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Starters gone wrong. Or something. | Sourdough Companion

Starters gone wrong. Or something.

Hello everyone,

Been reading the forum and found it full of useful information. So, I'm starting with sourdough baking and am having serious problems with the starter.

A year ago I bought two italian cultures from Ed Wood (of Sourdo.com), threw it to the refrigerator, and wanted to start them a month ago. I followed the instructions pretty carefully (100% hydration, 27-30ºC, 24 hour for 1st feeding, 12 hour subsequent one) and got nothing out of it. The first one didn't have a single bubble, the second one got a bit bubbly on the 1st feeding, but nothing after. I thought it might be because of the long time on my refrigerator, so after a week I throw both away and bought new ones — also, the starters had a milky/cheesy aroma at the first, the more I feed them, the more alcoholic ("acetonic"?) they turned, which didn't look good to me.

The day before yesterday I received the new cultures and decided to start one of them right away. So I mixed 1 ounce of the culture with 220 grs. of organic (bleached) flour and 250 ml. of warm (not hot) bottled water and put it into a closet at 30ºC.

Here's a photo of the starter just after the mix:

[img]http://img147.imageshack.us/img147/5205/startrq7.jpg[/img]

After 16 hours the starter was reallly active, full of bubbles and more than doubled its size, and I was pretty happy. I couldn't do a refeed at that moment, so I did the feeding at 22 hours (yesterday, late at night). At that moment the starter did show a bit of recession and a layer of hooch in the middle. Here's the photo:

[img]http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/1815/24hoursad7.jpg[/img]

To do the feeding, I threw away half of the starter, replaced it with 50/50 flour/water and put it back to the closet. This time the temp for proofing was 25ºC, though. And this morning after getting up, the shock:

[img]http://img407.imageshack.us/img407/2301/30hourslo7.jpg[/img]

The starter seemed not to be active at all! Just like the previous ones, it had a layer of water (don't know if it's hooch of simple separated water) and no signs of activity.

This morning I've thrown away half of it and replaced with 50/50 flour/water again.

Do you know what might be happening? Am I doing something wrong?


62 comments

After 4 hours from the last feeding the starter still looks flat, not a single bubble in sight. Also, flour and water have started to separate:

[img]http://img222.imageshack.us/img222/3288/34hoursun9.jpg[/img]

(Yeah, I've changed jars 3 times.)


Give it time. When I got my starter from halfway across the world...and it wasn't one year old...just 5 days old...I almost gave up after 2 days of just seeing a lone bubble or two. But I pushed on...feeding the starter at 8 hrs intervals with equal weight flour and water. And, lo! In 7 days (yup, it took that long), it practically ran out of the bottle within just 2 hours of feed. 

I see you're keeping a record of the time of feeds. Note down its estimated peak too. It's a good idea to give the mixture a good stir to introduce some air to it. Keep feeding it at regular schedules (treat it like a newborn)...with less flour and water, so there's less wastage. It'll make breads soon enough.

Welcome, Oscar! Where are you from?

TP


Hi TeckPoh!

Thanks for welcoming me. I'm from Spain, and I'm currently living in the city of Barcelona.

Thanks also for your reply. Will take air and keep feeding the baby every 8 hours and I hope to be able to bake nice bread soon.

With the first batch I got the instructions wrong so I fed the same volume of flour and water (that's what happens when you're used to metric units and swith to imperial ones, then I saw that it should be the same weight and corrected it. This time I'm feeding same weight right from the start.


Hello Oscar,
TP is always right, :-) keep your culture going and don't panic! The bacteria and yeasts are incredibly robust provided they do not get swamped by nasty moulds (which yours does not look like it has).

If it was mine, I would add a little less water with your feed, so the water on top does not develop and air can reach the culture. I have never made a starter because my brother gave me some of his when it first became active. To make his, he just used a mix of organic rye flour, unbleached white flour and water and he fed it daily
(no culture was added, the natural yeasts and bacteria in the rye flour did the trick for him). It took about a week or week and a half for his starter to get active and it has never looked back. 

My starters (I have a white and a rye) are generally about the consistency of a very soft dough or stiff batter, I neglect them from time to time but they always go crazy when they get a feed, speaking of which I should feed mine up, they have not had a feed all week. ;-)


Thanks for commenting, lamp.

I agree that 50/50 seems a little too liquid for my (unexperienced) taste. I might try to make it a little more consistent.

I'm using organic bleached flour, and I wonder if because of this it has led to some contamination. Since posting here I've found some people at the Pizzamaking forum with the very same problem with de same culture I'm using:

[url=http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,7197.0.html]Starter activation from sourdo.com[/url]

[url=http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6648.0.html]Activating Italian culture - too fast??[/url]


I doubt you would get contamination from your flour...and if you did it would just be wild yeasts or bacteria anyway...that is natural yeasts and bacteria you will get in your SD regardless of what you do.

I never knew this until it was explained to me but sourdough is a natural balance of bacteria and yeast. You may have more bacteria in your culture than yeast at the moment but it will eventually even out and reach its balance, just keep feeding it regularly and don't panic!

When my brother first got his starter active he made a batch of bread that was OK but really was a bit flat. I kept feeding the bit he gave me for a week or two after it was really active before I got around to baking with it. My bread turned out well and after another week of feeding my brothers bread was excellent, he had not allowed enough time for the starter to balance out.

Others on this forum know a lot more than I do but the theme on everything I have read seems to be to persist and don't panic. ;-)


[quote=lamp]Hello Oscar,
TP is always right, :-) ...
[snip]

[/quote]

Eek! ERROR! Sorry for the diversion.
Nah...I'm learning like everyone else....and not quite as fast as people like Lamp/Pete who sprints up the learning curve....though, I still think his skills are related to flytying and flyfishing.

Oscar, how goes?

TP


Hi TeckPoh and lamb,

Got interesting news.

Yesterday at night, just in case, I decided to wash the culture, and this morning I washed it again. The starter lost all the smell it had (I'll ask about this below) and I thought that this time I was doomed (I know, I know: don't panic! :P).

Now, 6 hours after, the starter still does not smell, but starts to show bubbly signs of health! Its volume has grown a 20% or so (uh, I think that in the time I wrote this reply it is more like 25-30%), and it is showing an even distribution of those bubbles. Here's two photos, this time I'm uploading one from the top since it's hard to see the bubbles only from the side:

[img]http://img291.imageshack.us/img291/2233/44hourssideih5.jpg[/img]

[img]http://img291.imageshack.us/img291/494/44hourstopec4.jpg[/img]

I think we are into something here :)

Now about the smelly thing. After the first feeding, the starter smelled a lot like cheese (in a Cheetos way, if you know what I mean), and when I mean a lot is that all the flat was full of this smell when I did de throw/feed operation. This happened exactly the same the two times I tried this and with the two different cultures I tried. This aroma was nice to me but not to my SO, who happens not to like strong cheese as much as me. So, the questions is: was this strong aroma normal? Do your starters smell that much? Is it normal that now it almost does not smell? After washing (when I got scared) it only smelled to flour, but now that I smell it again, it is developing a mild aroma that is close to the one I used to smell on my uncle's pastry shop, which I can't quite describe, but different that the "cheesier" one.

Note: Now I'm keeping the starter at 30ºC all the time.



What do you mean by washing the culture? Do you mean feeding?

Different starters smell differently...I guess, depending on the environment, the flours and water you use. My white starter smells like beer without the intoxicating part, while my rye starter smells very fruity. If left in room temperature (with a feed) for one whole day, it starts to smell deliciously like beer (for my white) and wine (for my rye). If left for weeks unfed (in the fridge), it may take on an acetone smell, but I'm not really bothered about that. It just means they want attention and more feedings.

Crossing fingers for you. The bubbles look good.

TP


I know I have read about the smells and what happens when the starter gets going but never really took any notes about it.  The following is my educated guess.

The cheesy smell is from the bacteria that makes up half of the microbiological activity in the starter.  This is lactobacillus and it is referred to as a "Lactic Acid Bacteria".  One of the byproducts of lactobacillus is "Milk" like odors at times.  Lactobacillus starts off first in a sourdough starter and dominates it so I figure this is why the cheesy smell was the first aroma that you noticed.  The starter will develop a yeast culture but it doesn't develop as fast as Lactobacillus.  I would guess as the yeast culture develops into balance with Lactobacillus the cheesy smell disappeared.  This is my guess as to what is happening with your starter.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot

 

Since mine was not a 'new' starter when I got it, I've never experienced its infant milky or cheesy side.

Oh...and, Oscar...the smells from my starters are not discernible unless I stick my nose at the mouth of the jar. A shame that it doesn't fill the whole room, the smell is glorious.

TP


LeadDog: Very interesting what you say, and it brings a lot of light to my experience with the starter. Probably the culture also comes with a lot of those Lactobacillus, hence the smellly explosion?


TeckPoh: to "wash" the starter is a term that Ed Wood uses in his book and in the booklet that comes with the culture he sells. It goes like this (copied roughly from the booklet):

  1. Dump everything but 1 cup of the starter.
  2. Add 3 cups of warm water and stir.
  3. Repeat step 1.
  4. Add 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cups of warm water.
  5. Proof it between 85º F and 90º F and repeat steps 1 to 4 every 6-12 hours until the culture becomes active 2-4 hours after the last feeding.

I have done this 3 times now, just completed one before posting this. Before last washing the starter had begun to smell "wineish" (but had to stuck the nose, heh), so I think it is doing good, since is similar to what you tell me. After the wash the only odour left is that of flour, of course.


Well Done Oscar, keep feeding it for a while yet and you will soon be able to make your own SD bread! :-)

I have never heard of washing a starter but I'm pretty new to this myself so the more experienced here may know more about it. I also think the cheesy smell is the bacteria dominating the yeast like LD said but I also think that it would reach a balance eventually with continual regular feeding and a good starter smells just like TP described.

My brother always keeps his starter in the fridge and a while ago he became worried because his starter took on a strong "vinegary" aroma. He threw it out and I gave him some of mine. After emailing Danubian (Boris) he found out there was nothing wrong with it. The smell came from acetic generating bacteria dominating the lactic generating bacteria (or possibly some of the bacteria generating more acetic acid rather than lactic acid) due to the cold conditions. He should have just fed it and left it out on the bench at room temperature for a few feeding cycles to get it back into balance.

One of the things a work mate noticed (I give him a couple of loaves every week) is that unlike commercial bread, SD does not easily go mouldy. Boris commented that this is due to the high acid content generated by the bacteria inhibiting the growth of moulds.

Your starter will soon "explode" out of your jug, mine grows to 3 or 4 times the volume from when I first mix it after a feed.

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy making your own bread and post photos so we can see the results. I'm baking myself a few loaves today and will post photos in my gallery and possibly my blog. ;-)


Thanks lamp, now I understand the "acetonic" smell I got with the my first, failed, attempt at starting cultures.

Well, after 12 hours since the last washing the starter got very bubbly. — but not that much as yours, which seems amazingly active to me. I had no time to take photos before the new washing this morning, but I will take them before this evening's washing/feeding (I don't know yet if will keep washing or will go with feeding).

At the moment I'm not able to do the thing every 8 hours, so I'm going with 12 hours schedule. How can people go with 6 o 4 hours schedules? don't they sleep or what?

Please post your photos, [url=http://sourdough.com/forum/ciabatta-bake-off#comment-10879]your first try at ciabatta[/url] left me really impressed :D


My god, this baby is exploding! I don't know if I will be able to wait the full 12 hours for the next scheduled feeding. Look at how much volume it has gained after only 6 hours (original size is 1/4 th. pint):

[img]http://img352.imageshack.us/img352/7703/60hourssidehs1.jpg[/img]

[img]http://img352.imageshack.us/img352/8791/60hourstopsr4.jpg[/img]

Either I change jars and put it into a bigger one, or feed it right away. It does not seem to have reached its peak yet.

FTR, I went with washing again, not feeding.


I finally decided to change jars and wait for the 12 hour schedule, stirring it up also reduced the volume quite a bit.

Turns out this was a good idea in other sense: during the operation my SO told me "huele a bodega"  ("it smells like a wine cellar"). Yay.



Sounds like you can start making bread. Yeah!

I've been baking 3 times this week, which means I've been feeding the starter well. After I had some success with my ciabatta here, I fed some remaining starter and popped the jar into the fridge. 18 hours later, without another feed, I used it to make another batch of ciabatta, with it cold. And, the ciabatta came out great, even better than the previous batch. An interesting discovery for me, because I've never baked with a starter which is too much past its peak. So, you see, once you've got your starter established and happy, you can't really go wrong. It's very resilient.

Happy baking!

TP


Wow. Your ciabatta looks incredible too. I should try this type of bread in my soon to come bakings and see what I come with.

In line with what you say about using "cold" starter, I've read some people make big batches of dough (at least bigger than they need for one bake), then freeze it and use it after unfreezing. This type of tricks come in handy for us homebakers :)


I have to feed again, and I have decided to make a little experiment:  this time I will wash half of the starter and just feed the other half. Will see if it makes any difference.


First results came fast, in just two hours:

  • The starter with washed culture has grown something like a 10%, still smells most like flour.
  • The starter fed with same weight of flour/water has grown a 100%, and smells quite wineish/alcoholic.

I don't think I will be able to sleep this night (it's almost 9 PM here) thinking that the second starter might overflow.

Maybe from now on I should proof at room temperature — which is 24º C lately — to slow down the process a bit. I want to keep feeding the starter one week more at last, I have read it is necessary/good for the starter to develop its health and flavor.

Any recommendations?


Congratulations Oscar, I would give it a couple of more cycles at room temperature and not use an incubator to let it come more into balance....you probably have more yeast than bacteria in your culture at the moment. As I posted above, my brother normally keeps his starter in the fridge and it still grows slowly. I just leave mine out on the bench at room temperature. You can probably start using it to make bread from now on though if it has reached that level of activity. You will probably make decent loaves but more flavour will probably develop with time and your starter will only get better. If I'm going away for a week or more I put mine in the fridge and feed it when I get home.

I have never frozen dough...to make bread mid week (I work during the day) I make my levain from my starter in the morning and leave it covered to stop it drying out during the day. That night as soon as I get home from work I make the dough and fold it hourly as it rises, before I go to bed I shape the loaves, put them into bannetons and put them in the fridge to retard them (it also lets them develop a more "sour" flavour). The following night I remove 2 loaves from the fridge, leave them out on the bench and and hour later remove the other 2 loaves. About an hour before they have finished prooving I light the oven to let my baking stone get hot. When the first loaves are ready to be baked, I turn them out onto my peel, slash them, slide them onto my stone and add some boiling water to a pan at the bottom of the oven for a little steam. When these have baked I repeat for the second 2 loaves.


I'm about to go to sleep, so your comment comes just in time, it also goes with what my gut was telling me. I'll let the starters sit at room temperature this night, I will feed them again in the morning (after 12 hours) and then let them have another rising (12 hours) cycle.

I might try baking something tomorrow if I have the time. Mm, I even could try put my brand new Römertopf to work.

Thanks for explaining your day-to-day process. It will help me in setting up my routine.

With "folding" you mean you stretch it a bit and then fold back to original size (so to speak)? I have also seen people talk of "punching down", english not being my first language, what do people mean? Is it similar to folding?


With "normal" commercially yeasted bread you punch the gas out of the dough before forming the loaves and proving. With SD bread, as the dough rises (and I probably have this wrong) as the dough rises, remove the dough from your bowl, gently stretch it out to form a long oblong and fold 1/3 of the dough back over itself then pick up the other end and fold it back over the first folded bitof dough. I then turn 90 degrees and repeat before putting it back in the bowl.

It further stretches out and develops the gluten.

When your dough is ready to be formed, don't punch down but just divide it up and shape your loaves. There are some good little videos in various threads on this...have a look around. I have to go...I'm running late for work!


Thanks for explaining this folding and punching thing, I will have a look around the site.

Have a nice day at work!


The "normally" fed starter doubles its size en five hours, it grows a bit more to what seems its peak, and after eight hours it goes back to its original volume (volume it had before the start of the activity).

The washed starter doubles its size after eight hours, and then seems to stay there. Bubbles are bigger than the other starter and overall it seems more solid (though this might be due to a narrower jar).

Room temperature has been 24-25º C (75-77º F) all the time.

Now I have a question: is it normal for a normally fed starter to reach its peak and then to deflate so fast?


[quote=oscar]
Now I have a question: is it normal for a normally fed starter to reach its peak and then to deflate so fast?
[/quote]

Yes, it does lose volume as the pH decreases and the TA increases. Acids have an astringent effect on gluten protein strands - reduction in bonding and strand length -which are largely responsible for gas retention.


By greater dilution/washing the pH and the TA is not as extreme therefore gluten proteins remain longer and cross bonded for a longer period of time, but this dough will eventually exhibit similar characteristics.
Thanks for your explanation on the chemistry that it's going on.

An interesting thing that I have observed with the diluted starter is that it deflates very rapidly — like a punctured inflatable globe — when I try to stir it. It goes like "flop!" and you can really see those strands stretching through the holes.

Since now I am sure the non-diluted starter is in good shape. I have finally decided to keep alive only this one. I have feed it again, and then put half of it into the refrigerator and let the other half out in preparation for what should be my first sourdough bread.


Hi Oscar!

Espania?  Donde?  Congratulations you are the proud owner of 2 sourdough starters!! ( The diluted one will gain strength if you feed it like your regular starter.  If it were me I would want to see what would happen if you made bread with both starters, what does Mr Wood say?  Doesn't he suggest that you can feed it normally at some point?  By the way I started with 2 and ended up with 6 by the end of 2 weeks...I just didn't have the heart to throw anything out and they eventually all were good.

As TP pointed out SD continues to gain strength as the symbiotic cultures grow.  Baby starters love to be nurtured... Your starter will benefit by continued feedings.  If you have the time and available flour continue to nurture it until you are satisfied that it will rise and make delicious bread.  And it will be more resilient and store better when it is stronger.

The following is an article that explains some of the science behind sourdough culture  

http://discovermagazine.com/2003/sep/featscienceof


P.S. Don't forget we want pictures!

Terri




You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...

Hola Terri! :)

Mr. Wood does not say anything about using the washed starter. It is supposedly only a temporary state to eliminate contamination if there's any, and it probably won't have much flavor.

I discarded the washed one before you posted your message, so it is too late to try. Anyways, as you see, it is quick to do.

I, like you, find hard to discard part of the starter, but I would have at least 10 starters if didn't do it!

And thanks for the link:

[quote=DISCOVER]Most microorganisms drop out of competition at this point, but yeasts that tolerate acid come into their own and convert sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol.[/quote]
This explains another thing I have observed: apart from smelling to wine, when I open the jar (I keep it closed, as I don't want bugs getting into it) it smells incredibly "carbonic", just like when one stucks his nose into a glass full of bubbling soda.


Oscar, I don't keep my starter in a closed jar. I use one with a top that I leave loose over the top. It prevents contamination but also lets the gas out...


We have cockroaches (ugh) at home, maybe I can use some kind of mesh, or a rag. I'm using a plastic film, now.


Whatever you use, it has to be clean. I cover the mouth with a small towel tied with a rubberband.

TP


Hola! Oscar,

In your first pictures you used a banded jar.  If you remove the rubber seal you can put a clean cloth over the top and still secure it with the lid. The cloth will allow space for your yeast beasties to breath, but not enough space for visitors... euuhghh..!  But I would replace the cloth often.

I used to live in Texas as well as Spain...We lived near Cadiz, in Rota.  The rule was reach around the door turn on the light... !Do not! enter the kitchen yet!  Wait 1 minute for the scurrying to subside.  Go to a drawer or cupboard, knock once or twice, wait 30 seconds... remove item you were looking for.  What roach problem?!!  I never saw any roaches....;) !!

You know what they say in Texas... Everything is bigger in Texas... yes even the Roaches!

The bread was wonderful in Spain when we were there...Mmmm early morning near the Panderia...Cafe Con Leche and a Pan tostada...

Terri

You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...

It won't be long before you have to watch out for over active starter :)

[IMG]http://i115.photobucket.com/albums/n298/_Wet_/IMGP1593.jpg[/IMG]

I only left it for a minute...
;)

Regards,
Andrew Connell

Sorry for taking so long to get back.

I finally got to make my first breads, it was kind of hard to jump in and get in sync with the long times required for the whole process.

I must say I'm dissapointed with the results, I followed two recipes that came with the culture: "Pane Cafone" and "Pane di Padua", and got a pair of bricks! now I just need the mortar to build a house.

From the outside they look more or less OK, but you know something is wrong when you hold them and see how much they weigh for their size, this gets confirmed when you try to cut a slice... you better have good wrists, because you'll need them to cut with a good knife, and by the way hand tearing is impossible. The crumb texture I got is more or less the same that when I use my bread machine with IDY and other recipes: very moist and has even microscopic holes. Texture and taste are not good for my standards, though it isn't that bad if toasted, but toasting of course takes forever for it is super-dense and humid.

Ingredients for Pane Cafone:

500 gr. all purpose flour
235 ml. water
235 ml. active sourdough culture
2 teaspoons salt

Ingredients for Pane di Padua:

425 gr. all purpose flour
100 gr. fine semolina
235 ml. water
235 ml. active sourdough culture
2 teaspoons salt

Note: my starter has 100% hydration and for my breads I cut all the ingredients in half since I was just trying how this would go.

I mixed all the ingredients with a KitchenAid for 5 minutes or so (speed 2), plus 30 secons handknead at the end, before forming the ball for proofing — the dough was incredibly stiff, especially on the Padua bread, and had a hard time incorporating all the flour.

I proofed for 5 hours at room temperature 24°C  (75°F), punched down both doughs, formed rectangular breads following instructions from "The Bread Bible" (which arrived this week, yay), proofed 3 hours more at room temperature, and finally put into the oven at 225ºC for 15 min. and then at 190ºC for 40-something minutes. The dough incremented its size — I don't know how much, but it was easily noticeable — while on the two proofing stages but not when in the oven.

I have a pizza stone and preheated the oven with the stone for almost 1 hour. I also sprayed the dough with water before putting it into the oven, and put 1/4 of a cup of water in a metal pan below the stone to get some more steam. I have to say that my oven is quite rudimentary: it is more or less portable and works like a giant toaster, with electric resistances uncovered on top and bottom.

I've uploaded some photos for a post mortem visual analysis here (please excuse the poor quality of the close up shots, I'm using a cameraphone): http://sourdough.com/gallery/v/user/oscar/first_breads



[quote=Wet]It won't be long before you have to watch out for over active starter :)

[IMG]http://i115.photobucket.com/albums/n298/_Wet_/IMGP1593.jpg[/IMG]

I only left it for a minute...
;)[/quote]

Geez! you can make a horror movie out of this :)


[quote=Millciti]In your first pictures you used a banded jar.  If you remove the rubber seal you can put a clean cloth over the top and still secure it with the lid. The cloth will allow space for your yeast beasties to breath, but not enough space for visitors... euuhghh..!  But I would replace the cloth often.[/quote]

Great idea Terri, will do this. Of course I will use a clean cloth I keep everything almost lab clean.

[quote=Millciti]I used to live in Texas as well as Spain...We lived near Cadiz, in Rota.  The rule was reach around the door turn on the light... !Do not! enter the kitchen yet!  Wait 1 minute for the scurrying to subside.  Go to a drawer or cupboard, knock once or twice, wait 30 seconds... remove item you were looking for.  What roach problem?!!  I never saw any roaches....;) !!

You know what they say in Texas... Everything is bigger in Texas... yes even the Roaches![/quote]

Well, this is fun, actually the ones we have here are "Cucaracha americana" which is spanish for "American cockroach". They're USA size (I suppose :D), brown and with wings (warning, do not follow the link cockroache put you back!) http://images.google.com/images?q=cucaracha+americana

[quote=Millciti]The bread was wonderful in Spain when we were there...Mmmm early morning near the Panderia...Cafe Con Leche and a Pan tostada...[/quote]

Yeah!

It is becoming harder everyday to get good bread though, prefab cardboard with additives is plaging (at least) big cities lately :(

Hasta luego, Terri.



Some quick maths showed your pan cafone @ 57% hydration and your pan di padua @ 55%, which will give you a pretty stiff dough, which may even be stiffer depending on your flour absorption. I'd start with 65% hydration and see how it goes. Typically (but not exclusively), the higher the hydration, the more open crumb structure you get. Look at our ciabattas.

TP


You also may have over proofed or over proved your loaves a little which is why you didn't get much oven spring.  Recipes are usually set for the ideal room Temperature.  You will have to adjust your recipes and proving times - depending on the ambient temperatures of your Kitchen, sometimes seasonally as well. 

This topic may help a bit... it is worth a read.

http://sourdough.com/forum/topic/404


How hot does your "toaster" get?  I don't think your bread looks too bad for a first effort!!


Best regards,

Terri

You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...

G'day Oscar,
I agree with Terri, they don't look too bad for first attempts but I think TP is right in that you need more hydration and this would explain why you had trouble incorporating all the flour. If it was me, I would add 50 to 60ml of water to each batch. When mixed, I like my dough to be just slightly sticky but during kneading this stickiness goes and you end up with a nice, soft, elastic dough. If you have added too much water and your dough is too wet, you can always add a little flour during the kneading.

At that sort of temperature you may also want to decrease the proving time to about 3 1/2 hours or so, until your dough is roughly double in size. I would also fold the dough 3 or so times during the rise to gently stretch the gluten. When doing this the dough will start off feeling soft, but after folding it will again become elastic...you do not need to knead it, just fold it as I described in a previous post. I do not "punch down" my dough either, I just scale the dough to the size of my loaves, form them into shape and let them prove to again roughly double before baking. ;-)

Good luck with your second batch and do not be afraid to try a bit of experimentation with the amount of water in the mix until you get the right feel in your dough. :-)


Oscar, just so you know, it was me who made the above post.


Thank you all for your comments, I will try  tomorrow again with more hydration. I will also proof a little bit less and fold a bit more as lamp/companion (mutiple personalities here? :)) tips me.

[quote=Millciti]How hot does your "toaster" get?  I don't think your bread looks too bad for a first effort!![/quote]

I have an infrared thermometer which I bought specially for this, and the temps for the stone were 437ºF the first 15 minutes and 374ºF after. Of course having a pretty thick stone (almost a couple of inches) it took a bit more to get the temp down there...


Well, 2nd try, and it got worst than the first. It seems that I have a hand for bricks. I tried to make a ciabatta, which isn't a friendly bread for beginners, I think. It gets incredibly messy pretty easy. Here's what I did this time.

The ingredients (yeah, no oil, and I regret badly now):

156 ml. water.
240 gr. all purpose flour.
6 gr. salt.
96 gr. starter at 100% hydration.

The process:

I first mixed the starter, the water and the salt: put the KitchenAid at work at speed one and started adding the flour until it was all mixed, say 7-8 minutes.

Then I took the dough out of the mixer and finished kneading by hand. My problems started here, it was sticking very badly to my hands, to the worktop and to the scraper, I had to add a bit of flour and somehow I finally managed to move the dough to a kind of bannetone (but clay) covered with a floured cloth. Let it proof for 3 hours, taking it to the worktop and folding the dough 3 times.

After that, I cut it into two pieces and tried to stretch it a bit, and I am sure that if anything was going OK until now, it was over. Since it was sticking all around it got deflated and badly deformed (and I mean very badly), so I had to make a ball and then stretch it again, and this got it even more deflated.

I let it to proof for 1.5 hours more, and tried to put it on the peel to get it into the oven, but heck!, it was stuck to the surface where I had let it proof. Had to do some more bad things and finally managed to get it into the oven.

At the oven the stone was at 392ºF‚ and I put ice cubes on a metal pan below to get some steam going on, but this time didn't spray the loaves as I did with my first try. I don't know, but I think that this steaming system does not work with my crappy oven which has opennings all around the door.

Oven sprint was zero, and since after 45 minutes the bread hadn't even yellowed on the outside I had to turn on the top (I think you call it "broiler" we call it "gratinador" or "grill"). This happened to me the first time also, but at least with the broiler I got some browning at the end — not this time.

Here are the photos of the corpse, er, bread. I'm sorry for the quality (cameraphone), you won't be able to fully appreciate the denser-than-asphalt texture of the crumb:





[quote=oscar]Well, 2nd try, and it got worst than the first. It seems that I have a hand for bricks. I tried to make a ciabatta, which isn't a friendly bread for beginners, I think. It gets incredibly messy pretty easy. Here's what I did this time.

The ingredients (yeah, no oil, and I regret badly now):

156 ml. water.
240 gr. all purpose flour.
6 gr. salt.
96 gr. starter at 100% hydration.

The hydration @ 70% shouldn't be too bad...meaning, unmanageable if you do a couple of things (see highlighted).

The process:

I first mixed the starter, the water and the salt: put the KitchenAid at work at speed one and started adding the flour until it was all mixed, say 7-8 minutes.

Then I took the dough out of the mixer and finished kneading by hand. My problems started here, it was sticking very badly to my hands, to the worktop and to the scraper, I had to add a bit of flour and somehow I finally managed to move the dough to a kind of bannetone (but clay) covered with a floured cloth. Let it proof for 3 hours, taking it to the worktop and folding the dough 3 times.

Looks as if ^ is ok, tho' a bannetone is not really required at this stage...just need to put the dough in some big bowl which allows room to grow. I oil the bowl each time I have to put it back again, and the kneading surface and my hands are also lightly oiled. At no point do I use flour.

After that, I cut it into two pieces and tried to stretch it a bit, and I am sure that if anything was going OK until now, it was over. Since it was sticking all around it got deflated and badly deformed (and I mean very badly), so I had to make a ball and then stretch it again, and this got it even more deflated.

OK...this is when I use either oil or flour. By the way, if the dough is developed enough with time and stretching/folding, it shouldn't be sticky...very soft, yes, but, not shhhticky. And, be extra gentle so as not to burst any bubbles. Would be a good idea to prove on parchment paper. Er...I also bake it on the paper. Someone else should help you here.

I let it to proof for 1.5 hours more, and tried to put it on the peel to get it into the oven, but heck!, it was stuck to the surface where I had let it proof. Had to do some more bad things (I don't wanna know!) and finally managed to get it into the oven.

At the oven the stone was at 392ºF‚ and I put ice cubes on a metal pan below to get some steam going on, but this time didn't spray the loaves as I did with my first try. I don't know, but I think that this steaming system does not work with my crappy oven which has opennings all around the door.

Oven sprint was zero, and since after 45 minutes the bread hadn't even yellowed on the outside I had to turn on the top (I think you call it "broiler" we call it "gratinador" or "grill"). This happened to me the first time also, but at least with the broiler I got some browning at the end — not this time.

Your bread sounds overproved. If you hadn't had to deflate and ball it again, I think one hour of proving would have been sufficient. Sugars in the dough contributes to the caramelization of your bread crust. When these sugars are depleted, your bread will not be a picture of tanned health.

Here are the photos of the corpse, er, bread. I'm sorry for the quality (cameraphone), you won't be able to fully appreciate the denser-than-asphalt texture of the crumb:

I'm glad you can laugh at your experience, and that we can laugh with you. To tell you a secret, most of us don't get it right the 1st time, or the 2nd, or the 3rd..... 

Keep at it! 3rd time's lucky??


You are using all-purpose flour to make this bread. Would you know the protein level? Too low protein would also result in a pale crust.

TP


You sound so discouraged... many of us have been there and know exactly how you feel.  But once you get a good loaf you will be so happy!  

TP do you think the low temp on his oven may be partially to blame? 

Any chance you have a outdoor grill Oscar? 

Terri

You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...

Hmmm...
Good thought TP, and one I had not considered. If the flour has low protein levels there will not be enough gluten to prevent the collapse of the bubbles, and this could explain almost all of the trouble Oscar is having, like the lack of oven spring, sticky dough, lack of color.....

You might have to hunt around for some good "bread" flour Oscar. When I first made fast risen yeasted bread years ago, I tried with normal plain flour and my loaves did not rise much and came out like rocks much like you describe your results. Back then, bakers flour was not something that was easy to get hold of but I eventually managed to get some "reasonable" flour from an italian grocery store which improved the results and then managed to pursuade a local baker to sell me some "bakers flour" and then I started making good bread. Since then, a lot more people home bake over here and I now get my bakers flour in 5kg bags from the supermarket.

Did you notice the dough changing during the folding? It should start out very soft and possibly just slightly sticky, but after folding it should feel a lot firmer and not sticky at all. If you have not noticed the dough changing how it feels and firming up, I would say this is another indicator your flour is too soft and lacks protein.

You can use oil as TP describes to stop the dough sticking to your hands and work surface, but I normally just use a small dusting of flour and a dough scraper. To prove your loaves you can use a WELL FLOURED tea towel in a basket or bowl (or on the bench for a free form loaf) and turn it onto a floured peel to place in your oven. This will stop the dough sticking, but if in doubt use more rather than less flour on your tea towel until you get the hang of how much to use. As TP posted, Parchment paper (known as baking paper here) is also a good option if you are not using a bowl or basket to form your loaves.

Terri, I'm no expert but I think the low oven temp might contribute to to some of the problems (lack of color and over drying of the crust) but it should not prevent oven spring.

You also want to use boiling water in your pan for steam Oscar...not ice cubes.

If I was you I would try to get some better flour and give it another go! Your starter looks good, you have only had a couple of attempts and it would be a shame if you gave up now.


Terri...I did wonder about the heat thingy, but, I thought his temperature should be ok (and he has a stone), unless much of it did an escaping act. Is there any way you can whack up the heat of your oven further, Oscar?

TP


TekPoh, maybe I should start moving this to your gallery of regrettable breads ;)

[quote=TekPoh]Your bread sounds overproved. If you hadn't had to deflate and ball it again, I think one hour of proving would have been sufficient. Sugars in the dough contributes to the caramelization of your bread crust. When these sugars are depleted, your bread will not be a picture of tanned health.[/quote]

Looking at and the color of the bred, and this [url=http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=82234]eG post about proofing[/url], it looks more like underproofed, I made a new bread (not ciabatta, to difficult for me at the moment), and got as bad as my ciabatta wannabes. Here are the percentages:

* 135 ml. water
* 240 gr. all purpose flour
* 6 gr. salt
* 48 gr. starter at 100% hydration

This time I mixed all the ingredients except salt for 3 minutes. Let it autolyse for like an hour, KitchenAided at #2 for 5 minutes, finished hand kneading a bit. Made a ball, covered and after half an hour put it on the fridge for 24 hours. Took it out and formed a loaf on a wooden peel (with great care not to disinflate it, though it hadn't inflated much). Put the oven with the stone for one hour until it got to 392ºF, then slashed and sprayed the loaf with water and put it into the oven. After 40 minutes it hadn't grown a bit, and was still pale (as I was) so I gave up and took it out.

[quote=TekPoh]Keep at it! 3rd time's lucky??[/quote]

It looks like it wasn't.

Here is the crime scene's photo (see that the bottom is brown, but the inside was still pretty humid):

[img]http://sourdough.com/gallery2/gallery/d/14905-2/fifth-brick.jpg[/img]

[quote=TekPoh]You are using all-purpose flour to make this bread. Would you know the protein level? Too low protein would also result in a pale crust.[/quote]

It is not possible to know, but normally in Spain all purpose flour is about 11% protein. Anyways, I decided to switch flours, today I got a a different flour, they couldn't tell me the percentages neither but told is about W 300 (between T-55 and T-65 european). I'll have to research this, since it is defined by ash index and not gluten ([url=http://expatchow.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html]found some info on flour correspondences[/url] linked from The Freash Loaf while writing this).

[quote=lamp]Did you notice the dough changing during the folding? It should start out very soft and possibly just slightly sticky, but after folding it should feel a lot firmer and not sticky at all. If you have not noticed the dough changing how it feels and firming up, I would say this is another indicator your flour is too soft and lacks protein.[/quote]

I can't assure I saw changes. I hope this new flour I got will make it rise better. I must say that I didn't want to use high gluten flour because I read somewhere that using high gluten flour makes bread holes more even, and less flour makes them more uneven.

[quote=lamp]You also want to use boiling water in your pan for steam Oscar...not ice cubes.[/quote]

I foud the ice cubes on a pan technique on "The Bread Bible", the theory behind it being that as ice cubes melt in the pan, water is evaporated, so steaming the oven. I have a problem though, and it is that the oven has big gaps in the door, so I doubt any of the steam stays in it.

[quote=lamp]If I was you I would try to get some better flour and give it another go! Your starter looks good, you have only had a couple of attempts and it would be a shame if you gave up now.[/quote]

Sure I won't give up! my only problem is that my partner starts rambling every time I have the oven running for 2 hours and a brick gets out of it. But that's another matter, heh.

[quote=Millciti]Any chance you have a outdoor grill Oscar?[/quote]

Not for now, but I'm looking for a new home, and have plans on that department :)

[quote=TekPoh]Terri...I did wonder about the heat thingy, but, I thought his temperature should be ok (and he has a stone), unless much of it did an escaping act. Is there any way you can whack up the heat of your oven further, Oscar?[/quote]

Yes, I can get it up to 500ºF (at least is what the stone gets up to, read taken with my IR thermometer).