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  #31  
Old 03-12-2013, 07:37 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

Hi Les!

I agree with Faith, there is a lot going on in that bake... Where to start??? Well, a crumb shot would be helpful...

Okay, first a disclaimer, I do not have high altitude baking experience so all comments on such are second hand and ???

First comment is keep feeding your starter. High activity after a week or two is not a guarantee of a robust starter. I know it seems contradictory but young starters often seem to be really active and don't provide much lift and your loaves clearly did not.

I am going to guess you used AP. Per my reading, at elevation one needs to use stronger flour so probably will want to use BF or a blend of BF/AP for your loaves. The dough needs to be stronger because at lower pressure the gases will leak out faster in a weak dough. You probably need to develop the dough more also - longer mixing/kneading than those of us at lower altitudes.

You got some oven spring (particularly on the baguettes) and sticky baskets often diminish loaf volume as is evident on the boules so while I think you are a bit overproofed it is not too bad nor enough to explain the pale look. Given the level of oven spring there should have been enough sugar in the dough to give you a reasonable color.

So, if that is right, the issue is steam. This bake is a great example of why I absolutely detest baking small batches in a WFO. (Now, there are people on this forum who manage somehow to make pretty bread in small batches in a WFO. I am not one of them! Well, I have but not consistently and I haven't worked at it for it is too easy in one of my three kitchen ovens! It is really hard in my experience to get enough steam in the WFO to give a proper and lovely crust if you don't load the oven with bread (say 12-15 pounds or more).

Cloches and cast iron dutch ovens work well because they have only a small volume of air above the loaf. As the water vapor leaves the dough the water vapor drives the air from the container and gives a very high humidity. Let's put this in perspective... A 1.5 pound loaf will lose about 10% of its weight in water while baking. As water vapor that .15 pounds will occupy about 3 cubic feet or almost 22 gallons of air space. That is far greater than the 2 or 3 quarts of empty space in the cloche or dutch oven. OTOH, the volume of your WFO is at least 7 cubic feet. You can't possibly get the oven loaded with steam to the level of the cloche unless you add a LOT of water. So...all in all I think the main problem you had was a dry oven.

WRT hydration, I don't see that as a problem other than sticking. Handling wet dough is a learned skill. If you have problems simply drop the hydration. You can make beautiful bread at 60 percent hydration and the dough will be far more manageable than 70. And you can add hydration as your handling skills improve. A lot of that lies in managing the skin of the loaf. You need enough flour to prevent sticking but as little as possible worked into the dough during forming.

There seem to be some sites that say altitude needs lower hydration. I don't know.

There are also sites that say yeast acts more quickly at elevation... I think that is a misdirection. I suspect it is about the same rate but that the dough will peak earlier because the dough will lose gas faster. Sort of the same effect but a different driver. And that is pertinent because the amount of gas created is a function of sugar consumed which is a function of the total yeast activity and if the gas leaks faster there should be MORE sugar left in the dough when the dough peaks as compared to lower elevations.

Net answer is try it again indoors, probably at a lower hydration, with a bit more mixing, and preferably using a cloche or dutch oven (though a baking stone and good steam generation is an alternative).

One last comment of yours troubles me. You say you heated for several hours but that the oven was "pretty much burned clean" and the hearth was only 750. When I burn my oven clears in 45 minutes or so and if I burn for several hours my hearth will be well over 850 to 900. Your oven may not have been loaded (as Faith and Bill imply). Leaving the door off allows heat to escape through the door and not flow deep into the refractory as you want for baking. You really want to close the oven and let the heat equalize before you load the bread (at least an hour) and then let it cool to a reasonable loading temp of 570 or so. Finding the right timing for all of this is one of the big challenges of WFO baking.

Hang in there!
Jay
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  #32  
Old 03-12-2013, 11:15 AM
WJW WJW is offline
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

I note that Les said he added steam...I'm curious as to how.

The reason I ask is because I have seen sites which advocate something like spraying a mist on the bricks once a few minutes before loading and then again immediately before loading....and that's it.

To me that seems laughable. I can't imagine that would do anything at all. There have been times I have sprayed a garden hose on my hearth to bring the temps down quickly and while a huge cloud of steam appears, it is all completely gone within a few seconds.

People forget that a hot wood fired oven (with the entry open) is "breathing". Even if there is no fire whatsoever, there is air being pullled in through the bottom half, circulating through the oven, and right up the chminey. If you don't believe me throw a handful of ash into the entry of a hot oven which has been completelty brushed and mopped. The air in the oven will be clear in four or five seconds due to the air flow caused by convection.

In my experience the only way to add steam in an oven is to put some kind of container in there with ice in it. Jay has advocated letting it drip over hot lava rocks. I modified that by stacking a jumble of firebrick scraps in a dutch oven, letting the oven and bricks geet good and hot, and then throwing a handful of ice cubes in the dutch oven immediately after putting the bread in. I would also throw four or five ice cubes directly on the hearth bricks (keeping the cubes at least six in ches away from the loaves). By doing that I would get little wisps of steam drifting out at the seal between door and entry bricks.

But, as Jay notes, using ice still doesn't compare to the steam generated in a fully loaded oven. When I load fifteen loaves at once (say twenty-plus pounds of dough) there are literally little jets of steam shooting out from around the door throughout virtually the entire bake.

So, if you are adding steam, I think it pays to make sure you are doing so effectively.

Bill
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  #33  
Old 03-12-2013, 03:36 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

You guy's are awesome.

Faith - I did a 70% hydration recommended by Jay (the ratio is in this thread)

Bill / Jay - The steam I added was obviously week. I mopped the floor a couple of times to clean. After I loaded the bread I sprayed a mist for about 10 seconds I need to find a solution other than loading the oven with dough because, to be honest, I wouldn't know what the hell to do with all the bread.

In regard to altitude, I found this in The Bread Bible

1. It says to increase oven temp by 25 deg to compensate for faster rising and slower heating
2. Liquids - increase 2-3 TBL's for my altitude.
3. Flour - increase 2 TBL's for each cup.

Jay, this occurred to me after the fact but you are cooking using Cloches. They would obviously facilitate a wetter dough since it is unable to "run" out.

Here is a pic of one of the baguettes (I had to thaw it out to take this). As I said it tasted great and from my limited knowledge, it looks about right. I guess my real concern is the color of the boule's.

Thanks again all!
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  #34  
Old 03-12-2013, 04:42 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

Les,

okay ,
500g starter at 100%
1220 four
780 water
salt

That does work out to 70% hydration. The pictures that you provided is looking like 90% or higher.

Look at WJW's crumb shot it looks white and bread like. Now look at your crumb shot it's not as white and quite translucent with a strange crust like outer shell.

If you baked starter 100% hydration that is what you would get. I don't think the elevation issue would have that much effect on your bread...just some minor tweaking to adjust for elevation.

If that is the amounts you actually did ( no mistakes or miss-measured) then I would start to reduce the amount of water to the final dough.

That is where I would start.
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  #35  
Old 03-12-2013, 06:39 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

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Originally Posted by Faith In Virginia View Post
I would start to reduce the amount of water to the final dough.

That is where I would start.
That's what I was thinking. I had it dialed to the scale except for the salt - it may have come in at 31 grams (it was jumping between the two). If my scale is off all things should be equal.

Looking at the picture it doesn't have the correct color? I took it with my Droid in ambient light - don't know if that was a factor. Also, wouldn't the flour come into play as well?

I appreciate the feedback.

Les...
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  #36  
Old 03-12-2013, 10:48 PM
WJW WJW is offline
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

Les...

I have this was no experience with altitude so what I'm saying could be totally off base.

That being said, if I were you I would seriously look at the possibility that you made an error in measurement. I have to agree with Faith that the color of your crust and crumb looks very strange and translucent.

I know that I have miscalulated on a couple of occasions, and have almost done so a bunch of times. Fortunately, I have always caught the mistakes early enough to do something about it. But that has mostly been dumb luck.

I can recall one time that I mixed up thirty-plus pounds of dough and it slowly became apparent that the dough was too slack and hydrated. Luckily for me, this was about my fifth or sixth bake so I was (just barely) able to recognize the problem as I was mixing the dough (before the salt addition). So I took a step back, mentally re-traced my steps, and realized that I had miscalculated the water to a very significant degree. (Can't remeber specifics, but based on feel it was probablly 90% or so). I was able to re-calculate the mix and re-incorporate a large (but measured) amount of flour into the dough. It wasn't easy, but I did salvage the bake.

The point of this story is that I barely had enough experience in handling dough to realize there was a problem. So I fixed it. Had this occurred one or two bakes earlier I would not have had sufficient experience to realize there was a problem, or know how to fix it. So it may be possible that you simply goofed. It happens.

That hypothisis aside, I tend to agree that there is more than one issue at work here. I am (by far) the least experienced observer chiming in here, but I've turned over three hundred and fifty pounds of flour (almost eight 50lb sacks) into sourdough bread over the last nine months and I think I am starting to get a feel for making sourdough batards in a WFO. (But I still can't make a baguette to save my life).

As Jay points out, I would look closely at temps and heat saturation. It may be that you are so wet in that dough that the correct temp would still result in that look, but your comments about burning for hours and being "mostly clear" and having temps at 750 seem off to me. If I burn for three hours the temp of my vault arch is 900 plus. The hearth temp is right about there as well. I have to rake out, mop out, leave the door open for an hour or so, and then let rest with the door on for at least another hour to equalize and end up with temps in the 570 range. Heat saturation for bread is vastly different than heat saturation for pizza. Apples and oranges in my opinion. The main reason I typically do a fire the night before a bake is that it allows me to fully saturate without having to do a big huge three hour burn the morning of the bake. Such big "day of bake" fires frequently result in surface temps over 1000 degrees with less than saturated interiors. Better to do a small burn right at bed time to load the oven with heat. The next morning the surface will be relatively cool (say 375) because the door was open all night, but the interior masonry will be 500 plus or better. A medium burn in the morning (while doing your bulk ferment) will bring up the surface temps and top off the saturation levels such that I end up with a fully heat loaded oven without having to heat my hearth to 1100 degrees.

My thoughts are that you should try a "do-over" with the same hydration you intended in the last bake...albeit adjusted a bit for altitude based on your recent research. Make sure you are totally heat saturated. Try a small "night before" fire. Introduce steam by using ice cubes over hot lava rock or firebrick which are inside of a hot dutch oven or pie plate. Changing too many of the variables will undoubtedly result in a different loaf...but you won't know what did what.

And don't forget...the journey is where the fun is. If the point were to simply end up with a great loaf of bread, you could just go to the best bakery in town and buy one.

Just my opinion.

Bill

Last edited by WJW; 03-12-2013 at 10:56 PM.
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  #37  
Old 03-14-2013, 05:52 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les View Post
How in the hell do you do that - I don't live in a vacuum.
Just need to work quickly with focus. Heck - in college I worked in a microbiology lab and determined that having everything ready and not working like an old lady drinking sherry does it for me. It does not hurt that living in AZ, spore counts are low and I don't do bread during bad periods. Last - easiest of all - turn off ac and fans prior to working your starter! Excess air movement will get ya!
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  #38  
Old 03-15-2013, 07:05 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Re: Sourdough Starter

Hi Les!

My dough isn't that runny! such that the cloche provides much support... The noknead breads often are though for they are usually minimally mixed (the weak dough development can't tolerate handling once it has gas. With experience 70 to 75% hydration AP (11,5% protein) should be reasonably handleable with a modest dusting of external flour. But at your elevation BF may be preferable.

You have pretty nice crumb on the baguette. Looks like the temp is too low.

The guidelines are a bit odd. Hotter might be good but...in a wfo you are heating the base by direct conduction. I don't get why it should be hotter but??? And adding both liquids and flour is ??? That doesn't change the hydration so much!

Main thing is to find a hydration you can work with and do it repeatedly. Get to know the dough. It is pretty important for the dough to not stick too much to the basket for if you take the top off it will definitely collapse. That said I made some really wet loaves about a month ago and with patience managed to get them out of the baskets in pretty good shape and they still showed good oven spring (though the crumb was a bit denser than norm). This last batch was really interesting. A bit of stick but not enough to hurt - and then the "puddle" on slashing but nice rise...

Your baguette looks to me more like a 72 to 76% hydration but... that can be really difficult to estimate. The crumb suggests good handling. But the color and crust are weird. Probably a hair overproofed and not enough steam. It takes a lot...

I tend to be a wetter is better guy - as long as you can handle the dough and avoid sticking and collapse.

Since I don't do small batches in my oven I am NOT an expert at this but with 15 pounds of dough, Bill is creating about 1.5 pounds of steam during baking. At ambient pressure that is close to 30 cubic feet - enough to fill the oven three or four times. One loaf creates only about 3 cubic feet - enough to half fill it!

My limited baking in the WFO in small batches says I want my oven to be about 575. The dough needs to be ready to load and NOT let out in the open to dry the crust. In dry areas (and you qualify on that) the dough can dry really fast - that may be more of a problem for you than the oven?? Spray some water in - not on the hearth - up toward the dome - preferably fine so you aren't wetting the refractory. Quickly mop the floor with a damp (not sopping mop). Those are to prehumidify the oven. If you put a pan of water in the oven put it in. Load the loaf quickly. Close the door leaving just enough room to insert the sprayer and spray for ten or twenty seconds. Close the door and seal and DO NOT OPEN for at least 20 minutes. That's about the best you can do for small batches in my experience. I can get "reasonable" color that way but not the look I want so I don't do it.

Hope that helps!
Jay
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