Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)


adrober
 Share

Recommended Posts

I give up ..I really suck at this type of bread....

you should see the mess I have in the oven right now ...

I am taking time off from this and going to restore my ego wiith stuff I can do for a while ...

this is depressing!

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 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I give up ..I really suck at this type of bread....

you should see the mess I have in the oven right now ...

I am taking time off from this and going to restore my ego wiith stuff I can do for a while ...

this is depressing!

Awwwww... Sorry to hear that. I had high hopes for your bread today.

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aw, that's too bad! When you try again, I might try the method in the King Arthur Flour book for pain au levain. It's simplified in comparison to some other methods I've seen, but it hasn't failed me yet. And I do get a good mix of big and small holes.

This is the method, paraphrased (the book has several pages, with illustrations):

1) Mix flours, starter, and water together. Do not add salt yet.

2) Cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20-30 mins (autolyse stage).

3) Take dough out, add salt, and knead until the dough feels right and passes the windowpane test.

4) Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise for one hour.

5) Folding stage: take dough out onto lightly floured surface, carefully flatten into a square (do not entirely flatten or you won't get big holes), and fold back up, each side folded into the middle.

6) Divide the dough if you want two smaller loaves. If doing one loaf, proceed directly to the next step.

7) Shape loosely into a ball (or two, if the dough has been divided).

8) Let dough ball(s) sit on a flat surface and rest, covered, for 20 mins.

9) Shape into round ball(s) (shape nicely this time). Do not degass -- just make them a little tighter.

10) Place smooth-side down into floured brotform or banneton and cover with plastic wrap.

11) Let rise for 2 hrs, or until proofed correctly. If the kitchen is too hot, the dough can overproof and then won't spring correctly in the oven.

11a) You can do some or all of this last rise in the refrigerator in order to retard the rise and give the bread a stronger flavor. If you do this, leave the dough in the fridge overnight.

Baking (I use some of the tips from the Bread Baker's Apprentice here): Make sure oven has been preheated at 500F for an hour. Have ready a squirt bottle with water in it, a small baking pan, and boiling water from a kettle.

1) Invert dough from banneton onto parchment that is on your baker's peel (or a peel-analogue made from an inverted cookie sheet).

2) Slash loaves

3) Slide parchment and dough onto the pizza stone.

4) Put baking pan with boiling water (about a cup) into the oven, underneath or next to the dough.

5) Spray the top of the dough and the sides of the oven.

6) Reduce oven temp to 450F

6) Bake for 45 to 50 mins for a large loaf or about 40 mins for 2 small loaves

Edited by plk (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree. Take some time off, but don't give up. The book recommendation above is good. There are others as well, and it's a really good idea to study various techniques from some of the big bread bibles. And then you just have to keep experimenting. You should have seen my first couple of years of bread baking. Godawful stuff that I'd be embarrassed to show to anybody now. I just kept plugging along. You may feel for a very long time as if you just don't have a clue, and then gradually you'll realize you're really starting to understand how it all comes together and how the various steps and aspects work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

--Note I PM'd this to hummingbirdkiss but decided to post it anyway hoping it might be of help to others; if it is too redundant then (a helpful mod) can delete.

Here's my process (simple 'cos I hate complication).

Flour + generous amount of starter/sponge (I use about 2.5 cups of *active* starter, don't make a sponge at all, my starter is about 50% water) and enough water to hydrate to about 60-70% (lower is easier to manage, higher gets better holes). NO SALT at this point. Knead in kitchenaid for 2-3 minutes until all hydrated. Let sit covered for 20 minutes to an hour. Add salt (appropriate amount for the size of your batch). Knead for 7-12 minutes in kitchenaid. Better to under work than over knead.

Retard in a ziploc in the fridge for at east 24 hours but up to a week is OK (I usually do about a gallon ziplocs worth each batch).

Baking day:

8-12 hours prior take as much dough as you want to use out, hand knead just a little to make a nice ball. Place in a *lightly* oiled bowl covered @ room temp (assuming 65ish). It probably won't exactly double more likely will spread out esp. when using a wet dough.

Gently remove from bowl, on to floured bench - divide if need be, then gently fold to add surface tension, shape as desired, place seam down on peel (if using a baking stone) or on to a cookie sheet or baguette form (a little corn meal is good on the sheet or peel). Cover with a damp towel. Allow to rest @ room temp while oven pre heats (1/2 hour or so for me).

Pre heat oven as hot as it gets (550 in my case).

Score loaves. Place in oven. Throw a bit of hot water on the sides and floor of oven as well to generate steam. Add a little more water after a minute. Reduce heat to 450, for baguette check for evenness after 10 minutes rotate front to back if needed, boule same deal after 20 minutes. Baguette are done when internal temp is 205, boule @ 180-185 degrees. baguette take about 20 minutes boule 30-40 minutes in our oven.

If you don't want to splash water on the floor/walls of your oven a sheet pan or cast iron pan in the preheated oven works for this.

All of the above loosely adapted from several methods in the Bread Baker's apprentice. I can't believe how much my bread improved after reading that book. It took my bread from good to "artisinal" according to my wife. Really empowering once you get the ratios and a little bit of the science behind the process.

We usually bake every other day or so. I hope you won't give up.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hummingbirdkiss! Don't give up!!

One of my biggest frustrations with sourdough baking, is that it takes so much time from start to end. When you fail the dissapointment is heartbreaking! This is the price to pay for that special kind of bread.

I am sure you can imagine how I felt in one of my early atempts, when after 3 days of hard work, the loaf stuck to my peel, and I had to tear it off and bake that deflated lump... I can't tell you how many times my dough stuck to my banneton (proofing basket), and totally deflated the moment just before baking.

Here is my suggestion;

Take a small break from sourdough and practice all the techniques that people here have suggested, on yeasted doughs!

You can get amazing loaves with the open texture and amazing big uneven holes you desire, without sourdough! The big uneven holes is usually just an attribute of a well fermented wet dough, baked on a very hot surface!

You can even make "practice runs" with douhgs that take 2-3 hours from initial mixing to baking!

When you master all the "sliding pizza parchment", "steam pan in the bottom of the oven", blah blah techniques. And you have a loaf with big uneven holes... switch to sourdough .-)

I very often try out a new recipe using instant yeast, often much more of it than described in the recipe. I then finish it in "no time", and go back to do it properly with sourdough or long time fermentation with a minimal amount of yeast (sponge/biga methods) later.

A very good example of when this was usefull for me was while doing bagels for the first time. The dough needs to be stiff, and you have a few "moments of truth" along the way (how long to proof, boiling the bagels, shaping etc.) The first time I did this recipe I used yeast, and had no "overnight" refrigerated fermentation. I was finished within few hours. And guess what; The taste wasn't foul at all :-)

Keep up the spirit and don't let the sourdough problems kill your joy of baking bread!

Edited by glennbech (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hummingbird, what Glenn said. I was actually thinking exactly that last night and nearly got out of bed to post a message here.

There are two places in particular to start that might be immediately gratifying and give you heart, and those would be Carol Field's cocodrillo bread and Peter Reinhart's ancient bread. They're both yeasted, and they're both very wet doughs that will give you that lovely open structure you're looking for. They both might also give you enough instant gratification that you'll keep doing them and will develop a better sense of how doughs work, and especially the sort of dough you're going for and will help you develop some useful techniques fairly quickly.

The ancient bread is in Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.

And Field's cocodrillo (crocodile) bread is in her bread baking book, The Italian Baker

Both books are very detailed in their instructions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today's bread. Probably needed one more 180 rotation, our oven is not the best in the world.

gallery_52440_4436_406589.jpg

Jon, your bread looks wonderful. Great slash job.

I'm still making bread using my starter that I have been feeding since last November.

This bread is from Friday. Made with a sourdough levain started the day before.

gallery_27944_2966_406647.jpg

gallery_27944_2966_487009.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jon, your bread looks wonderful.  Great slash job.

I'm still making bread using my starter that I have been feeding since last November. 

This bread is from Friday.  Made with a sourdough levain started the day before.

Thanks Ann - Yours looks great as well. My starter is a youngster as well, maybe 2.5 years old but going strong. That dough had been retarding in the fridge for the better part of a week. Couple more loaves and I need to make another batch for next week.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

such kind words!! and great advice! I love you all !!!!

thanks so much!!!! the bread just beautiful!!! you have no idea how jealous I am of those holes!!!

it does however inspire me to really just keep on here!!! thanks

and I love the idea of getting a book!!! maybe two this week ...

I need to buy a new camera I think so I can show you what I am doing!!

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 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

"I have another semi-Sourdough related question. Is it okay to let the bread rise in the same KitchenAid metal bowl you kneaded the dough in? I have heard that metal is not the best place to do such rising, however, some recipes make no mention of changing bowls. "

That one I know the answer to ..YES the stainless bowl you kneaded in is fine to use for rising at least it works for me quite well ...

I am doing some loaves this week and I want to tell you my last efforts that I did not get to post about actually came out nicely ...I had uneven holes and wonderful flavor...my loaves are still more than "Rustic" looking ..but I am getting there!!!

Glennbech I love that you say this!!

"It's important to minimize ones losses and frustratons :-)"

perfect!!! I may have to apply this in many aspects of my life ...I will post the results of this weeks bread adventure ...you guys are remarkable and honestly I can not give up until I get this perfectly right!!!

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 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[edited for scewey spelling....]

I have another semi-Sourdough related question. Is it okay to let the bread rise in the same KitchenAid metal bowl you kneaded the dough in? I have heard that metal is not the best place to do such rising, however, some recipes make no mention of changing bowls.

Main issue with metal (as I understand it) is that the sourdough can be corrosive to the bowl...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's my understanding of the term "non-reactive" as it relates to cooking and baking:

Any material that is considered non-porous falls within the parameters of "non-reactive" -- in other words, materials such as enamel, stainless steel, or glazed ceramic (I'm thinking porcelain falls within this category, but I'm not entirely sure).

Reactive materials would be something like aluminum and cast iron, which, apparently, react negatively with foods that have a particular acidic content, such as, for example, tomatoes and other fruits and the like (the flavor in particular, it seems to me, is compromised, picking up the flavor of the particular medium).

Plastic, apparently, is not a good medium for egg whites, as the fat content of the egg whites reacts with the chemical properties of plastic which contains some sort of fatty chemical, inhibiting the desired outcome of whipping the egg whites. Whenever I whip egg whites I invariably have Julia Child's voice in my head exhorting me to make sure my bowl and whisk are "impeccably clean," and so I make sure they are.

I'm not a chemist, so I don't know how any of this actually works scientifically speaking.

But here's how I approach it. As a bread baker, I always move my doughs from the metal bowls to plastic containers for a couple of reasons: 1) because I use the stretch and fold method for my sourdoughs, and because I bake in big batches, the 30 quart hobart bowl is far too unwieldy to engage with in that process (not to mention I have only one and I mix several batches in rapid succession); and, 2) the stainless steel bowl seems to me to maintain a cooler temperature than a more neutral plastic container.

I use plastic for my doughs. Always.

Edited by devlin (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

>The stainless steel bowl seems to me to maintain a cooler >temperature than a more neutral plastic container.

I Just want to make a quick comment on this; The steel bowl is not cooler, it is just a better heat conductor. (When touching the bowl, the heat from your hand is transfered faster to the bowl, and it feels cooler)

So, If you for example place a steel bown in a 30 degrees C hot water for fermentation, the heat will be transfered to your dough more effectively than with a plastic bowl.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always proofed dough (sourdough and others) in stainless steel mixing bowls because that's just what I have around. I think the clear plastic cylindrical or square tub things with markers on them would be better, but mainly because you can see through them and get an easier read on how much the dough has risen. I always take the dough out of the kitchenaid bowl, though, and use a larger mixing bowl because my kitchenaid bowl seems a little small to me and I want more room for expansion.

The stainless steel bowl should be the same temperature as the rest of the room -- I can't imagine why it wouldn't be. And the amount of time the dough spends in the bowl just doesn't seem like it would be nearly enough to corrode stainless steel. At least, nothing has happened to my bowls.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Please help! I've been working with a homemade starter from The KA bread book. I used to make some pretty spiffy bread with it, but lately, I've just ended up with sophisticated smelling hockey pucks. What am I doing wrong? I've been using the KA recipe. I mix my starter & water, pour that into my ap & ww flour. Mix, wait 20 min, add salt. Rise 1 hour, fold, rise another hour. Divide into 2, shape, rise 2 hours, bake. I either end up with some big holes at the top of my loaf, or just tiny holes all over - but both end up way too dense & not risen enough. I usually feed my starter the night before I make my dough, and then make my dough that next morning. Perhaps my oven hasn't been hot enough? I usuaully turn it to 450 F about a half hour before baking....perhaps it should be longer? *Sigh*

Edited to add: I usually feed it about 1 c. ap flour and a scant cup water.

Help!

Thanks,

~Lisa

Edited by Lkfarkas (log)

~Lisa

www.TheCakeAndTheCaterer.com

Bloomington, IN

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Time to refresh your starter from all the junk and acid that has accumulated.

Mix a cup of flour, a cup or water, but innoculate wih only a teaspoon of your original starter. Ferment for 12 hours or so until bubbly in a warm place, then use that as your stock starter.

I bet that gets back to your former glory

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As chronicled in THIS TOPIC, here is my hummingbirdkiss inspired juniper berry sourdough loaf #2. Unfortunately I had my spouse bake it which meant - burnt, but the inside was really great again. This starter has produced two very sour loaves that have been enjoyed by everyone. You can see that I also forgot to score it, so it cracked but that's okay it was a breakfast loaf.

gallery_41282_4708_66146.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I started baking sourdough bread this week. I am engaged in a long-term house sitting gig, and the owner of the house left me with his starter. He kept it in a plastic container in the (cold) oven, and said he fed it about once a month. When I looked at it, it was not bubbling, and had separated so that there was a layer of liquid on top. I mixed it up, fed it, and I've kept it in a warm room, feeding regularly for about a week. It has never bubbled very vigorously (only small bubbles on the surface). I only realised over the past couple of days that people keep their starters in the fridge.

I baked one loaf two days ago, and I just took the second out of the oven. The first loaf rose, and it seemed to get a good bit of oven spring, but aside from a few huge holes in the middle, the crumb was a bit dense. It tasted good, and kind of had the texture of a bagel, but I was looking for those holes. For the she second loaf, I left it go through a longer final proof. It rose a lot more in that proof. I haven't cut into the second loaf yet, so we'll see what happens.

Here is the problem. As I've said, I've been feeding the starter (kept in the warm room) regularly, except over the past two days. I got busy. When I looked at it today, the surface was covered with a thick layer of grey, mouldy scum, and it smelled funny. Did this happen because I left it in a warm room for so long, or because I didn't feed it? Or maybe there's some other reason?

I removed every bit of the scum I could see, transferred to another container, and fed it. I am hoping it will be okay, and I won't have to start another starter, because I'm really enjoying experimenting with baking loaves right now.

Edited by Khadija (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Village Bakery

I started baking sourdough bread this week.  I am engaged in a long-term house sitting gig, and the owner of the house left me with his starter.  He kept it in a plastic container in the (cold) oven, and said he fed it about once a month.  When I looked at it, it was not bubbling, and had separated so that there was a layer of liquid on top.  I mixed it up, fed it, and I've kept it in a warm room, feeding regularly for about a week.  It has never bubbled very vigorously (only small bubbles on the surface).  I only realised over the past couple of days that people keep their starters in the fridge.

I baked one loaf two days ago, and I just took the second out of the oven.  The first loaf rose, and it seemed to get a good bit of oven spring, but aside from a few huge holes in the middle, the crumb was a bit dense.  It tasted good, and kind of had the texture of a bagel, but I was looking for those holes. For the she second loaf, I left it go through a longer final proof.  It rose a lot more in that proof.  I haven't cut into the second loaf yet, so we'll see what happens.

Here is the problem.  As I've said, I've been feeding the starter (kept in the warm room) regularly, except over the past two days.  I got busy.  When I looked at it today, the surface was covered with a thick layer of grey, mouldy scum, and it smelled funny.  Did this happen because I left it in a warm room for so long, or because I didn't feed it?  Or maybe there's some other reason? 

I removed every bit of the scum I could see, transferred to another container, and fed it.  I am hoping it will be okay, and I won't have to start another starter, because I'm really enjoying experimenting with baking loaves right now.

First, if the culture is being fed irregularly, it should be refrigerated. The "grey, mouldy scum" is normal, and shouldn't be discarded, but, rather, mixed right back into the culture before it's refreshed. In fact, that's good stuff, the "hooch," and it's entirely normal.

The Village Bakery

Edited by devlin (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Village Bakery
I started baking sourdough bread this week.  I am engaged in a long-term house sitting gig, and the owner of the house left me with his starter.  He kept it in a plastic container in the (cold) oven, and said he fed it about once a month.  When I looked at it, it was not bubbling, and had separated so that there was a layer of liquid on top.  I mixed it up, fed it, and I've kept it in a warm room, feeding regularly for about a week.  It has never bubbled very vigorously (only small bubbles on the surface).  I only realised over the past couple of days that people keep their starters in the fridge.

I baked one loaf two days ago, and I just took the second out of the oven.  The first loaf rose, and it seemed to get a good bit of oven spring, but aside from a few huge holes in the middle, the crumb was a bit dense.  It tasted good, and kind of had the texture of a bagel, but I was looking for those holes. For the she second loaf, I left it go through a longer final proof.  It rose a lot more in that proof.  I haven't cut into the second loaf yet, so we'll see what happens.

Here is the problem.  As I've said, I've been feeding the starter (kept in the warm room) regularly, except over the past two days.  I got busy.  When I looked at it today, the surface was covered with a thick layer of grey, mouldy scum, and it smelled funny.  Did this happen because I left it in a warm room for so long, or because I didn't feed it?  Or maybe there's some other reason? 

I removed every bit of the scum I could see, transferred to another container, and fed it.  I am hoping it will be okay, and I won't have to start another starter, because I'm really enjoying experimenting with baking loaves right now.

First, if the culture is being fed irregularly, it should be refrigerated. The "grey, mouldy scum" is normal, and shouldn't be discarded, but, rather, mixed right back into the culture before it's refreshed. In fact, that's good stuff, the "hooch," and it's entirely normal.

The Village Bakery

Rats! I can't believe I threw out the "scum" before asking for advice!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...