Sourdough bread is an ancient form of bread that has been around since the beginning of civilization. It’s also known as levain bread because it uses a starter culture called a levain.
A levain is a mixture of flour, water, yeast, and salt. The ingredients are mixed together and left to ferment for anywhere between 24 hours to several weeks. During this time, the leavening process occurs and the dough rises.
Sourdough bread is delicious, but it can also be frustrating if you’re new to baking. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. If you’ve tried sourdough before and found it hard to get the shape you want, then you’ll probably want to try these tips.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to improve your sourdough skills, then this guide is perfect for you.
Sourdough bread has been around since the beginning of time. It’s one of those foods that people love because it tastes amazing and it’s healthy too. However, there are times when sourdough bread doesn’t hold its shape.
For a variety of reasons, sourdough does not retain its form. It might be due to a lack of surface tension, excessive hydration, or a lack of gluten structure. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the problem, but it’s critical for future births to be better.
If you’re having trouble with your sourdough bread holding its shape, then you might want to try these tips.
Here are the six most common reasons for your sourdough to flatten after proving.
The first thing you need to know about making good sourdough bread is that you have to use a specific type of flour mix. You don’t just throw any old flour into your recipe; otherwise, you won’t end up with anything close to authentic sourdough flavor.
There are two types of flours used in sourdough recipes: whole-grain and white. Whole grain contains more nutrients than refined grains like wheat flour. This means that they contain higher levels of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. They also tend to taste much better than their refined counterparts.
Whole grain flours include rye, spelled, barley, oats, buckwheat, millet, cornmeal, sorghum, teff, amaranth, quinoa, Kamut, etc. These flours all provide different flavors and textures depending on how long they’ve been milled. For example, some will give off a nutty aroma while others may smell sweet. Some will feel soft and chewy while others will be firm and crunchy.
White flour is made from ground wheat berries. White flour provides less nutrition than whole-grain flour, so it tends to make baked goods dense and heavy. In addition, it lacks many of the health benefits associated with whole grain flour. Because some flour absorbs more water than others, the amount of moisture in the dough might vary.
Wholewheat flour, for example, absorbs more water than all-purpose flour, resulting in a dough that is drier and less sticky. When choosing which kind of flour to use, consider whether you prefer lighter loaves or denser ones. The best choice depends on personal preference as well as the texture desired by the baker.
Gluten is an elastic protein found naturally in wheat. It gives bread dough strength and helps create air pockets within the loaf. If you haven’t developed enough gluten during the fermentation process, then your bread could fall apart easily.
To develop gluten, you must allow your starter to ferment at room temperature for several days before adding yeast. During this period, the enzymes present in the starter break down proteins called gliadins. As the mixture ferments, the gliadin molecules bond together forming strong bonds between the individual strands of gluten. Once formed, the gluten can no longer absorb liquid, allowing the dough to rise properly.
When developing gluten, keep in mind that too little time spent developing gluten results in flatbread rather than hearty bread. Too much time spent developing gluten results instead in overly stiff bread.
Proofing refers to baking bread without using a banneton. Instead, proofers bake directly onto pans. While this method produces perfectly acceptable bread, it doesn’t produce the same crust as when using a banneton.
Bread makers typically come equipped with a metal pan liner that fits inside the machine’s bowl. Using this liner prevents excess steam from escaping through holes in the bottom of the pan. Without a liner, steam escapes into the oven where it condenses against hot surfaces causing uneven browning.
If you don’t have access to a banneton, try placing a piece of parchment paper over the top of the bread after removing it from the proofer. Alternatively, place the bread in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow the bread to rest until cooled completely before slicing.
You need a basket because …
A banneton is simply a woven wireframe used to shape bread dough prior to baking. This tool allows the baker to stretch out the dough evenly across the surface of the pan. By stretching the dough, the baker creates larger air bubbles throughout the finished product.
While there are other tools available to help form bread, such as a bench scraper, these aren’t necessary if you’re just starting out. However, they do offer additional advantages: They prevent sticking issues while shaping the dough; they provide even heat distribution, and they protect the sides of the bread from burning.
Overproofing occurs when the yeast has been allowed to multiply beyond its normal growth rate. Yeast cells divide rapidly, doubling their size every 20 minutes.
After about four hours, however, the cell walls begin to thicken, preventing further division. At this point, the yeast stops growing but continues dividing. Eventually, the yeast dies off leaving behind dead cells known as leaven. The result is under-fermented or "underdeveloped" bread.
The solution to over-proofing is simple — remove the bread from the proofer early! Bread should be removed from the proofer once the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll know the bread is ready by gently pressing on the center of the loaf. When pressed, the bread will feel firm yet springy.
Shaping refers to how the dough is shaped prior to being placed in the oven. There are two basic methods: straightening and folding. Straighten means flattening the dough so that it lies flatter on the countertop. Fold means rolling up the dough like a jelly roll.
In general, most recipes call for either straightening or folding. If you’ve ever made pizza dough, then you already understand what I’m talking about. Pizza dough needs to be stretched thin enough to fit between the ridges of your pie tin. It also requires some degree of elasticity to allow the dough to expand during cooking.
In order to achieve both qualities, we use one of three techniques: straightening, folding, or pinching. Each technique offers unique benefits depending upon which type of bread recipe you’re making. For example, straightening works well for sandwich loaves since it helps create an open crumb structure. On the flip side, folding produces more dense crusts. Pinching can produce a variety of results depending upon whether you pinch the entire loaf at once or only partway through the process.
When using any of these techniques, remember that the goal isn’t necessarily to get the perfect look. Instead, focus on achieving uniform thickness and maintaining good overall balance. Once you master those basics, experiment with different shapes and sizes.
Water plays many roles in baking. First, water provides steam, helping to cook the inside of the bread. Second, it creates gluten strands that strengthen the finished product. Finally, it adds moisture to the air surrounding the dough, allowing it to rise properly.
If too much water remains after mixing, the resulting dough may not have sufficient strength to hold itself together. This could lead to large holes throughout the final baked bread. To avoid this problem, add just enough flour to form a soft ball of dough. Then knead until all ingredients come together into a smooth mass. Don’t worry if there’s still excess liquid; simply drain away from the extra before shaping.
Sourdough starters require time, patience, and attention. But they don’t need to be difficult to make. All you really need is a bowl, a spoon, and a little bit of elbow grease. That said, here are five tips to help keep your sourdough starter healthy and happy.
A banneton is basically a basket used to shape yeast dough. They work great because they provide support while keeping the dough contained within their boundaries. Plus, when you bake them as muffins or quickbreads, the sides stay crispy.
You can find bannetons online or at specialty bakeries such as King Arthur Flour. Just follow the instructions included with each package.
Surface tension refers to how tightly bound two surfaces to become when placed next to each other. When working with wet dough, surface tension becomes especially important. Without proper surface tension, the dough will stick to its container instead of forming nice round balls.
To build up surface tension, first, coat your hands with oil and then gently press down on the top of the dough. Repeat this step several times until the dough feels loose and pliable. Next, roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper so that it forms a tight cylinder. Place the rolled-out dough back onto the original piece of parchment paper and repeat steps 1–3. Continue rolling and rerolling until the desired size has been reached.
The proof stage is where most people go wrong. If you’ve ever made pizza dough, you know what I’m talking about. You start by combining the dry ingredients and mixing thoroughly. Afterward, you cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.
The next morning, you remove the plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm spot — usually near the oven. At some point during the day, you’ll notice bubbles begin to appear. The goal is for these bubbles to grow larger over the course of an hour or so. Once the dough looks like it’s ready to use, you transfer it to the refrigerator.
This method works well for making pizza crust but isn’t ideal for creating a strong loaf of bread. Instead, try one of our favorite methods: Proofing Bread.
It takes longer than traditional roofing, but it produces better results. Simply combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
When using this technique, you want to ensure that the temperature inside your fridge stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, the dough won’t rise properly.
Once the dough reaches room temperature, divide it into equal portions. Cover each portion with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. During this period, the gluten strands should develop and strengthen.
Afterward, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature again. This time around, however, don’t put any weight on the dough. Leave it alone for another 30 minutes before shaping.
Now comes the fun part! Take a ball of dough and flatten it slightly. Then, fold the edges inward toward the center. Gently pat the dough flat once more. Finally, give the dough a quarter turn and do the same thing all over again.
Repeat this process three times. Now, flip the dough over and repeat the entire procedure.
If you’re looking to make a great sandwich loaf, you need to have enough gluten present in your dough. Too much gluten can cause the bread to be tough and chewy. On the other hand, too little gluten means that the bread won’t hold together as nicely.
In order to achieve just the right amount of gluten, simply add water at different stages throughout the kneading process.
So there we have it. We hope you found this guide helpful. As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here. Thanks for reading!