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Working on my Sourdough boules

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  • Working on my Sourdough boules

    I'm getting the bread baking itch pretty bad these days. I've been working on my technique for making sourdough boules. I've been baking them in the dutch oven, as I haven't fired for pizza in a couple of weeks

    This was the first attempt last week - where I forgot to slash the loaf before putting in the oven:
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    And the second just today:
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    Overall, I am pretty pleased with the progress - but I can't figure out what the little white dots are on the crust.
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  • #2
    Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

    This is sticking my neck out because those are rather strange looking loaves that suggest a number of issues and you have told us almost nothing about how you made the bread or baked it. Photos can be misleading so I could be all wrong, but here is my take on what is going wrong.

    It looks like you are baking in a cold Dutch oven with no lid. The bottom and sides look way undercooked and the boule expansion looks like the dough has a dry skin. The only part that looks "right" is the top and I am going to bet you spray it because I cannot rationalize a loaf that is so dry and underbaked on the sides and so "proper" on the top. Hmmm...I am going to guess you have a rather hot oven (475 to 500), put in the cold DO without a lid, and bake for about 20-25 minutes. If so you will do far better to 1) use the lid for it will slow the baking of the top and give more even results on the top and sides, 2) heat both the DO and the lid to about 450 (yes it is dangerous!), and 3) find a temp that lets you bake for closer to 40 minutes before the top looks like the photo.

    The white dots look like clumps of unmixed flour. If you sent us a photo of an unbaked loaf they should show as bumps on the skin of the loaf. (Could also be you used clumpy flour to dust the bowl/form and/or loaf) This last observation suggests that you are using a "no knead" approach and are no mixing your ingredients enough. Mix and knead more - until everything is fully blended and has uniformity. Learn to do a window.

    I am even willing to guess that the loaves may have a fairly nice open crumb but that they have some rather large holes also (due to inadequate salt and yeast mixing).

    The loaves probably taste fairly good but...would be better if more evenly baked and finished.

    That's my read. As I said, I may not be right. I always welcome correction to my analyses because that way I can learn too.

    Good Luck!
    Jay

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    • #3
      Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

      Thanks for the feedback Jay! I was pretty pleased with the way they looked but I guess that just shows how much I have to learn...

      To your comments:
      Dough: I used AP flour w/80% hydration and a lively sourdough starter for both. The first loaf was stretch/folded. I let it cold proof in the fridge for a few days and it had great sourdough taste. The second one I was in a hurry, so I mixed it up in the food processor, kneaded for about 5 minutes, then let it proof at room temp for about 6 hours. It didn't have much sourdough flavor. Given the hydration, I had a little trouble handling the dough both times so ended up dusting the counter with flour for the final proofing. Armed with your insights, I suspect that's how I picked up the white dots.

      Baking: I baked the loaves in a pre-heated dutch oven at 450. 30 minutes with the lid on, 15 with it off. I think the reason that the bottom of the loaf looks undercooked is that I did the final proofing in a parchment paper lined bowl, and then I transferred the loaf into the dutch oven on the parchment. So the bottom of the loaf doesn't get as browned. (See your comment about the hot dutch oven being dangerous, + the runny dough - I found a website that suggested that approach and went with it.)

      I didn't get large holes. I should have taken a picture of the loaf after I cut into it. As I mentioned before, the first loaf had a lot better flavor than the second.

      Next time should I reduce hydration so I can more easily transfer the dough to the dutch oven w/o the parchment? Or maybe you have other tips?

      I really want to bake a batch in the WFO - but want to get the proportions right, as I have read your comments on other threads about baking bigger batches to get the steam right. I want to try a bake with 5 or 6 loaves when I move it into the oven.
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      • #4
        Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

        You are in new territory for me... 80% hydration is all but off the scale of handeability for AP flour. I have done 85 and 100% foccaccia but formed boules of that hydration are asking for trouble. I would suggest dropping to at least 70% (which most people find trouble). Post your formula/recipe for something seems amiss. You should have had LOTS of trouble handling the dough.

        WRT flavor, flavor takes time. There is no shortcut to real bread flavor but time (and temp combination). That is why your slow loaf tastes better.

        Ahhh, the old parchment trick! Couldn't handle and transfer it so you used parchment. Yes, that will do it. That really faked me out! Parchment inhibits heat transfer so you get a lighter crust - I personally think it is important to keep parchment out of the DO - dropping the hydration till you can handle it is better.

        That's why I went ahead and did the detailed analysis - so others might learn from this too and my mistakes in reading the loaves!. 30/15 is too long with the lid on. Drop back to 15 to 20 (I tend to use 18 on my ceramic cloches. You may also find that 450 is too hot - especially with a cast iron DO. You may want to drop back to 40 minutes (check it then) and even to 435 or 425 if the crust is too dark. You don't want to be much under 40 minutes for a 1 1/2 pound range boule so tweak the temp/total time until you get what you want.

        At 80 percent hydration the loaf should have been quite airy if properly proofed. Again something is amiss.

        Hang in there! And as I have said many times - even botched loaves usually taste pretty good.

        You have my respect for diving into the high hydration world. An 80% dough is really hard to mix well. If your flour has clumps they would tend to persist. You should be MUCH happier at 70%. And if that gives you any trouble great breads can be made from AP at 60.

        You should get there pretty fast - once you start getting loaves that are "right" and that shouldn't be long - you will progress quickly I think based on your comments.

        Bake again!
        Jay

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        • #5
          Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

          Ahhhhh -- I really don't know what I don't know.

          My proportions were-
          225g starter
          525g AP flour (roughly 3 1/2 cups)
          400g water

          Which now that I look at it is a 2 1/2 lb boule, which is probably too much.

          Also, I am not alltogether clear on the hydration calculation. I'm using water weight/flour weight - but I'm not 100% certain that's the correct way to do it.
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          • #6
            Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

            IF your starter is equal water/flour by weight then you have 637.5 gms of total flour and 512.5 gms of total water which yields 80.3% (512.5 divided by 637.5) Crazy wet!
            Jay

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            • #7
              Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

              Jay - thanks - at least I have the calculation right!

              I will try my next bake at 70% or less. Probably do two loaves.
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              • #8
                Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                I think you will find it will make life much easier. Look forwrd to eharing how it works this time!
                Jay

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                • #9
                  Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                  Here's my next attempt, after about 5 days of cold proofing. This was a 65% hydration using AP flour, Sourdough starter, and salt. 1 1/2 pound loaf.

                  Pulled the dough out of the fridge this morning and let it rise for about 6 hrs until roughly doubled. Did the final forming and second rise was about 45 minutes. Backed at 450 in a closed Dutch Oven for 20 mins and then top off for the last 15. Internal temp was 206 when it came out.

                  The color is a lot better and the crumb seems quite good. It spread out a bit in the DO, and also I am still getting the flour spots. This time I am sure it from not incorporating it enough when I made the dough. The flavor and texture of the bread seem good.

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                  Last edited by deejayoh; 05-22-2013, 07:02 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                    That crumb does look good but that crust looks quite strange.

                    I was wondering how or where you came up with that very long cold proofing? What are you trying to accomplish with this long cold proofing?

                    Most breads have a cold proofing of 24 hours. That should be enough to improve the flavor.

                    I would think that at 5 days proteolysis would cause a breakdown of your gluten. This could easily be some of your issues with spread and crust. You might want to reduce the time in the fridge to 24 to 36 hours at most.

                    None the less it still looks good to eat.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                      The long proof is because it was supposed to be baked saturday morning, but I was leaving early for the weekend and didn't have time!

                      Can you expand on what looks odd about the crust? I know I keep getting those white dots - but anything else? Trying to improve here

                      thx
                      Dennis
                      Last edited by deejayoh; 05-22-2013, 09:11 PM.
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                      • #12
                        Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                        It's not easy to say what looks odd so look at this link

                        Baking Bread in Cast Iron - No Preheat Method - Photos! | The Fresh Loaf

                        The picture in the link is beautiful. It has nice blistering, color and scoring. You can see that the dough had good surface tension when it got slashed. So it has a nice smooth crust.

                        Your crust looks to have a lack of surface tension. Surface tension is greatly affected by gluten development. So the longer the dough sits the more the the dough breaks down and there is no way of reversing this. Also the old dough goes high in acid and lower in sugars so you won't get that nice browning.

                        Be sure to read that link also. It has some great information.

                        Hope that helps
                        Last edited by Faith In Virginia; 05-23-2013, 07:51 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                          Yes, I think the overproofing probably affected the surface tension.

                          Thanks for the link. Very interesting. I have been baking in a preheated DO, and I do find it hard to get the dough into the oven. I have tried parchment paper, with odd results, and flipping over the bowl in which it has been rising, which doesn't work well either. I'll try the cold DO approach next time. But it also seems like I need to work on my proofing.
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                          • #14
                            Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                            You might consider switching from a cold proof to a cold bulk fermentation. That is, put it in the fridge before you shape it, and shape it the day you intend to bake. This will be more forgiving if you want to leave the dough in the fridge for a few days (though 5 days is going to be overkill no matter what).

                            Let the dough rise in bulk for 3-4 hours before retarding. On bake day, divide and pre-shape the loaves immediately after getting the dough out, then let it sit for an hour before a final shape. For sourdough, it will then need around 1.5 hours to proof after final shaping.

                            This goes double if you're shooting for a fairly wet dough. Wet dough is much, much less sticky when cold. I can easily shape a pain a l'ancienne dough at 80% hydration into boules or even baguettes if I do it straight out of the fridge, and it's no more challenging than working with a 65% hydration dough at room temperature.

                            If you poke around on TheFreshLoaf forum that Faith linked to, you'll find mention of David Snyder's San Joaquin Sourdough, which uses this "cold-shaping" method (or did when I last frequented that forum--he may have updated it since!).
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                            • #15
                              Re: Working on my Sourdough boules

                              Here is a quick update on my boule baking progress. I switched to the recipe for "Tartine Country Bread" from Chad Robertson @ 70% hydration - and also changed the baking method to 20 minutes with the top on/15-20 minutes off (as per the recipe).

                              I made two loaves last weekend and had great results.
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