Originally Posted by kokopuffs
- 1.5 C water per 3.5 C flour, that's a really highly hydrated dough.
- Shouldn't need to add more water.
- Rising requires more than one to two hours.
- I prewarm my baking stone for at least an hour prior to inserting the dough into the oven. And my oven is preheated to 500F.
Sorry to disagree, but 42% is not a highly hydrated dough. In fact it's EXTREMELY low, French doughs are usually in the 60%+ mark. Are you certain that's the correct recipe, it must be awfully difficult to work with. Also, rising may require more than one to two hours in some circumstances, but it will depend on the temperature at which it is kept. I put mine in the window in the sun (yes - we have sun in Scotland!) and it usually takes no more than an hour to rise.
If you are leaving it in a warm place then I seriously suspect that you're over-proofing it and that the yeast has 'eaten' virtually all its food by the time that you put it in the oven. Also, to stop your dough getting a crust, oil it lightly and cover it with OILED cling film (I don't know whether that's called something different where you are, but it's the clear plastic cooking wrap that sticks using (I think) electrostatic). Make sure you oil it or it WILL stick when the dough comes into contact and you'll lose some of the rise when you pull it back off.
Finally (for now!), I doubt you're handling it too much. You don't seem to have any real kneading process there. The kneading process is pretty well essential unless you are leaving it to prove for a VERY long time, think 24 - 48 hours. When you knead the bread you encourage the gluten molecules to form chains which will give the bread structure and elasticity. This will happen naturally given long enough (such as with sourdough breads - a sourdough loaf takes me 2 - 3 days to prove, but bear in mind that the sourdough yeasts are much weaker than cultivated shop-bought yeasts and my house is generally cool), but if you are only waiting 2 - 4 hours you may find that you are not giving it enough time to develop the structure. You can see evidence of this when you knead for 5 - 10 minutes - your dough will start off quite wet and sticky and will cover your hand in sticky dough (I knead with 1 hand at first so I don't get too messy), but as you continue you'll find it 'comes together' and will form a firm, non-sticky dough - until you stop kneading.
Try a very basic recipe as below to start with (I'll work in grams because that's what I'm familiar with, and I'm sure you have scales ;)):
500g strong bread flour
300g lukewarm water
15g fresh yeast
10g veg oil (optional)
Stir the salt into the water (to help it dissipate through the flour more evenly). Put the yeast in a bowl, then add the flour and oil if using. Add the water and stir to combine, but don't worry too much. Tip out and knead until it forms a firm dough, no less than 5 mins, probably closer to 10. Lightly oil the bread and tip into a very large proving bowl (preferably the one you used to mix the ingredients originally, just to save on mess!) and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place to rise for around an hour, you'll see it considerably increase in size, that's what you're looking for.
Tip it out gently onto a floured surface and form a loaf shape by gently pulling the corners in and folding it until it has something that looks a bit like a belly button, but don't mess around for ages with it. Put that into your loaf tin (I always butter mine, even non-stick ones) with the belly button on the bottom, the top should be smooth and seamless. Alternatively put it on a baking tray if you're going for a bloomer type bread, but it's important that the seam is on the bottom.
Leave (covered in oiled cling film) for about an hour in a warm place to rise again (this is when you would put oven on to preheat if you were using one). Put it carefully in the oven and bake until brown and light. Don't forget to leave it for a while (at least half an hour) on a wire rack to finish cooking and dry out after you take it out.
Have a crack at that, it's a good starting point to build on. Bread-baking is such a nice thing, you'll really enjoy getting into it.