My Sourdough Bread Chernobyl

I have been trying to make a decent loaf of sourdough bread for a few weeks, as like many, I am working from home. I got the recipe I am using from an Irish baker with a youtube video; his stuff looks great. Mine, not so much. So, I guess I need some help.

Needless to say, it is almost impossible to get bread flour these days, so I have resorted to using AP flour with added Vital Wheat Gluten. Apparently, how much to add varies considerably depending upon who you consult.

My objective is a light-density loaf with lots of air pockets and a medium crust. What I am getting is a loaf that is too dense and does not rise properly during proofing or baking. Also, the crust is like a tortoise shell. However, it tastes reasonably good and is edible (I have low standards at this point). My last recipe is below:

AP flour (Gold Medal @ 10.5% protein): 400 g

VWG: 9 grams

Active Starter: 160 g (made from Odlums coarse whole meal flour)

Water: 230 ml

Salt: 5 g

This is my mixture for one loaf. After mixing, I knead the dough for about 10 m or until I can get a “windowpane” effect and the dough has decent strength. I proof for 4 hours in the mixing bowl. Then I knock the dough back for a while and proof again in a lined proofing basket for 3- 3.5 hours. I have been baking at 445 deg. F for 30-35 m (with a water filled Pyrex dish inside). I have yet to check the temperature of the loaf but I probably should.

On my next effort I plan to reduce the AP flour and increase both the VWG and starter to see what happens.

Comments or suggestions anyone?Curtsbread

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How are you knocking the dough back? Typically if you want an open crumb you want to handle the dough very gently towards the end of the first proof to keep much of the gas produced from bulk fermentation.

I wouldn’t increase the starter, 160g for 409g flour is already on the higher end. Many sourdough formulations use a quarter to a half of that. With that high inoculation and 7+ hours of fermentation (i assume room temp) it could be that the bread is over fermented/over proofed, and that’s why the rise isn’t quite right in the oven.

Is the Gold Medal bleached? Depending on how they bleached the flour it could be working against your objective, regardless of how much gluten is present. I have learned the hard way that vital wheat gluten won’t solve the problems of a weak flour, though it does help. The amount you have added looks good, depending on how much of the VWG is gluten you are putting your overall protein in the 11.5%-12.5% range which is typical for bread flour. You gotta work with what you have!

Keep practicing! I’m sure you will reach your goal in no time!


Abe: Thanks for sharing your video. Pretty amazing! Curt

My pleasure but alas I cannot take the credit. This is something I found and decided to share especially in a time when many are struggling to find their usual flour and have to make do.

Thanks for helping out. I have been knocking the dough back by simply folding it over on itself. I’m not really sure how long to do this.

The GM flour is bleached and I have been proofing at 72-74 deg. F.

The proofing part to me seems more like art than science. It is hard for me to tell when the dough is ready after the initial proofing. The recipe I have been using says 4 hours. But maybe that is too much. I simply don’t really know.

But I will keep trying and maybe make it to a Three Mile Island bread as opposed to Chernobyl.

I forgot. One mistake I know I made was that when I added the VWG, I did not remove the same amount of AP flour. That won’t happen on the next attempt. Maybe that resulted in too much AP flour.