the bread project: loaf 24

30% rye 10% spelt sourdough loaf, top view

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to bake a lot of bread.  I’m experimenting with the idea of creating a bread diary.  This is loaf #24, a 30% rye 10% spelt and the rest white King Arthur bread flour loaf with a sourdough starter.  hydration was about 68%.

30% rye 10% spelt sourdough loaf, top viewTop view – kinda funky ears.  slashing could be improved


30% rye 10% spelt sourdough loaf3/4 view of the loaf


30% rye 10% spelt sourdough loaf, side viewside view.  Didn’t rise as high as I’d like because I had this loaf retarding in the fridge for 4 days.  Better flavor though..


30% rye 10% spelt sourdough loaf, crumbsome big holes at the base.  gigantic ear on top.  Tasted great.


Bread and dough troubleshooting guide and table

Here's a bread and dough (works for pizza dough too) troubleshooting guide, culled from a variety of sources.  I hope to continually update this as I learn more in my quest to make great artisan bread.

Category Amount Effects More information
kneading under-kneading Dough is floppy and loose, tears easily, looks shaggy. Lack of oven-rise, dense texture.  Gluten has not become elastic enough.  Windowpane test fails because the dough doesn't have the strength to stay together.
kneading adequate kneading Dough is elastic but not too tight.  Windowpane test success - you can stretch a small portion of the dough thin enough so that you can almost see through it, like a translucent window.
kneading over-kneading Dough is dense and tough and tears easily.  The gluten is so tight that it has little give.  Windowpane test fails because you have to pull so hard you tear the dough.
hydration ratio (aka water to flour ratio, or baker's percentage) low hydration (<60% or so)not enough water! Dough is crumby, craggy, and really hard to work with.  It doesn't stick together when you work with it.  When baked, small, tightly-formed cells in crumb.  This may be desirable in some cases, such as for bagels.  Add more water to fix this.  My own hydration experiment for bagels
hydration ratio (aka water to flour ratio, or baker's percentage) medium hydration Dough is easy to work with but not too sticky.  Note: Some flours, like rye flour, are just sticky by nature.  
hydration ratio (aka water to flour ratio, or baker's percentage) high hydration (>70% or so)too much water! Dough is floppy and sticky and hard to shape.  Large holes will appear in bread when baked (if they don't collapse).  The bread won't rise as much because it will be weaker.  Some breads are supposed to be high hydration - like ciabatta.
rise too little Fails poke test - poke the bread with two fingers.  If the bread rebounds to its original shape then the dough is still too firm.  The bread will be dense and "doughy" - it will smell and tastes like dough.  The loaf will have a light or greyish crust - no Malliard reaction (browning of sugars) occurs because the flour hasn't been broken down.  To fix, make sure the yeast you've used is active and/or let the bread rise for longer or increase the rise temperature (optimal temperature is about 100-110F.  Too much heat will kill your yeast!)
rise just right Passes poke test.  If the hole from the poke rebounds part of the way then proofing is just right.  
rise too much Fails poke test - (the hole does not rebound at all.)  Dough collapses on itself.  There's so much air in the loaf that it cannot hold its weight.  
baking temperature low Lower baking temperatures generally make softer and thinner crusts.  
baking temperature medium Somewhere in between.  
baking temperature hot Higher temperatures generally make crustier loaves.  This means darker and thicker crusts.  Note: to really promote a thick, chewy crust, bake in a dutch oven.  This traps steam near the loaf, which delays crust formation and allows it to get thicker.
salt none or not enough The loaf may look good but it'll taste like cardboard.  It's surprising how much salt enhances the flavor of the bread.  If you realize you've forgotten before you bake, you may be able to make a salty paste and spread it onto the dough while you stretch and fold.  
salt just right The general rule of thumb is to use 2% (baker's percent) salt.  That's 20 grams for each 1000 grams of flour.  Encyclopizza, chapter 4
salt too much Too much salt can inhibit yeast fermentation and may be too salty to taste.  
bake time too short Light crust, doughy and gummy interior.  
bake time just right Bread sounds hollow if you knock it on the bottom.  Nicely browned crust.  The internal temperature will be about 190-210F.  
bake time too long Longer baking times mean a darker crust and a firmer and dryer crumb.  Too much bake time = burny.  
gluten too little Low-gluten breads will not rise well.  The bread won't have the strength to expand when the yeast creates carbon dioxide.  The dough won't stretch well.  
gluten just right Stretchy enough to hold CO2 bubbles without being too taut  
gluten too much If there is too much gluten, the bread won’t be able to expand because the dough will be too tight. The bread will be really chewy and rubbery.  
yeast too little Dough rises really really slowly or not at all.  Your loaf will be dense.  In extreme cases, it'll feel like a brick or a stone.  And the inside will be gross and barely edible. With artisan sourdough breads, this can happen if your starter has died or if you haven't adequately refreshed it.  
yeast just right (1-2% by weight)
yeast too much The dough can rise too quickly and collapse back upon itself  

Have questions?  Share them in the comments below.

Finally, a bread experiment worth posting about (Loaf #19)

After baking a number of failures (that’s a separate, loooong blog post) this morning I’ve finally baked a sourdough loaf to show off:


20% rye, 10% spelt sourdough loaf.  top view.



from another angle


pretty good crumb.  I’m happy with it at least.

roughly, here was the recipe in terms of bakers percentages:

  • * 20% rye flour
  • * 10% spelt flour
  • * 70% bread flour
  • * 72% hydration
  • * 20% sourdough starter (just all-purpose flour.  the yeast was fairly active)
  • * 2.2% salt

and so I can remember, here was my technique:

  • * mix everything together with the kitchenaid at power setting 2 for ~12 minutes (maybe a bit long but whatever)
  • * put the dough straight in the fridge (I didn’t have time to bake that day!)
  • * take the dough out 2 days later (dough didn’t rise much in the fridge)
  • * let the dough warm to room temperature with the oven on low for 2-3 hours (the dough rose a bit during this time)
  • * fold and shape the loaf
  • * place in bannetton and back into the fridge overnight (~6 hours)
  • * score the loaf
  • * bake at 450F in the lodge dutch oven for 55 minutes straight from the fridge
  • * open the dutch oven and take pictures of the unexpected results


Homemade bagels, version 0.1 (not pretty)

There’s a shortage of good bagels in the San Francisco Bay area.   There are some places around like Spot and New York bagel (both carried at Berkeley Bowl.  The other bagels at Berkeley bowl feel like soft dinner rolls with holes in the middle.) and House of Bagels that serve decent one, but I decided to see if I could tackle the issue myself by baking some on my own.  I was also inspired by a talk by Noah Alper, founder of Noah’s Bagels (which no longer use his recipe and he is no longer a part of).  This post (and future ones?) will document my bagel-baking experiments.

I found a potentially good recipe and accompanying blog post  from the King Arthur Flour folks and went to work.

(Spoiler: the bagels did not turn out as bagels but they still tasted okay.  Versions 0.2 and 0.3 were much better)

The recipe calls for creating a starter the night before.  Here it is after being given 14 hours to rise.  I didn’t notice this at the time, but my starter was much less watery than what shows up on the King Arthur website.  I don’t know why my starter looked so different – the recipe is really simple.  1 cup flour, 0.5 cups water, and 1/16tsp yeast.  Perhaps my bread flour was packed down too much and I ended up adding too much?

I also  made one change – I couldn’t find their high-protein, hard-wheat flour, so I used their bread flower.  I think it has a slightly lower protein content but I don’t think it made a big difference.





I took the starter and added the remaining dough ingredients – 1 cup of water, 2 tsp salt, 3.5 cups flour and 1.5 tsp yeast.  Once again, the dough was super-dry and hard to keep together.  It looked like spaetzle.





I tried kneading this dough.  It was crazy hard to knead.  I pushed down with all of my body weight to the point where my wrists started hurting and still had trouble making progress.   It was at this point that I decided that we definitely need a stand mixer.





I spent about 20 minutes trying to knead the dough.  Here’s the dough ball.  It still looked much dryer than the pictures on the website.





The recipe called for a 90 minute rise.  The dough rose a bit, but not very much.  It doesn’t at all match the photo in the recipe.  The dough was probably too dry for the CO2 produced by the yeast to make it expand.





Since the dough was so dry, it was hard to work the bagels and form them into smooth balls.. but I still tried.





Here are the bagels ready for boiling/steaming.  I decided to try to steam the bagels but didn’t have a good steaming rack.  The recipe calls for using malt powder in the water to give the bagels a bit of a shine.  I didn’t have any, so I used brown sugar.  I tried to experiment with steaming times from 1 minute to 4 minutes but in the end it didn’t matter since the steaming was so ineffective.





Here are the bagels in the oven.  I topped them with salt and frozen garlic.  I found that it helped to use frozen minced garlic to prevent the garlic from burning too much during baking – the pieces start at a much lower temperature.





And here are the bagels after baking.  Not very bagely looking.  They also were probably in the oven a bit long.





The crust was hard, thick,  and a little crispy.  This didn’t taste bad but it definitely did not taste like a bagel.  The crust resembled something between a hard pretzel and a soft pretzel.  They felt a little light and without the density of a bagel but this may have just been an illusion – since the crust was so damned hard, it made them feel kind of hollow.





The bottom had burned a little bit.  A bit too much time in the oven.  Though they didn’t stick (too dry?) I decided to use cornmeal the next time just in case.









The “crumb” tasted pretty good though.



I started doing a lot of research after this.  I learned about hydration ratios and read up on what happens during all of the breadmaking steps and what each ingredient does.  I learned the reason why a bagel without gluten is a very sad bagel (sorry Mariposa!).  No gluten = no chewiness.  The Encyclopizza has an awesome amount of information related to pizza making and a lot of it carries over to other types of bread.  (Another plus – the author, John Correll is a cyclist as well!)  There was another good link that described the hydration ratios (amount of water/amount of flour in the recipe, aka “percent hydration”) in various types of bread which I lost in a tragic Firefox crash.  But apparently I should have been targeting about 55%-60% (by weight) for the bagels.  The way I made the recipe resulted in a hydration ratio of about 49%.


These bagels still ended up tasting good, but they didn’t taste like bagels.  For version 0.2, I decided to experiment with hydration ratios and had much better results.



I tried using dough hooks on a hand mixer with pretty wet dough.  Dough got up into the mixer itself and then, with the help of yeast, expanded into a sticky mess.  I of course opened up the mixer to try to clean it out.