
Overfermented is a matter of opinion. If you're not getting the results you want, then its overfermented in your opinion, and it seems like you want ears. Like I said the crumb you are getting now is great, what I prefer, and you should be happy. But really lacy crumb just means less oven spring.
Autolyse: Nah. You said you did 8 hours? I don't think it would have degraded the flour to that point in that amount of time. Its fermentation.
Regarding autolyze that is the only time I’ve ever tried such a long autolyze so I wasn’t sure what effects it may have had.
I shall watch the fermentation a bit more closely this time rather than just follow the clock. At the end of fermentation it had held the shape of the last fold quite well, there were some bubbles at the edges and it was domed a bit at the center. It also had a nice jiggle when I shook the dough.
From what everyone has said though, shortening the fermentation should give me better ears, hopefully it won’t adversely affect the crumb too much since I quite liked that aspect of the bread.
You're hitting that lacy sweet spot very well. This kind of crumb is all I wanted in the beginning, but then I wanted to see if I could get artisan irregular crumb, and nice explosive oven spring, just for fun.
If you shorten fermentation, it will change the crumb, but its still good. I wish I had my girlfriend's phone, because that's where all my recent bread pics are, but custardy artisan crumb is very attractive and there's something special about the elastic stringy texture. I've gotten complaints that the bread is a bit too open for practical use, unlike the loaves you have which are perfect.
Theres a reason why Wonderbread doesnt have amazing oven spring. Theyve sacrificed that aspect for an even, soft crumb. But hey, if you hit that sweet spot where you get explosive spring and that lacy crumb, let me know.
I am having a dinner party on Friday evening and usually I have a full day before most dinner parties to plan and get things going. I would like to have my bread in the oven by midday so it has time to cool before serving it and also to have time to prepare the main course. I also have to fit in baking a pie somehow.
I was thinking of getting the leaven built Thursday when I get up at 5 am. When I get home by 4 pm it should be raring to go. Then I can mix the flours and water and autolyze for an hour or so then mix in the leaven and salt. I should be able to do some stretch and folds before going to bed but probably not have enough time to complete the bulk fermentation. Do you think I could put the dough into the fridge overnight to complete the bulk fermentation or would that take it too far and be overfermented? This would give me the morning to do the final proof after shaping to then bake in the early afternoon. I haven’t done cold bulk fermentation yet with sourdoughs so wasn’t sure if this would work.
Cold bulking isn't usually done with a bread like you're trying to make. Its done with pizza dough, focaccia, ciabatta, and basically the kinds of breads you wouldn't want to proof in the fridge after they're shaped.
If you get home at 4, autolyse for an hour or so, have your dough mixed by 5.30, you could have your shaped loaf in the fridge by 8.30 max.
I'm not sure what hydration % you use (80% by the looks of your crumb), or what innoculation %, but by using a 12.5% innoculation (100g starter for an 800g loaf), you should be able to complete bulk in 2.5-3 hours, preshape and rest for 30 minutes, shape then pop it in the fridge for bulk.
That's what I would do in your situation. Getting the bread in the fridge at 8.30pm on Thursday means the prime time to bake it would be around 1pm on Friday, but the extra 3 hours in the fridge wont hurt a thing (you get home at 4pm), unless you care about a little extra sour.
The bread I’ve been baking is 75% hydration with the Levain about 20%.
Ok your suggestion makes more sense then. It will give me enough time to get the pastry dough made after I’ve finished the stretch and folds.
Thanks for for all your help and suggestions Bakersroom ?
I used to work in a commercial bakery, and there's nothing easier than just taking a loaf straight from the fridge and baking it when you need it.
The fridge basically stops yeast activity but allows bacteria to continue making the dough sour and more flavorful, so bulking the dough to near completion, then finishing the proof in the fridge is just best practice for time/convenience, and flavor.
No problem, and let us know how your next loaf goes.
Here you go Benito, got my pics from my girlfriend's phone:
This is a loaf I fermented for 2.5 hours:
And the crumb:
So as you can see, its not as soft and lacy as your crumb, but its fine. You decide whether you want the well defined ear, or that soft lacy crumb.
Well that is certainly a gorgeous loaf of sourdough bread you made. I’ll play around with things and see where it leads me. I haven’t baked sourdough enough times to really know yet what I like most. Thanks again for the advice, it is all so helpful.