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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)


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Hmmm, I've had this grape starter recipe for a while and never tried it, now y'all have me thinking....

The easy grape starter is this: get some red grapes from the market. Put them into a large plastic or glass (preferred) container, smash them slightly, add equal amounts of flour and water mixed together (I do a pint of each) and cover the container. Do not look inside and especially do not sniff the contents for a week.

After the week is up, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove all the grape skins and seeds. Use a cup of starter as a cup of liquid ingredients in your bread recipe and replace that cup with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour. That's how you keep a starter going, you feed it.

If a starter starts to smell bad, it is bad. Discard it quickly, because you won't like either the bread it makes or what it eventually mutates into.

About two and a half to three years ago I created a starter using the "grapes" method.  Can't remember which of my books I took it from, but it was a grand experiment for me.  The starter was tangy and flavorful.  I froze some of it and last night while searching for something else I found the starter.  I was sure that it had been frozen too long to be revived.  I let it defrost, put it in a jar and fed it, left it out on the counter, about 60F and this morning there was definite activity.  I almost feel like I gave birth...and I guess in a way I did  :raz:

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Hmmm, I've had this grape starter recipe for a while and never tried it, now y'all have me thinking....

The easy grape starter is this: get some red grapes from the market. Put them into a large plastic or glass (preferred) container, smash them slightly, add equal amounts of flour and water mixed together (I do a pint of each) and cover the container. Do not look inside and especially do not sniff the contents for a week.

After the week is up, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove all the grape skins and seeds. Use a cup of starter as a cup of liquid ingredients in your bread recipe and replace that cup with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour. That's how you keep a starter going, you feed it.

If a starter starts to smell bad, it is bad. Discard it quickly, because you won't like either the bread it makes or what it eventually mutates into.

A word of caution!!! Be sure to use only organic grapes. You wouldn't want to put pesticides in your bread :sad:

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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Hmmm, I've had this grape starter recipe for a while and never tried it, now y'all have me thinking....

The easy grape starter is this: get some red grapes from the market. Put them into a large plastic or glass (preferred) container, smash them slightly, add equal amounts of flour and water mixed together (I do a pint of each) and cover the container. Do not look inside and especially do not sniff the contents for a week.

After the week is up, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove all the grape skins and seeds. Use a cup of starter as a cup of liquid ingredients in your bread recipe and replace that cup with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour. That's how you keep a starter going, you feed it.

If a starter starts to smell bad, it is bad. Discard it quickly, because you won't like either the bread it makes or what it eventually mutates into.

A much easier and much more reliable way to do it is to just buy one that sounds good from

Sourdo.com

I have had two from Ed and a number that I started from scratch.

I still use his SF every week and it performs well, even here in SoCal.

Doc

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I have been having issues with my sourdough lately. Though the flavor is fantastic, but I am getting a really dense crumb, and I am not sure why.

my checklist so far:

-health of starter: very vibrant and active, no off flavor or odor, dough rises beautifully

-kneading: I am using the mixer for the first 5-8 minutes then finishing by hand for the last 8-10

-rising time: all of the breads I do with this starter rise a minimum of 22 hours. Assemble dough,

till doubled, punch down chill, pull from fridge and rise again, bench, shape, then finally bake

-oven temp: I usually heat my oven to 500 one hour before, then once dough goes in I turn down

to 425

-steam: this is the only area where I am a bit iffy. I have been spritzing the oven before the dough

goes in, then keeping the door shut for the first 20 minutes.

Would steam (too little, too much, too late, too early?) cause this density problem?

gallery_8173_3280_54189.jpg

Edited by phlawless (log)

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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How is you oven spring? What is your baking surface? What kind of hydration levels are you using ?

Have you had big fluffy loaves until recently, and now something suddenly happened? Using the same process and same ingredients ?

Looking at the bottom of your loaf, I see a lot of compressed cells, In my loaves the cells are usually largest at the bottom. This makes me think of

a few things ;

1) Over-proofing

2) Heavy loaves? Did you change the weight of your recipe?

3) Do you bake in the top racks of your oven?

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My oven spring isn't too great. I have never had big fluffy loaves, but they have always been much better than this. Sometimes I bake on tiles, sometimes on pans, these were done on pans. I bake on the lower third of this oven which I haven't done a lot of bread in. My recipe hasn't changed at all. Hydration levels, not really sure.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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By Hydration levels, I mean the amount of water in your dough. So If your recipe hasn't changed this hasn't changed either.

After you shape your loaves, how much time do they get to rise? And how do you rise them?

My initial though Is also that 22 hours of initial dough fermentation is a bit "over the top". I havn't heard about any method with more than 4-5 hours of initial rise/bulk fermentation. (That's dan Lepard's white leaven bread that takes 8 hours from dough assembly to bake. Having a fully activated starter, and about 20-30% of all the flour in the starter.) However; Im not sure how this may affect your results.....

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I had similar problems in the past and here is my take. Sounds like underfermentation.

22 hours for a rise is overly excessive and sounds like you may have a temperature or starter issue. Is your starter truly primed and ready? (meaning it doubles in 4 hours after a feed)? Are you feeding it 4 hours ahead before mixing your dough to give it maiximum leavening power? the longer ytou wait, the more tasty acid you get at the expense of rising potential. What is your fermentation temperature? If your dough is not doubling in a few hours at a temp in the 80 range, that can also be a culprit. I read a million times that bread is all about time and temperature but until I personally heeded the call, my sourdough looked like that. tasty but dense.

to sum up my suspects: starter not active enough and/or temperature too low.

Good luck! You see that sourdough takes no prisoners. It is a trick balancing leavening power with sourness.

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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I think you may be right about being over proofed. It's not quite doubling, and that's why I let it go longer. My temp is a bit cooler, around 76-78.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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I think you may be right about being over proofed. It's not quite doubling, and that's why I let it go longer. My temp is a bit cooler, around 76-78.

Actually that's underfermented if it is taking too long. With that temperature of the room (and dough hopefully - another variable if dough is too cool), your starter is likely the culprit.

Feed it 2x to get it revved up, making sure it double in between feeds within 4 hours. 4 hours before mixing your dough, feed it again.

With a room temp and dough temp in the 76-78 range, you should see a more reasonable time of fermentation and a better crumb inside. Realize again that the acid levels will be lower and so taste will differ. The more acid, the less leavening power. Old starters smell really strong but will raise nothing. Superfresh starter is the opposite. The ying/yang is the fun part of experimentation. People go nuts figuring out the "sweet spots" of their starters. Some people add sour salt to boost taste but I don't like it.

As noted above also, oven spring from a very hot baking surface will help your cause also.

Another thing in re-reading your initial post. The sequence is a bit avant garde. I wouldn't choose to chill between primary fermentation and shaping. Try to ferment your dough, shape, proof and bake. If you need to break up the process, I would chill it after shaping and let it proof overnight while in the fridge. You will get some action while it cools. the next day, take it out, bake it. I used to let it warm up before baking but was told in a great bread book by Jeffrey Hamelman that this is not necessary and so I now will bake em cold and it works fine. If I were you, I would get your bake done in 1 day to remove all variables of temperature swings and see how it works.

Lemme know how you make out...

Evan

Edited by shacke (log)

Dough can sense fear.

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so a schedule could go something like this:

1st feeding: 6 a.m.

2nd: 10 a.m.

mix dough: 2 p.m.

bake bread: 7-8 p.m.

do you think that's long enough of a rise for the dough?

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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so a schedule could go something like this:

1st feeding: 6 a.m.

2nd: 10 a.m.

mix dough: 2 p.m.

bake bread: 7-8 p.m.

do you think that's long enough of a rise for the dough?

Depending on if you are a morning person or not you can simplify and still get good results I think by feeding your starter before you go to bed, getting up and feeding again and if it doubles or more after 4 hours, then go ahead and use it in your dough. I try and be practical and make the schedule fit me and not the bread when possible if it's not critical :biggrin: I am not that obsessive.

I would try to be sure also that your prefeeds are done on a lively starter. Typically, it will take about 3 feeds to get a dormant but healthy starter from the fridge up to speed again for baking. If you keep it on the counter and feed it regularly, this is not an issue. If it is in the fridge most of it's life, then take it out feed it 2x a day (I keep mine liquid with 1:1 water:flour ratio or 100% hydration) for a couple of days to "charge" it.

So first get a healthy starter that will double or more in 4 hours (and you will know when you have it!), give it a feed the night before, again in the morning and make up your dough 4 hours later. This keeps you from getting up with the cows. At a dough temp of 76-78 and room temp the same, expect 4 hours or so to ferment but look at it too and use your eyes to judge as well. This takes some practice.

Shape and proof (likely another 2-3 hours but eyeball it - depends on temperature here knowing you have a good starter) and bake on hot surface with steam. As far as steam, the moisture allows greater volume before crust sets. I toss a cup of boiling water in a pan at the bottom of the oven as I load the bread. Shut the door. Some people spritz more after that , some spritz the bread. I don't. I keep the door shut to keep the steam in.

good luck. I am curious to see if this helps you.

Evan

Edited by shacke (log)

Dough can sense fear.

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thanks, evan...i'm going to give it a try tomorrow.

One glance at the loaf tells me it is overproofed. Do not aim for doubling in size. With your first fermentation you only need to establish a good network of tiny gas cells for the dough to be ready for shaping. After about 3 hours slash the dough and see if you have a good network of tiny gas bubbles, if so the dough is ready for shaping, if not try again in an hour.

Give the dough a gentle folding knead, without tearing the surface, for about a minute, then shape your loaf.

The next stage is the hardest part of sourdough baking to learn, when to bake. Experience will tell you, but for a guide just proof to the point where the loaf only barely springs back when you poke it gently with your finger. Remember it is far better to bake underproofed than overproofed.

Kind regards

Bill

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Some people add sour salt to boost taste but I don't like it.

Evan

Hi Evan, What is "sour salt"? I've never heard of it :huh:

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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thanks, evan...i'm going to give it a try tomorrow.

The next stage is the hardest part of sourdough baking to learn, when to bake. Experience will tell you, but for a guide just proof to the point where the loaf only barely springs back when you poke it gently with your finger. Remember it is far better to bake underproofed than overproofed.

Why is it better to underproof than overproof, Bill?

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Why is it better to underproof than overproof, Bill?

A moderatly underproofed loaf will still rise and give good oven spring and quite a good crumb. An overproofed loaf is as seen in the picture already posted where the gas cell walls are weakened to the point where they can't support the weight of the dough and collapse, and the crumb becomes dense and rubbery. A very overproofed loaf turns into a gooey blob and bakes like a brick.

Perfect proofing is the balance point at which the maximum amount of gas has been produced (through dough fermentation) without the gluten structure being weakened by overfermentation.

Kind regards

Bill

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Some people add sour salt to boost taste but I don't like it.

Evan

Hi Evan, What is "sour salt"? I've never heard of it :huh:

Citric acid.

Thanks. I've used ascorbic acid to help the yeast feed, but never heard of citric acid.

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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I'm trying another loaf today.

With the help of shacke, I think I have discovered my problem(s).

Last night I took out 1 ou of starter and fed it cold, equal parts hot water and flour. This morning, I fed it again, the same proportions and it doubled. So I went ahead and mixed my dough.

gallery_8173_3280_84077.jpg

I have never measured the temp of my dough before...

I'm going to wait 2-2/12 hours and see if I can go ahead and shape.

A question:

Do I do a preliminary benching first, rest, then shape or just go ahead and shape?

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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A question:

Do I do a preliminary benching first, rest, then shape or just go ahead and shape?

If it's one loaf, I think you can shape without a rest and then proof it. If you divide and preshape, it helps to give them a little bench rest first.

By now you may have already started that but make sure to give it enough time to rise. It's been my personal experience that underfermentation is one possible cause of dense crumb (hydration issue is another biggie esp. in beginners). Bill's point of not overproofing (second fermentation) is very wise but a good first fermentation is important. Cutting time on the second rise is something I frequently do - oven spring helps cover the underproofing.

I am crossing my fingers...

Evan

Edited by shacke (log)

Dough can sense fear.

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Well...

I never finished the dough.

I neglected to mention that I also had a birthday cake for 60 that I had to finish and deliver today, and my daughter decided that she didn't want to nap. So, they dough WAY over fermented because I couldn't get to it. But, I am going to begin again Sunday night. You were right about the dough being too stiff, I will correct this. I don't have any contract baking to do next week, so I am determined to master this starter! Or at the very least, bake a loaf I can be proud of.

Until then...

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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Well...

I never finished the dough.

I neglected to mention that I also had a birthday cake for 60 that I had to finish and deliver today, and my daughter decided that she didn't want to nap. So, they dough WAY over fermented because I couldn't get to it. But, I am going to begin again Sunday night. You were right about the dough being too stiff, I will correct this. I don't have any contract baking to do next week, so I am determined to master this starter! Or at the very least, bake a loaf I can be proud of.

Until then...

Well it gives you another chance to experiment. Your dough looks like it holds its shape almost too well from the get go. That's a clue that more hydration is a factor in your dough. Unless someone is there with you, getting the hang of that is trial and error. Getting comfortable with slacker wetter dough is a process. With your healthy starter and a dough that comes out of the mixer fairly supple, squishy and with the surface feeling of a post it note, you will be well on your way. Resist that urge to add flour. "Wetter is better" You may also wish to hold back some of the flour and add if you need it. It is easier to add flour than water during mixing.

Bake on!

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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Evan, your instructions are clear and informative. Thank you. My question: I need to start my own starer, and I know I can do it with flour and water, but can you give me some idea of proportion, or what I should be looking for? As in bubbling, smells, etc.?

Thanks!!

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      3 eggs, slightly beaten
      12 oz can tsubushian (mashed azuki beans)
      1 c chopped nuts (any kind)

      Preheat oven to 350 C.
      In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Cut in butter. Press mixture evenly into a 13x9x2-inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
      Sift the remaining 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in eggs, nuts, and tsubushian.
      Pour over baked crust and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cut into bars while still warm (I wrote 48 bars, but you can cut them larger or smaller if you like).
      *Tsubushian is mashed cooked azuki beans and is available in cans at Japanese markets or other Asian food stores. It's coarser than anko, so you can easily make your own if you can't find the canned variety. You can use a recipe such as this one.
      Keywords: Dessert, Easy, Brownies/Bars
      ( RG1955 )
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