It’s been some month ago when a reader suggested to build a “help” page where I could bundle and answer the most frequent questions. That was a great idea and I can use this page as roadmap to one ore the other informative post I wrote in the past eight years. Many of these are hiding between all the recipes.
I hope, you will find this page helpful and that you find the answers for your questions. And if not, this will be a good place to asked general questions
- Are you using active dry yeast or fresh yeast? The amount of yeast is so small!
- Why do we need a preferment?
- My Sourdough rises only sligthly or my sourdough breads needs several hours to proof and is very sour. What can I do?
- How do you feed your Sourdough?
- I have a problem with my sourdough! What can I do?
- What is malt and what is the difference between diastatic (activ) malt and non-diastatic Malt?
- How can I distinguish between diastatic and non-diastatic Malt?
- Can I exchange Malt syrup and Malt powder?
- Where do you buy your malt and are there alternatives?
- What is gluten and how can I judge the gluten network development in the dough?
- How can I tell that my bread is ready for baking?
- What type of baking stone are you using?
- On which level do you place the baking stone and how do you heat it?
- My bread has a not browned bottom. Can it be that my stone is not heated well enough and what should I do?
- How do you transfer a bread on the bread baking stone? Do you use parchment paper for that?
- My dough is not rising, what went wrong?
- My dough is too sticky, what can I do?
- The dough is shrinking whenever I try to roll it out. What can I do?
- What kind of flour are you using?
- Can I exchange one flour with another?
- More Questions?
- No answer found?
Are you using active dry yeast or fresh yeast? The amount of yeast is so small!
I use fresh yeast. And the small amount of yeast (at least when compared with “old” recipes) means that the dough can and have to ferment for a longer time period. The advantage of this is that the yeast has more time to develop aromatic side products of fermentation which improves flavour and shelf life very much!
Why do you use a preferment?
A preferment adds a more complex flavour profile and increase the shelf life even more. An overview about different preferments can be found here.
My Sourdough rises only sligthly or my sourdough breads needs several hours to proof and is very sour. What can I do?
The sourdough is lacking strength. A yeast activiating feeding can help.
How do you feed your Sourdough?
I have a problem with my sourdough! What can I do?
What is malt and what is the difference between diastatic (activ) malt and non-diastatic Malt?
For making malt you have to sprout grain (barley, rye, spelt, wheat) and then dry the sprouted grain. While sprouting the grain will produce different enzymes. A part of these enzymes are the so called “Amylases” which breaks down starch to malt sugar which then the cells of the sporuting grain can use to produce energy. Then the grain is dried and depending on the temperature the malt will be lighter or darker in colour. As long as the temperature stays under 78°C the enzymes will stay in their active form, while temperatures over 78°C inactivate the enzymes. The dried grains can be grounded and sold as Malt flour (most of the time diastatic- which means the enzymes are still active) or as roasted malt (always inactive enzymes).
Often there is a second step which follows: Mashing. In this step the dried malt is cracked and mixed with water. Then the temperature is slowly rised in steps from 50°C up to 76°C. In the different temperatures offer perfect working conditions to the different amylases and they break down all of the remaining starch into malt sugar. The sugar is dissolved in water and the watery solution is then either reduced to a thick syrup or dried completly. Again it depends on the temperature if the resulting product is diastatic (Temperatures below 78°C) or non-diastatic (Temperatures over 78°C).
Can I exchange Malt syrup and Malt powder?
Yes. The syrup contains a bit of water but it is such a low amout that it does not make a different. So you can exchange Malt 1:1!
How can I distinguish between diastatic and non-diastatic Malt?
The easiest way is to cook a little custard with starch and water and let it cool to roomtemperature. Now stirr in some Malt and wait for some hours. If the Malt is diastatic the custard will be runny, as the enzymes break down the starch into sugar.
Where do you buy your malt and are there alternatives?
I buy my malt at my local Mill but many organic stores have malt syrup and some german supermarkets have even diastatic rye malt from the brand “seitenbacher”. As alternativ for non-diastatic malt you can use honey. There is no replacement for diastatic malt.
What is gluten and how can I judge the gluten network development in the dough?
How can I tell that my bread is ready for baking?
A good method to test if the bread is already ready for baking is pressing thumb carefully into the surface of the loaf. If the dent spring back directly, it still needs to proof for some time. If the dent is filling slowly, the bread can go in the oven, if a strong oven spring is desired. If the dent will stay it is really time to bake. The bread will have still some oven spring.
What type of baking stone are you using?
I use a stone made from food greade fireclay with the size of my baking sheet and a thickness of 2.5 cm. When baking rolls I use a perforated baking sheet instead.
On which level do you place the baking stone and how do you heat it?
I place the stone on the lowest level and heat it for one hour at highest temperature (preferably 275-300°C).
My bread has a not browned bottom. Can it be that my stone is not heated well enough and what should I do?
Yes, your stone is to cold. There is just one solution: Heat the bread baking stone for a longer time!
How do you transfer a bread on the bread baking stone? Do you use parchment paper for that?
I have bread peels in different sizes but the one I used most is 20 cm wide, which is half of the width of my baking stone. To transfer a bread I dust the loaf with some flour (not to much!) while it is still in its proofung basket, then I turn it on the peel. It can be slashed if desired and then I transfer it with a well dosed jerk on the stone. I do not need parchment paper.
For rolls I tend to place them quickly on the stone by hand or bake them (most of the time) on a perforated baking sheet.
My dough is not rising, what went wrong?
This can be due to different reasons: too old yeast, too hot liquids, too hot surrounding. This all will kill the yeast cells.
My dough is too sticky, what can I do?
This can happen when the dough contains too much water or was over kneaded.
When the dough has just a bit water too much, then folding the dough once or twice can help to handle the dough. Adding more flour is not a good option, as the mixture of hydrated gluten protein and “new” not hydrated gluten protein will result in a lower bread quality. In case of a very wet dough you can fill it in a pan or change the plan and bake flat breads. Or you add a bit of phsyllum hulls, but carefully as 10g physllum can bind more then 70g Water. For the future keep in mind that flour can vary in its ability to bind water. So start kneading with 5-10% less water then given and add the water slowly until you reach the right consistency.
For over kneaded dough there is not much hope. Take a look on the Gluten development
The dough is shrinking whenever I try to roll it out. What can I do?
Shrinking dough is a sign of a dough that need some rest so the gluten network can relax. This happens often when the dough is kneaded again after fermenting and before rolling out. Time can help here: Let the dough relax for 15-20 min then it will be much easier!
And for the future resist the urge to knead again and handle the dough carefully. Adding 10% Speltflour can help, too as it makes the dough easier to stretch due to the different gluten composition of spelt.
What kind of flour are you using?
Here is an overview
Can I exchange one flour with another?
Depends on what you want to do and how experienced you are. Exchanging flours means that other parameters in the dough might have to be adjusted, so for beginners I would advice to stick to the recipe. If you have already some experience in baking, then playing around with different flours can be such much fun (I’m doing it all the time, too!).
Wheat and Spelt flour can be easily exchanged with one another. But keep in mind that spelt tend do bake dry and can be easily over kneaded. So keep an eye on gluten development and think about adding a soaker or water roux. When you plan to exchange wheat with ancient grains like Emmer or Einkorn, you have to keep in mind that these doughs have a even more fragil gluten network then spelt doughs.
Wheat and Spelt flour can not be replaced with rye flour without troubles as rye has other baking properties. As long as the overall rye flour amount is under 25% it works without problems. But if you plan to increase the rye amount further, you have to remember that rye flour needs an acid (Sourdough, buttermilk etc.) to make it fit for baking.
No answer found?
Then ask your question in the comment section!