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Higher preferment percentage = faster bulk ferment (less time)?

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jefklak's picture
jefklak

Higher preferment percentage = faster bulk ferment (less time)?

Hi all,

 

I've accepted an upcoming challenge to bake in a wood fired oven in a local open air museum. There's only one problem: no tools, no metrics, and I need to create a schedule which keeps me busy for 8 hours, so visitors don't see me idling all the time (I'll also be giving explanations on sourdough bread baking in general). 

I came up with something but time constraints are a problem. I'll make the preferment at home and bring it with me but the first bread should be in the oven as soon as possible (will also serve as tasting experiment). I refuse to cheat and use yeast to hasten the process (as you can't "haste" sourdough, but the organisers of the event want me to bake "quick". I tried explaining that you can't do such a thing with sourdough. Didn't work well. 

So, my question is simple. I haven't experimented with it enough at home to have a consistent answer. 
Does upping the preferment volume in the final dough alter the bulk ferment time? I usually take 20-30%. What if I used 50%? Anybody else general tips on how to handle something like this?

 

Thanks!

totels's picture
totels

Short answer is Yes, more yeast means more activity. Which does translate to less fermentation time required. But that's not to say the results will be the same. I've generally found that shorter fermentation time with more yeasts means a less 'Airy' loaf, or a more densely packed crumb that is less chewy.

In terms of trying to keep a schedule you can be comfortable with and still know what's going on etc. you might consider controlling temperature instead. Make sure your preferment, flour and water start out warm enough.

Roghly speaking, a dough that matures in 7 hours when starting out at 70ºF can be done in 4 hours when starting out at 80ºF. You won't have the same flavor development. Perhaps some combination of temperature and increased preferment will be a good balance.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

For your first loaf why not make a loaf at night when mixing up your preferments and prove it in the refrig. overnight so it can go into the oven as soon as it is hot?  Other doughs you can mix and use varying %'s of leaven so they ferment at different speeds and can be baked at different intervals though, in truth, most of bread baking is hands off time just waiting for the yeasties and beasties to do their magic.  To look busy you might use some of the dough to make rolls which you can knot or braid depending on the size.

Just ideas.  I have never done anything like this so really have no experience what-so-ever.  Hopefully someone with experience will chime in with a schedule that will fill your needs.

Good Luck.  Sounds like a fun day.

Take Care,

Janet

jefklak's picture
jefklak

Controlling temperature might sound like a good idea, but the bakery itself is also in open air so I'm highly dependant on the exterior temperature of that very day. I *think* it'll be something like 22-23°C which is good, but starting with warm water might be an idea, thanks for that. 

I also think it would be good to split up the preferment to indeed bake at two (or more) different intervals. So after shaping the first batch, the second can be mixed while the first is proofing. I am no professional baker at all so it will be a little bit of trail and error and tweaking here and there. But I'm looking forward to it!

jefklak's picture
jefklak

Thanks to the weather everything went pretty well :-) It was around 26°C. I had to knead 5kg dough in a bread trough (just like old times...) and the breads were proofed in an old wooden bread rising cabinet. After firing up the oven, the temperature in the small wooden house spiked (it was quite small, the working place was a few meters away from the raging mouth of the oven). I ended up using my regular formulae (20% preferment), but the bread was a little bit too dry. I had no tools to scale or weigh things. 

Check out some pictures at https://www.facebook.com/savesourdough

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Glad it went well. Sounds like it was a fun time especially kneading in a wooden tub.  I bet nobody noticed the bread being a bit dry except you : )  

Lovely photos!

Take Care,

Janet