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Sourdough help


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#1 Margaret in CO

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:12 PM

I think I have over-active sourdough. I've been making white bread with it and it's been cracking on top. Today I'm making half whole wheat and it's still cracking. It's like it's rising TOO fast! I don't know if I should cut back on the cup of starter that I sponge over night or go to making four loaves instead of three, adding more flour and water or just what. Anyone have any ideas?

#2 HiddenJewel

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:22 PM

I think I have over-active sourdough. I've been making white bread with it and it's been cracking on top. Today I'm making half whole wheat and it's still cracking. It's like it's rising TOO fast! I don't know if I should cut back on the cup of starter that I sponge over night or go to making four loaves instead of three, adding more flour and water or just what. Anyone have any ideas?


How long are you letting the dough rise the first time before putting it in the pan? Is sourdough the only yeast in the dough? I'll post my recipe in a minute.

#3 HiddenJewel

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:27 PM

I use
2-1/3 cups starter
3-1/3 to 4-2/3 cups flour depending on how thin the starter was to start with
1 to 1-1/2 cups water
Scant tablespoon salt

I mix it all together until the dough is slightly wet then raise it overnight. Put it in pans in the morning and raise until early afternoon. (To work with the slightly sticky dough in the morning I put a little water on the counter and then water on my hands. That way the dough doesn't stick.) I think this makes 2 loaves.

#4 Margaret in CO

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:33 PM

I've been using a cup of starter, 3 cups of white flour and 2.5 cups of water and letting that sponge overnight. Then adding about 5 more cups of flour (on ww I really don't know as I grind it myself--it's what my grinder makes when you fill the hopper with wheat berries!), 4T olive oil, a bit of salt, and when I remember, some sugar--today I forgot it! Mix, let rise in the morning, form loaves, rise, bake. Today I did it in pans since I was doing ww. I've been scoring the all-white bread, but it was still cracking. It was also cracking along the sides, but I'm reading that it's cause by the oven being too hot at the beginning--I can see where it is rising faster at the top.

#5 Tullia

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:36 PM

Do the problems show up before baking? I've had similar problems and, have also read that too much "oven spring" can be a problem with sourdough. Living at a high altitude only exacerbates my problems. I feed the starter with a 2:1 proportion of flour to water, and use about 1/4 cup of starter per loaf when starting the sponge. I cut slits in the loaf before putting it into a warm oven to rise for abut 30-40 minutes. (I heat the oven to 170 F while forming the loaves but turn it off before putting the bread in to rise.) Baking at 375 F helps minimize over-proofing while baking.

ETA: Do you knead the sourdough before forming the loaves? I turn out the starter onto a floured board and shake flour over the dough just to the point I can work it without it all ending up on my hands. I knead it for 3-5 minutes instead of the 20 minutes I use when making traditional bread by hand.

#6 Margaret in CO

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:39 PM

Yes, it's definitely in trouble before I stick it in the oven. We're at 8000' so that may very well be part of the problem.

#7 Tullia

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:50 PM

You might try cutting back on the time you allow it to rise. My sponge sometimes seems to take FOREVER, but once I've formed it into loaves it seems to rise too quickly. I try to watch the loaves and start baking them before they look quite ready. My original recipe said to bake at 350, but I had problems with over-proofing in the oven--raising the temp helped with that. As it happens, I have a loaf baking as I type this. We'll have a round loaf cut in wedges with locally grown bolita beans as soon as the bread has cooled enough to cut. :drool5:

#8 Margaret in CO

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:55 PM

Maybe I am kneading it too long. It's been hard to figure this out--it seems so much wetter a dough than regular yeast bread. It can't taste TOO bad--the kids just ate the entire first loaf...

I've been leaving the sponge in the upper oven overnight, with the light on, as the house has just been too cold. If I leave it under the light in the kitchen, under the counter, "d"h always takes it upon himself to turn the light off! And then it takes HOURS to get it all cheered up and warmed up again.

#9 Tullia

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 05:37 PM

Maybe I am kneading it too long. It's been hard to figure this out--it seems so much wetter a dough than regular yeast bread. It can't taste TOO bad--the kids just ate the entire first loaf...

I've been leaving the sponge in the upper oven overnight, with the light on, as the house has just been too cold. If I leave it under the light in the kitchen, under the counter, "d"h always takes it upon himself to turn the light off! And then it takes HOURS to get it all cheered up and warmed up again.


I can sympathize! I sometimes leave the sponge near the crockpot if I'm cooking beans or brisket overnight and have sometimes found out the next morning that someone has moved it. (It's partly my fault because I'm always telling people to keep dishtowels away, so I guess "someone" thought that included a stainless bowl and plate. :laugh:

My sourdough usually disappears even when it looks like a moonscape science demo, but I would prefer turning out something that looks good. Sourdough is very wet, and I sometimes try to work in too much extra flour while kneading. My goal is to find a happy medium between methods for traditional loaves and the quick cloak-and-shape method from the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes routine.

#10 HiddenJewel

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 06:47 PM

Maybe I am kneading it too long. It's been hard to figure this out--it seems so much wetter a dough than regular yeast bread. It can't taste TOO bad--the kids just ate the entire first loaf...

I've been leaving the sponge in the upper oven overnight, with the light on, as the house has just been too cold. If I leave it under the light in the kitchen, under the counter, "d"h always takes it upon himself to turn the light off! And then it takes HOURS to get it all cheered up and warmed up again.


Sourdough is supposed to be more wet than regular bread dough. It handles great if you put water on the counter and on your hands instead of flour. The wetter texture and using water instead of flour was a key to my sourdough finally turning out.

My kitchen is about 67 during the night and the dough raises just fine on the cupboard all night. Not sure if putting it in the oven is causing it to rise too quickly? Another difference is that I make my actual dough the night before and don't add any more flour in the morning. Perhaps that makes a difference in second rise time as well.

I started out kneading my sourdough but I don't anymore. I just mix, rise (about 12 hours), form and put in pans, rise (about 6 hours), and bake.

#11 Margaret in CO

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 08:18 PM

Thanks for the things to try!

#12 Tullia

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 09:27 PM

Sourdough is supposed to be more wet than regular bread dough. It handles great if you put water on the counter and on your hands instead of flour. The wetter texture and using water instead of flour was a key to my sourdough finally turning out.

My kitchen is about 67 during the night and the dough raises just fine on the cupboard all night. Not sure if putting it in the oven is causing it to rise too quickly? Another difference is that I make my actual dough the night before and don't add any more flour in the morning. Perhaps that makes a difference in second rise time as well.

I started out kneading my sourdough but I don't anymore. I just mix, rise (about 12 hours), form and put in pans, rise (about 6 hours), and bake.


Thanks for the tips especially on using water instead of flour!

#13 HiddenJewel

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 12:20 AM

Thanks for the tips especially on using water instead of flour!



You are very welcome. I even use that with my regular wheat bread dough at times. Until I tried it though I was quite skeptical. :)


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