I've been following this site for a while and (trying to) make sourdough since July 2013. My starter seems good and has been going strong since June 2013.
My results vary greatly and maybe I have been greatly varying my process which is causing me issues.
My first loaf was really quite amazing and I haven't been able to reproduce it again. I make round loaves and have been improvising without a proving basket.
My first loaf was crusty, stood as tall as I would expect, had a great crumb but expanded slightly too much for my cuts which only caused the diamond on the top to be slightly off centre.
Anyway, since then I haven't been able to do that again. I make a lot of fairly flat loaves that seem to spread out on the stone in the oven before they have a chance to rise up and then never really do very much.
My flour is Callington Mill Lite Sifted.
My process is this:
- The night before I get the starter out of the fridge and refresh it and leave it out so it is maximim height in the morning.
- Get my flour, water, starter and salt ratios according to a calc off this site. I make a 1.3kg loaf consisting of 20% starter (80% hydration) and 60% loaf hydration (tried 65 which was sticky and 70 which was a complete disaster).
- Put flour into mixing bowl - form a well in the middle with most of the water at room temp or slightly warmer. I mix my starter into the water in the middle and then start combining the flour gradually. There is no kneading here, just combining, though I do find I have to tear the dough apart to get to the moister part to collect the flour still remaining at the end and add the remaining water to soak it up.
- This then sits covered in the bowl with glad wrap for an hour before I turn onto bench to push in salt just until it is no longer visible on the outside. This includes the first stretch and fold at the end.
- This then sits on the bench covered for 10 mins between stretching and folding maybe 6-8 times. Usually until the dough gets harder to stretch.
- This then proves (correct term)?) until it has doubled in size. Normally about 8-12 hours depending on temperature.
- I think remaining part of the process is where I come unstuck. I get the dough out onto my bench again and shape it into a round loaf. I do this by placing my hands on opposite sides of the dough and push my hands under it while rotating. What I observed on the weekend was that rather than having a nice smooth, tight outer surface, it was just tearing and exposing all the little bubbles.
- After shaping, I made two cuts on the top in an 'X' and it went into a preheated oven on a preheated pizza stone covered in semolina. The oven was 180c conventional which I don't think was hot enough as it spread out and never really rose. Baked for 1.5 hours (I increased to 220c conventional when I realised things weren't going well after an hour) with a tray of water below for the first half. The crumb was quite sticky and dense still and the bottom was soft.
Thinking back to my first loaf, I stretched and folded it (wrightly or wrongly?) before and after proving, then shaped it immediately and baked it. This seemed to work. It also started baking in a 240c conventional oven which I reduced to 220c after 10 minutes and then 200c after 20 minutes. This had a brilliant crumb, hard, hollow sounding base and crusty outside. I can't remember what hydration it was.
Every loaf I have baked has always had a wonderful sourdough taste so no complaints there. I just need some guidance with my process I think.
Sorry for the long post. I appreciate you taking time to read it and any help you may offer. Thanks.
First loaf ever baked:
First loaf crumb:
Second loaf baking:
Second loaf baked:
Last loaf baked:
Last loaf crumb: