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My sourdough attempt - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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My sourdough attempt

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  • My sourdough attempt

    Hi guys

    A few months ago I decided to get a sourdough starter going and to experiment with sourdough bread. Attached hereto pics of my third sourdough bake.

    The night before the bake I added 100 gr (3.5 ounces) water and 100 gr flour to 50 gr of my active starter. Left that overnight and the next morning added water and flour for a 75% hydration final dough. Mixed and added 2% salt after 30 min. Kneaded dough for 10 min. Stretched and folded 4 times over the next 90 min. Divided into 4 breads of approximately 700 gr (25 ounces) and left for final fermentation of 2.5 hours. I then baked these in my pizza oven for about 25 minutes. Starting temp of oven 220 degrees Celcius (428 degrees Fahrenheit). I added steam when I put the loaves in the oven.

    Personally I think that the starting temp of the oven might be a little low. This is consistently the retained temp of the oven after a pizza bake the previous evening. I only mix the final dough the morning of the bake. After final fermentation it only goes in the oven around noon. The oven temp earlier in the morning is a little hotter. Maybe I could mix final dough the night before, do the stretch and fold and put the dough in the freezer overnight. That way I could start the bake a lot earlier the next morning.

    Some input from the experienced bakers will be much appreciated.
    Attached Files

    Check out the link to my build and pictures here

  • #2
    Re: My sourdough attempt

    The bread generally looks great. I start my bread in an oven around 550Fso I think your correct about starting temperature. It also looks like the bread is a bit under baked. You should bake until the internal temp is 205F. If you have a probe thermometer use that a few times until you get the look and feel of a fully baked loaf.

    You can retard your dough in the fridge...NOT Freezer overnight. Doing a bulk retard does not save that much time the next day. Retarding a formed loaf can save time but you need to protect the dough from drying out. If your formed loaf is fully proofed you can give it a short bit of time to warm then right into the oven.

    The trick is to have the oven ready at the same time the dough is ready.

    Your on the right path so I think a bit of tweaking and you will be baking some great bread.

    What steaming method do you use or how do you steam your oven?



    • #3
      Re: My sourdough attempt

      Hi Faith

      Thank you for the prompt reply and your advice.

      From what you are saying about storing the formed loaves overnight in the fridge (obviously not freezer!!) it seems that I must rather try and find a way to add some heat to the oven prior to baking. Up to now I have never completely closed the oven after baking pizzas the previous night - I only close the door about 85%. I will check what difference it makes if I leave the door 100% closed till right before I start the bake.

      For steam I placed a small cast iron pot filled with lava rocks in the oven. Immediately after I loaded the loaves I poured a cup of boiling water into the pot. This a rather effective and immediately add a cloud of steam.

      Thanks again for taking the time to give me some pointers.

      Check out the link to my build and pictures here


      • #4
        Re: My sourdough attempt

        With my oven I do a pre-heat the day before a big bake. So that is like your pizza heat from the day before. After your night of pizza close the door tight (if you have a fire proof door).

        The next day (bread day) you can always start a medium fire using small wood, burn until the temp is 650-700F ish then close it up and let the brick soak in some of that heat (surface 550F)( about an hour or so) swab and bake. You will need to play with the temperatures and timing to get this( every oven is different). The small wood will burn out quicker just to give the oven a boost with out over heating.

        I have used ice cubes instead of water for a prolonged steam. But I'm working on a steam injection system for my WFO. Need that steam!!!


        • #5
          Re: My sourdough attempt

          Faith has provided lots of good comments. Low 400s is too cool for a great crust. High 400s to lowish 500s are more the norm - depending on many factors.

          You don't say what flour you are using. I am going to guess BF because 75 % hydration AP is pretty intimidating to most newbies and your loaf formation looks okay. The color of your loaf suggests you have sugar in the loaf. That is consistent with the short total fermentation. I think you are technically underproofed. Your loaves aren't "bursting" as is often the case with underproofed, but your levain is probably not really up to speed so??? I am going to guess you need to feed your levain more and more often until it is really robust. I would tend to expect total bulk fermentation to be more like 3 1/2 to 5 hours and 2 to 3 hours for the final proof.

          The big holes in your loaf are a forming issue. They will probably go away as you get more experience. The remaining crumb looks a bit heavy and tight and contributes to my analysis above. The look of the crumb also suggests (as alluded by Faith) that the loaves are underbaked. I consider 205 an absolute minimum internal temp for lean artisan loaves. I personally routinely bake to 210 to 211 but I bake harder than most.

          On the whole I think you did pretty well - especially for one month experience and a cool oven. I do think you need a warmer oven (you can spike the temp pretty quickly once the oven is already hot) and more oven humidity. I personally think more dough is the best answer - i.e. 15 pound or larger bakes - but if you arre going to do small batches you really have to work to get the humidity in the oven high enough. (NOTE: a 15 pound batch will boil about 1.5 to 2 pounds of water out of the loaves. That is a LOT MORE humidification than you have in your oven!)

          Oh, yeah, I think you could slash a bit deeper too!

          Keep at it! And good luck!


          • #6
            Re: My sourdough attempt

            Thanks again for the fantastic input guys! I will take the advice to heart.

            Faith, I do have a fireproof door that insulates brilliantly. For my next attempt I will close the door completely after the pizza bake and see what temp that leaves the next day. If the temp is still a bit low I will fire it up again. I think the higher temps will make a big difference. I will also consider adding more steam. As mentioned previously I added one cup of boiling water to the lava rocks. The cast iron pot is big enough to allow me to add a lot more. I will continue to experiment with this. Maybe a combination of hot water and some way to incorporate ice blocks for prolonged steam.

            Jay, thanks also for your comments. I am not at home at the moment and can only tell you that I used wheat bread flower (will the specific brand make a big difference?). No sugar added to my dough at any stage.

            I decided from my first bake to attempt a 75% hydration and to keep struggling and make it work. This might also be one of the reasons why I am still struggling a bit with the formation and slashing.

            My starter is very active and doubles in size within two hours of a feeding. Although I only started baking recently I had this starter going for at least 8 weeks with regular feedings. On this bake I mixed my preferment the night before and let is sit overnight for about 12 hours. The next morning the whole preferment has doubled and was very active. I then mixed the final dough and started the stretch and fold process etc. I don't know if this makes any sense in the light of your reply.

            I totally agree that my slashes are not deep enough - you can barely call them slashes. I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, obviously my inexperience and also I don't think my knife was sharp enough. I will definitely try a sharp razor blade next time. Because my knife was not extremely sharp I was careful not to press down to hard when making the slashes. I hope the change to a sharper blade will also make an improvement.

            Thanks again for taking the time to comment guys. This will definitely help me to improve.


            Check out the link to my build and pictures here


            • #7
              Re: My sourdough attempt

              Hi Abrie!

              Here in the US there is a tendency to use a high protein AP (say 11.5 percent) versus BF (KA BF is 12.7). The higher protein allows (almost requires) a higher hydration. For straight dough I prefer AP which gives a more tender crumb. I use BF when I go high whole wheat (say 20 percent or more) or rye which tend to deflate loaves (weaken the gluten) and thus benefit from more protein. However, in South Africa I have no idea what your the protein contents of your flours are. There is nothing magic about this. AP at 70 % hydration will probably be somewhat similar to your 75% BF. You should probably drop down just a bit on hydration if you feel you are struggling. Being able to comfortably handle the dough can greatly ease learning to shape and form loaves - and reduce frustration. Once you are comfortable you can easily begin raising the hydration. But..on the whole you seem to be doing okay so???

              When I said you had some sugar in the dough I was referring to the sugar created by the enzymes that break starch down to sugar. In an overproofed loaf the sugars will be depleted by the yeast and one will not get the golden color of caramelization but more the brown of toast - and without steam a gray pasty color with an odd brown look. Your loaves look to me like they have sugar (some gold), some steam (not pasty), but not caramelized enough (low temp/short bake).

              Different sourdough cultures can be quite different but 2 hour doubling is extremely fast. That is too fast for optimum flavor development. What is your ambient temp? Are you using salt in your bread? If so when are you adding it? What %?

              How long does it take your preferment to peak. You said you mix 100 gm starter, 200 of water, 200 of flour (my exact approach) to make your preferment. Mine peaks in about ten to 13 hours at my temps (around 72 F).

              I have mixed opinions on your proofing. The color suggests it is not over proofed. The expansion says it might be "spot on" (it doesn't erupt like an underproofed loaf - but if the oven is short on steam that can limit expansion and eruption). I need to see loaves baked at proper temps/time/steam to comment with certainty.

              Hang in there!


              • #8
                Re: My sourdough attempt

                Hi Jay

                I am sure the ambient temperatures had a big roll to play in my last starter doubling after approx 2 hrs. Although we are approaching winter we are experiencing very high temperatures at the moment. For the last 10 days our afternoon temperatures remained in the 30 degrees Celcius (86 F) range and peaked at 35 degrees Celcius (95 F).

                I add 2% salt about 30 minutes after the final mix just before I start the stretch and fold process.

                I would say my preferment peaked about 12 hours after the mix.

                For my next bake I will keep everything the same and up the oven temp. This should give a clear indication. I will also take some photos of the starter and preferment (if I can remember). This should provide more info. Lastly I will also add a little more steam.



                Check out the link to my build and pictures here


                • #9
                  Re: My sourdough attempt

                  Hi Jay and Faith

                  Herewith photos of my weekend attempt.

                  First photo shows my preferment 13hrs after mix.

                  This time I completely closed my oven door after the pizza bake. Next day the bread went in at noon and the oven floor was 260 degrees Celcius (500 degrees Fahrenheit). The dome was even warmer. I think this made a big difference.

                  On the morning of the bake I did the final mix, stretch & fold, shaped and thereafter final fermentation for 3,5 hours.

                  I would love to hear your views and comments.

                  Many thanks

                  Attached Files

                  Check out the link to my build and pictures here


                  • #10
                    Re: My sourdough attempt


                    I think you have made some big improvements from your last bake. With that said the most important thing here is what did you think? Did you like the taste, smell, mouth feel? Is there some bit that you would like different like a softer crust or more sour? This bread looks great and I would be proud to put on any dinner table.

                    I say this because we all have our preferences even with bread. You can shoot for a professional competition loaf or one that looks good and tastes good to you and your family and friends. Jay and I have different views on some bread topics such as I like my bread baked to 202 to 205 Jay likes it higher with a bolder bake. On most breads I don't like big holes such in your picture but many strive for that big hole slice. For me the big holes are a place for the PB and J to squish out of the sandwich.

                    You are doing great on your bread quest. Now you need to figure what you want and what is good to you. If you want to change an aspect of the loaf just ask. How do I...

                    I have been baking for years and I'm still learning but that is what I enjoy about baking.

                    Bake on...your doing great.


                    • #11
                      Re: My sourdough attempt

                      Well said, Faith! One size (loaf) does not fit all!

                      Ahhh, Abrie!

                      I never even remotely thought of temp as the super fast rise...Would be really good to get that under control - at least some. You will get more flavor as you provide more time for the enzymes to break down the starch and the bacteria more time to work. Adding the salt at the beginning will help. You can also (assuming you or your family are not salt sensitive) increase salt to as much as 2.5 % without problems. Either or both increasing salt and adding earlier will slow down the yeast and give more flavor.

                      Using cooler water when mixing the dough will help - and given your high temp variation can make things more consistent and that can be really helplful. Consider mixing the dough and putting it in an ice chest so it doesn't warm up too fast. You will have to experiment a bit to get the timing right but... should work well.

                      These loaves look much better. The color suggests to me that you may still be steam short but the rip and color look good. The only remaining "issue" is the mouse holes. Big holes are lusted after by some/many but when they get too big they tend to be a problem at multiple levels. Those holes are on the overly large size. I am guessing that it is a forming handling result. The easiest way to get a more consistent crumb in my experience is to delay the forming of the final loaf. Extend the bulk ferment, then form loaves, and shorten the final proof. Total time will be relatively constant - just different allocation of time.

                      Your yeast looks happy. You are doing well and you seem to be close enough to be able to refine your loaves to what you want them to be.

                      Keep us informed of your results!

                      Bake On!


                      • #12
                        Re: My sourdough attempt

                        Like always Jay spot on with your observations. Steam is always a problem in a WFO. Even when you load a full load it takes time for the loaves to start steaming out and in that time the crust starts to set.

                        I played with my steam injection on my oven this weekend. I just stuck the steam tube in the door so nothing fancy. But I am generating a good amount of steam so I will make a permanent steam installation from the back of the oven that should help even more.

                        I agree with the mouse holes being a forming issue. I think that after the dough is divided the glob of dough is not patted down to release the big air pockets before forming the loaf.

                        There are some good videos on Utube on forming loaves. I was surprised by how rough Jeffery Hamelman was with his dough. No mercy as he pounded the dough into submission. (perhaps his German training. But the French are rough also with that slap and fold method)

                        Raining cats and dogs here today (so I can't go to work) :-(

                        But I can still bake :-0

                        working on a pumpkin seed bread and an oatmeal raisin

                        Happy baking!


                        • #13
                          Re: My sourdough attempt

                          Thanks, Faith!

                          My wife and I are going to remodel an older home and will be installing a steam injection oven. Love your setup!

                          I should have commented re: mouse holes that at SFBI we made bulk dough that was about four inches thick when dumped from the tub. Those pieces were routinely deflated to about 1 3/4 inches thick during the loaf formation and we had NO shortage of random holes up to bean size. Gorgeous crumb. Part of the trick of this was that we were using instant yeast which is more active than most sourdoughs and had perfectly developed dough. But...I know there are newbies (and oldtimers) that are afraid their dough must be handled g e n t l y. And that is simply not true for most breads if you have well developed dough and robust starter/yeast. So we are in agreement! At least on this. Now if only I could convince you to do try a robust bake! (Big Grin!) (Actually, I love having you as a foil for you represent "the other side"!)

                          Stay dry!


                          • #14
                            Re: My sourdough attempt

                            I have done a robust bake. Admittedly by accident. The crumb is too dry like 3 day old bread. I bake to a moist crumb but I do use higher oven temps to get that dark crust.

                            Anyway... can I be Bugs Bunny and you Elmer Fudd??? PLEASE!!!!

                            Nope, gonna get wet. The oven is regulating, one dough is formed Pumpkin Seed Bread and fixing to start Oatmeal Bread with Cinnamon and Raisins from "Bread"

                            What better on a wet and rainy day?

                            Sincerely, Bugs Bunny :-0


                            • #15
                              Re: My sourdough attempt

                              And I occasionally underbake... So I appreciate your side too! There is an appeal of moist crumb. But I like the roasted wheat flavor and caramelization of the hard bake more.

                              Sounds like the baking gods in the Virginia area should be happy! I need to feed my starters or the yeast gods will be on my case!

                              Please post some pics of the Pumpkin Seed bread!!!

                              Good luck with the rain!
                              Jay (or is it Elmer!)