First sourdough attempt in the WFO
I'm doing the first sourdough bake this morning. Here's the process so far:
Target of 2.5 kilos at 70% hydration.
Last night 8:00 p.m. I mixed 100g starter with 200g water and 200g flour. Set it in the AC closet for 2 hours at 68 degrees, then brought it out to the counter at 77 degrees.
Shortly after starting the starter build, I light a small warming fire in the oven. I close up the oven at 10:00 with live coal still in it.
This morning at 4:30, the cat decided to play with my feet, which usually involves clawing and biting. So I'm up. Since I was planning on mixing dough at 5:00 a.m., the extra half hour gives me time to get everything set up. By 4:50 a.m. I've done the math and have my ingredients ready to mix. Starter has built up nicely. Recipe is:
500g starter (100% hydration)
By 5:00 the dough was mixed to a little better than shagginess. I covered it and set it aside. Meanwhile, I checked the oven. The deck still had coals on it from last night and reads around 400 degrees. So I build a medium-sized fire and let it burn. The dome starts clearing within 30 minutes.
I did one S&F at 5:45, then another at 6:30. After the second S&F, I rake out the oven and hose down the live coals I have to pull. The deck was over 800 degrees, and the dome was over 1000, so I was worried about the deck being too hot for the bake. Anyhow, I thought there was enough stored heat to rake it out.
I let the dough sit until 7:00 and then poke it to see how the proofing is going. The hole doesn't fill in, but I let it go another half hour just to safe. At 7:30 I did one more S&F just to shape the dough blob a bit, then I started scaling it and shaping it. At 7:35 my wife wakes up and immediately complains that I'm using all the counter space. I juggle shaping the dough and making lunches for kids for school. So the shaping is ugly, but it gets done.
By 7:45 shaping is done and the loaves are proofing. Kids are out the door at 8:15, and I get to check the oven. The deck is at 620, and the dome is around there, too. I think I'll be in the 575 range in about 1.5 hours, which is baking time. I hope it turns out.
Update on the bake with pictures for critique
Things got a bit hectic yesterday, so I didn't finish the saga.
At 10:00 the oven deck was at 560, so I was pretty accurate on my heat decay. The loaves had proofed nicely, although I could tell they were still underproofed. But since Jay has said he prefers his loaves under rather than over, and because I was working against a clock (had to leave by 11:00), I decided to put them in underproofed.
I had put a small cast iron dutch oven on the deck about 20 minutes earlier, and I had filled the water sprayer. I had formed two round loaves in brotforms, and two in loaf pans. I slashed the round loaves in a square pattern, and I slashed diagonals across the loaves. I don't have much experience with oven spring, since the loaves I bake indoors have never truly ballooned on me. Sure, they puff up, but nothing like I saw yesterday. So I'd appreciate input on slashing and placement of the cuts. I apparently got it wrong.
I loaded the round loaves first and then put in the loaf pans. After loading the first round loaf, I sprayed the dome with water. I then loaded the second round and two loaf pans, sprayed again, and tossed some ice into the dutch oven.
I sprayed at five minute intervals for the first 15 minutes of the bake. I couldn't get an accurate read on the deck temperature because I left my IR gun on the work counter outside and the sun heated up the display. I had to let it cool down before I could use it.
At five minutes into the bake, I got my first view of true oven spring. On one of the round loaves, which I had slashed on all four sides near the top, the "square cutout" I had made on the loaf and expanded straight up, and it looked like a block on top of the loaf. For some reason, that cracked me up and I was chuckling about it the whole bake (pic attached).
I checked the loaves at 20 minutes and they were obviously not done. They registered at 180 at about 25-ish minutes, and 200 at 30 minutes. The bread stalled at 200 degrees, and I couldn't seem to push it any higher. I feared that the bottoms were getting burned, so I pulled them at about 40 minutes and 200 degrees.
Despite my protests that the bread needed to cool for a while, my wife wanted to cut a loaf the second I got it in the house. The crust was good--crunchy and chewy. The crumb on the first loaf (a poorly shaped one) was pretty tight. Later in the day when we cut one of the rounds and another loaf, the crumb was more open, but still tighter that I would have liked it. A noted on my shaping technique: I was in a hurry, and the dough was a lot wetter than I'm used to working with, so I made a pig's breakfast of the shaping. On the "tight crumb loaf," I messed with shaping it as usual, but kind of folded it up and dumped it into the pan (that's the first loaf pic). I was more careful on the second loaf (second loaf pic below), and got a decent shape on it.
Pictures are below. I appreciate all the feedback I can get. I'll probably be firing another batch tomorrow.
Re: First sourdough attempt in the WFO
DON'T OPEN THE OVEN TO SPRAY! Do what you can to get humidity and CLOSE THE DOOR AND LEAVE IT CLOSED! I do not believe you want to open the oven door for at least 20 to 25 minutes.
Your loaves formed a skin. That is why you got the funky oven spring and why your loaves cracked on the side. The skin was too dry to let the loaves expand properly.
The crust color is odd - not golden brown - the kind of color you get from a dry oven. Also directionally the color of overproofed. While you were certainly not badly over I am not sure you were under as you think. I think you were a hair over AND had a dry skin. (Actually, it seems pretty safe to assume your loaves had a skin since you live in Arizona!)
It seems your oven was too cold when you loaded also. That you could not get the loaves to a temp above 200 is very strange. Something odd is going on here. The crust color is also very uniform. IMO the ideal is to have a richly golden brown (or darker) main crust with the slash area lighter and the ears almost burning (well really dark). All of your oven opening could be part of why your crust was the color it is.
Your oven spring IS funny! And even oddly baked loaves can taste good.
Hang in there! It will get better!
Re: First sourdough attempt in the WFO
Well, there's part of the problem--I baked with the door open most of the time.
How do I avoid the skin in a dry climate when using a banneton? I covered the dough tub with water-misted plastic wrap during the bulk ferment, so no skin formed during that phase. I dusted the brotform with plenty of flour, but intuitively I think the dry basket and flour pulls moisture out of the loaf. I could see a skin was forming on the bottom of the round loaves, so I put a little water on the towel I had covering the dough. Probably not enough water on the towel. Any other suggestions for avoiding the skin? I don't think the panned loaves formed a skin because I covered them with oiled plastic wrap, and the wrap was in contact with the top of the panned loaves after an hour or so of proofing.
Toward the end of the bake the hearth had dropped to 430-ish. I chalked it up to wet dough sucking the heat out of the oven. I don't think it's a heat retention problem per se, since the oven has only dropped only 200 degrees in the last 32 hours. Probably heat loading paranoia on my part. My dome was clearing and the deck was over 800 when I raked out the oven, but I bet I didn't have good saturation. Now I'm regretting that I didn't put thermocouples in the brick.
Should I start the bake at a higher temperature? I was shooting for the mid-500 range, but with poor saturation and wet dough, the oven deck probably cooled a lot faster than I anticipated. What do you think?
Re: First sourdough attempt in the WFO
I kind of suspected the door was open! If it was, you actually did pretty well. But use the door. Close it and be patient. The magic will happen!
AZ is no doubt a tough place to bake for you will tend to get dry dough simply based on the humidity. And your banneton will no doubt be superdry also due to humidity. Try proofing in trash bags (to hold the humidity in....)
Mid 500 is about normal. I like 570but...others go hotter. The temp will drop a lot due to the dough but with only a couple of loaves that wasn't enough. You were simply losing heat through the door I think.
Hang in there. It will no doubt get a lot better!
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