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Troubleshooting bread boule

seolinogue's picture

Troubleshooting bread boule


How is everybody doing? My name is Sebastian and I'm a chef who just got into the baking scene. Thing is, I'm having trouble with some bread boules. 

For some reason the Boule is misbehaving when is experiencing oven spring. I don't know if the flour is not appropriate for this kind of bread. 

I don't really like the feel of the dough after its kneaded (using a stand mixer). It doesn't feel smooth at all and resists Boule shaping even though I have tried resting the dough for quite a while, autolysing for long periods (8-12 hourd), cold bulk fermentation, etc. 

I'll paste the recipe as soon as I can. I'm not using levain for this recipe, just flour, water, salt and yeast. 

What can be going wrong? 


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

and method it will be difficult to pin point.

However a 8-12 hour autolyse for what looks like an all bread flour dough seems to be a bit on the long side. You can overdo autolyse.

jimbtv's picture

By the looks of your picture I have to ask if you are covering your bannetons with either plastic or cloth in order to retain the hydration. What I see is a crusty and cracked boule that will be very hard to manage. From the picture it appears they boules may be over-proofed.

Do you really mean 8-12 hour autolyse or could you mean fermentation or proof? More details will help a lot. Please provide your formula and step-by-step process so that others may offer assistance.



seolinogue's picture

Hi there, 

This post will be very long, so I ask a little bit of patience.




1) Flour 430 grams all purpose flour

2) Water (10°C) 280 grams

3) Salt 8.4 grams

4) Fresh yeast 4.8 grams



1) Mix water and flour in a stand mixer, using low speed.

2) Autolyse the dough for 30 minutes.

3) Knead the dough for 6:30 minutes @ low speed, adding the yeast first. After adding the yeast, salt is incorporated into the mixture, then I knead for 6:30 minutes @ low speed. The desired temperature is 24°C after kneading. 

4) Transfer the mixture to a polycarbonate container and proof for 6 hour in a refrigerator.

5) Pre shape and divide dough pieces of 750 grams. 

6) Shape the dough into a boule and transfer it into a banneton.

7) Proof for 1:30 -2:00 hours, depending on the weather, temperature, etc

8) Transfer the proofed boules into a baking tray. Bake at 220°C for 25-30 minutes.


This is the recipe I´ve come to build within a couple of months. When I began baking this boules I proofed the dough using the kitchen temperature (30°C with 85% relative humidity). I live in South America, Colombia to be specific, and the weather here is very hot and humid, thus aiding the proofing stage. 

The basic problem I´ve been having is that the boules don´t hold their shape when baking, for some reason the dough resists the shaping, therefore I end up with incorrect shaped dough, as you can see in the image of the first post.

I tried to solve this problem giving the dough a longer autolyse period, 8-12 hours and the result ended with a really slack dough which flattened on the oven. I haven´t tried with shorter autolyse periods (4-6 hours), it´s still on the to-do list. I tried giving the dough a longer proofing period, but this time in a refrigerator, in order to relax the dough while proofing. The latter was a good start but the dough didn´t rised as well as the loafs I´m used to bake.

To be honest I´m not satisfied with the dough texture after kneading, even though I have tried kneading for less time (4-6 minutes, overall switching between low speed and high speed) and something between the 7-10 minutes, using only low speed.

I think I might be failing somewhere between the kneading and the bulk fermentation stage. I always end up with incorrect bread boules, as you can see in the image of the first post. In general, the boules resist shaping and end up opening in the final proofing stage.

The first image in the slideshow is the latest outcome of the process mentioned in the recipe.


¿Any thoughts?

jimbtv's picture

First I want to make sure we are using the same terminology. Autolyse is a short-term combination of flour and water, providing a little time for the flour to absorb the water. Fermentation is a longer process where the leavening agent, in this case yeast, consume nutritional ingredients in the flour/water mixture which imparts some flavor and more gas. Proofing at room temperature is a shorter process that optimizes the development of gluten and gas, preparing the bread loaf for the oven.

I'm not sure why you are experimenting with the autolyse times. A 30 minute autolyse is generally considered plenty of time for the water to saturate the flour. Gluten formation begins when water is mixed with wheat flour. If you wait long enough the flour/water mixture will turn into pancake batter because all of the gluten strands have lost their ability to hold a shape. Long autolyse times work against gluten development.

Personally I'd abandon the 6 hour fermentation in the refrigerator in favor of an overnight cold proof in the bannetons. Since you are using yeast in this formula I would do as follow:

   - Do your autolyse for 30 minutes then combine with remaining ingredients.

   - Mix on slow until everything is incorporated, maybe two minutes, then on a bit higher speed for 2 - 3 minutes to start the gluten development. Desired dough temperature should be around 25C.

   - Let the dough rest at 25C for about an hour and then do a series of stretch and folds to develop the gluten further.

   - Rest another hour then divide and pre-shape.

   - Rest 20 minutes then do the final shape with a high concentration on creating skin tension. Place seam side up in bannetons.

   - Place the bannetons in the chiller @ 4C overnight - longer if desired.

   - Take the cold banneton/dough out of chiller and place on a peel, score, and then place in a hot oven.


I know this is a lot different that what you have been doing but this process has been working well for me.



PS: The boules in your photos look really nice! How about a shot of the crumb?