The Fresh Loaf

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"Old Dough" vs. Natural Levain

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davidg618's picture
davidg618

"Old Dough" vs. Natural Levain

 

Natural Levain loaves

"Old Dough" leavened loaves.

As promised on this thread:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/31902/old-dough

I baked four small loaves (1 lb each) of the formula I bake weekly. Two I made in the usual manner leavened with fresh natural levain I'd built over the previous 24 hours. I made enough extra dough to reserve 140g for "Old dough". The next day I made two more loaves of the same formula leavened with the "Old Dough". Since the reserved dough was at 68% hydration, and the natural levain at 100% hydration I adjusted the two levain's weights such that the same amount of flour was pre-fermented in all four loaves. Otherwise the ingredients were identical.

I suspected the "Old Dough" had a smaller yeast population. Consequently, The mixed dough remained at room temperature for the first two hours of fermantation. The dough mixed with natural levain was mixed with ice water, and chilled immediately. The "Old Dough" mix was subsequently retarded at chiller temperature for 13 hours; the natural levain dough was retarded also for 15 hours.

The "Old Dough" dough's volume increase was approximately one-third less than the natural levain's volume increase, so I rested the "Old Dough"s" bulk at 82° for one hour before dividing and preshaping. Subsequently both dough's were handled, shaped and proofed identically.  The natural levain loaves proofed in 2.25 hours. The "Old Dough" loaves proofed in 2.75 hours.

Baking and cooling were identical.

Natural Levain Crumb

Old Dough Crumb

Visually, the four loaves appear the same. Flavor-wise, the "Old Dough" loaf seems to have a distinct acidic tang, muted in the Natural Levain loaf, all other flavors are indestinguishable between the loaves--I tasted two slices of each loaf, one each with butter. Wouldn't turn either of these loaves down:-)

The only surprise was the mouthfeel. I cut into both loaves immediately after they cooled. The crumb in the Natural Levain loaf exhibited its expected softness, which changes to a firmer chewiness overnight. The crumb in the "Old Dough" loaf was instantly chewy, more mature yet no less moist. It's beyond me what accounts for the difference.

Since I only bake Sourdough once a week, and then only two to four loaves, I'll continue to just use fresh natural levain. Building it only takes a few minutes of active work, and twenty-four hours of waiting. However, if I find myself baking twenty or more loaves in one week--a rare but not impossible happening--I think I'll try the "Old Dough" approach. It would be easier than keeping a levain fed counter top.

 

Comments

Wingnut's picture
Wingnut

Spectacular either way around it! Nice Bread.

Cheers,

Wingnut

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Thanks for the praise!

David G

wally's picture
wally

What you call "Old Dough" is more generally referred to as pate fermentee.  It is type of preferment where a bit of dough from a mix is reserved for use the next day with a newly mixed dough.  Usually it accounts for no more than 15% of the new dough being mixed.

But it is not intended to be the primary leavening for the newly mixed dough.  Instead, it's used much like a poolish or biga - augmented with bakers yeast.  In other words, it's not meant to be a substitute for bakers yeast in the way that a levain is.

I'm surprised you got such good results.  I suspect the extended fermentation period through retardation allowed the yeast in the pate fermentee to fully leaven your dough.

Thanks for sharing,

Larry

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I have a peculiar liking for my native tongue: American English. I know Old Dough is aka pate fermentee. I simply chose not to use it.

I expected it would not perform quite as well as fresh levain, but I saw no sense--from my point of view--adding either commercial yeast or fresh levain. I specifically wanted to see if it was possible to make bread with day old dough.  When I saw the result of of volume increase after fermenting overnight at 52°F, I was encouraged, and modified my usual warming routine (1 hour, the dough divided and pre-shaped in a proofing box at 82°F) to the aforementioned additional hour simply warming the bulk dough in the same proofing box before dividing it and proceeding as usual.

What specifically is its purpose, if not leavaning? UK baker and fellow TFL member, Andy--in the referanced thread--says it acts as a "dough conditioner". I only know dough conditioners as multisyllabic, unpronounceable (in American English) esoterica listed in the ingredients of store-bought bread. What does it condition? Does it account for the difference in mouthfeel I experienced? Can you tell me the science(s) involved if its role is conditioning?

Thanks,

David G

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

You nailed the oven temperature, steam and time, from all appearances.  That glossy crumb is a dead giveaway of a well-baked loaf.  Good work!

And thanks for the comparison of the two methods.

Paul

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I have TFL to thank in general, and specific members--you among them--for most of what I've learned in the past three-plus years. I have a lot of food and DIY hobbies. There are no sites equivalent to TFL to be had. Would that it were so!

David G

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

Very interesting, thank you for your great contribution to dough theory. 

 I use a small pinch of my old dough all the time to kick off a new levain for a batch of bread. I have found I can bake bread regularly using One less moving part. Sometimes less than a pinch. 

Again, well done!

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Thanks for the thumbs up and the tip.

I considered feeding the dough I saved, and also converting it to a wetter levain like what I routinely use, but in the end I didn't. Like you, I'm a fan of minimum number of moving parts.

David G

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks for doing the test, David. Very informative.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hi, Kahlid,

This was an excellent opportunity to also test how much I've learned about a dough's "readiness" in each stage to move on to the next step. An unexpected bonus from nursing the Old Dough version to its peak.

Regards,

David G

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

David, and great loaves. To me the equation acidic => gummy crumb finds more and more confirmations every time I bake.

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hi, Nico,

This one was especially informative.

Regards,

David G

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Both loaves turned out very nice, David.

After reading all the posts here I have a few questions, though:

According to Wally, "old dough" is the same as "pâté fermentée". In my understanding, "old dough" is a piece of dough taken from the dough after the bulk rise, including all ingredients of that special kind of bread, not only flour, water, yeast and salt, but possibly also fat, sweetener and spices. Pâté fermentée, on the other hand, is a pre-ferment, made of flour, water, yeast and salt, and not a piece of another bread in process.

Is 1 day old dough really "old dough"? How does taste and performance change with age? When I started out baking my own bread, I always kept a 3/4 cup of the dough for the next loaf, baked after a week or two. That was all all the leaven it needed to rise. I took this procedure from a French cookbook, and it worked just fine.

Right now I'm baking rolls with old dough, and try to figure out differences in taste, depending on the age of the dough, with a tad of commercial yeast added.

German Bauernbrötchen with medium rye, made with (2-months-) old dough.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I've never baked with pate fermentee--until yesterday if you accept that pate fermentee can be old bread. I just reread BBA's pre-ferment definitions. Chef Reinhart states pate fermentee can be a hunk of bulk fermented bread dough, held back for baking more bread in the future--also that pate fermentee has multiple international names, all appropriate in their regions.

Furthermore, I think I got an  answer why the crumb's mouthfeel was more "mature", for lack of a better word.

Reinhart states: "Adding the pate fermentee has the effect of immediately aging a newly made dough." That is precisely what I perceived. The mouthfeel was the most prominent of the differences, but their were other subtle flavor nuances I didn't try to explain.

Your loaves are beautiful, especially the crumb! I've done my work becoming comfortable with baking lean dough baguettes and sourdoughs. I'm thinking of revisiting rye breads next. Yours are an inspiration.

David G

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi David,

First of all, what beautiful bread...of course.

I'm not sure there is any point trying to distinguish between "old dough" and pate fermentee...I think they are the same thing, just expressed in different languages.   What is perhaps more instructive is to consider the difference between the commercial operator making bread everyday, and the homebaker who makes bread less frequently.   Any bakery I have worked in never made dough up specifically for use as a pre-ferment; instead it was generated as part of production dough, and held back.   But this doesn't really work for a homebaker, who instead has to mix dough specifically for use as a pre-ferment.   And I don't think it matters whether the old dough is a "generic white dough", or is a replica of the particular dough being manufactured...we used both at Village Bakery, where the "old dough" system was our main means of production for the regular-yeasted breads.   For our wholemeal, malted grain and sunflower seed breads, we used the same dough, but for the 3 different types of white bread we made [tin, cob and rolls], we used one generic white dough.   I don't really see any point in bringing precise definitions to systems which use this type of pre-ferment.   The most important point is that it is dough which contains salt and a regular amount of yeast, and it has been subjected to some degree of development [mechanical or by hand] and fermentation....unlike a "biga" or a "poolish"...no salt usually, no mechanical development either, and considerably reduced quantities of yeast.

For dough conditioning, I rather suspect you are under-playing your considerable knowledge of fermentation in your comments to Larry.   Obviously the changes which take place in dough as it ferments and ripens are reasonably complex.   They are known collectively as rheology, which manifests itself within the dough as an ability to stretch and become more extensible in order to accommodate gas production.   Your answer to Karin above illustrates you know exactly what the effect is of adding old dough, in that it kickstarts a whole load of enzymatic reactions which result in speeding up the process of ripening and strengthening the dough.   Surely a natural leaven does exactly the same thing too?!

Like Larry, I am familiar with using the pate fermentee purely as an improver, with fresh yeast being added to the dough at the point of final mixing.   The results you have achieved without adding yeast suggest further evidence of how good your understanding and application of fermentation really are.

Very best wishes

Andy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

First, thank you for the praise. It helps me know I've not wasted my time these last few years.

A little background. When I worked for a living my title was System Engineer. I liked to think of the function akin to one who, in a Chinese restaurant, choses 1 from column A, and two from column B, and one finally from column C and creates a banquet, a tongue-pleasing rhapsody.

Long retired, three-plus years ago I chose to improve my already average amateur's bread baking skills.  Almost simultaneously, I discovered TFL.

I've latched onto many, many mentors on this site, learning much from each of them.

However, you've been the one of a very few that presents bread-baking as a complex system.

I consider the chemical, biological, physical, and mechanical interplay in making a simple loaf of bread one of the most complex systems I've ever encountered. The list of sciences, and science and engineering disciplines involved is long--I began to name examples, and couldn't end it.

Yet, you make wonderful bread in a wood-fired oven, not far removed from cave-dwellers.

Ain't it great?

David G

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

You are always supplying interesting information, Andy.

Thanks,

Karin

hanseata's picture
hanseata

This is a very interesting discussion, and I'm glad you brought it up.

Karin

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

Thanks to this experiment the results are clear: No difference. 

How the yeast are introduced to the flour makes no nevermind, what matters is the inocculation quantity and how you subsequently age it.  You can get the flu shot in your arm or you can take it via a nasal spray or orally, both ways work. These old dough, poolish, biga, mother, etc, arguments can be put to rest with this experiment, executed apparently with labratory like precision.

All you need is a pinch to colonize, then you start your 100%, 50%, 33 1/3% whatever % you want, baby. The Time/Temperature/Percentage continuum cares not. If you are after a more acid taste, make your bread with a big percentage of old dough. For sweeter bread, keep the dough fresh.

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

What you are doing routinely, and what I did as an experiment (stunt?) suggests to me that old dough may have been the primary way vintage bakeries inoculated dough pre-Pasteur. I imagine it was a lot more comfortable to use old dough--especially, when in the winter, running down the street in January to the local brewer to collect a pitcher of barm, the apprentice boy encountered cold, sleet, and ice. But then, there was little respect for the novice. (Things haven't changed much.)

In the present--with commercial yeast aplenty--it would appear that "Old Dough" is relegated to be "dough conditioner", but not irresponsibly. Larry, Andy, and Peter Reinhart have each pointed out the benefits of old dough contributing positively to the flavor profile of bread, Reinhart acknowledges its dough maturation abilities, and Andy extends its benefits to the collective rheology of the dough's entire development. I certainly wouldn't disagree with any of them.

Hopefully, future artisan baker's will look to history--including "Old Dough" use--and exploit it to the maximum extent.

David G

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Paul is right the gloss of the crumb says it all.

I love your experiment too.  I like the idea of adding a day of SD age to the bread so it tastes like day two on day one.  What you are doing is exactly what commercial bakers used to do before the invention commercial yeast to make all the bread they produced.  Today, as Larry and Andy note they might use up to 15% of old dough, probably less,  for the next days bake flavor and they add instant yeast when mixing to boost the rise and shorten the time.  This is more economical too as it reduces the cost of yeast substantially.  In the old days they used to hold back more than 15% I'm guessing to speed things up or they waited way longer not likely since time was in short supply even more so then waiting for slow natural yeast to work their majic :-)

We were so interested in your experiment I just took 25 g of my fully developed and ready whole grain levain of 300 at 68% hydration and mixed it with 30 g of water and 45 g of white flour did 5 minutes of 3 fingered, one handed slap and folds, added some salt and did a minute of more slap and folds before putting it to rest so we could do 3 sets of S&F's on it over the next hour just like we would any other bread.  It was one of silliest things I have ever done but my apprentice wishes she would have filmed it :-)

After the S&F's we will let it ferment on the counter counter for an hour before going in the fridge for a couple of days with the ready levain to bake off side by side on Monday or Tuesday.  This is the normal way we do things to get the most sour in bread.  It will be interesting to see which one produces it.

Thanks for posting your fine bread and experiment David.

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Ain't you  a kick in the head?! (Yeah, I'm an aged Dean Martin fan)

On some level I too felt silly doing the experiment; for the most part because curiosity was my main (only?) motive. Please, please post your results.

David G

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

but it is what separates man from them :-)  I'm a a pretty curious sort in general but this project has already been fun as well as silly :-)  3 fingered one handed slap and folds with 100 g of bread dough was a hoot!  I'm not saying I'm going to break down my 1,000g regular slap and fold dough  into 100 g portions to play with from now on  but doing it once was plain fun.   Makes me want to go out and buy a miniature rolling pin too !

This tiny dough ball is now  resting for a couple of days in the fridge and will let you know if I can taste a difference on Tuesday.

 

happy baking

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Overnight, I've suddenly got a related question.

Does altus--stale baked Rye bread fragments, soaked and added to Rye bread dough--provide some of the same benefits that unbaked old dough does?

I'm looking for a new  direction to apply what I've learned, and learn more too.  Rye breads are looking more and more like the way I'm going to go. Early on, I tried a few, but quickly narrowed my focus to white-flour lean doughs. It's time to branch out a little. And I really enjoy deli style, pumperknickel and marble ryes.

David G

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi David,

It's probably worth your while to re-read the pertinent section in Hamelman's book on Rye breads.

For me, I use "altus" as a means to kickstart enzymatic activity, for sure.   But I think the result is more focused on amylase, and on starches and sugars, rather than on the proteolytic effect.

So, there are all sorts of benfits from using old bread, but that does not necessarily encompass the same benfits in using old dough as a dough conditioner.

Best wishes

Andy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I'd intended to read two or three of my favorite books on rye breads; it's been more than a year since I baked any. Hamelman is definately on the list. 

Regards,

David G

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Altus has another interesting property, too. If you use it in your preferments it develops a very sour and very intense aroma, quite beery. 

 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I have to be careful with sourness, my wife love's the flavors and texture of my sourdough, but will turn it down if it gets too much tang. However, every so often I intentionally push levain to produce more sour--just for me and two friends and neighbors who also like it.

Once I get comfortable with rye basics, I'll give it a try.

David G

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi David,

Don't forget that one of those "basics" is a requirement for acid in the formula to give strength and tolerance to the paste at final proof/early bake.   That increased sourness is generally balanced with sweetness from malt and molasses etc.

So, your wife may be difficult to please on this one!

All good wishes

Andy

lumos's picture
lumos

Interesting experiment. Thank you for sharing, Larry, and both loaves look great, too. :)

As other people have already mentioned, I've always thought (and have read in various bread books) Old Dough/pate fermente was meant to be used to improve flavour/texture rather than as a primary leavening agent, so I'm urprised and quite impressed you managed to achieve to make the beautiful loaf using only pate fermente.  In my earlier days of (mildly) serious baking (= pre-sourdough days), I used to use pate fermente often to add extra flavour.  One of the books I used to use a lot those days suggested (for home bakers) to make a large batch of 'pate fermente,'  divide it into small potions (like 50 - 100g each)  and keep them in a freezer to be thawed and added to dough when you make bread.  Obviously large population of yeast would die when frozen, so it wouldn't be very useful to stimulate extra gas -production during fermentation, but it did work as flavour-enhancer.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

But my name is David, not Larry

David G

lumos's picture
lumos

I'm so sorry, David.   You must be really annoyed. Sincere apology.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I actually got a chuckle out of it.

David G

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

my copy of your experiment turned out great with slightly different out comes.  The old dough had the full, deep, sour taste like it normally would as day old bread.  The old dough rose slightly better and had slightly larger holes.    I'm glad I did the test to taste the difference.  It is striking.

Thanks for the inspiration.