I just can't get it right!

I?ve been baking bread for a little while now and have been experimenting with different techniques. I have been very successful in creating a vibrant and healthy starter and have used this to bake many edible loaves. Now this may sound simple to some of you but the problem I?m having is that I cannot obtain a dry fluffy centre in my bread. The crust is always excellent with a nice crunch but the centre always turns out dense and has maintained a lot of moisture. I?ll run through my steps and maybe someone can tell me where I?m going wrong.

100% white unbleached flour with 11.9% protein @ 62% Hydration
40% starter @ 100% hydration
2% Salt

For a 1kg dough:
418 grams flour
400 grams starter
182 grams water
11 grams salt

I combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl then turn onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 3 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and let it sit covered with a damp tea towel for 1 hour. After an hour I use the stretch and fold method, about 3 times. Then I repeat this again in the next hour. Before proving I shape my dough into a ball by cupping the dough in my hands and stretching it from the sides and tucking it under itself. I place the dough on a heavily floured board adding some semolina flour to help when I slide the dough off on to the baking stone. I let the dough prove for 4 hours covered with the tea towel. I pre heat the oven and the baking stone for 30 minutes at 190C. I have a shallow baking tray sitting at the bottom of the oven which I pour boiling water into to create some steam in the oven 5 minutes before which I?m now ready to slash the top of the dough 3 times and slide on to the baking stone in the oven and bake for 1 hour. The dough S-P-R-I-N-G-S nicely and starts to form a very nice crust after about 40 minutes. After the loaf has been baking for an hour I switch off the oven and open the door slightly and let it sit for 30 minutes. I then remove the loaf from the oven and let it sit on a cooling rack overnight (I usually bake at night around 11:00pm). In the morning I cut my first slice and find that the centre is dense and contains a lot of moisture. The crust is very nice and crunchy and has a nice flavor. Others have turned out like what I can only describe as baked glue, where the gaseous holes have a shiny surface. I have tried to bake at high temperature then lower to bake for the last half hour and vice versa. I JUST CAN?T GET IT RIGHT! Can someone help?

Here are some pics of a recent loaf I have baked with similar results.

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~papakon/mypic1.jpg

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~papakon/mypic2.jpg


32 comments

[quote="Normbake"]
Well done Papakon
Normbake
[/quote]

Thanks Norm


[quote="Bill44"]
[quote="Papakon"]
Interesting, I've sometimes wondered about this myself so I can understand exactly what you mean. At the moment I'm using Bill Flannery's Sourdough Calculator and seems to be working well for me.
Thanks for the tip Dom, I'll be trying that on my next loaf.
Papakon
[/quote]

Bill Flannery = Bill44

Laughing

[/quote]

I was guessing it may have been your work. Well done on the calculator! By the way my name is Bill too !!

Surprised


[quote="nina"]
Papakon, congrats on the fantastic result. That crust really makes me jealous

Laughing

[/quote]

Thank you Nina. Let me tell you that it tastes just as good as it looks. I toasted some this morning for breakfast. Eggs and bacon never tasted so good before !!

Wink


Thanks for the link Dom, I had read it before but was more interested in the bread than the technical discussion at the time. It would seem common practice then to refer to the proportion of starter in either way. A bit like sourdough, no hard and fast rules.

took a little while to find. I knew that I had ranted about this somewhere.

have a look at this thread on Dan's Forum for the full discussion (link below)

[quote]
I have wondered before whether the person who invented bakers' percentages (the starter;) ?) fundamentally misunderstood how percentages work.

On the other hand, they are a relatively simple way of easily scaling recipes. Its just that they should be called something else to avoid confusion - perhaps "PFW" 'proportion of flour weight'.

To confuse things further of course, the "percent hydration" that we often talk about - is not a true bakers percentage (ie pfw), neither is it a true percentage (of dough weight). Rather it is expressed as a percentage of total flour weight including the flour in the starter (lets call it PTFW). So to calculate the percent hydration in the recipe you need to divide the total amount of liquid (including the liquid in the starter), by the total amount of flour (including the dry flour weight plus the flour in the starter).
For example Dan's white leaven bread contains 200g starter, 325g water, 500g flour (plus a little salt, but I'll ignore that for the maths). Lets assume that his starter is 50:50 flour/water (ie 100% pfw)
That means the recipe contains 40% starter (pfw), though this is actually ~19.5% dough weight.
The recipe has 65% water (pfw), but the actual hydration of the dough is 68% (ptfw) while the 'true percentage' would be ~41% dough weight.
Confused?
[/quote]

[url]http://www.danlepard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=530&start=0[/url]

cheers
Dom


Sorry Dom, I didn'y express myself clearly. I meant the different ways of quoting the starter percentage, either as related to the flour or to the total dough weight.

[quote]
In the interest of learning, do you find a significant benefit using your method Dom?
[/quote]

Starter proportion is an experiment that I haven't had time to conduct yet.

So when I suggest using a lower proportion of starter, what I am really saying is that this is what works for me. I don't have much experience with using higher proportions of starter.
In the loaf Papakon is baking, a lower proportion of rye starter [i]may[/i] make the dough easier to handle, and more extensible, with more open structure.

cheers
Dom


I meant fellow soughdough people

Laughing

Normbake[/img]

No NO! I meant it ! Sourpeople sounds very nice! What better thing to call sourdough fanatics...than...sourpeople!
Teresa

[quote]
fellow sourpeople
[/quote]
I love being a fellow "sourpeople" ! Thats great!
Teresa

Thanks for the advice about kneading fellow sourpeople. That's been my problem I've been only kneading for a few minutes because the dough is way too sticky and sticks to everything, fingers, benchtop.
I will knead the dough longer now.
Normbake

Well done Papakon
Normbake

Papakon, congrats on the fantastic result. That crust really makes me jealous

Laughing

[quote="Papakon"]
Interesting, I've sometimes wondered about this myself so I can understand exactly what you mean. At the moment I'm using Bill Flannery's Sourdough Calculator and seems to be working well for me.
Thanks for the tip Dom, I'll be trying that on my next loaf.
Papakon
[/quote]

Bill Flannery = Bill44

Laughing

[quote="Bill44"]
Papakon, you are most certainly on the way, well done mate. The amount of rye starter you are using will increase the stickiness of the dough, and the rye flour in your starter will make it harder to get the windowpane effect in your developed dough. Save yourself some work and just knead to that spot where it became nice and elastic.
Once again, nice work.
[/quote]

Thanks Bill, and yes, I've noticed that it certainly makes a difference to the dough when I started using rye flour. Dom also makes an interesting point about the percentage of starter. More to consider.


Papakon,

well done! Your loaf looks great.
Glad to hear that some of our advice worked for you.

One other thing that you could try would be to use a somewhat smaller proportion of starter in your dough.
I have often read people talk about using 40% starter, but usually that is percent of dry flour rather than total flour.
For example I would often use 200g starter to 500g flour.

cheers
Dom


Dom, you have raised an interesting point about the way the amount of starter is quoted in recipes. Mostly one is working from a recipe which quotes so many grams of this or that, but when one starts quoting or reading percentages it can become confusing.

For example when I quote a starter percentage I am always refering to a percentage of total dough weight, some people do it this way and some have other ways. To me it just seems a better indication of the proportion of starter in a recipe, and I find it a far better measurement to use when I wish to adjust a recipe in some way.

In the interest of learning, do you find a significant benefit using your method Dom?

[quote="SourDom"]
Papakon,

well done! Your loaf looks great.
Glad to hear that some of our advice worked for you.

One other thing that you could try would be to use a somewhat smaller proportion of starter in your dough.
I have often read people talk about using 40% starter, but usually that is percent of dry flour rather than total flour.
For example I would often use 200g starter to 500g flour.

cheers
Dom
[/quote]

Interesting, I've sometimes wondered about this myself so I can understand exactly what you mean. At the moment I'm using Bill Flannery's Sourdough Calculator and seems to be working well for me.
Thanks for the tip Dom, I'll be trying that on my next loaf.

Papakon


Papakon, you are most certainly on the way, well done mate. The amount of rye starter you are using will increase the stickiness of the dough, and the rye flour in your starter will make it harder to get the windowpane effect in your developed dough. Save yourself some work and just knead to that spot where it became nice and elastic.
Once again, nice work.

Looks wonderful! Happy for you.


Well, I took into consideration the feedback from your replies. Thanks to Bill, SourDom, and Tom. I began the process for my next loaf with a more positive attitude. With only a couple of adjustments to the dough mix, I began.

I was aiming for 1.2kg dough, considering that I will lose about 15% of that weight during baking, I should end up with approximately a 1kg loaf.

I decided to up the hydration level to 65% and use Laucke Wallaby 11.9% unbleached white Bakers Flour. Thus the final dough mix:

100% White Flour 487g
40% Rye Starter @ 100%Hyd. 480g
48 % Water 233g
2.2% Salt 16g

I used the starter when it was at its peak, as suggested by SourDom. I found this is usually 8 hours later from when I feed my starter at the time when it has reached the lowest part of its cycle. I then mixed all the ingredients together and let it sit covered with a damp tea towel for 15 minutes, as suggested by Bill (Autolyse). I started to knead my dough and it began very sticky but I avoided the temptation of using any flour, I wanted to see how and when it would all come together and be manageable (experience is everything!) Anyway, although I found that the dough was very hard to manage (for me anyway) it did reach a point where it was really elastic, still sticky but the elasticity was proving to be helpful in the kneading process, as long as I kept it moving. What I was looking for was the 'see-through' effect of the dough when you stretch it out against the light. Once I reached this stage I stopped. I realized that it nearly took me 20 minutes! However, considering that I was still getting used to working with such sticky dough during its early stage, the actual 'proper kneading' took about 10 minutes. I placed the dough in a bowl and covered with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 1 hour. Then I began the stretch and fold method I described before 3 times then back in the bowl and covered to rest for another hour. Once the hour was up I removed the dough and repeated the stretch and fold process again 3 times and then it was back in the bowl and covered for another hour. After this hour lapsed, I shaped my dough on a floured board and let it rest for 3 hours.

I pre-heated my oven and baking stone at 220C for 45 minutes and had my tray of bubbling water sitting in the bottom of the oven 5 minutes before I slashed my dough, into the oven, crossed the fingers and baked it for 45minutes. When the backing was done I switched off the oven and left the door open for 20 minutes. Afterwards I removed the loaf and placed on a cooling rack overnight and went to bed.

In the morning I cut my first slice. The crust was very nice, but that was always consistent, and the crumb was almost what I have been looking for, only ever so slightly moist but definitely not heavy and dense. Well, an improvement never the less. I?ve posted some happy snaps so you can see the results.

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~papakon/mypic4.jpg

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~papakon/mypic5.jpg

Thanks guys!!!!!

Very Happy

I'm on my way!!!!!

Cool

Papakon


Papakon,

it might be worth extending your first rising period.
Try letting it rise for 3 hours, with a fold every hour. Slash the dough before you fold it each time, and inspect the cut surface for bubbles. You will see more each time. When there are lots it is time to shape.

I have a 'proving' tutorial in the pipeline, but need time to finish it.

As far as the starter question - we would aim to use it at 'peak'. But unless you are able to keep a very close eye on it, and/or control the proving temperature closely you won't have that option.
I don't think that it matters if your starter is a little overdone as it will be diluted by lots of new food (in the form of flour), and will have time to multiply and develop flavour in proving (if you let it!)

cheers
Dom


SourDom, thanks for the reply. In response to your question. I let my dough rest for 1 hour before I shape and prove, and about the starter; First, a little background, which may be helpful to others too, so please bear with me.

I have a strong health starter which I began in a plastic water jug container with just plain white flour, lukewarm water and a little orange juice (freshly squeezed). I keep my starter mix on top of my coffee machine which gives it just enough warmth and seems to really love it's home. Once it got started I then continued with the process of discarding half the mixture and then adding plain white flour and lukewarm water to replenish to equal weight of remaining starter and maintain a consistant mix of 100% hydration (50/50 mix). Basically double the remaining starter.

Recently, as I mentioned in my original post, I bought flour from a bakery, a strong white and some rye flour too. So at my next scheduled replenishment of my starter, I added a mix of white and rye flour and BOY!! do those little critters love rye. My starter is about 1 and a half months old now and going strong. Prior to adding the rye flour my starter would roughly double in size, now with the rye it's actually tripled. Along the way I have been keeping some of the starter that I would normally discard in the fridge as a backup supply.

Now, getting back to the problem at hand. I have a question that may seem obvious, but I just need to confirm. The question is: when do you know your starter is ready to use in your dough? When it has reached it's peak? Or when it starts to collapse? Or when it has fully collapsed and ready for the next replenishment? I've been using my starter at the fully collapsed stage. I've added a picture of my starter, on it's way down.

http://members.optusnet.com.au/~papakon/mypic3.jpg

Thanks again

Papakon


Absolutely right there! I popped in to see Dom's blog, and was blown over by his step-by-step beginner's guide. Great job, Dom!

Welcome, Tom! Indeed, I'm suffering from major oven envy. Thanks for sharing your observation on how the shape of the bread can affect the crumb. Hmm...


Dom, that's a great and very thorough tutorial. And so many pictures! It's very helpful. (Your link didn't work for me, but I found it at

http://sourdom.sourdough.net.au/

Wink

)

I used to have this problem a while back and what worked for me was to use a flour with a lower protein level. According to Maggie Glezer(Artisan Baking Across America), the protein level used in Artisan Bread is typically 11.5%. The bread flour in France are typically only 10%!! I was really surprised when I found out about this. I had this problem because I was using bread flour of 13% as this is typical of bread flour available to me. Part of my problem disappeared when I used a lower protein flour of about 11%. I also realised that the size and shape of the bread affects the quality of the crumb. The damp effect is more pronounced in boules as compared to oblong shapes. Huge loaves also contribute to the problem. See my site

http://www.angelfire.com/planet/tomsbread/index.htm

According to Hamelman on flour choice in pg 145 of his book, he recommends "winter wheat of medium strength-11.5 to 12%) so your flour at 11.9% is within this limit.

As for the shiny crumb, this is gelatinization of the starch and some books(Reinhart TBBA? ) even state that it is a desirable quality. I get this effect in my breads but the crumb tastes alright ie tender and creamy. However, when the bread stales, the shiny crumb becomes tough but then, stale bread is stale bread and taste as such, regardless of whether the crumb is shiny or not.

My typical baking temperature is 210 C for 40 min. I don't seem to get this problem when I use these parameters but then, all ovens are different and I am still getting to know my oven (and a complete answer to this damp bread problem).

Tomsbread

Very nice site Tom although I got over 20 popups!.You have baked some really terrific looking bread, I am inspired!
I am jealous of the steam injected oven! Welcome to this forum and I hope to see more of your bread!
Teresa

Papakon,

welcome to the forum.
Stick with us, and your loaves will be on their way in no time at all! They already look very promising, with a good structure, grigne (slash), spring and crust. The crumb we can improve.

One of the things about asking questions on a forum is that sometimes the advice that you receive will be conflicting. It is worthwhile (if you can be patient) changing one thing at a time so that you can tell what it is that is making the difference.

I agree with Bill that your short knead may be part of the problem. However Bill and I have a (friendly) difference of opinion about the best approach to kneading loaves. If you are interested in an alternative approach to kneading have a look at a tutorial for beginners on kneading and mixing that I have just written on [url=http://sourdom.sourdough.com.au]my blog[/url]. Although the tutorial uses a yeast based recipe, (because many beginners do not have an active starter for a little while), the technique is exactly the same with a sourdough loaf.
You may also be interested in the [url=http://sourdom.sourdough.net.au/2006/06/25/sourdough-experiment-4-250606-to-knead-or-not-to-knead/]experiment[/url]that I posted last week comparing two different kneading methods.

Two other thoughts.
First - how active is your starter? When you have refreshed your starter it should have doubled (approx) in volume, with a thick layer of froth on the top, and a rich network of bubbles below the surface (easy to see if your starter is in a transparent jar)
Second - I wasn't sure how long your dough was rising in between kneading and shaping. I will usually leave dough for 3 or 4 hours until it has approximately doubled in volume. At this time, if you slash the top with a sharp knife you will see a rich network of bubbles below the surface.

let us know how you get on
cheers
Dom


refer back to the original post for the pics, I added them in later, so you've probably missed them.


Don't worry about the dough sticking to your fingers, for some reason people have a real thing about this. Use absolute minimal flour at the start, and as the dough develops the stickiness will reduce and what is sticking to your fingers will mostly return to the dough. I don't consider 62% a very sticky dough, get up to 66%+ and you are starting to talk sticky.
Ok I've just had a look at the pics, didn't realise you had added them to your first post. From the look of things you are very near the mark, I would suggest you try what I have advised and you may find quite an improvement in the texture of your crumb.

Thanks Bill. I've just posted a couple of pictures of the loaf in question. This has been a consistant result from the method I have described.

I guess that I have been worried that if I use too much flour to dust the dough, hands and bench when kneeding I will alter the hydration level. As the dough is quite sticky at 62% and hard to work with has been the reason i've been kneeding for aprox 2-3 minutes. I could kneed with a light flouring until the dough would absorb the flour and quickly become sticky again, thus 10 minutes would seem to be to long to keep kneeding. I have read that you can use oil for kneeding a sticky dough, or is that that technique used when shaping? I would guess that using oil or flour to kneed your dough the oil would still combine quickly in the dough and end up with the same sticky mess.


Papakon, nice to see you have put full details in your post, it makes it a lot easier to offer advice when you know all the details.
Ok from what you have said there are two main things that may be the problem, firstly I feel that the dough has not been developed enough, and secondly your baking temperature may be too low.
Dan Lepards method of stretching and folding works great for high hydration dough and I am a firm supporter of this method. However, while the method as applied to a 62% hydration dough will help to elongate the gas holes, it is insufficient to develop the dough. You are only kneading for 3 minutes which in my opinion is not enough, you may find that somewhere between 7 - 10 minutes is better, time dependent on your kneading technique. What you are looking for is the point where the dough becomes elastic and less sticky, once you have felt it happen you will not have any further trouble recognising it again. This occurs when the gluten is developed and dont be tempted to knead more than 1 minute past this point. What will help the gluten development is a 10 minute dough rest between mixing and kneading, called Autolyse, which allows the flour time to absorb some of the moisture.

Now as to your baking temperature, I would suggest you heat your oven & stone for an absolute minimum of 45 minutes, preferably 1 hour, to a temperature of 210C and bake for 45 minutes, then take the loaf out of the oven and cool for at least 1 hour before being tempted to slice it.

The above advice is my basic method and works for me, hope it helps you.