The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

What can I learn from this bake?

CedyBakes's picture

What can I learn from this bake?


I would like some feedback from the experienced bakers here: These loaves were 80% KA-BF 20% KA-WhiteWW. 76% hydration. A bulk fermentation w/3 stretch & folds + shaping + bench time of about 6 hours. Temp was 72-75 in oven w.light on. Overnight retard in the refrigerator. Took it out and baked right away.

I was using the Sourdough School book by Vanessa Kimbell as a rough guide on process. The loaf on the left was baked as she suggested at 360F covered w/a dutch oven for 1 hour and then uncovered for 10 minutes. The loaf on the right was baked like Bake w/Jack suggests (I have good luck with his method) covered for 15 minutes at 460F & about 25 minutes uncovered at 400F. The latter loaf has a better oven spring.

The crumb is from the loaf on the left (I gifted the other loaf).

What feedback can you give me based on these pictures?

- I know I can go much darker on the crust and have in the past

- Am I slashing too deep?

- Why is the crumb looser in the center than the perimeter? Am I making the outer layer too taught when shaping?

- What is causing those large holes? Air bubbles introduced during shaping?

- What is causing the hole right below the crust?

Never having baked with an experience bread baker, I'm still guessing when my bread is properly proofed. The dough was slightly jiggly and had a nice sheen to it before I preshaped (rested 20 minutes) and shaped.

The bread tastes good with a slight sourness to it (I made the leaven the night before).

I know there is a lot that I'm asking for here. Thanks in advance.

SrtaBe's picture

I think they are both beautiful and artistic with the "wing".  And now I will sit back and listen to the more experienced bakers as I have only made sourdough bread 3 times (trying the 4th in a day or two!). And note, my first attempts were horrific and dismal failures but I am already getting better. Congratulations on your effort and attention to detail. I am learning to take notes as I go too. B/f this I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants bread go figure. I am re-creating myself. 

pall.ecuador's picture

First be proud of that loaf it looks great! Good job and keep it up.

Below I try and address some of your questions.

How much of your total flour was pre-fermented?  Those holes in the middle where there isn't a thin layer of dough are probably either from not enough gluten development or too much preferment and the acid caused a bit of breakdown during the bench time.  But I tend to think it probably wasn't fully developed because you said only 6 hours.  Did you do an autolyse at all? An autolyse or some more development at the beginning would help with some of that development and still get away with only 3 stretch and folds. 

Your slashing looks good to me. That is a great ear, you might want to play with angle of the blade depending on the ear you want.

The crumb is looser in the center than the perimeter because of shaping, but not because of being too taught when shaping.  Shaping will naturally cause some deflating and escaping of gas and that what looks like happened here. If you want it to be an even crumb all the way through degas your dough a little more when shaping, if you want the big holes all the way through be super gentle when shaping.  

The hole right below the crust was a gas bubble that you probably should have pinched during the shaping so it wouldn't have gone through the whole bake.  

CedyBakes's picture

Thank you!

I used 20% pre-ferment. My starter was fed 1:1:1 the morning before. I use a flour mix of 45% AP, 45% WW and 10% rye. The levain was created 1:3:3 the night before. The house was pretty cool that night so the starter hadn't fallen yet when I used it. But it could have become too acidic. I should start tasting it.

I did a 1 hour autolyse with the starter + flour + water. I added water (that I had withheld) when I put in the salt (2%) and did a bit of gentle kneading to incorporate it - maybe 5 minutes. The dough seemed to hold its shape pretty well by the time I put it into the banneton. I'll add some more time to the bulk stage.

I'll try deflating the dough more uniformly next time.

pall.ecuador's picture

Yeah your starter seems to be right on point so I doubt it was the fact that it got too acidic particularly since you said it held its shape pretty well when you shaped it. I'd stick to adding a little more development at the beginning and finding that sweet spot in shaping between degassing and being lite handed.  (This for me has been the hardest thing and I still screw it up sometimes.)

If you haven't seen it this table yet it is one of my favorites from an old member who is no longer active (bwraith) (look at the sheet that says table) at 70 degrees with a 2% salt and 20% preferment 5.93 hours is pretty much spot on.  

If time allows and you want to experiment a little more try reducing your pre-ferment, increasing your time, and doing less. Jim Lahey really took the lessons learned from Peter Reinhart and showed the time does as good of a job as kneading or stretch and fold and the longer you let it ferment the more the chance the starter has a chance to digest and shape the flavor of the loaf.

CedyBakes's picture

Thank you. That sheet is a treasure.

I have to come to grips that experimenting with bread is a slow process.. We can eat only so much bread - though I've been giving away half of my bakes.

phaz's picture

I've fed more than a few generations of barn swallows with my experiments. They loved them. Enjoy!