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Kalamata olive sourdough: question about crumb

tortie-tabby's picture

Kalamata olive sourdough: question about crumb

Hi, I was inspired by some recipes I saw here. I didn't end up following any in particular because of my busy schedule. At this point I sort of have a standard protocol which involves roughly autolysing and stretching and folding the dough whenever I get home in the evening, bulk fermenting up till I go to bed, then cold fermenting until I get home the next day. It's worked well for me, this loaf was soo yummy, but I do have a few questions.


1. Why do I get such a bimodal distribution of large and small bubbles, as in why do I have so many huge bubbles and many tiny ones, but few in-between?
2. Do people usually add steam to their DO? I lined the bottom with foil and slipped 3 cubes of ice down the side when I first loaded the loaf.

This is my first time using a dutch oven. Maybe the DO is why this loaf had the lightest, crispiest crumb I’ve had yet.

I know I didn’t S&F very consistently, maybe the lack of gluten development and short bulk ferment led to the inconsistent crumb. I'm guessing I shouldn't put the dough straight into the fridge after my last S&F?


250 g AP flour
50 g WW flour
226 g water (78% hydration)
5 g salt (1.5% salt, lowered to adjust for salinity from olives)
0.5 g IDY (roughly a pinch, to make up for the slow starter)
70 g starter (fed 8 hours prior with 3:1:4 AP:WW:water)


These steps are just what I ended up doing and probably aren't ideal. I recommend anyone interested to refer to these two recipes.

1. Feed starter in the morning
2. 8 hours later mix flour, water (minus 20 g), IDY, and starter and autolyse for 40 mins
3. Use remaining water to help incorporate the salt into the dough
4. Let the dough sit for 30 mins and then add the olives and herbs
5. S&F roughly every 30 minutes 6 times
6. 20-hour cold ferment (refrigerated right after the last S&F) total bulk ferment roughly 4 hrs
7. Remove dough from fridge and let sit at RT for 20 minutes
8. Pre-shape dough and rest for another 20 minutes
9. Preheat DO and oven to 500 F, line bottom of DO with foil, leaving one corner folded up
10. Shape dough and final proof on floured couche for 40 minutes
11. Score and load loaf with floured baking paper
12. Slip 3 cubes of ice into DO, ideally under the folded-up corner of foil, so the water doesn’t come in direct contact with the dough
13. Bake at 500 F, covered, for 15 mins
14. Bake at 450 F with convection uncovered, for another 30 mins
15. Rest in cracked oven for 20 minutes, cool before slicing


Danni3ll3's picture

Of bulk ferment as you use a totally different method than I do but I don’t add water or ice cubes to my dutch ovens. The loaves produce enough steam on their own. 

Back to your bulk ferment, have you thought of shaping after your initial bulk ferment, then putting the shaped loaves in the fridge and baking right out of the fridge? You might get a different bubble distribution. 

tortie-tabby's picture

I haven't tried shaping before cold fermenting, I guess I haven't done it before because I don't have proper bannetons, but there's no reason why I can't try it with a bowl and well-floured cloth. I'll give your suggestion a go! I suspect removing the need to pre-shape and shape the loaf after refrigeration will help the crumb relax.

tortie-tabby's picture

How long is your bulk ferment? The total time your dough is in RT after the starer is added? I'm trying to adjust my process, I think I will try to do a longer autolyse and longer bulk ferment. I won't try shaping before cold ferment and bake straight from the oven yet, I want to see the effects of a longer bulk ferment first.

Danni3ll3's picture

Depending on how the dough behaves that day.

I use a mixer to develop the gluten so the dough spends about 10 minutes in there. Then I do 2 sets of folds 30 minutes apart and 2 sets of coil folds 45 minutes apart. The dough then is left to rise until it has risen by 30-40 %. After that, the dough is preshaped, rester for 30-60 minutes, shaped and into the fridge. 

Hope this answers your questions. 

tortie-tabby's picture

This is really helpful. Do you mind elaborating a little on what you mean by "how the dough behaves"? Like based on what qualities of the dough do you decide on how many folds to do, how long to let it rise etc.? Tons of posts talk about the steps to do, but understanding what the dough should feel like at each step would be so helpful. I don't really feel like my dough rises 30-40% during bulk ferment, maybe I'm not eyeballing it accurately.

Southbay's picture

You might be getting the mix of holes just from the presence of olives in the dough sort of interrupting the structure. No ice cubes necessary, but they probably don’t hurt. Nothing improved my end results as much as using the Dutch oven.

tortie-tabby's picture

Maybe I'll just mince the olives more finely next time, it might give the crumb a nice color too!

Danni3ll3's picture

After the last coil fold, sometimes it only takes 30 minutes for the dough to reach the 30-40% mark. On other days, especially when it is really cold outside, it might take another couple or more of hours. I always keep my dough in the oven with the light on and the door cracked. The temp in there is usually around 82F but can go up to just over a 100F if the door is closed.

I use a straight sided Cambro container to help me figure out when the dough has risen enough but the other thing that I look for since I can see through the walls of the container, is for irregularly shaped bubbles (long looking types of bubbles). I also look for bubbles on the top of the dough but if the dough has hit the rise mark and the majority of the bubbles in the dough are what I am looking for, then bubbles on top of the dough doesn't become as important. Some heavy doughs don't get those bubbles on top.

As to the number of folds and timing of them, it is just something that I developed over time and that works for me. If you read though my blog, you will see that I am pretty consistent in my method. The only time that I can think of recently that I strayed from it, was when I did a super heavy dough with tons of dates and nuts in it. I took a page out of Trevor J. Wilson from Breadwerx's cranberry bread to help me with that one. 

With time, you will develop a sense for what hydration you prefer to work with and what the dough should feel like at that hydration. And you will learn to add water if it feels too stiff. That's the one thing that I play with... hydration. If I see a recipe I like, I always figure out the hydration first and then adjust the water amount to give me around 75% hydration. That seems to work best with the flours I use. However, I am mindful of any additional water via add-ins. Sometimes, the water from those add-ins push the hydration closer to 80% but that's because they might be especially absorbent such as oat flakes. You still need to be careful though.  Its better to err on the side of less water as you can add it later, but you might be dealing with soup if you add too much. I was told once that the dough should feel like your earlobe and that is a pretty close approximation for the type of dough I prefer.

Hope this helps!

tortie-tabby's picture

Hi, I wish I saw your reply earlier.

That tip about using a transparent container so you can see the development of bubbles is sooo helpful, I never really considered that but it's a real pro-tip.

I have noticed that you're really consistent about your 2 sets of S&F and 2 sleepy ferret folds. I should try coil folding sometime. I do also tend to like high-hydration doughs, lately I've mostly been working with 78% pushing 80% at times.

I'll keep working on it, thanks for the advice! Seems like experience experience experience is really key to developing an intuition for this stuff.