My loaves often cracked at the base during baking even though I sliced the top to allow for expansion. I thought this must be caused by the crust forming too quickly and air finding the easiest escape route out the bottom. The bread still tasted great but it didn't rise properly and it didn't look professional. I experimented with spraying water or adding a few ice cubes to a tray in the bottom of the oven but to no avail. After a lot of experimentation I discovered that a tray filled with water in the bottom of the oven did the trick. I guess the high humidity in the oven allowed the bread to fully rise before the crust formed. Now I consistently get nice looking loaves like this one. Just thought I'd share this in case anyone else out there was having a similar problem.
Hi Mathew, I had the same problem and solved it the same way - I pour boiling water in the pan (watch out for the steam) just before I put the dough in the oven. I was spraying water in with a bottle but managed to crack two pizza stones that way.......
Hi Mathew, i baked my first sourdough yesterday which cracked so many thanks for your tip. i have another couple of problems, the crust on top was way too hard and toward the bottom of the loaf it was abit doughy/"wet" - any tips ??
ps, your loaf looked great
Hi there would you mind posting your recipe for the sourdough bread....please....it looks so delicious....I am just starting out and would really like to give it a go......Please !!!
my recipe comes from the Bourke Street Bakery (the ultimate baking companion) baking book by Paul Allam and David Mcguiness.
I did a baking course with them in Sydney and they gave us some of their culture which is still going strong a year on.
Here's the recipe. These amounts are for three 500 g loaves. You can just divide the numbers by three if you want one loaf.
405 g starter (mine is the consistency of thick, runny yoghurt. I feed it in the morning and prepare dough in the afternoon)
765 g plain flour (I use Wallaby Flour from Coles. I recommend it)
400 mL water (from the tap is fine)
20 g salt (I use Maldon salt but grind it with a mortar and pestle first. It dissolves easier in the dough that way.
I mix the starter, luke warm water and flour together until it forms a sticky mix and leave it to sit in the bowl for 20 min covered with cling wrap. This will naturally activate the gluten and minimises kneading time.
Next I mix in the salt and knead for about 5 min and then do the window pane test.
Then I shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl sprayed with olive oil and cover with cling wrap for an hour.
Knock back and reshape into a ball and set aside for another hour in a covered bowl.
Divide into 500 g pieces at this point.
Then I shape the bread. I have tried various methods but find this one works the best and gives the airiest bread:
I prove in the fridge overnight. I usually place it in the fridge at about 8 pm, take it out at about 4-5 am (crazy!) then bake at about 7 am give or take an hour or so. I slice the top just before putting it in the oven
I bake at 200 degrees in a fan forced oven on a pizza stone for 35 min (lined with baking paper or semolina). My loaves can be a bit soft on the bottom sometimes and I usually flip them over and bake an extra 5 mins.
Let in cool for an hour or two before eating.
Hope that helps.
If you dissolve your salt in the water first, you won't need to bother with the pestle and mortar.
Adding the salt after you mix the water and the flour allows the dough to "autolyse", whereby the mixing and resting allows the gluten to develop before you add salt, which has a tendency to tighten the gluten. This leaves you with a much more elastic dough with better structure and flavour!
Thats a great tip and your bread looks fantastic. I've been having exactly the same issue and I'm going to try this on the weekend. Hopefully mine turns out half as good as that looks.