web analytics
Sourdough success! - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


No announcement yet.

Sourdough success!

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Sourdough success!

    First things first...a big thanks to Faith and Jay for their indispensible help in steering a rookie through the process. Quite literally, I couldn't have done it without them.

    The bread I baked yesterday doesn't compare to the stuff the experts bake, but for a first attempt at sourdough (and from my homemade starter!) I'm very happy with the results....and it was delicious...and everyone loved it.

    The back story is that I had my first fire in my oven five days ago. I went way overboard and made the fire bigger than I should have for a first fire. But I figured that since I did that and the oven didn't blow up in a cloud of steam, I might as well push on. So I had another fire on day two, and then on day three did the first pizza cook with the kids. The oven has remained temps no lower than three hundred degrees for the past five days. It has no cladding anywhere but is insulated to the hilt and stays hot like nobody's business.
    The morning after the first pizza cook the thermocouple located between the brick floor and insulation was registering at 620 degrees. Yesterday morning (thirty-six hours later) it was still over three hundred degrees. Suffice it to say that I am impressed with the way these masonry ovens stay hot.

    So we had the first big pizza party scheduled for last night...but my oven was still hot from two days ago, and I was anxious to cook some bread. So I sponged advice from Faith and Jay and lit a fire yesterday one to bring the oven up to bread baking temps. Since the oven was already at three hundred degrees, it didn't take long for the fire to get the oven into the bread baking range.

    I followed Jay and Faith's advice as best I could (I think I screwed up by doing a stretch and fold immiediately before forming the loaves and thereby knocked a lot of the gas out of the dough??? I also had it rising at 73 degrees for the bulk fementation and the stage after having formed the loaves...rather than the 76 degrees I was instructed.). I have a number of more specific questions but I'll save those for a different thread. Anyway...I'll get better I hope..

    So after about a one hour burn, I raked the fire/coals out of the oven, cleaned up, wet mopped it out, left the door open for about forty minutes to bring the oven down from a tad over six hundred to around 550, and put six loaves in. Those turned out great and the next five loaves went in right after. I put a dutch oven full of ice in with the bread, I don't think I needed that much ice because it hadn't evaporated away buy the end of the first batch. The first batch took right at thirty minutes. The oven temp was around 530 when I pulled out the first batch. The second batch took about the same amount of time.

    We had our first big pizza party scheduled for last night and guests started arriving as I was pulling the second batch of bread out. I immediately started another fire to bring it back up to pizza temps. The thermocouple between the brick and insulation was five fifty or so. The roof was clearing in under an hour and the deep thermocouple were back over six hundred within a few minutes after that. The IR gun was reading 800 on the floor. It equallized as I was cleaning up and pushing coals to the side abd we then proceeded to cook approximately twenty five pizzas over the next hour. We frequently had three going at a time and they were cooking very quickly. (Two minutes or less depending on how many toppings people were putting o them.)

    The bread is great...didn't rise quite as much as I would have liked...but I was happy with the results for a first attempt.

    Here are the pics

    (My brother and his wife insisted that I wear the apron they bought me for the occasion. I drew tthe line at the matching chef's hat.)

    I did eleven loaves but between the time people started arriving for the party and when the pizzas startted getting cooked, four loaves got chopped up and dipped in olive oil and balsamic.
    Last edited by WJW; 05-13-2012, 12:19 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Sourdough success!

    Hi W!

    They look pretty good for first efforts... You need to show a cut loaf (preferably down the middle) so we can get a good look at the crust and crumb. Can tell you a lot more about your technique with a crumb shot.

    You are spot on about S&F before forming. While well developed dough can take pretty rough handling, it will cost you gas and lead to a denser, more uniform crumb.

    Don't sweat proofing at 73 vs. 76. No big deal, just a bit slower.

    Good loaf color indicating proofing is about right. You did put WAY TOO MUCH ice in the oven. You want the humidity to fall off over time. I am going to guess your effective oven temp was somewhat lower than the 550 you thought you had (due to the ice and steam). I like my bread baked a bit harder (darker) but...that is a personal thing.

    Avoid the final S&F (yeah, I know it makes it easier to handle) and you should be pretty happy. I am guessing you were a hair underproofed (but I prefer slightly under also...)

    Nice Start!


    • #3
      Re: Sourdough success!

      Yes I agree, great start. Ditto to everything Jay said. Nice Pictures and I like the apron. By the smiles on your faces I can see it was a good time.

      I'm doing a large bake today. This last month I have been driving back and forth to MI to get the materials for my "Twins" so I have not baked in about a month. I have nothing in the freezer and I'm out of bread.

      I'm working on a graph of the flow of heat in a WFO that you may be interested in later.

      Until then....great job...happy baking!


      • #4
        Re: Sourdough success!

        Thanks you guys.

        It really is amazing how the starter matures and becomes more effective. I have had two more bake days since I last posted. As I said last time, on the first bake the sourdough didn't jump to life and spring up like some of the first yeast bread I baked last month. Since that first attempt at sourdough I have done it twice more with much more impressive results.

        Now, when I do my preferment the volume triples in about four or five hours. When I mix in my flour and water the next morning and do the bulk ferment, by the time I'm ninety minutes into it and ready to do my second S&F, there are typically a couple of big silver-dollar sized bubbles on the surface of the rising mass of dough and it is geting really BIG.

        Last week I tripled the recipe Jay provided (using Faith's guidelines for time). The day before yesterday I quadrupled the recipie, making eight loaves which were each a bit over 1.5 pound each before baking. (it's funny...when putting everything together it's all grams...but when it's time to fomr the loaves I switch the scale to read in pounds to double check the size. I need to get that straightened out and get things consistient.)

        I upped the hydration level to about 70% on this last batch. Keeping my hands and bench knife wet for the S&F's, and moving fast when forming! The last batch was my best ever...best rise...best job I've done on the S&F...best flavor...and then I put the loaves in an oven which was too hot. I knew it was too hot, but I did it anyway. We had people coming over for dinner and I wanted fresh, hot bread to serve with dinner so I put the bread in with an oven temp of around 605. I was wet-mopping it out to try to bring the temp down, and the temp of the bricks would drop...and then the temp would jump right back up. Repeat. I was pressed for time so I put the loaves in anyway.

        The bread still tasted great (best ever actually) but on three of the loaves I got great big hernia-type buldges sticking out of the the lower sides close to the hearth bricks. Kinda like a weak spot on an old fashioned tire. Didn't affect the flavor, but definitely not as pretty for those three loaves.

        Anyway, very cool...lots of fun..delicious...and I'm now a hero among all my friends, neighbors, and family for passing out the cool sourdough. (Can't have the neighbors bitching about smoke...gotta keep them happy.)

        The flavor of the most recent bake is sour...not super sour...but moderately so...and very delicate. As Jay said it would...getting more complex. I can't put it into words exactly how it is different...but it definitely is different...maybe softer somehow if that makes sense.

        Here is a pic from the day before yesterday...

        Here is a pic of last week's bake..

        After the bake from the other day I did some retained heat cooking yesterday and did up an eight pound pork shoulder for pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and carmelized fifteen pounds of onions and roasted three pounds of peeled garlic cloves. Spread some of the garlic on sourdough for fantastic appetizers and threw everything else in the freezer in individual zip lock bags for future pizza bakes.

        So...Thanks again Faith and Jay.


        P.S.: Went to a friends house for a Memorial Day BBQ this evening and put all that left over sourdough to use. I've been cubing and freezing any bread over two days old. Today it all got transformed into Paul Prudomme's New Orleans style Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce.
        Last edited by WJW; 05-28-2012, 09:32 PM.


        • #5
          Re: Sourdough success!

          Hi Bill!

          When you do things right (by accident or not) with sourdough you get rewarded. Be warned, most people who achieve success early get sloppy and sloppiness will come back and bite you. Keep feeding/using your starter regularly. IF you don't use it for a while, feed it a couple of times to get it active again before trying to bake. You have seen how active it can be. You can make reasonable bread when it is less active but...the best is going to be when it is in a healthy robust mood.

          RE: your bread... Your crumb is LOVELY. There are bakers everywhere who envy your crumb. Keys are hydration, active levain, and adequate development with minimal handling! You have a good touch.

          WRT your blowouts...Do you have a photograph of them?? Couple of key possibilities: 1) Bad loaf forming (but it doesn't sound right). 2) Loaves that were too close together (indicated by very pale crust) which then was soft and ruptured from oven spring.

          Are you reading the temp in the bread when you pull it? Baked that light in a hot oven makes me suspect the internal temp was rather low. I encourage you to leave a few loaves in and bake them to at least 209 or even 211 to learn the difference. As the temp goes above 205 you start roasting the wheat in the interior of the bread and get what I consider improved flavor. With good, wet dough you can bake that hard and still keep a moist crumb (not so true at 62 to 64 percent hydration).

          Well done! Congratulations!
          Last edited by texassourdough; 05-29-2012, 07:07 AM. Reason: spell fix


          • #6
            Re: Sourdough success!

            Don't get too close Jay, looks like Bill got infected with the bread bug. Oh, that's right, we were already infected and I think we infected Bill.

            Bill looks wonderful, awesome job. Other possibilities for the blow outs could be due to under proofing or improper slashing.

            This is where Jay and I differ. I prefer my bread internal temp to reach 205. I don't care for the 209 to 2011. I think the difference in temperature really affects the bite of the crumb and over all texture. Jay has a good idea about leaving a few loaves in longer so you can make your own decision. I also think this is a preference. It does look like you could bake a bit longer and darken them a bit more.

            I baked yesterday also. 21 loaves in all. I have been working on my rye. I messed up really bad on the rye and did a punt to save the bread. The big problem is it's the best rye I made yet and I'm not sure how to do it again.

            Welcome to the insanity (Breadhead Bill)


            • #7
              Re: Sourdough success!

              Good comments, Faith! My reason for suggesting harder baking a few loaves is to understand the range better so Bill can decide what he prefers.

              Given the photos I discounted underproofing for the expansion of the nonblowouts looks like the loaves are fairly close to spot on. The slashes are a bit shallow IMO but the whole effect looks good to me. With inadequate information I think the loaves were too close but???

              What a baking day! WOW! I need to feed my beasties after being gone for two weeks. Will try to bake later this week. I may have to do a take off on Kayser's Pain Aux Cereales while the memory of his wheat is fresh in my mind! Image attached!

              What do you think you did to the rye? Recovering from a booboo can can really educational and it sounds like it was for you - in that recovering from a mess reinforces that you actually can bake by touch/gut feel rather than by the scale and clock!

              Bake On!


              • #8
                Re: Sourdough success!

                Thanks you guys.

                With respect to the blowouts, I didn't take any pics...but the top pic in my previous post (with the bottle of Kenwood wine) shows a minor blowout on one of the loaves. The loaf to the lower right in the pic looks like it has the slash facing the photo...but that's actually a minor blowout...the slash is barely visible on the top of the loaf.

                I don't think I'm underproofed. The last batch was bulk fermented for two hours and fifty minutes at 74 degrees. I then formed loaves and they proofed for another three hours at between 73 and 75 degrees. (The long final ferment was because I was waiting for my oven to cool.)

                I really tried to minimize handling so is it possibble that I had areas of improperly developed gluten resulting in a weak spot?...doesn't sound right to me in light of the fact that all three of the blowouts were basically in the same place...but I don't know.

                My handling is that I used my new kitchen aid (Pro 6 quart model) to mix the flour, water, and preferment. (The size of this batch was such that I was just barely able squeeze everything into the bowl, but the bowl was so full I made a big mess. I now know what the absolute max amount I can put in that thing is. ;-) )

                I then mixed it on the Kitchen aide on speed 1 for about four minutes or so. Maybe one minute of mixing past the point where it it stopped looking shaggy and looked like a uniform dough.

                Then I took it out and immediately did four S&F's and left it. Forty-five minutes later I did anouther four and tried to be somewhat gentle. An hour after that I did two very gentle S&F's...and and that was it for handling. An hour and ten minutes later I formed the loaves with no additional gluten formation???

                I also don't think the loaves are too close together. They are always at least four or five inches from the next loaf. (The oven is 36 by 41) and I'm only doing five or six at a time. (I also have a dutch oven with a few ice cubes as well.)

                What seems most likely to me from the possibilities you guys have offered is that is that I am improperly slashing the loaves. I guess the shape of the affected loaves is roughly that of a batard (I had to look that up just now. )..and I am reading that I should have slashed diagonally across the tops. What I did on this last bake (when I had my blowouts) was to simply make a single slash in the top center of the loaf running down the length of the loaf. I think that's wrong? I did diagonal slashes last week and had no blowouts.

                We have out of town company coming this weekend for golf for the guys on Friday and pool time around the house with the girls all day Saturday. So it looks like I'll be doing a big bake on Saturday. Lots of time for building fires, S&F's, and loaf forming when laying by the pool and drinking margaritas are the only other things on the agenda.

                I plan on doing something around 70% hydration and will be doing my biggest batch ever with an eight-fold increase of the recipe you guys provided. I'm thinking that will produce about twenty loaves and will require three or four batches in the oven.

                I'm curious to see what it takes to bring the oven temp down to a point where I can't bake. So far, doing two batches doesn't seem to do much to bring the temp down very much. With that much dough I think I'll break it up a bit...try some baguettes first. What oven temp (air and hearth) do you guys like for WFO baguettes. What is the lowest oven temp. you'd still throw loaves in at?

                I'll be posting pics on Sunday.

                All comments, ideas, and critiques welcome.


                P.S. I have not been taking internal bread temps but will definitely start this weekend. I will also try leaving some in longer to see what happens.
                Last edited by WJW; 05-29-2012, 10:58 AM.


                • #9
                  Re: Sourdough success!

                  Hi Bill!

                  Looking the loaves over carefully I don't see an obvious blowout but there is a loaf that looks like it might have burst a weakly formed seam in the loaf which would suggest you got some flour in the loaf in forming.

                  If anything, the oven spring suggests to me you are right on to slightly over on proofing. A lot of commercial bakers like the slightly over look. I personally prefer slightly under.

                  When you use S&Fs you want to minimally mix the dough - one minute in a mixer past shaggy is plenty. At that point you would have uneven hydration. That will resolve itself.

                  You are off to a great start. The challenge - and I think your additional successes suggest you are up to it - is keeping the results consistent. Since you are basically spot on, try to change only one thing at a time. That way you will learn how the variables of bread making work. And then when you get a surprise result you will have a good idea where you went wrong.

                  How are you doing your S&Fs? On the counter, in a tub? I prefer tubs but....



                  • #10
                    Re: Sourdough success!

                    Doing S&F on a smooth granite counter top in my kitchen. I get a little water on the surface and do it. About half way through I need to re-wet the counter to avoid sticking. I keep a small bowl of water next to me to keep my hands and bench knife wet to avoid sticking.

                    Why do you prefer a tub?


                    P.S.: That Eric Kayser bread looks fantastic! Please post some pics after you give it a shot.
                    Last edited by WJW; 05-29-2012, 03:53 PM.


                    • #11
                      Re: Sourdough success!

                      Bill did you put any thermocouples in your oven? I finally figured out how to saturate my oven and not do the overheating. That can really mess with your timing.

                      I do the counter S&F myself. Big batches gives me room to stretch out. (pun intended)


                      • #12
                        Re: Sourdough success!

                        We used tubs at SFBI. I had not done so before. The tubs held 12 to maybe 20 pounds of dough which is a nice size. I use a smaller one at home that holds about six pounds. My small tub is actually a food storage tub with a seal tight lid. The SFBI tubs are commercial kitchen tubs SFBI sells for dough with a loose fitting lid. Also use tubs for my balled pizza dough rather than individual dough ball containers.

                        I like the tub because you end up with a rectangular blob of dough that is easier to cut and shape into loaves than a round blob. The S&Fs work well because the dough is thinner and the stretch has high impact. It also keeps the counter clean! When ready to shape you simply dump the dough and stretch and flatten it a bit to get it down to say three inches thick and slice strips off to weigh and parse into the dough pieces for loaf forming. The resulting rectangular dough pieces facilitate good loaf forming. (Not a BIG deal but nice when making big batches of dough.)

                        Bake On!


                        • #13
                          Re: Sourdough success!


                          I did put three thermocouples in the masonry.

                          One is located below the hearth between the brick and insulation to tell me how hot the outer edge of my hearth is.

                          The second is also located between the insulation and brick, but it's in the roof arch in the front third of the oven. (About a foot back from the chimney transition.)

                          The third is also in the roof arch but it is in the rear third of the oven and is embedded in the brick about a half inch in from the hotface.

                          My IR temp gun accepts an input from a K type thermocouple so I have just been checking to see the saturation by plugging and unplugging the various thermocouples. The gun also came with software to load on a laptop and it has a USB cable to transfer data to the laptop as well. At some point I'll get all that stuff up and running but I probably ought to finish the outside of the oven before I do anything else.

                          On that note a friend of mine has a construction company and offered to have one of his laborers come by and stucco the oven over the course of a couple of days. I'm probably going to take him up on it. I was excited about learning how to law bricks, build an arch, etc. That's why I built the oven. Learning how to put stucco over concrete block doesn't sound as interesting to me. Besides that, we are coming into the time of year when I really want to use that oven, patio, and pool area for entertaining and I don't want a half-finished eyesore of an oven uglying things up till I get around to finishing it myself. My daughter's b-day party is in three weeks, we're using the oven, and I'm getting flack from my wife and daughter about having the oven look half-way presentable.


                          Thanks for the info on the tubs. When you do the stretch portion where are you going with it. Are you stretching up and then folding onto itself...or is the tub big enough that you have room to stretch out? I'll look for a google video of someone doing it in a tub. Everything I've seen to this point was people doing it on a counter-top. (no pun intended).



                          • #14
                            Re: Sourdough success!

                            S&F in a tub is so simple in practice and so hard to describe... Let's see... My little tub is about 14 inches long and 10 inches wide and about 5 inches deep. My biggest tub is about 24 inches long, 16 inches wide and 6 inches deep. (Guessed - Without measuring)

                            One important detail...oil the tub with a tablespoon or two of olive oil or vegetable oil. A spray bottle can be useful for applying a uniform thin coating to help prevent sticking.

                            I put the tub long way sideways (facing me). Reach across and grab the dough near the corners and lift. I lift until the lifted dough is about the width of the tub and then pull forward to fold the dough back down, rotate 90 degrees and repeat, and again, and again, until all four sides have been stretched and folded. Usually that is all I do but sometimes if the dough is really slack I will do a second round. At that point the "bottom" side should be tight (somewhat tight perhaps for the first round) and smooth. The "top" will often be a bit uneven from the grabbing and pulling and such. Reach under and "flip" the dough so the smooth side is up. The weight of the dough will help squeeze the dough into a continuous uniform mass. When you dump it out for forming you will have - as I said before a rectangle that can be stretched and flattened to about 2 to 2 1/2 inches or so which is a convenient thickness for slicing with a dough knife into chunks for loaf formation.

                            Hope that helps!

                            I attached a couple more pics. The first is of my Pain aux Cereales and two different boules I make. The second is a crumb shot of my Pain aux Cereales.


                            • #15
                              Re: Sourdough success!


                              Wow! That stuff looks like art.

                              I guess it is now that I think about it, but man o' man that stuff is something. It's perfect in symetry. Something to aspire to.