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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)


adrober
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you guys are so right about keeping notes!!! ...I am shameful in my lack of documentation ..people tell me this all the time when they want to recreate something I made for them..I vow to improve!..

so far today ..

I took a cup of each starter (three of them) put each it into a plastic container with a lid and added 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 cup of flour (KA) ..then set them in a warm spot and will leave them until this evening...

refed the starters and they are enjoying a warm room for a few hours before I put them away!

I have yet to find a cooler but have the light part to make a proofing box....for the time being I have warm spots for the dough

I am a nurse..this is my busiest season for stress... and this is how I relax when the weather is lousy...spending my off time btw fixating on recipes :raz:

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I want to cry ..not one of my starters proofed yesterday!!! I have no idea what is wrong I will try it again today and see but this is so upsetting!!!

they were so alive!!! they looked and smelled like they usually do ....

I am not giving up on this but I am having a bit of a sourdough meltdown right now ...

I don't have the KA book do they have the recipe you are talking about online Lisa?

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I want to cry ..not one of my starters proofed yesterday!!! I have no idea what is wrong I will try it again today and see but this is so upsetting!!! 

they were so alive!!! they looked and smelled like they usually do ....

I am not giving up on this but I am having a bit of a sourdough meltdown right now ...

I don't have the KA book do they have the recipe you are talking about online Lisa?

Try cutting back the water to 3/4 cup with the 1 cup of flour. Don't tighten the lid, just set loosely. Set next to a lamp, just three or four inches. Check after a couple of hours to see if you're making progress. Then again in a couple of hours. It shouldn't, generally speaking, take much more than that. Maybe 6, but it depends on the strength and health of your starter. You may simply need to continue the process faithfully for several days before it really gains the sort of strength you're looking for.

[edited to clarify...]

Edited by devlin (log)
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Thank you ...I will do what you are saying now ...I am not coping well with this :sad: I feel like I went from a decent start to lousy instead of improving...I think you are right here my starter is just not strong enough is what is going on I bet ...

I am going to make some brownies today to try to boost my ego a bit ...and will work on the starter as well ...I know I have it in me to do this ....

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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PS it did not help to hear things from my friend who bake "oh just add yeast and it will work" and "so what is the big deal with the holes?" or "just buy a bread machine it is easy"

they do not get what I am going for here at all or why I am putting this much effort into it....

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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PS it did not help to hear things from my friend who bake "oh just add yeast and it will work" and "so what is the big deal with the holes?" or "just buy a bread machine it is easy"

they do not get what I am going for here at all or why I am putting this much effort into it....

GAH! Don't listen to your friend. Also, I meant to ask what the temp of your water is.... I try to stay right around 83 degrees F, more or less, just because for me that's always gotten me what I'm looking for.

Stay consistent, refresh every day for a week, and see where you get.

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GAH! Is right....I honestly have NO idea what I'm doing, and it worked out well for me. Try not to think too much about it - that's where I was going wrong. *Smile* I turned on my oven for about, literally, 20 seconds, and then back off. Turned on my light, and popped in my starter. That's when my magic started to happen...turns out it was just. too. cold. in here. I don't know if the KA recipe is online or not...but I can post it for you a bit later...you need to get your starter brewin' first! ;) Patience, young grasshopper....

~Lisa

www.TheCakeAndTheCaterer.com

Bloomington, IN

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Hi hummingbird....

Keep going !.-)

Just a question to clarify; You said that none of your starters wer proofing. Did you mix a dough with them, that didn't rise, or were they just not bubbeling and active 6-12 hours after you "fed" them?

I have nothing against yeast... Sometimes I drop a "pea" of yeast in my sourdough to make a faster bread that still has that charismatic taste.

But bread machines... take away some of the charm for me :-)

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Devlin I imagine about 80 on the water it is wrist warm ..I refreshed the main starters last night and they are bubbling nicely now should I put them in the fridg again?

Lisa I am jealous but very happy for you!!

Glennbech I added more flour and a tiny bit of water to the dough I was making yesterday.. that did not rise causing my meltdown ... this morning I just checked it ... it is looking well risen and smelling really good right now (I love the smell of sourdough!) so I am going to fold the dough ..let it rise again and try to bake these loaves today..they have been in process a long time now!

wish me luck and thank you so much for your help you guys you are so good to share this wisdom with me!..I can not wait to tell you this came out perfect!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I love yeast as a rule ...but my goal is make sourdough bread with out any extra yeast right now ..I just really want to do this perfectly

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Here's that recipe paraphrased from the KA book, "The King Arthur Flour, Baker's Companion"

Pain Au Levain

5 c. (21 oz) unbleached A.P. Flour

2/3 c. (3 oz) whole wheat flour

1 ¾ c. (14 oz) water

2 ½ c. (16 oz) ripe starter (best measured by weight, volume varies with ripeness)

2 ½ t. salt

Combine the flours in a lg. bowl. Add water to the starter & stir into the flours. Mix by hand for ~2 minutes, until flour is thoroughly incorporated but not yet smooth. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.

Add salt & knead the dough until it becomes smooth, supple, and slightly tacky. Avoid adding flour – the dough should be soft. The dough temperature should be 78 degrees to 80 degrees. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let rise 1 hour. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and fold it. Folding is a gentler and preferred alternative to “punching down” this bread dough. The object is to develop the gluten while not degassing the dough. Lightly dust the dough (still in the bowl) and your work surface with flour. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the work surface-a flexible dough scraper works perfectly for this step. Gently pull and pat the dough flat, without deflating all of the bubbles, then fold the bottom third up and the top third down, as you would a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees on your work surface and repeat folds (top down, bottom up), so that now all four sides have been folded into the center. Pick up this folded package and deposit it gently, folded side down, back into the bowl. The dough will be noticeably tighter after the fold. Let it rise, covered, for another hour.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces, or keep it as one if you wish to make a single large round loaf. Preshape each piece into a loose ball by drawing the edges together, so that one side becomes the other surface, with all the corners coming together at the bottom of the ball. Place dough smooth side up on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Shape the loaves into tight round boules (balls), and place them into smooth side down and covered, in a well-floured proofing baskets for 2 hours. An hour before baking, preheat the oven and baking stone to 450 degrees. Half an hour before baking, put a cast iron pan in the bottom of the preheating oven, on the rack beneath the baking stone. Put a kettle of water on the stove and bring it to a boil, just before it’s time to put the bread in the oven. Before opening the oven door, take time to arrange everything you’ll need – the loaf on the peel, the kettle of boiling water, and a spray bottle filled with hot water. When you’re all set, proceed swiftly. Open the door, slide the loaf onto the baking stone, pour about ½-cup boiling water into the cast iron pan, spray a mist of water into the oven chamber, and close the oven door. Be careful of steam burns from the hot water going into the pan. Once the oven door is close, resist temptation to check on the bread for the first 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, allow the steam to escape by opening the oven door, and remove pan of water. Close door and allow to bake for up to 40 more minutes. The crust will be richly colored and the internal temperature of the loaf is about 200 degrees F.

~Lisa

www.TheCakeAndTheCaterer.com

Bloomington, IN

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Devlin I imagine about 80 on the water it is wrist warm ..I refreshed the main starters last night and they are bubbling nicely now should I put them in the fridg again?

Lisa I am jealous but very happy for you!!

Glennbech I added more flour  and a tiny bit of water to the dough I was making yesterday.. that did not rise causing my meltdown ... this morning I just checked it ... it is looking well risen and smelling really good right now (I love the smell of sourdough!) so I am going to fold the dough ..let it rise again and try to bake these loaves today..they have been in process a long time now!

wish me luck and thank you so much for your help you guys you are so good to share this wisdom with me!..I can not wait to tell you this came out perfect!

Hope you're having better luck today. About the wrist temp, it's hard for me to say. "Blood warm" is usually the description used when noting a temperature, and while that may be apt, it's hard to know what "blood warm" actually feels like unless you have a thermometer to test it against in the first place.

For me, I was surprised by how cool 75, 80 or 83 degrees feels against my skin. So it's possible you're still warming the water too much. Buy an instant read thermometer to be safe. You can pick one up in nearly any grocery store.

But in response to your question, here's how I handle the end "proof" of my culture refreshing. After it's risen nicely and looks sort of spongy and bubbled, I put it in the fridge. I should take a photo of that, I suppose. It will continue to grow a bit once it's in the fridge, so it may be better to under proof a culture than over proof it.

For my own taste, it's over proofed if it's bubbled to the point that it has a sort of frothiness skimming the top. And I've discovered too that if I cut back a bit on the water (3/4 cup liquid measure water to 1 cup dry measure flour) I don't get the frothiness either.

So I consider the culture sufficiently refreshed when it's risen into a nice full bubbled spongy looking culture, with the bubbles sort of bulging up into the surface of the culture. No froth.

Edited by devlin (log)
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I use 5-600 grams starter to 1KG flour, some salt, adding 4-600 ml water. The resulting dough goes into a galllon ziploc in the fridge and provides bread and pizza for the week as needed. I refresh the starter and leave it on the counter for 1/2 day or so and put it back in the reefer before it peaks.

I don't really use commercial yeast at all anymore.

hummingbirdkiss - how did the last go round work out? I thinkl you'll find that it is well worth the effort once you get it working.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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OK you guys I made ciobatta bread that was to die for ...really very good ...not bad shape (my husband has the camera right now or I would post a pic) ...not a loaf of sourdough bread at all ..but it is a really yummy mistake that is for sure!!! I am having some for lunch right now with butter on it ...about just under 2 inches high oblong springy texture ..lots of holes and a very crispy/chewy crust

I really love this and will quickly note what the heck I just did ..then try again to get an actual loaf of bread ..these came out pretty flat ....

this tastes so amazing I like what the extra day did to the flavor and texture!!!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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OK you guys I made ciobatta bread that was to die for ...really very good ...not bad shape (my husband has the camera right now or I would post a pic) ...not a loaf of sourdough bread at all ..but it is a really yummy mistake that is for sure!!! I am having some for lunch right now with butter on it ...about just under 2 inches high oblong springy texture ..lots of holes and a very crispy/chewy crust

I really love this and will quickly note what the heck I just did ..then try again to get an actual loaf of bread ..these came out pretty flat  ....

this tastes so amazing I like what the extra day did to the flavor and texture!!!

Sounds like a success. It sounds as if the water content might have dictated the shape (flatness) of the bread. Or perhaps the shaping?

I wanted to note, since sitting around thinking about the conversation here about experimentations with water/flour content and temps, that I suspect maybe folks might be exposing their cultures to too much heat. Maybe? Dunno.

But your comment about wrist "warm" got me thinking because, as I noted somewhere else, 80 degrees doesn't feel warm at all when I measure it against my wrist. I don't know that I'd even characterize is as lukewarm. It feels nearly coolish to me. And anymore, unless it's really cold in the house, I refresh and "proof" my cultures at room temp, just set them on the counter in the kitchen. Takes about 6 hours generally, sometimes 4.

So, to reiterate, an instant read thermometer would probably be very useful.

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I am going to take another break reread what you all wrote in this thread again ...mull it again ..wish you were here just showing me how to do this in person so I could get it right... and then start over from scratch when I am off on Wednesday ....

... my husband promised me his camera for this upcoming batch...I will take pics of each step this time so you can see what I am doing ..right or wrong

thank you so much!!!! You all have so much wonderful info and I am so grateful you are kind enough to share it with me!!!! There is just something here I am not getting ...but will persist ...

I have an instant read thermometer and will for sure use it ...

my wrist is probably not the best check

at least my family and friends enjoy the "mistakes"

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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OK I could not take step by step pictures because I have camera issues right now ...but I did take a pic of today's experiment and kept notes of what I did so I could work on getting it just right!.....

this is from three day fermented well hydrated dough that has not been messed with much just refreshed and coaxed and talked to ....and then today folded and put into a very olive oily pan to rise for one last time...baked it and it came out like this ...

...the texture of this bread is so nice I can not even tell you in words ..it is a perfect sandwich bread in my opinion!

YET my holes are till not the way I want them ...I want bigger more uneven holes ... it is however a nice resilient yet soft bread with perfect amts of tang, salt ...honestly the right ratios of all the yummy sourdough feelings/flavors I love are in this picture ...EXCEPT THE FREAKING HOLES!!! they are eluding me!!!

bread002.jpg

Tomorrows batch

I will for sure be brave enough to dump the dough onto the stone and not cook it in the pie pain again ..also I will remember to slash the top!

but for the holes ..I guess even less handling ...maybe I over folded...I really think now I have the right ratio of hydration going on ..I like the rise and the texture very much...

I really like the olive oil crust it reminds me of the taste of bread and pizza in Providence where I grew up

? kind folks...OOOXXX thank you so much again

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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OK I could not take step by step pictures because I have camera issues right now ...but I did take a pic of today's experiment and kept notes of what I did so I could work on getting it just right!.....

this is from three day fermented well hydrated dough that has not been messed with much just refreshed and coaxed and talked to ....and then today folded and put into a very olive oily pan to rise for one last time...baked it and it came out like this ...

...the texture of this bread is so nice I can not even tell you in words ..it is a perfect sandwich bread in my opinion!

YET my holes are till not the way I want them ...I want bigger more uneven holes ... it is however a nice resilient yet soft bread with perfect amts of tang, salt ...honestly the right ratios of all the yummy sourdough feelings/flavors I love are in this picture ...EXCEPT THE FREAKING HOLES!!! they are eluding me!!!

bread002.jpg

Tomorrows batch

I will for sure be brave enough to dump the dough onto the stone and not cook it in the pie pain again ..also I will remember to slash the top!

but for the holes ..I guess even less handling ...maybe I over folded...I really think now I have the right ratio of hydration going on ..I like the rise and the texture very much...

I really like the olive oil crust it reminds me of the taste of bread and pizza in Providence where I grew up

? kind folks...OOOXXX thank you so much again

That looks pretty good! And if it tastes good, then golly, it all sounds good.

Here's a question. How hot is your oven? And for how long do you preheat? Are you slashing them before you load them? And what are you baking them on?

What's your folding schedule? How long between folds? And then how long is your final rise? And what's your shaping method?

Is that too many questions? :smile:

[Thanks for your email, I've been so swamped I've been a very bad correspondent all around.]

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Here's a question. How hot is your oven?

500 degrees

And for how long do you preheat?

until it beeps saying it is preheated I am not sure with the stones it seems about 30 min? 

Are you slashing them before you load them?

I forgot with this last batch  but usually I do

And what are you baking them on?

usually I put the dough right on the quarry tiles but that pic of bread was in a pie tin on the tiles

What's your folding schedule?

I only folded the dough twice was I supposed to schedule it??

How long between folds?

3 hours

And then how long is your final rise?

2-3 hours (until it doubled)

  And what's your shaping method?

I folded it into shape of a ball

Okay, that helped.

A few suggestions.

Oven heat: 500 is good, but you should preheat for at least an hour, especially if you're using a stone or stones. It takes a long preheat for stone to sufficiently heat through.

Once you've loaded the loaves, you should probably turn the heat down, maybe something around 450-475.

About folding. This is maybe the most revealing thing you've said so far. Yes, you absolutely need a schedule for folding, and you're waiting way too long between folds (three hours will never get you where you want to be), and not folding enough. Or anyway, what you're doing is very different from my own method, and is very different from any I've so far seen anywhere.

So, here, try this. Try folding at least 30 minutes after your final mix, and then again 30 minutes later, and then again 30 minutes later (and then maybe one more but three may be enough). And then let the dough rise untouched from anywhere from 2 to 4 hours (til at least doubled in volume).

Um, as for shaping, I'm not sure what you mean by "fold," but you should probably be actually shaping instead of simply folding.

Edited by devlin (log)
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That looks good, seems you are well on your way to getting the bread to work the way you like it.

One additional question: Are you introducing some steam to the process during the first few minutes of baking?

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Devlin

..order and the folding schedule begins with this loaf today .....I will admit to you now shamelessly ...was completely confused by all these instructions ...so to be honest I just took what all of you told me and put it together ..and tried to make up a way that made sense to me .....maybe that is why it sounds so much not like anything you have ever heard of before .......I had thought I was making some sense but guess I was wrong in that ...I am going to go start my folding now :)

6ppc

I did not steam this last time but yes I do like Glennbech mentioned above someplace I think I used ice tossed in the oven ..this time I just used the olive oil and let it bake into the crust I really like the taste of that with the sourdough...should I go back to the steam?

thank you thank you thank you!!!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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6ppc

I did not steam this last time but yes I do like Glennbech mentioned above someplace I think I used ice tossed in the oven ..this time I just used the olive oil and let it bake into the crust I really like the taste of that with the sourdough...should I go back to the steam?

thank you thank you thank you!!!

As far as i know the steam helps oven spring & crust texture/development , no reason to do away with the olive oil even if you do choose to add a little steam to the process.

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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