Today was my second attempt at baking sourdough bread. I made a white sourdough loaf and a spiced fruit loaf (both recipes from the book Bourke Street Bakery). I used a white starter (equal flour and water) which is about a month old and going along beautifully. While I was reasonably happy with the taste of the bread, both loaves cracked on the side and bottom and are very dense and heavy. The shape of the white sourdough loaf is also irregular.
405g white starter
765g bread flour
2 tablespoons sea salt
Makes 1.5kg of dough.
I mixed the dough for 10 minutes and let sit for 20 minutes (covered with t shirt). I then divided the dough into two and kneaded both for 20 minutes, mixing in the salt and mixing the spices, raisins and currents into the spiced loaf. I left both loaves to bulk proof in separate oiled bowls for an hour. Both were knocked back and left to sit for another hour. I then placed them in cane baskets and in the fridge for 9 hours. In the morning when I woke up I took them out of the fridge and let the spiced fruit loaf sit for 2 hours before baking. The white sourdough loaf sat out for an extra 40 minutes as I baked both loaves separately. Before baking, I heated the oven (fan forced) to 250 C. After placing the bread in the oven, I knocked the temperature down to 220 C. I sprayed both loaves lightly with water and sprayed the oven for about 10 seconds. I baked both loaves for 40 minutes and turned the baking sheet around a couple times.
Both loaves begun to crack after around 10-20 minutes of baking. I baked 2 white sourdough loaves last weekend and it did the same thing, although not as bad. I used organic bakers flour last weekend and a different brand this time and it didn't seem to make much of a difference. I'm thinking it's my technique which is the problem. I noticed when resting the dough and taking it out of the fridge in the morning it seems to develop a firm skin on top. I cover the dough with an old t shirt when it is resting. Am I maybe using too much flour when kneading? When shaping the loaves I follow the book which includes a pretty elaborate process of folding in thirds and rolling (kind of hard to explain without showing pictures).
Am I dividing the dough at the right time or should this be done after knocking back? When is the best time to fold in the spices and fruit for my other loaf?
Also, both loaves have been scored (about 2 cm deep) right down the middle.
Bottom of spiced fruit loaf.
Bottom of white sourdough.