The Fresh Loaf

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Tips on Improving This Bake Please?

trancer's picture

Tips on Improving This Bake Please?

Hi All,

My first post here :) 

I've started baking sourdough bread about 2 months ago now and am really enjoying it.  I have been finding the lower hydration bakes easier but not a big fan of the texture of the crumb.  I've been working with a higher hydration bake recently which is starting to come together.  I think I’ve had a few bad loaves due to under proofing but I’ve fixed this (i think) by starting to take records and making adjustments.

I'm now at a point where I'm reasonably happy but I can't help but feel that there's opportunity for more oven spring.  I was wondering if I could get some tips from people.  My method and pictures are below.

All temperatures are in Degrees Celsius.

  • 255g Bread Flour (13.1%)
  • 70g Unbleached Organic Spelt
  • 253g water
  • 7.5g salt
  • 65g levain (consisting of 90% Bread Flour and 10% Rye Flour)

The levain was used at 8 hours old (25 deg) having almost tripled in size.  This is an 80% hydration loaf with about 80/20 bread flour to Spelt.

  • Autolyse was 2 hours
  • Inoculation | T0:00 | 2 min Rubaud & 4 min slap and fold
  • Salt | T0:30  | 5 mins slap and fold | 24.1 deg
  • Turn & Fold | T1:00 | 24.2 deg
  • Lamination | T1:30 | 24.5 deg
  • Coil Fold 1 | T2:00 | 25.8 deg
  • Coil Fold 2 | T2:30 | 25.3 deg
  • Coil Fold 3 | T3:00 | 24.6 deg
  • Coil Fold 4 | T3:45 | 25.2 deg
  • Coil Fold 5 | T4:30 | 24.7 deg
  • Coil Fold 6 | T5:30 | 24.1 deg
  • Coil Fold 7 | T6:30 | 23.6 deg
  • Shape & Retard (in fridge)  T7:00

After 18 hours retard I cooked it straight from the fridge in a Dutch Oven at 260 deg for 20 mins then at 220 deg for 25 mins.

There were many turn and folds as I was planning on the BF lasting for 9 hours and I feel that my dough structure is not as strong as it could be.  I got worried that it may over-ferment and gave it a poke test (which I’m not sure I can gauge correctly yet). I was chicken and finished fermentation earlier than I had planned to at 7 hours after Inoculation.
I suspect that my shaping could be better but I guess that will come in time.  I wonder that there’s not enough strength in the dough and I really want to be able to manage this by better process than by reducing the hydration as I prefer the texture of the high hydration dough.

There's a strange bigger expansion in the middle which has happened a couple of times now. What might this be indicative of?

I’ve not cut into it yet so no crumb pics I’m afraid.

Any tips / feedback would be much appreciated.

 Loaf Top View

Loaf Side View

naturaleigh's picture

Couple of thoughts:

Spelt flour is less absorptive than other WW flours, and the hydration on your dough is pushing 80% I think, which is pretty high.  This will pose some challenges.  Additionally, spelt increases extensibility in dough, which means it wants to spread out more.  I think there are likely some good forum chats here that delve into baking with spelt.  I would decrease the amount of water in your recipe and try again.

A shorter autolyse would probably be fine (30-60 minutes).  I think you will get most of the good benefits at about an hour.

Try decreasing the number of S&F/coil folds, then let the dough just sit for a few hours at the end of your bulk ferment.  So long as you have the windowpane effect when you check at the beginning of your 4th or 5th S&F (some do less) you should be fine.  What method are you using to judge whether the dough has strength or not?  I think you may have overworked the dough and then didn't give it any time to gain volume at the end of the bulk ferment.  Signs bulk ferment is done will include the large bubbles, a concave edge of dough where it meets the bowl, and a light, jiggly consistency when you move the bowl.  You are shooting for 30-50% increase in dough volume from the beginning of the ferment.  A lot of people over-ferment their dough.

You might shorten your cold retard.  It looks like the starter is maybe wearing out.  If my math is right, it looks like you have about 27 hours from start to finish, which might be too long for your starter.  This coupled with the long bulk might be asking too much of your starter.  

Without a crumb shot, it is hard to see what is going on completely, but the side photo looks like the dough was a little tired, possibly over-fermented and proofed.

I'm sure there are others here with more expert guidance...just thought I'd add a few comments that I hope will be helpful.  Happy Baking!

trancer's picture

Thanks for your feedback.

I'll do some more reading around Spelt and make a note to replace the spelt with wholemeal in a future bake and see what happens.

I'm thinking i overworked the dough as well.  I recall when doing the slap and fold that it was nice and tight for a good amount of time but then it started to feel loose again, so i'm wondering if i made a mistake early on in the piece.

I'm having another go again today and will reduce autolyse and bulk.

In answer to your question I do use the windowpane test but didn't do so for this last bake. 

I've included some pictures of the crumb below as I cut it open this morning.  I really liked the texture.

Thank you for your thoughts and time to respond!