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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)

591 posts in this topic

This is my third attempt at baking sourdough bread, using jackal10's instructions.

gallery_27061_5210_62235.jpg

This was by far my best loaf yet, although I see room for improvement. I think one of the reasons the bread was better is that I have been babying my starter constantly for awhile now, and it was much more frothy when I used it for this batch. In the case of the first couple of batches, the dough expanded a lot less during the final proof. I got some big holes, but mostly the crumb was pretty dense. This time, I didn't get any really big holes, but the crumb was less dense and the cell structure seems more even. I also found this bread tastier.

In previous batches, I did not bother to preheat the oven for an hour. I got impatient, and only preheated until a bit longer than it took the reading on the (convection) oven to come up to temperature. I heated the oven to 500. I also did not put the baking stone on the very bottom rack, as I was using the very bottom rack to hold a tray with water. As one would guess, this did not allow enough time for the baking stone to heat up. The result was a very crusty top, but pale and less crusty bottom. The top had an interesting "blistery/chewy/crunchy" texture, which I happen to like (not sure if such texture is objectively desirable).

This time I preheated the oven to 550 for an hour, and then turned it off for about ten minutes when I slid the loaf onto the preheated stone, which was on the bottom rack. (This time, I sprayed the inside of the oven with water, instead of using the tray of water). The Bottom of the bread got as brown and crunchy as the top. The crust was more "crusty/crunchy" than the last batch, and much darker. I have a feeling that I'm supposed to like this kind of crust better, but I find that it tastes a bit too burnt.

Tomorrow is my (29th) birthday, and since it's a weeknight, I'm going to have a few friends over for a "bread tasting," with some wine and cheese. Wish me luck. I'll be starting the dough tonight!


Edited by Khadija (log)

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Well happy birthday of course and keep baking.

I like the thin blistery tops myself too. :smile:

tracey


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Here's my latest sourdough bread - using a sort of bastardized King Arthur/jackal/Reinhart methodology - for a pure sourdough, this bread

had the best rise and tasted better than any I've done before.

Whole Loaf

gallery_6902_3887_79406.jpg

Sliced Loaf

gallery_6902_3887_140582.jpg


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

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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wow, very impressive. I have a bread going right now with some of Mitch's starter, hopefully it will come out like that one!


John Deragon

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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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I finally got a gorgeous sourdough starter.

Pineapple jiuce and organic rye flour.

Do NOT ask me how long this took, I could become violent.

Here's the stupid question. Probably one of many.

How the heck is a beginner supposed to know how much of this she's supposed to use?

2 loaves, 6 loaves, 1 loaf.? 1 cup, 2 cups, dump the bowl? Do I replace it with equal volume?

I have the bread baking books. I can't find it.

What's the stinking ratio?

Everyone tells me how to make a starter. No one tells me how to use it.

I can't believe I didn't get these answers first.

I have no clue.

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I just recently made a starter, not nearly as complicated as yours sounds. I haven't tried making breads without a recipe, though. Some of my favorite sourdough recipes are French bread, oatmeal sourdough, and herb and garlic sourdough. I'm not sure if this answers your question or not.

Here's a link to some of the recipes in my family cookbook:

http://www.maystar.org/Cookbook/Breads.htm

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Try here: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=27634 or lots of places on eG

From your stock mother culture make a sponge

Mix

200g/8oz flour

200g/8oz water

10g/tablespoon of mother culture

Ferment covered for 12-24 hours at 28C/85F

Mix

400g/1lb flour

220g/0.5 pints/1 cup water

12g/1 Tbs salt

all the starter sponge

mix roughly, then leave. Fold in 3 or knead for 10 secs every half hour for 2 hours. Keep warm.

Shape, put in a cloth lined basket or basin or a loaf tin and leave in fridge overnight

Heat a large casserole as hot as it will go (220c/425F) in the oven, Drop in the dough. Put the lid back on and put back in the oven for half an hour

Remove the lid for another 15 mins

Try and leave it to cool before slicing.

Please post a picture


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Thanks so very much. That's exactly what I needed to know.

So instead of using a bit of the mother culture, I have to make a sponge first? Okay. Didn't know that.

I needed measurements. You gave them. I had no idea what a little bit was actually used per recipe.

Thanks again.

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I don't think there are any hard and fast rules for this; I add 1 cup of starter to 13.5 oz flour, about 1 cup of water, 2 t salt for my dough. You might want to try a number of different methods to see which one you like best. Try a book like Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice for instance--he gives pretty reliable formulas for naturally leavened breads that you can follow from starter to bread but he uses a "firm starter" as opposed to Jackal's sponge or my straight to the dough method. There are a lot of ways to do it.


josh

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There are a few things that do matter.

a) Time and temperature.

Sourdough is much slower than commercial yeast. For dough made from my starter I reckon on about 4 hours from mixing to baking, but overnight in a fridge can substitute for 2 hours of that. This has advantages and disadvantages. Its not nearly as time critical as commercial yeast, but more things happen over that time: the lacto bacteria generate acid and flavour, and the acid turns some of the starch to sugars, so the dough becomes slacker.

The system is more temperature sensitive, You really need to be within a few degrees of 28C/85F for optimum results.

b) Hydration

In bakers percentages (relative to he weight of flour) this bread is total

Flour: 600g 100%

Water: 420g 70%

Salt: 12g 2%

This is a fairly typical formula. Changing the amount of water by more than a few percent will make the dough feel and behave differently. 1% is 6g or about a teaspoon of water, so small changes here have large effects; measure accurately.

c) Salt and sugar (or chocolate) all slow down fermentation.

d) I quoted a liquid starter sponge (poolish) because I think it is easier to work with, especially by hand. If you prefer a stiff sponge (biga) then take 100g of water from the sponge and add it to the dough, that is make the sponge 50% hydration - twice as much flour as water by weight, say 200g flour and 100g water, and add the 100g water to the dough. I think a stiffer sponge gives a slightly better flavour, but harder to work.

I find its the long fermentation of the sponge step that gives the flavour, and the comparatively short fermentation of the dough that gives the texture.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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So with all that said, can a sourdough bread be made via the no-knead method?

That is, substituting an active starter/sponge/biga/poolish for the commercial yeast recommended in the Bittman/Lahey methodology, mixing together and letting it sit, covered, at room temperature for 18 - 24 hours? Then, shaping, proofing 3 hours or so, and baking?

Also, jackal10, I found that my dough performed beautifully even though my room temperature is more likely around 72 F...and from everything I've read, there seems to be differing opinions on the importance of fermentation temperature - within reason, of course.

I also find that 70% hydration works great - though 80% is called for in the no-knead methodology.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

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'm sure the no-knead method will work fine with sourdough. I use it a lot.

If you bulk ferment for 18-24 hours with sourdough the acid will make the dough very wet. Better to ferment the sponge for that long, then add the rest of the dough for only the last four hours or so,

80% will give an open texture, although I personally find the web a little course and pudding-like in very wet dough, and prefer the same method with slightly dryer dough.

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I finally got a gorgeous sourdough starter.

Everyone tells me how to make a starter. No one tells me how to use it.

I can't believe I didn't get these answers first.

I have no clue.

There are also some books on sourdough only- I picked up a couple older ones recently. One is Sourdough Jack's Cookery and Other Things (1970), which has a decent assortment of bread, waffle, biscuit, etc recipes, along with a lot of history of sourdough in the West & Alaska. The second is Best of the Herman Sourdough Herald 1980-1990 (1990), which has more sourdough recipes then you could ever make, along with numerous different recipes for sourdough starters.

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So with all that said, can a sourdough bread be made via the no-knead method?

Yes, I do all my breads using the stretch and fold method. Generally a four hour rise, folding every hour, then cutting, shaping and proofing.

A rosemary loaf....

gallery_16410_2294_101699.jpg

Garlic....

gallery_16410_2294_183486.jpg

Both have a bit of olive oil as well.

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*best Homer Simpson voice* MMM.. sourdough :biggrin:

The vast majority of the experience I have gained in bread baking has been spurred by homebrewing beer.. It taught me more about yeast than any bread recipe.

Now I do come from a family with some pretty decient bakers so I do have some idea of what right looks like when it comes to dough.. But I am not a pastry chef or baker by any means.. I just look at the fundimentals and use my best judgement from there.. "Fly by the seat of my pants", if you will.

Some of the best breads I have made were cultured from the dregs resulting in a beer ferment.. I just bottled the beer, washed and strained the hops out and cultivated the yeast.. made a sponge that I treated like a pet..i.e. food & H2O on a regular basis.. Some excellent, most good and some just O.K. with very few total failures.. Has anyone else had any attempts at using brewers yeast? I wouldn't mind sharing notes if there are any available. Or would this not be considered "true" sourdough?

Chow down,

Kev

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Has anyone else had any attempts at using brewers yeast? I wouldn't mind sharing notes if there are any available. Or would this not be considered "true" sourdough?

Chow down,

Kev

I believe that before the advent of commercial yeast, using beer was a fairly common way to rise bread. I don't know that it could properly be called "sourdough," as sourdough suggests, I think, a culture that can be maintained for years and years (although I couldn't tell from your message whether that's what you're doing with your beer breads or not). I use both sourdough and a beer barm method for some of my breads.

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It is the settled yeast at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. I harvest it and then culture it in AP flour, not a food source that the yeasts are used to..

I think that it does pick up some regional bacteria/lactic acid type critters and gets all symbiotic with the yeastys.. and I have noticed several different results from mother cultures in different locals. I keep a small stock pile of frozen original "sterile" cultures and let them do their biz here and there.

Beer in bread dough also rocks! Some corned beef and Carr Valley 2 year swiss with a big swab of homemade sauerkraut and horseradish deli mustard with an oatmeal stout crusty bread.. The thought makes me drool.

Chow down,

Kev

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A rosemary loaf....

Garlic....

Both have a bit of olive oil as well.

Devlin, they look pretty amazing!! Excellent crumb. I remember, not that many years ago on one of the newsgroup bread threads, someone suggesting that breads like yours owed more to photo-shop than baking. If only they knew!

Dan

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The other day I got to attend a bread making class (thanks, hathor :smile: ) at the new Astor Center...the teacher was Richard Bertinet, who has written a number of books about bread. Dough was Richard's first book, an IACP Best Cookbook winner, and Crust is his current (2007) book. He also owns the Bertinet Kitchen (click), a cooking and baking school in Bath, UK. Richard uses a technique he calls "working" the dough, rather than kneading - it involves a lot of throwing, folding, and slamming the dough around, and makes a bit of a mess EVERYWHERE - what it doesn't involve is any additional flour, so you're working with a very wet, sticky dough - but amazingly, it eventually comes together, and the bread he baked that night was quite sublime - it wasn't sourdough that night, as the class was only two hours, but according to Richard the technique can be used for sourdough just the same.

Of course, I had to try the technique - I had brought to class a sourdough loaf that I had baked earlier in the day (brave soul that I am) for critique - though he liked the bread, it was much denser compared to what Richard was pulling out of the oven. He also suggested that I use some rye flour for my next sponge, which I did.

Here's my starter fresh out of the fridge. Using about 1/4 cup of this, I fed it with 50% rye flour and 50% water.

gallery_6902_3887_51111.jpg

And here's the bread - much lighter than my last loaf, with a more open crumb and great, yet subtle, rye flavor. Oh, and I went back to baking this on a stone, with as much steam as I could introduce to my home oven.

gallery_6902_3887_61819.jpg

gallery_6902_3887_78062.jpg

My crust did not achieve the sublime 'crackliness" that Richard's did that night - I get that kind of crust when baking inside a dutch oven, but it's great to have another arsenal in my bag of home bread baking tricks. Now, how do I get the flour off of the ceiling :laugh: ??


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

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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Can I hope to see pix of said throwing and bashing dough around?

Great bread you have there!


TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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Not sure you want to do much bashing if you want big holes.

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Not sure you want to do much bashing if you want big holes.

So here's the question, jackal10 - are big holes the be all and end all of all great bread?

Interestingly enough, when I cut the loaf in the other direction this morning (to toast up for breakfast), there were definitely larger holes. Does bread have a grain, like certain cuts of meat?

And perhaps I shortchanged Richard - there's lots of stretching going on with his technique - he kept empathising the importance of stretching the dough to incorporate air. So bashing might not be the best word; flinging, tossing, etc.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

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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Yes, the crumb texture will be sensitive to the handling and the way the dough was stretched.

Fashions change. 50 years ago a fine, even crumb and a soft crust was considered desirable, and bakers went to great lengths to achieve this. Recipes for home bakers included punching down and similar degassing steps to achieve this aim.

Chorleywood and similar mass produced bread selected process parameters to give this result, hence Wonderbread, Mothers Pride etc.

Nowadays, with the emphasis on rustic and artisanal bread we like big holes and a crisp crust, so need processes with less degassing and more of the fermentation in the final proof.

There is no absolute, its up to your taste. Different breads have different uses. Fine crumbed bread, such as Pan de Mie might be better for delicate sandwiches or thin toast..Thick toast or a hefty hunk of bread with cheese might be better with a more rustic texture. YMMV.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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