I've finally had time to start making bread on the weekends! However, for 4 of the 5 breads that I've tried making, the inside of the bread has been a bit gummy and too moist.
The recipe technically calls to bake the bread in a preheated dutch oven (I use a casserole dish because I don't own a dutch oven), but the dough is so sticky that if I preheat the dish and transfer the dough to it once it's preheated, I find that the dough deflates and I get a flat loaf. I tried baking the bread for a bit longer, but the outside burned and got stuck to the sides of the casserole dish. This time, I let the dough rise in the dish, and I made sure that the outer layer of the dough stayed moist while it was proofing/rising for the second time. I also tried to cut slits in the bread to help it rise, but the dough was too wet and sticky and it didn't work very well. I also brushed the lid with water and the top of the loaf with water and oil right before putting it into the oven. I baked the bread for 5 minutes longer with the lid on, and once I took the lid off, I cooked it until the crust looked like it would burn if I left it in a minute longer. When I cut into the loaf, however, the texture is still gummy.
I'm thinking about trying to preheat the casserole dish again see if the texture comes out any better. I also noticed that our oven at home isn't very good at keeping in heat-- one time I let my bread rise while it was sitting on top of the oven and the dough actually started to bake and the glass bowl was too hot to touch. I'm wondering if that could be a factor?
I am also going to try baking with the lid on for longer.
Does anyone have any other ideas of why the texture might be like this?
P.S. I have made one good loaf of bread, but the dough was a lot drier, so I was able to cook it on a baking stone. The texture was wonderful, and the taste was flavorful (it has tomatoes and basil). I have tried 3 different recipes so far, and this is the only one that gave a delicious product.
Without more details of your recipe and timing and method it is a bit hard to be specific but a soft and sticky dough that deflates with handling sounds very much like one that has been over-proved.
Have a read of this - http://sourdough.com/forum/texture-my-sourdough-0 and http://sourdough.com/blog/one-way-make-loaf-bread - and give us some more details of what recipe you are using and how you go about making and developing your dough (including timings and an indication of room temperature if possible) and we might be able to help further.
Good luck with your projects.
This is the recipe I've been using:
The dough is just a very wet dough in general, so it is difficult to handle it. I've also noticed that my bread doesn't necessarily double in size with this recipe-- which makes me wonder if my starter isn't fully active.
I've had it since August of this year, and It's risen some loaves enough, but sometimes, it doesn't, even with temperatures that are always around 70-80 degrees. I'm not sure what I could do to make it more active after this long.
I've made a few more recipes since then, and I've noticed that when I use only white bread flour (protein content 13%), the bread will have that gummy texture much more than breads that some white and some whole wheat flour.
Based on estimates of the amount of flour and water in the recipe it would seem that the hydration of that dough is about 85%. This is supported by the pictures on the blog that you linked as being a high hydration dough and as you say this is almost impossible to handle particularly when made with an all white flour. Having a proportion of wholemeal will make the dough more handleable because of the extra water absorbancy of the germ and bran in the unsifted flour.
A dough that can be handled quite comfortably for most people is in the range of 70-75% hydration. This will allow a loaf to be properly shaped (and baked free-form or in a pan if you wish) rather than being virtually poured into a pan.
I would recommend having a read of SourDom's Beginners Blog on this site. There is a link towards the top right of the page. He gives excellent advice on starting and maintaining a culture and all of the stages of preparing and developing the dough and making a loaf. His recipe for Pane francesa is a good simple recipe on which to cut your teeth and once you have mastered that you will be well placed to get out and bake breads to your hearts content. Until you get used to how the dough looks and feels at various stages, I would also recommend working with weights rather than volumes to get a guaranteed consistency from batch to batch. Once you are more experienced then perhaps you might revert to using volumes if you wish.
Provided that your culture makes a levain that increases in volume and becomes shot through with bubbles of gas and of a mousse like consistency then it should be perfectly fine. As a rough sort of guide, if all of your process from levain preparation to final proof is done at the one temperature, the time that the levain takes to reach peak volume can be a guide to how long your total dough and loaf preparation time should be. So, if, after you prepare your levain by feeding some of your starter, it takes eight hours at room temperature to reach peak volume then you might expect that you would need eight hours from start of dough preparation to having a proved loaf ready for baking. This only applies for plain doughs as rich dough will take significantly longer.
Good luck with your projects.
Riz: Most likely you are proofing your dough too long. Firstly, try getting more sourness by retarding your dough in the fridge for 24 hours, until you get nearly the rise you would normally expect on the bench.
Then shape, and leave the dough for not more than 2 hours to temperature equalize. Then bake. Better for your dough to have 20% less volume that you'd like, as an experiment, and see if you get oven spring then. I did this, got the results I was looking for, then fine-tuned from there.
I make my sourdough bread in a very similar way to yourself. May I suggest some slight alterations for you to try? First off, try reducing your autolyse period to 20 mins. This should be sufficient time for the flour to absorb the water. Secondly I would give your dough only 2 folds. once after an hour, then again after 2 hours then at 3 hours scale the dough. And thirdly after the preshape, just rest the dough pieces 20 mins before the final shaping.
All the best