Questions, questions, questions…
Here you’ll find a selection of questions sent to me by you, and the answers I sent back including a few useful links to content that matches!
I hope you find this page helpful and here’s a tip for you: If you are looking for something in particular and your on a computer, press Ctrl+F together on your keyboard to search for a key word. Wow would you believe it?! Computer tips as well as bread tips ;-)
I hope you find what you are looking for, and if you’ve got a question send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All this extra oil… does it affect my bread?
I noticed you kneaded on a dry board. The bread recipe I follow uses the same quantities that you used but says knead on a slightly olive oiled board, it then says leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl.
Does all the extra oil I'm adding (which gets incorporated when I knead and knock back) lead to my dough losing strength & difficulty holding structure?
Probably not… Oil used in kneading and in the bowl as your dough rests is there to stop things getting too sticky. It’s an alternative to “kneading on a floured surface” (which I don’t do either by the way) in order for your dough to remain manageable and non-stick. I feel like it is often there to make the bread making process more accessible to beginners, to avoid the dreaded stickiness, therefore making bread making more appealing.
I don’t do it, and the reason is that I feel like it would affect the crust. An oily focaccia for example always has a thinner, softer crust than a baguette for example, and so, if I was making something crusty I would avoid oil. I’ll use it if it is in the recipe in the example of a focaccia or ciabatta, but in terms of affecting the strength and structure? Adding oil to a recipe will affect the final bread, but unless you are using a LOT of oil then I don’t think it will. If you are lightly greasing, then it should be ok.
Why bake Sourdough with Steam?
Also, what is the purpose of putting the tray of water in the oven? Does the steam affect the way the crust forms on the bread? I noticed that your recipe puts the water in straight away, whereas other sourdough recipes only add the water to the oven part way through the bake.
I use steam at the beginning of baking because I am trying to stop a dry crust forming in those beginning stages. Keeping the outside of the loaf softer for longer and allows the dough to puff up for higher during the initial part of the bake before the crust sets it’s shape. Also, steam is there to allow us to bake on a higher temperature for longer without the loaf taking on too much colour. That, and the condensation on the outside of the bread, are what are needed for a crunchy crust!
What Size Banneton?
Please could you tell me, what size banneton basket are you using for a sourdough loaf? I was doing some online shopping and couldn't tell whether I needed the 500g or 1kg oval?
I use 1kg oval banneton baskets, the dough for a sourdough loaf from my recipe will weigh around 850-880g for a loaf annd will fit just right.
Usefule Video: Bread Tip 55 - What is a Banneton Basket?
Sticky Sourdough and no oven spring??
I watch your videos every time I need to get ready to make a sourdough boule but after every time it proofs and expands nicely in the banneton, when it comes to placing on the parchment it spreads and doesn't rise in the dutch oven. advice??
The dough is also so sticky when shaping that even with flour on the bottom I can't stitch my dough together nicely.
Sticky dough is a thing to get used to I think is the easy answer, it's all about how you handle it with practice. I find that often in a video it looks like my dough isn't sticky, people are often surprised in class about how sticky it actually is!
Also, sounds like the lack of oven spring is BECAUSE you are letting it rise in the basket. I shape my loaf, put it in the basket and stash it in the fridge to stop/stall the puff. there is minimum rise at this point, then when it hits the oven BOOM!
Useful video: Bread Tip 101 - Beginners Sourdough Loaf, Start to Finish
I added a cup of granola as part of the total flour weight.
Oh what a wet sticky mess! How should I have accounted for the granola? How much extra water?
Tricky one as I’ve never done it but…
Granola, like oats and things of that nature, because they are not ground finely like flour won't absorb the moisture as well. So without trying it myself I would keep the flour the same, add the granola and see how tight it becomes. Then add some water for the next time, perhaps 20 grams or so to start with.
Trouble with Sourdough Recipe
I’m having a problem with this recipe. It’s too wet and sticky! It sticks to everything; my work surface, my hands, my banneton, my peel, everything!
I’ve had to stop turning it out on to my bench because of it sticking; I just do the stretches and folds in the bowl, because spraying the surface with water each time just made it wetter and stickier. I find it’s also very floppy and difficult to shape. My loaves are the weirdest looking specimens ever! However, when I do manage to get it into the oven the oven spring is tremendous and this recipe makes the best tasting sourdough of all the other recipes I’ve tried, even if the are not the prettiest!
I will continue to battle on but I would appreciate any advice as how to make the dough more manageable.
I feel like the answer could be a few of things.
Firstly, it’s probably about tactical apraying and dusting and folding in the stickiness at every stage. My dough is wet and sticky too, but because of the way I handle it lightly and nimbly, it minimises sticking to things which comes with practice.
If you are still struggling take the moisture in the recipe down to a more manageable level for you, and work your way up when you feel comfortable. Try starting with 20g less of water and see how you get on.
One thing worth a mention is your flour. All flours are different, make sure you are using strong white bread flour over plain flour. Also, strong white bread flour is never the same as the next strong white bread flour, so trying a different brand might be worth a shot later down the line.
Is your starter made out of wholemeal rye like mine? If it is made of a flour that is NOT wholemeal, then that’ll make a difference too, your dough will be slacker.
For now just change one thing, take the water down to a manageable level, and work your way up only when and if you feel comfortable!
Recipe: Sourdough Loaf for Beginners
My Dough Collapses when I slash it…
One issue I have is if I try to slash the dough I do it just before I put it in the oven, i.e. after a second proving, and it collapses. So I have stopped doing it. I noticed in this week’s video you seem to do it after the first prove but before the second. Is that where I am going wrong?
There are two ways to slash... before proof or after...
You can slash comfortably before, then puff the dough to the max and bake it when it’s delicate.
You can puff the dough NOT to the max, slash and bake, allowing the final puff to happpen in the oven so that the crust busts open beautifully.
If your dough is collapsing, then you are probably sashing too late on in the proof stage when it’s too fragile
Useful article: Same bread, different finish.
How much dough for a flower pot?
On #108, you showed your viewers different containers to use for bread making. Nice.
Question is, how do you measure the amount of dough you use for those containers? Like the flower pot for example.
I totally guess ;-)
For a flour pot I'd probably go with 85-100g of dough, the same amount I would for a medium sized roll.
Useful video: Bread Tip 108 - 11 Things you can Bake Bread in...
Can I add honey?
Just a quick question, can you use Honey in baking bread?
May be a silly question, but I am interested in making a different loaf than a normal tin, or plain loaf.
YES you can, and it's delicious, I would add around 25g to a standard loaf as a starting poit and go from there depending on your taste!
Why does home baked bread dry out quicker than shop bought?
Hi Jack, quick question...
Why does home baked bread tend to dried out a lot quicker than store bought bread? Thank you in advance!
Because it’s not packed with artificial additives and preservatives!
There are a few things you can do to make bread that keeps moist for a little longer. Adding oil or butter will help, as will a combination of a little more water and a LONG resting time.
The wetter the dough and the longer you stretch out the bread making process, the more moisture the flour will take on, and so your finished bread will retain it’s moisture for longer resulting in a longer shelf life.
Useful video: 2 Ways to Make Bread That Lasts longer
Does the type of yeast I use effect flavour?
Does the type of yeast I use, fresh or dry, make the final bread taste any different?
YES. I believe so! I always use fresh yeast when possible, and although I used to have a few dry sachets in the cupboard for when I am in a proper pinch, I don’t any more. Fresh yeast keeps well and is available from lots of places with a little investigation.
Fresh yeast has real character and it may sound silly, but I feel like the resulting bread tastes more like bread! There is a much more satisfying and moreish flavour to a loaf made with fresh than one made with dry. Whenever I used to be in that pinch and had to use dry yeast, my bread always tasted like it is lacking a little something, like it was not as great as it could have been!
I am yet to be tested in a blind taster but I feel like I could tell the difference easily.
Adding extra flour to a recipe
Is it OK to add flour when I first mix the dough to get it to the right moisture level and consistency?
I feel like I should add a bit more flour so the dough is not quite as wet, so I can give it the tension it needs when I shape it, or do I need to get the moisture right from the start?
No and yes... Adding flour to get the "right" consistency is not really the point. The point is to get the hydration just how you want it in the first place, because by adding flour you are changing the recipe and therefore changing the hydration rate which makes the recipe a little redundant.
A wetter dough will bring different characteristics to the bread. There is no point making a wet dough to get a specific texture of bread, and then adding flour to make the consistency manageable, because then it's not a wet dough anymore and you lose the characteristics.
I never add additional flour, and only dust where necessary during the shaping stage.
If you are struggling with a wet dough here's what I would do... First do some bread maths to work out the hydration rate of your recipe. (This video will help)
Then, instead of adding flour, remove some of the moisture from the recipe to make it the manageable dough that you are comfortable handling. Yes, it will still change the recipe but in a much more controllable way. Write down what you did, how you found handling the dough, and how the bread was in the end.
Next time around, crank up the hydration a touch. Get the feel of the wetter dough and see how you feel about it. Keep upping the moisture each time you make one. Then after enough practice you'll be able to handle a wet dough like a pro, or at least you’ll discover the level you are comfortable with.
Here’s a tip: If your dough turns out too wet to shape up, cut your losses and make the best focaccia you’ve ever eaten!
Let’s talk baker’s percentages.
In making breads with other liquid ingredients such as melted butter, honey or molasses. Should you consider these ingredients as part of your hydration rate?
There are certain things that I would and certain things that I wouldn’t, but sometimes it can be hard to draw the line…
Anything that you are substituting water for, like eggs or milk for example, I would include in the hydration because it is part of the liquid element of the recipe.
Things like honey, molasses, melted butter, oil, I consider to be “Extra” ingredients outside of the basic flour, water, salt, yeast formula. Yes they are liquids but they don’t make up part of the “liquid” element in the recipe.
And so, I would be inclined to work it out without the molasses, butter etc. Then, I’d expect there to be a slight change in the consistency when adding those things and, depending on the quantity added, adjust the hydration rate if I think I need to.
Useful videos: Bread Tip 43 - What is a Bakers Percentage?
Which flour should I dust my table with?
Hi Jack, thank you for your videos. My question is about the flour you use for your bread making, I am using Allinson strong white bread flour and when you are dusting the table to shape, your flour appears more dusty for want of a better description.
Which flour should I dust my table with?
When I am shaping the dough, I'll just dust with whatever I am using at the time, normally white. I use the least as I can possibly get away with, and try to flick it across the table to cover as much surface as possible with a very fine amount.
When it comes to the finish of your bread you can use whatever you like. Experiment with different types, I often dust with wholemeal flour when I am making a rustic looking bread because it adds to the effect, where as semolina will leave you with a nice crunchy coating.
Inconsistent rise time
Quick question Jack...
If you get a great first rise from your dough, but your second Rise at 45 minutes has not risen very much at all, do you just keep waiting until the second rise actually rises?
Yes. If it came up the first time it’ll come up again the second time!
If there is inconsistency between the two rise times it sounds like you’ve changed the environment (taken the dough from a warm place to a cool place) OR started off with warm water in the beginning, so that as your dough cooled, the rise slowed.
Dough rises faster in the warmth, and so bringing it away from a warm place will always mean the second proof will be slower because of the drop in temperature. And the same goes if you start with warm water. Warm water will make a warm dough that gets super excited for the first proof. Then as it cools over time, the second rise will seem slow.
I always start everything at room temperature and rest it at room temperature for consistent rise.