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What's going wrong with my bread?


&roid
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This weekend I've been trying a Dutch oven boule from Ken Forkish's flour water salt yeast. It's a poolish dough, with the preferment started the day before. 

 

I I was really pleased with the appearance, and the taste was pretty good, but I'm not at all happy with the crumb. It's too dense at the bottom with ridiculous air pockets at the top. Any suggestions?

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The bottom crust appears in your photo to be a little charred. If that is the case, it could have transferred too much heat too quickly to the bottom of the loaf, setting the dough directly above it prematurely while allowing the top of your still unset boule to rise like crazy in the steam.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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That really is a beautiful crust. I've had similar surprises upon slicing into loaves that I thought looked great when I took them out of the oven. Often I never figure out where I went wrong, because I think I've done the same thing I've always done. I'm not familiar with the Forkish book, but my first thought was: too much liquid, and not thoroughly incorporated into the dough. Was it a no-knead bread? 

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I have made this bread dozens of times and I've had my  their share of failures  of one kind or another but I have never had this. Looking at the photograph my suspicion is insufficient  mixing initially. For those who are not familiar with the Forkish method  you combine the water and flour and allow them to rest for 20-30 minutes (autolyse). Then sprinkle the yeast and salt over top of the resulting dough  and squish it all together.   He gives the exact method of accomplishing this mixing but suggests it should take about five minutes.   That does not sound like very long but I have found I must watch the clock to ensure that I do get that first mixing done appropriately well.  Since this is a no knead bread  this is really the only mixing that occurs so it needs to be done thoroughly.   I am not saying this is the problem because I do not know what is the problem but it is where I would start troubleshooting.  

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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What temperature was the dough held at? Did you proof it?

 

It looks like the dough was too cold when it went into the oven. Longer shaping to build structure would have helped as well.

 

This doesn't really look like rope, but, I will ask anyway. Were the insides sticky, and was there an odd melony smell?

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I'm sorry, but " sprinkle the yeast and salt over top of the resulting dough  and squish it all together " sounds like a technique guaranteed to result uneven distribution of yeast and salt throughout the dough.

You can even end up with pockets of yeast (or malt in my case).

I am a proponent of mixing the yeast, salt and any additives (such as malt) with the water first (i even use a blitz stick to make sure everything is dissolved). Flour is added last, mixing all the while

 

 

 

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43 minutes ago, Heartsurgeon said:

I'm sorry, but " sprinkle the yeast and salt over top of the resulting dough  and squish it all together " sounds like a technique guaranteed to result uneven distribution of yeast and salt throughout the dough.

 

It is a technique I have used when I idiotically forgot to add the yeast and salt to the liquid first, as documented on the Bread Topic. Resulted in one of the best loaves I have managed so far.

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4 hours ago, Heartsurgeon said:

I'm sorry, but " sprinkle the yeast and salt over top of the resulting dough  and squish it all together " sounds like a technique guaranteed to result uneven distribution of yeast and salt throughout the dough.

You can even end up with pockets of yeast (or malt in my case).

I am a proponent of mixing the yeast, salt and any additives (such as malt) with the water first (i even use a blitz stick to make sure everything is dissolved). Flour is added last, mixing all the while

 

 

 

 But you are using a very different technique from the one that Ken Forkish puts forth in his book. I use the shortcut "squish" because the question did not seem to require a full explanation of his mixing technique. I have made dozens of these loaves and had no difficulty in terms of incorporating the yeast and the salt into the dough evenly.  

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thanks for all the replies guys. It was definitely properly mixed - the book goes into great detail about what and how to do this, and it's certainly not like the no knead recipes I've tried in the past. 

 

The bit about rope was really interesting - I knew nothing about it before so have had a good Google and learnt a bit! As you thought though, it wasn't the answer. 

 

Cyalexa, any suggestions about shaping I should follow? I wonder if this is the answer. 

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3 hours ago, &roid said:

Cyalexa, any suggestions about shaping I should follow? I wonder if this is the answer. 

I am shaping challenged and hesitate to give advice. I will say, however, I make an effort make any folds snug, ie. don't trap a big bubble in a fold. There are lots of good shaping videos on u-tube and you might seek advice at http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

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See if this link to Ken Forkish' video helps with the shaping. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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What's your altitude? I've had similar problems making bread at higher altitude, and the answer was to reduce the yeast. Now I use only 1-1/4 tsp. for a loaf and the crumb is much more uniform--if that's what you're looking for. In any case the holes will be smaller when using less yeast. I use my bread machine to mix and knead the dough and then remove it to be baked on a preheated stone. I haven't baked a loaf in the machine in many years, though that experience taught me a lesson about the yeast. I kept producing a loaf that was dense at the bottom and almost crumbly on top, but reducing the yeast solved that problem. Experiment with quantities to find out what works best for your altitude. Or look up online the CSU (Colorado State University) Extension Service for their recommendations.

 

Hope this helps--Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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>>> Ken Forkish' video helps with the shaping. 

 

an item to note from that video - handling is done from the board (down) side - where the bench flour is.  if the top of the loaf is "well floured" and then put to the stretch&fold technique, it is possible to develop a "weak layer/bond" resulting in something similar the pix'd voids. 

 

I've done it - the problem was not quite as pronounced - but the bauer style loaf 'cleanly' separated 'in the middle' - so I don't wildly 'flour the whole dough' when I turn it out anymore...  more flour on the hands, less/none on the loaf proper...

 

from the size of the split, methinks it must be generated by oven spring - i.e. gas (co2) is already there, and rapidly expanding when it hits the oven.  this could mean the dough needs a bit more 'punching down' prior to shaping to avoid large trapped bubbles.

 

I've also experienced the 'dense bottom' issue - baking on a stone, my fix was to reduce the heat after 10-15 minutes.  high heat initially to set the dough; reduce temp & open door to spill the heat....  the dense bottom "cause" may be completely unrelated to the "mega holes"

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Thanks for the tips on shaping - I think that may well be the problem. I did flour the top quite heavily as the dough is 75% hydration so didn't want it to stick. I'll be more circumspect next time and hopefully see the right result!

 

nancy, I'm at boring old sealevel now, though I did live up in Breckenridge for a season a few years ago and had to adapt nearly everything I knew about cooking!

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&roid, when we moved from Salida to Patzcuaro 5 years ago the altitude was essentially the same, within about 50 feet. However, Breck is probably another 1500 feet higher, and that would require a further adjustment. All baking requires a sometimes drastic decrease in leavening and bread is not an exception. But I think shaping technique is probably your best bet here.

 

Nancy in Patzcuaro

Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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&roid, that space under the crust is so well-known it has a name: “the room where the baker sleeps.”   Either the loaves were not shaped correctly, or they were over-proofed, or both.

 

Hope this is helpful.

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I think I've cracked it! Thanks for all the tips on this thread, I was a lot more careful with the shaping this time, only allowing minimal flour on the top of the boule. It came out perfectly and is probably the best bread I've made in a long time. 

 

Thanks again!

 

 

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On 5/1/2016 at 10:14 AM, cyalexa said:

When I get large holes like that I chalk it up to poor shaping. 

This was what I was thinking as well.  I don't know the method, but do you actually tauten and form the boule, prior to proofing?

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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8 hours ago, &roid said:

I think I've cracked it! Thanks for all the tips on this thread, I was a lot more careful with the shaping this time, only allowing minimal flour on the top of the boule. It came out perfectly and is probably the best bread I've made in a long time. 

 

Thanks again!

 

 

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Whoops, sorry all, I see I missed a ton of posts - see you cracked it.  Looks wonderful!

 

BTW - loved that Boddingtons when we had the wonderful chance to do a bit of a brewery tour throughout England, back in the late '90's!

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)
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-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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