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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)

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I've been following the bread threads with particular interest, and have found the sourdough thread and the turning thread very helpful, especially Jackal's ten step sourdough lesson.

I used that process over the past couple of days to practice producing large batches (this one was 20 loaves) of bread in my wood-fired, Alan Scott oven. Because I was focussing on the process itself, using a big plastic bin to mix and turn the dough, I wasn't too worried about the form the bread would take, although that's part of own learning process right now as well.

What I ended up doing was shaping them ala Peter Reinhart's "ancient bread," the simple stretched sort of bread stick, and also a few baguettes. The unshaped bread stick was beautiful, the interior the most gorgeous I've produced yet (the dough was as wet as Reinhart's), that sort of web or pane-like texture, large and small holes very consistently throughout the loaves. I was frankly a little stunned by how beautiful they were, even though I've done these before. I'm not sure whether it was the slightly different formula or the bulk fermentation/turning by hand process. It's the first time I've not used an electric mixer, doing the entire thing by hand. I was nervous at the start, but as the day progressed, and with each subsequent turn, I was more than heartened, and even excited by the transformation of the dough as I went along. I'm totally sold on the process. For the past year, my husband and I have had conversations about what seemed like the inevitable purchase of a large mixer, and I've been putting it off. Right now, or anyway for the time being, it seems entirely superfluous.

But here's the question. The loaves I shaped, the traditionally-shaped baguette loaves, didn't have quite the gorgeous interior of the simple bread stick form, even though they were both the same basic shape and size. Any suggestions as to why that might be? Or is that normal? Should I do something differently in shaping or proofing to get the same stunning exterior as the bread sticks?

I'm hoping I haven't hijacked this thread, but I'm thinking any of the answers/discussion might also benefit Ron as well. And I'm wondering whether Ron might find the notion of handmixing and the notes over on the turning thread beneficial as well.

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Friendly hijacking is fine. I figure we're all here to learn -- or to share our knowledge.

Sidecar Ron

I've been following the bread threads with particular interest, and have found the sourdough thread and the turning thread very helpful, especially Jackal's ten step sourdough lesson.

I used that process over the past couple of days to practice producing large batches (this one was 20 loaves) of bread in my wood-fired, Alan Scott oven. Because I was focussing on the process itself, using a big plastic bin to mix and turn the dough, I wasn't too worried about the form the bread would take, although that's part of own learning process right now as well.

What I ended up doing was shaping them ala Peter Reinhart's "ancient bread," the simple stretched sort of bread stick, and also a few baguettes. The unshaped bread stick was beautiful, the interior the most gorgeous I've produced yet (the dough was as wet as Reinhart's), that sort of web or pane-like texture, large and small holes very consistently throughout the loaves. I was frankly a little stunned by how beautiful they were, even though I've done these before. I'm not sure whether it was the slightly different formula or the bulk fermentation/turning by hand process. It's the first time I've not used an electric mixer, doing the entire thing by hand. I was nervous at the start, but as the day progressed, and with each subsequent turn, I was more than heartened, and even excited by the transformation of the dough as I went along. I'm totally sold on the process. For the past year, my husband and I have had conversations about what seemed like the inevitable purchase of a large mixer, and I've been putting it off.  Right now, or anyway for the time being, it seems entirely superfluous.

But here's the question. The loaves I shaped, the traditionally-shaped baguette loaves, didn't have quite the gorgeous interior of the simple bread stick form, even though they were both the same basic shape and size. Any suggestions as to why that might be? Or is that normal? Should I do something differently in shaping or proofing to get the same stunning exterior as the bread sticks?

I'm hoping I haven't hijacked this thread, but I'm thinking any of the answers/discussion might also benefit Ron as well. And I'm wondering whether Ron might find the notion of handmixing and the notes over on the turning thread beneficial as well.

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Friendly hijacking is fine. I figure we're all here to learn -- or to share our knowledge.

Sidecar Ron

Thanks Ron, I was hoping you'd thing so. It's all part of the whole bread thing. I love this place. It's helped me immeasurably.

I wanted to note too that when I say I shaped baguettes, I did it in the traditional way, patting out the dough and then folding and sealing, three times. Maybe that's the problem?

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Devlin, I really think the major issue is over kneeding. I've heard before about the problem of breaking down the glutin. As I mentioned was my intent, I went ahead and baked the break. Actually, it was pretty good. Gonna maybe kick up the sour dough taste on my next try.

Sidecar Ron

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King Arthur already include this and diastatic malt in their bread flour.

Hi All

I used to make my bread with organic whole grain flours, which, by obvious reasons, do not contain the additives, including diastatic malt and ascorbic acid. While can I guess where I can get the latest :smile: , I'm in full darkness in regards to the diastatic malt sources. I live outside of North America, so King Arthur is not available to me. DIY method is not for me right now, as with 3 month old baby I have to restrict mysef from most of my DIY projects. I feel that my bread is underfermented, so I really want to try it.

Does anyone know where possibly can I find it? Otherwise, is there any other product that contain the right enzymes, and could replace the malt in that respect?

Thanks!!

Dmitry.

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King Arthur already include this and diastatic malt in their bread flour.

I'm in full darkness in regards to the diastatic malt sources. I live outside of North America, so King Arthur is not available to me.

Does anyone know where possibly can I find it? Otherwise, is there any other product that contain the right enzymes, and could replace the malt in that respect?

I've heard that you can get it in shops with beer-making supplies, though you have to be careful to not get the stuff that's mixed with hops. Do you have home-brew shops in Tel Aviv?

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Most home-brew shops and healthfood stores carry diastic malt.

You don't really need it, expecially if you are using whole flours - just leave the dough for an half hour or so before adding the salt (salt blocks the enzyme). Rye flour also has high levels so adding 10% rye flour may help.

Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C, which most chemists/drug stores/health food shops will carry. Again, not really needed unless your flour is very fresh. It inhibits by oxidising an enzyme that attackes the gluten.

To slash the bread you need a very thin knife, like a razor blade. Bakers use a lame or gringnette (lame means blade, grigne means snile and is what the slashes cause). Typical brands are Matfer and Scaritech (www.scaritech.com) . Matfer are distributed in the US (do a web seach for Matfer Lame), but for Scaritech you will need to go to a professional baking supply of direct from the manufacturer.

I prefer the green Scartech professional ones.

The technique is to cut at about 45 degrees into the bread, not straight down,. You are cutting a flap, not a slit. Do it fast in one motion, don't go back and fuss it.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I don't mean to sound ignorant, but could someone be so kind as to go into more detail about the process of "turning" or "folding" during the initial rise?

Is this similar to making single and double folds when making puff pastry?

Wouldn't that deflate the dough each time? Or does that not matter because it is the initial rise?

It sounds like a useful method, but I think I need more guidance...

Thanks so much!

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Exactly the same as making puff pastry. A double turn (sides to middle and top to bottom) about four times though initial bulk fermentation phase. Don't prees down too hard.

It doesn't deflate the dough a lot, since the gas cells are not big at this stage

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Cool. Thanks.

Exactly the same as making puff pastry. A double turn  (sides to middle and top to bottom) about four times though initial bulk fermentation phase. Don't prees down too hard.

It doesn't deflate the dough a lot, since the gas cells are not big at this stage

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You don't really need it, expecially if you are using whole flours - just leave the dough for an half hour or so before adding the salt (salt blocks the enzyme).  Rye flour also has high levels so adding 10% rye flour may help.

Hmm... don't I? Although I use whole wheat flours, I find the taste of my bread a bit too bland, and this is after 30 min of autolyze (just flour and water), and the fact that 50% of flour went to 16hours preferment...

Another thing is that my bread is kinda... firm - I can take almost paper thin slice, which I don't like, as I want it to be chewy and elastic. I thought 13.7% protein might cause it, but I also suspect it has something to do with insufficient fermentation. I'm looking for a texture similar (with whole wheat/yeast limitations) to the one in the Msk's post here: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=27633&st=90.

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a) To autolyse you need the yeast - autolysis refers to yeast breakdown products.

I'd need to know exactly what you recipe and technique is - sounds like you may not have enough hydration, if its that stiff. 50% preferment is also high - most formula are 30%, as too much will affect the rise, since the acid weakens the gluten.

The temperature you ferment at also affects the sourness, as will the ash content and alkalinity of the flour. Hotter (around 30C) will give sourer bread.

Whole wheats flours will always have a denser texture (and adsorb more water) since the bran particles puncture the gas cells. Some artisanal millers also add extra bran sifted from their white flour to bulk out their whole wheat flour.

You can get in France whole wheat flour that has been very finely ground so that the bran particles are as fine as the flour particles, and they give a better texture. If you have access to a home mill, run the flour through it a couple of times before use.

The protein content on wholewheat flours can be misleading, since the bran adds to the protein percentage.

Today's baguette a levain, that I'm developing. Still a long way to go before perfection. Somewhat overproved, and the dough a little wet to handle easily, but not too bad a texture for a sourdough. Shaping is lousy - the dough stuck to the couche, and the narrowness of the grigne would indicate over-proving.

Soft flour (9% protein)

75% hydration

12 hour preferment (30%) at 30C/85F

gallery_7620_135_63108.jpg

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doronin -- You are on the right track. An autolyse (autolysis, however you wish to say it) definitely does not contain yeast. It is flour and water only. It was developed by Professor Raymond Calvel in the '70s to reduce oxidation of dough by decreasing the overall mixing time. This result is a dough without excessive strength, and therefore, improved extensibility.

To discuss your bread in particular, it would be helpful if you posted your formula as jackal10 has suggested. From your description of your bread, my first guess is that it is under -hydrated, but without seeing the formula, it is only a guess.

Whole wheat flour does contain particles of bran which affect the absorption of water. My experience is that the absorption also fluctuates with the fineness of the flour as well. If the bran particles are ground finer, they might possibly have a smaller detrimental effect on the gluten. Protein content is imprortant, but more important is the quality of the protein. The prevailing school of though among bakers with whom I interact is that the bran particles cut through the gluten strands (not actually the gas cells) resulting in reduced volume.

I would highly recommend the addition of diastatic malt to your formulation. It provides more sugars for fermentaion. Especially in a dough with a long fermentation, it allows for more residual sugars during the baking process. That will not only improve flavor, but also improve the crust color (and thereby crust flavor). Experiment by adding smaller amounts and increasing the proportion gradually. I typically add .5% to 1% diastatic malt calculated on the flour in the final dough with the brand of flour I am using. I do not include it in the preferment. Have you tried searching for diastatic malt online? It should be readily available.

I agree with jackal10 in that when more levain is included in the recipe, it will result in a smaller volume of the loaf. Are you using a stiff levain or a wet levain? When using a stiff levain, I actually prefer levain in the ratio of 50% to the flour in the final recipe if baking direct (not retarding). If I am retarding the dough, I use less. When baking with a wet levain, I use 30% to 40% of levain in proportion to the flour in the final dough.

In the matter of temperature, I have found that I prefer the flavors and aromas of the bread when I maintain the dough temperture around 25 degrees Celsius. I prefer a more balanced flavor profile than flavor profile than flavors that are extremely mild or extremely sour. Bacteria and lactic acid thrive in temperatures higher, whic can result in runaway fermentation. Colder temperatures promote the production of acetic acid (sourness) and impede fermentation activity. Notice the acid blisters on a the crust of refrigerated (not retarded - which would be at a higher temperature than a refrigerator provides). This is from a build-up of acidity.

doronin, I hope that this has not confused you. As you can see from this and other threads, there are various schools of thought on the subject. It is not who is right or who is wrong, but what works for each individual.

No yeasts or bacteria were harmed in the production of this post.

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My formula based on the Rustic Bread from the book by Jeffrey Hamelman, though I had to adjust water due to the fact I use whole flour.

I used 13.7% protein organic whole wheat flour, finely ground; pinch of instant yeast, 70-80% water. Stiffer preferment, 50% of all flour, fermented overnight at the counter.

Mixed in KitchenAid 3min on 1st and then 5-7min on 2nd speed.

Temperature in the room was ~25-26C in spite of working A/C.

I folded the dough twice, in 50-60 min intervals, resulting in almost 3 hours of the primary fermentation, then shaped, proofed for about 1.5h, and baked on a stone ~50min on 215C. No retarding. Oven was preheated to 275C (~528F) after I put there bread and water for steam I lowered the temperature to 215C...

As for levain - I use instant yeast, haven't try sourdough yet, and in spite of a large amount of the preferment, there is no sour taste at all (I'd love to have some, but I guess this is Sourdough's territory)


Edited by doronin (log)

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Bread doughs with yeast, especially instant yeast, behave differently from sourdoughs. You won't get the sour taste, as there is little lactobacilli present. Since there is little acid, the gluten doesn't degrad as much with time. Hamelin's recipe adds more yeast at the dough making stage, bulk ferments for 2 1/2 hours and proofs for 75-90 mins

He says "The dough should be supple and moderately loose". If you follow these instructions, you should get OK bread even with wholemeal flour, but it will have typical wholemeal texture, rather than the open texture you get with white flour. It will also take more water to get a moderately loose dough. You might want to follow Henelins whole wheat bread on p 122. However he uses 50% white bread flour to lighten the loaf.

Sourdough is a complex symbiosis of a yeasts and lactobacilli.

If you want sour then you need to start your own starter. Its easy. Just take equal weights of flour and water mixed to a batter, and leave covered in a warm (30C) place until its bubbles, about 3 days. Then throw out 2/3rds and add equal quantities of flour and water again and leave until bubbly, about 8 hours. You can use it then, or refresh (add more flour and water) a couple of times more to ensure you have the right culture. Once ready, it will keep in the fridge almost indefinately.

Dan Lepard's book "The Handmade Loaf" has good pictures of this process. Do not be tempted to add yeast, grapes, sugar or the like as they will encourge the wrong culture. You can add some rye, but it is not strictly necessary.

Sourdough works much more slowly than normal yeast.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I made my first sourdough loaf today. I find it much more tempermental than recipes that use commercially available yeast.

It had super crisp crust and a wonderful sour flavor but not too strong. It's more work but worth it. Can't wait for toast tomorrow morning :biggrin:

loaf.gif

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Wow, beautiful! Did you make the starter from scratch?

I was going to but decided to order the starter from KA. Much easier and I had to order some other baking supplies anyway.

Tomorrow is a pugliese loaf. We'll see how that turns out.


Edited by CRUZMISL (log)

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Excellent, what a great crust - I think I can spy a few little blisters on the surface, always a good sign. Not too much flour on the surface, another good thing. Very impressive.

Dan

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Agreed. That is a fantastic looking crust. Nice even color. Also, very nice shape. When I make sourdough I sometimes get odd shapes, like a blow-out at one of the locations where I have scored the loaf. Not sure if it is an indication of hot-spots or a problem with technique.

Well done.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Stehen:

The blow-outs are typical of baking from cold. Unless the loaf is evenly made and scored the extra oven rise will tend to blow out the centre. You might find letting the dough warm up some before you bake helps, however this will make the dough less stiff, and you should allow less intial proof time as the dough will prove somewhat warming up.

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Did you use rice flour to get that dusting effect on the crust?

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Did you use rice flour to get that dusting effect on  the crust?

No. It's standard AP flour. The dough was risen in a linen lined collander(sp?)

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- In a dough with about, let's say, 1 kg og flour. Is there a magic formula to determine how much refreshed starter / sponge to make? Can I compensate for a small sponge by bulk fermenting the bread longer ?

- In norway the supermarket flour contains 10,7 % protein. This is gluten right ?

Is it protein content that determines the water absorbtion abilty of a flour ? Is this what is refered to as "strength" ? Or are we talking about how fine the wheat is milled ? How does this attributes affect the bread ?

- How much oven spring can I rely on getting from a dough? Let's say I bulk ferment my dough for 5 hours, shape the loaves (they will collapse a bit during this process), and put them straigh into the oven. Will the bread rise at all ?

- I've seen vitamin C in some recipes. What's the right way, and reason to apply witamin C in bread baking ?

- I have some recipes on wholegrain soursoigh breads, and bread with a coarser ground flour. Can I use my nice and acitve fiine starter for these breads ? The recipe states to use another starter. (From rye). Is this only for taste ? Will the bread rise just as well with a fine flour starter ?

Hope someone can help me shed some ligh on this magic .-)

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