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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 2)


weinoo
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[Moderator note: The original Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)]

My first sourdough (100%) of 2009, kneaded in food processor, also a first. 2 hour proof and then an overnight rest in a banneton in the fridge.


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Edited by Mjx
Moderator note added. (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Nice looking bread, Mitch. My mother died... neglect.... I didn't call, I didn't write, I didn't feed her, you know how mothers can be... so no sour dough for me for right now.

But, I have a question: yours looks very 'holey'....doesn't that mean something...not enough hydration or something? God, I'm rusty....need to go back to baking bread!!

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The holes are exactly what you want!

Contributors to an open crumb like that are: high hydration, limited kneading, low gluten dough, gluten degradation by acid, and baking from a cold dough. These are all tricky to finesse, especially with a sourdough, because these doughs can be quite delicate and easily deflate.

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The holes are exactly what you want!

Contributors to an open crumb like that are: high hydration, limited kneading, low gluten dough, gluten degradation by acid, and baking from a cold dough.  These are all tricky to finesse, especially with a sourdough, because these doughs can be quite delicate and easily deflate.

Could you talk a little bit about how to achieve each of these?

(Although my sourdough tastes wonderful, it doesn't have that open of a crumb.)

I usually knead dough until it passes the windowpane test. When you say "limited kneading," would that mean the dough does not pass the windowpane test?

Low gluten dough: would you suggest using AP flour, rather than bread flour, to limit the protein and gluten?

What do you mean by "gluten degradation by acid"?

I haven't had much success baking a cold dough - this is the only step in jackal10's lesson that I don't follow. When I bake directly out of the fridge, the final loaf tends to bulge out on one side. So I usually leave the dough out for about 2 hours prior to baking.

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Although I'm nowhere near as knowledgable as either slkinsey or jackal10 about bread, here's what I did (or didn't do) to achieve that crumb...

For the first time, I used my old Cuisinart Food Processor to knead the dough - I recently had some minor hand surgery, and hand kneading isn't an option right now. Following the sourdough making course, I whizzed the starter, flour and water for 20 seconds, waited 30 minutes, added salt and whizzed the dough for another 20 seconds. Then, it went into a covered, oiled (well, spritzed with PAM) bowl for around 2 hours. After that, I dumped the dough onto a well-floured board, pressed it out, folded it a couple of times, and into the banneton - covered with a cloth, that went into the fridge overnight. I like to use a light sprinkle of rice flour in the banneton - the risen dough comes right out that way.

I baked the bread by preheating a Dutch oven for 30 minutes at 450. The dough then went into the Dutch oven straight from the fridge, covered for 25 minutes and uncovered for 20 minutes. I baked another one this morning, and will post pix when it cools down enough to slice. My slashing technique is meh, and Sam mentioned that it's hard to slash a sourdough.

I have no idea if the dough passed the windowpane test, cause I don't do it. The dough had a hydration level of around 67%. I used 100% A/P flour (Hecker's).

Hathor, you can have some of my mother :smile: .

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The holes are exactly what you want!

Contributors to an open crumb like that are: high hydration, limited kneading, low gluten dough, gluten degradation by acid, and baking from a cold dough.  These are all tricky to finesse, especially with a sourdough, because these doughs can be quite delicate and easily deflate.

Could you talk a little bit about how to achieve each of these?

Sure!

I usually knead dough until it passes the windowpane test. When you say "limited kneading," would that mean the dough does not pass the windowpane test?

Yes, that means not kneading until the dough passes the windowpane test. When you fully knead a dough, you are making sure that the gluten is developed and interlinked as fully and evenly as possible. This equals a regular crumb.

If you knead substantially less than that, and I sometimes knead only until the dough seems fully mixed, there will be some places where the gluten is more fully developed and interlinked than others. In addition, there is some development and interlinkage of gluten that happens purely by chemical means with no kneading needed (this is how "no knead" bread dough works). All these things lead to a more irregular crumb.

Low gluten dough: would you suggest using AP flour, rather than bread flour, to limit the protein and gluten?

Yes. I also prefer the flavor of AP flour over bread flour.

What do you mean by "gluten degradation by acid"?

Acid actually breaks down the gluten. This is why a sourdough that has been fermented too long will simply break apart: because the gluten has been degraded to the point where it is not able to hold the dough together. This is also why, the longer a sourdough is fermented, the more delicate the dough is. It is the central challenge of sourdough baking, because longer fermentation equals more flavor but it also equals a weaker dough -- so you're always playing a game, trying to push the fermentation as long as you can but still having a dough strong enough to produce an open crumb instead of a doorstop.

Some information on this phenomenon may be found in this paper: Effects of Acid-Soluble and Acid-Insoluble Gluten Proteins on the Rheological and Baking Properties of Wheat Flours. Preston et al. CChem 57:314 (1980)

Gluten, isolated from a hard red spring wheat flour, was fractionated into acid-soluble and acid-insoluble protein fractions. The effects of adding increasing levels of these fractions and of unfractionated and reconstituted gluten upon the rheological and baking properties of two base flours varying in baking quality were investigated. Results with the mixograph and farinograph suggested that the dough-strengthening effects obtained when gluten proteins were added to the base flours were mainly due to proteins present in the acid-soluble gluten fraction, whereas the acid-insoluble gluten proteins at higher levels had a slight dough-weakening effect. Addition of increasing levels of gluten to the base flours significantly increased loaf volume with both the Grain Research Laboratory's Chorleywood and remix baking procedures. Similar increases in loaf volume were also obtained by addition of the acid-soluble gluten proteins. Addition of acid-insoluble gluten proteins significantly reduced loaf volumes.

More or less what this is saying is that the part of gluten that is responsible for loaf volume is also the part that can be degraded by acid.

I haven't had much success baking a cold dough - this is the only step in jackal10's lesson that I don't follow. When I bake directly out of the fridge, the final loaf tends to bulge out on one side. So I usually leave the dough out for about 2 hours prior to baking.

Try larger slashes in the dough.

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Hi everyone - new member here, although I've been scouring the forums for useful sourdough information for about two months now. What a great resource this site is, and what an amazing group of people to be able to glean wisdom from.

I started a sourdough culture a couple months ago using the flour+water+time method, I believe after reading Jeffrey Steingarten's article on his own experiences with naturally leavened bread. Aside from pizza dough I've actually never baked bread with commercial yeast before (I just turned 23, so that's not as strange as it might seem). My sourdough breads have been my first and only breads thus far, so hopefully I'll find it that much easier using commercial yeast when I eventually do.

Anyways, I've been baking sourdough on a regular basis using my starter and jackal10's excellent Sourdough Bread Tutorial. My first efforts were fairly dense, bland and disappointing, but recently the starter seems to have improved in both flavour and activity despite (or maybe because of) surviving a 3-week trip from London to Vancouver and back. I've also adjusted the rising time from 4 hours to 8 or 9, which has made a big difference.

Here are a couple pictures of a recent loaf:

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Edited by MikeJ (log)
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Welcome Mike. That does look like a nice loaf. Eight hours of rise seems long unless you keep your kitchen cool. I've gotten in the habit of tossing my loaves in my upper (not turned on) oven 20 minutes before its going into the lower (425F) oven. This has given it a supercharge of rising and has dramatically helped the shape/oven rise of my loaves. If you have a set up that allows that, see what happens. But first, check your room temp. I also do a cup of steaming water and it all rests under a trash bag. The water goes in after 1 hour of bringing the bread to room temp.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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Welcome Mike.  That does look like a nice loaf.  Eight hours of rise seems long unless you keep your kitchen cool.  I've gotten in the habit of tossing my loaves in my upper (not turned on) oven 20 minutes before its going into the lower (425F) oven.  This has given it a supercharge of rising and has dramatically helped the shape/oven rise of my loaves.  If you have a set up that allows that, see what happens.  But first, check your room temp.  I also do a cup of steaming water and it all rests under a trash bag.  The water goes in after 1 hour of bringing the bread to room temp.

For the last few weeks I've been baking at my family's house in Vancouver and it's been pretty cold even indoors, so that's probably why I needed to add the extra time. I'm in London now, and left a boule in the kitchen to rise a couple hours ago. The kitchen is kept fairly warm by an Aga and the loaf has already doubled in size, so I guess that temperature change really is making a huge difference. I ought to pick up a thermometer sometime soon so I can put some numbers on the temperatures.

I do have a setup that allows me to throw the loaves in a warm upper oven before baking, so I'll give that a try next time, probably after a slow rise at a cool temperature for flavour.

Hey Mike.. How's the tang with an 8 hour rise?

May I also ask what camera you use? :) Nice loaf and photos.

Thanks! The sourness actually varies a lot from loaf to loaf, seemingly independent of all variables... some loaves are perfectly tangy, some not even remotely sour. Retarding the dough overnight in the fridge sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't.

The camera is a Nikon D40, and the lens is a Nikor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6.

Edited by MikeJ (log)
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Hi MikeJ,

Welcome to the forums - nice to have you and your great looking bread here.

What type of flour are you using in London? Jack's recipe calls for some

fairly easy-to-get supermarket flour, if I recall...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Thanks for the kind welcome. The loaf in the picture was made in Vancouver, using Robin Hood unbleached AP flour plus 1/4 cup or so of spelt flour. In London I've been using Allinson's strong white bread flour, mainly because the store nearest my house carries it. I've tried their Very Strong White bread flour as well (13.9% protein) but didn't really like the texture it gave the crumb.

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I use an Aga all the time - the base of the hot oven is ideal for bread making, baking directly on the floor of the oven. Throw in a cup of water and shut the door, and there is your steam.

AGA make a great baker's peel for the oven, excpt they call it a paddle

http://www.agacookshop.co.uk/epages/Store..../Products/W1825

The flour I used was Tesco Plain Organic flour (red stripe on black bag at the moment). About 10% protein. The actual flour does not matter that much, but its worth staying with and getting to know one type, and you can adjust the recipe to suit. I'm currently very fond of Rebecca Rayner's Glebe Farm Flour : http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/main.html , especially their organic spelt.

Tesco and Waitrose carry some of their mixes, but you can buy the pure flour online from the farm. Its grown and milled there or locally.

Many things affect the acidity, including the ash content of the flour, the temperature of fermentation, especially of the pre-ferment. Most of the flavour I believe comes from the preferment, so if you want sour give the pre-ferment and extended fermentation (eg 24 hours at 28C)

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I can't help it - I'm still at the stage where I want to know everything and test everything to do with sourdough.

Of course that will never happen, but my problem is I haven't even baked enough to be able to isolate the effects of a variable like temperature on a given loaf - there's too much loaf-to-loaf inconsistency right now, even when I don't purposefully change anything.

I've got a test batch of sourdough a l'ancienne in the works right now... 12 hour preferment using 1/4 of the total flour, quick mix with ice water and the rest of the flour/salt, and into the fridge. I'm going to take it out in 48 hours and let it come back to room temperature, then shape and let it rise for 4 hours or so. If that doesn't give it a little tang, I might just give up altogether.

I also want to try a loaf where I swap half the water out for a local unpasteurized cask ale. I don't know if the little microbes living in that will taste good in bread, but they sure do the trick for the beer.

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Here are a couple more pictures. This loaf was huge and satisfying, but no matter what I try I can't seem to get the sourness and open crumb that I'm after, even with high hydrations and long preferments.

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How about less kneading and more folding the dough - have you been doing that?

Sourdough is easily the most frustrating thing I've ever cooked...errr, baked. But I've got some preferment going on right now!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I've got a preferment on right now too. It's become an obsession! I almost feel like I want to perfect sourdough just so I never have to make it ever again. :D

I'll try less kneading and more folding with this next loaf, though.

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I've got a preferment on right now too.  It's become an obsession!  I almost feel like I want to perfect sourdough just so I never have to make it ever again. :D

I'll try less kneading and more folding with this next loaf, though.

Try no kneading at all and only folding. I gave up kneading altogether a few years ago. Great pics.

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