A sourdough bread question

18 May 2009
By

French breadDuring my travels through Teh Interwebs, I ran across this article on shaping boules. It’s got useful information and big pictures showing the process, so if you have any questions, it’s well worth looking at.

Meanwhile, it led me to a few questions and possible Aha! moments. Let me run this past you.

It’s only been the last year that I’ve been making bread here in Sri Lanka. We cannot get gluten here. I generally use white wheat flour (white not as in white wheat, but white as in not whole wheat – just to be anal about clarity) with unspecified gluten percentage.

I also use sourdough (or natural leaven) exclusively – no commercial yeast in any amount.

It’s also only been the last year that I’ve been doing freeform loaves – like French breads, baguettes, boules, whatever. I’m hardly an expert. And everything I’ve learned is from the Internet – ordering books from abroad is a painfully slow, expensive, and iffy affair.

sourdough boule breadWith my freeform loaves, after the first rise, I shape them (which I suck at anyway) and place them on some kind of flat baking dish. Then let them rise again. As they rise, they also spread. They don’t rise up much at all, in fact. Then, as they bake, while they get some oven spring, they don’t get a lot, but my oven is broken and doesn’t get much hotter than 220-230C/425-450F/gas mark 7-8. I’m not even sure it gets that hot, really.

On to the question.

As I’m reading that article I mentioned above about shaping boules, I realized that what that person does, and what many other people do, is put their bread in a shaping pan, whether it be a banneton or bowl or something that keeps the French bread in shape, until the bread has risen. THEN, when it’s ready to bake, they transfer the bread to a baking surface and shove it in the oven. Yes? Am I correct on this or is it just my imagination?

And if I’m correct, than having the bread in that shaping pan while in its last rise, then shoving it immediately in the oven, will prevent the bread from spreading out so much and will help the bread be higher, yes? Yeah, not gooder English – sorry. But that’s the thought that’s finally, finally, finally! occurring to me.

And if you have other tips for getting more rise out of bread, please share them/feel free to point me to links. I’m all eyes. 🙂

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11 Responses

  1. Yes, I think you are right. I use a colander lined with cloth to give my bread a nice shape to “rise into”. Then when I bake, it keeps it’s shape pretty good.

    Karl Heinz Kremer’s last blog post..You Want Me To Follow You On Twitter?

  2. #2
    Laurie 

    Karl, thanks for commenting. It’s really useful to hear what other people do and what their experiences are. Thanks for confirming my suspicion.

    I have enough containers/bowls/whatever to use for the round loaves, but I’ll have to fake something for the French breads and baguettes that I prefer.

  3. #3
    rosemerry 

    I’ve only made wet breads, is that even the right term, like banana bread and lemon bread. There is no kneading, or yeast although there is baking soda and baking powder.

  4. #4
    Laurie 

    The more correct term for those types of breads would be quick breads, I believe, where no yeast is used, but rather, baking powder or baking soda are.

    I don’t know if wet breads is a term that’s used. There are high hydration breads, like 80% or higher, but those are yeasted (either commercial yeast or wild yeast). An 80% hydration bread (as an example) would have 800 grams water (or milk or… ) to 1000 grams flour. I’ll do a much more detailed post on bread hydrations later, but that’s the general idea.

  5. #5
    Adam 

    Instead of investing money in shaping baskets, I simply use my IKEA storage bowls with a flour laced towel. Shape the boules, place finished side down in the bowl and let rise. I quickly transfer to my stone and get great perfect rounded boules with the right height. Was having the same issue until I moved to this method.

    Adam’s last blog post..(me) Which Sancerre do you prefer?
    (Waitress) I only like French…

  6. #6
    Laurie 

    Oh, yeah, I have no intention of buying shaping baskets. I’ll definitely be using existing bowls or other stuff. I actually perfer baguette or French bread shape to boules, personally.

    Thanks for commenting, Adam, and letting me know your experience. 🙂

  7. #7
    Wendy 

    Laurie….

    Can you get the higher gluten bread flours in Sri Lanka? Or only the all-purpose?

    Have you seen this site yet? Good info, especially regarding the development of gluten in the Gen Characteristics and Tips section.
    http://www.geocities.com/napavalley/4496/sour.html

    How would the addition of baking soda & baking powder for the chemical reaction it provides work for increased rising in your sourdough breads? I know the bkg soda is a standard in my buttermilk yeast breads..do you think their properties would expire with the wait or add to the rising ability?

    A tip from this site
    http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/baking-flour-facts.htm
    says, ‘Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour that has had baking powder and salt added to it. Use it in yeast bread recipes in place of all-purpose flour by omitting salt’

  8. Here is what I do with french bread:
    http://khk.net/wordpress/2008/07/03/french-bread/

    I use a piece of parchment paper, form it like seen on the photo and then put something on both sides to keep the sides from falling down.

    Karl Heinz Kremer’s last blog post..Strawberry Muffins

  9. #9
    Laurie 

    Wendy, thanks for commenting. 🙂

    Nope, no choice in flours here. There’s one type of white wheat flour only, all-purpose I would gather, with no indication of gluten content on the packaging. Bread flours and other specialty flours that are so common in the US and Canada simply do not exist here.

    Honestly, I don’t know how baking soda or baking powder would affect things with a risen bread. I imagine that their effects would have worn out by the time the bread hits the oven, but I don’t know that for a fact. In reality, I don’t want to add them and for no reason other than because I don’t want to. I’m just being ornery on that score, I guess.

    I’ll check out your links – thanks! 🙂

    Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  10. #10
    Libby 

    The real key to getting good shape and rise is getting some good dough tension. Peter Reinhart refers to it as “preforming”. For a straight loaf, like a plain white bread, after first rise, degas and fold dough into thirds, while sort of pulling on the dough. Then turn the dough 90 degrees and fold into thirds again. Cover dough with towel, bowl, plastic wrap/whatever, and let it rest for 12-15 minutes. This will relax the gluten. Then do your final shaping when pulling the boule into shape. This preshaping to get good tension will help keep the spread under control.

    See this link – this one shaped up beautifully for me because of the great dough tension

    http://attheveryyeast.blogspot.com/2009/05/rosemary-and-olive-oil-loaf.html

    Hope this helps.

  11. #11
    Laurie 

    Libby, thanks for commenting. Yes, what you’re saying does make sense and does help. I’ll give your technique a try – it isn’t something I’ve tried before, and since what I’m doing isn’t working, it’s worth trying something new. 🙂

    The loaf you linked to is lovely! It also, to me, looks like a perfect example of what you’re talking about. And, actually, I’ve stumbled across that post before and have been meaning to try out your recipe. Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

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About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

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