Proving Sourdough In Winter – Max's Loaf

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I’ve been trying to help Max resolve his issues with sourdough for a little while.  If you have ever tried to help anyone with their bread problems across the net you’ll understand how difficult it can be.  There’s a process of eliminations of what could be the cause of things going wrong.  The biggest problem for Max was the huge holes he was getting in the crumb but he was also unhappy with the thin crust on the bottom of his loaves.

I asked Max to send me the photos of his loaves.

Eventually Max got it, and saw what I was saying about proving times in the winter and how different it was from summer temperatures.

Getting Rid Of Large Holes

In the beginning of proving dough have you noticed how it forms super big gas bubbles?

This is good when producing breads like focaccia where big holes are sought after but here it’s not very good for holding butter.  Gently folding dough keeping in those big gassy bubbles produce the focaccia I was after here.  Before I achieve that result in that post I went through a few failures, analysing those failures one of the things I noticed was how pressing too hard when handling my dough bursting a lot of those large bubbles resulted in a ‘smaller’ open texture than I wanted.

Max was doing two things here, vastly under-proving the dough on the last rise which is why he has a tight crumb around the big holes, but also maintaing too many of those initial large bubbles.  When folding it’s best not to be overly gentle with it in order to knock out some of the big bubbles.

To tackle the problem with tight crumb around the large holes is a matter of time, and when Max tried as I suggested to leave the dough anything from 7-12 hrs at room temperature on final rise he finally managed to achieve the crumb he was after.

Max’s Perfect Loaf

This loaf above and below was exactly what he wanted. After folding and shaping the dough he put into the basket to prove in the fridge overnight, then letting it at room temperature for 7 hrs to rise.

To achieve the harder thicker bottom he was after he ditched the baking stone and baked directly on a baking tray, the stone wasn’t heating up sufficiently.  He  followed my suggestion of taking loaf out of baking sheet for last 20mins to bake it directly on the rack of the oven.

The other advice he followed was to bake it for longer than he thought he should in order to dry it out completely inside to maintain a hard crust once out.

Afterwards he also experimented with another loaf adding some sieved wholemeal rye flour for extra flavour.  Soon he’s going to try adding some stoneground flour,  I think he’s now caught the bug of experimenting with flours.

It really does make a huge difference making a sourdough in this weather to the warmer months, even in a normal central heated room, you have to give it more time.

Max is now a happy baker and so am I.