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Bwraith, Zolablue, starter time and temp question?

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edh's picture
edh

Bwraith, Zolablue, starter time and temp question?

I'm not sure if I should be asking this of Bill or Zolablue (or anyone else that wants to take a whack at it), but I need help!

I've been making a much altered version of Mariana's Calvel sourdough with great success for several months now, but with cold weather, I'm having problems.

I'd like to post the formula as I've been doing it, and see what you all have to say?

The starter gets a 2 stage build starting with;

28 g firm starter (white bread flour maintained)

36 g white bread flour

22 g water

In the summer I can start that at about 9:00 PM, let it go on the counter (about 70 degrees) overnight until it has grown by 3x to 4x then proceed to the next build (sponge);

70 g refreshed starter

84 g flour (about 10 g rye, the rest bread)

50 g water

Again, in the summer that needs about 4 hours on the counter until it has gone to 3x or 4x, then proceed to the final dough;

204 g sponge

758 g flour (38 g rye, 400 g whole spelt, 320 white bread flour or just 38 g rye and the rest white)

13 g salt

484 g water

The flour and water (without the rye) are combined and left to sit for 1/2 hour if it's just the white, or longer if I'm using the spelt. If I'm on top of it, I'll mix the flour and water the night before, when I start the first refreshment, but other time I just do it at the last minute. The longer soak does improve the flavor though.

Everything else gets mixed together (by hand) when the sponge is ready. At this point I've had to start spiking the dough with 1/4 -1/2 tsp of yeast but I'd like to go back to straight sourdough. For the bulk ferment I do three folds 20 minutes apart, then let it sit for a second hour, then shape into 2 boules. They proof for 2 hours, then bake, either on a preheated stone at 450 with a cover for the first 20 minutes, then uncovered for 15, or on a sheet pan in a cold oven (well, I turn it to 450 about 10 minutes before putting the loaves in), covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for 20-25 minutes until done.

So this has all worked really well until recently. The problem is that 70 degrees is a distant memory in my kitchen. At night it averages 50 -55 degrees in there. I've been afraid to put the starter in the oven (gas with a pilot usually in the high 70's) for fear of overproofing, but I think I might need to start doing that. I made this yesterday and while the taste was as nice as ever, it was clearly underproofed, with a dense bricklike crumb, the likes of which I thought behind me (oh yeah, what was it that pride goeth before?)!

So my question to you, Bill; you seem to have an uncanny understanding of time and temp variables for sourdough! If my firm starter usually goes to 3x or 4x in about 6 hours, how long should I be looking at when it's more like 55?

Any other thoughts anyone wants to share would be deeply appreciated! When it's going right, this is my ideal loaf; a workhorse that can be altered seemingly in an infinite variety of ways (chocolate and cherry anyone?) but with a subtle and lovely flavor on its own.

I want it to always work!!

Thanks in advance, and Happy New Year!

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

The temperature sensitivity of sourdough around 50-55F is enough and the speed is so slow that the time involved might be 20-36 hours for the first build and uncertain for the others too, although maybe you are only worried about the first build?

What is your window of time for making the builds? I guess what I'm getting at is that if you could make the first build and let it rise in the oven with the pilot at around 78F for 3-4 hours, then put it on the counter at 50-55 for the rest of the night, it should be OK. Or, make the starter and let it rise in the oven for however long it takes to get close to its peak, and then just refrigerate it. If you have time to do that before bed, then that could work. Another strategy, if you need to do the build while you're asleep at night, might be to put the build in a cooler next to a bowl of warm water or directly in a bowl of water at about 80F on the counter. That might allow it to fall in temperature more slowly over the night, with a few hours in the 70s to begin with, which hopefully would be enough to get it ripe but not too ripe.

For the sponge, I would put it in the oven for something like 2.5-3 hours at 78F. I doubt my starter would raise the sponge by too much more than double in that amount of  time even at 78F, but if your starter is faster, like ZB's, then that would probably be enough time for the sponge at 78F, or you might only need 2 hours.

If you have a faster starter like ZB's, then you may be able to work with just 2 hours of bulk fermentation in the oven. For me, if doing the bulk ferment in the oven w/pilot at 78F, I would expect it to take more like 3 hours. The proof would take about 2 hours. I would probably have about a 5-5.5 hour mix to bake time at 78F, in other words. However, it sounds like your starter may be a little faster than mine.

If you could do the following at some point, it will help to figure how fast your starter is when rising in the oven with the pilot. Take 20g of your firm starter and mix with 40g water and 40g flour. Place in covered jar in the oven with pilot. Note how long it takes to rise by double the volume. Since it should be a batter, it should be easy to see it rise by double without a lot of crowning, as long as you put it in some sort of cylindrical container that will make it easy to gauge when it has risen by double in volume. In my case, I'd expect this experiment to double in a little less than 4 hours at 78F.

It is possible to change the recipe and drastically reduce the inoculation, and use only one build stage so that the sponge rises overnight at 78F. You could do that by making the sponge the night before with something like 1g of starter (1/8 to 1/4 tsp of starter), 10g rye, 117g flour, and 76g water and placing overnight in the oven w/pilot at 78F. In the morning you would then refrigerate the sponge until you are ready to use it, and it should have risen by double but hopefully not too much more than that by then. If your starter is faster than mine, then it might be it will rise too much overnight even with that tiny inoculation. You might be able to use chilled water in the sponge to slow it down for a while in that case.

I don't know if I'm helping at all, but at least there are some suggestions.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Thank you Bill, that was exactly what I was looking for!

I like doing the refreshment one day, and everything else the next, but I never thought of starting it up, then stopping it overnight and starting up again the next day. I think I'll try that next. 

I do like the multi-stage build; I swear I can taste the difference from when I've tried slow single builds. What the family all seem to like best is a pretty mild, unsour sourdough. I should probably just be calling it a levain bread, I suppose. This recipe gives me that, with all the subtleties of natural yeast flavors.

I'm definitely going to try your test; my starter isn't as fast as ZB's, but when it's warm enough, it can move things right along. With the crazy temps lately, though, I've sort of lost track of it's performance times. I think it's time to get over my fear of the pilot in the oven; it caused one colossal over proof last year and I've avoided it ever since. Time to let that one go!

The other thing about this recipe is that I stole a page from Hamelman's book in that the final proof is purposely a little bit short; when I do it right and it's only a little bit underproofed it gets a great oven spring. Clearly when I do it wrong and it's a lot underproofed, that doesn't work out quite so well!

Thank you so much; this has given me a lot to chew on, so to speak. I'll have to go feed yesterday's mess to the birds and start again.

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

I like mild bread, too. I think you can get that with the one build method, as long as you don't let it get too ripe. If you incorporate the sponge into the rest of the bread when it has just doubled or soon after that, or if you refrigerate the sponge after it has just doubled, and then use it in the dough when ready, you should still get a mild result.

If you want to stick to the two step method, then I would try a few hours in the oven for each step. For the first build, you could let it double and then let it ferment for another hour or so and then refrigerate until you are ready to build the sponge. For the sponge, I would let it just double or a little more and then refrigerate until you are ready to build the dough.

I like to shape before the dough has doubled and also like to avoid overproofing so the loaf will have good ovenspring. The problem is knowing the right amount of time for the bulk fermentation and the proofing depending on the temperature. If your oven with pilot on is around 78F, it's a good environment to use, as it probably maintains a fairly constant temperature, which is half the battle, as long as you can arrange the timing to be convenient.

Let me know if you do that rise test I mentioned in the previous post. I can be more helpful on the timing in the oven for all the steps with the results of that test and can better predict the amount of starter you need for the overnight one-step rise, if you want to try that.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Hmm, you've got me thinking again Bill. I may have to try a single build; I suspect I've just overproofed every time I've tried. The double build probably works best for me only because it insists that I pay attention every so often!

I know you've got several recipes posted on your blog; is there one you would recommend for a mild single build? It doesn't have to be whole grain, I can always go there later if I get it right.

I'm definitely going to try your test this weekend, though I just remembered that I forgot to feed the 10 grams I set aside yesterday, so I'd better rescue my starter first, then test it!

Thanks heaps!

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

The problem is that it seems like the most reliable temperature choice you have is the oven with pilot light in the winter, and most of my recipes would rise too much overnight at 78F. My kitchen is at about 68-70F in the winter. Also, your starter might be different.

That's why I think it would be better if you run that experiment I mentioned. If you feed the starter something like 20g:40g:40g or even better maybe would be to feed it 20g:80g:80g, so we know better what happens with a lower inoculation. Put it in the oven and watch it closely to see when it rises by double. If you can measure the temperature once in a while that's good too.

Once I know the time it takes for one of those paste consistency feedings to rise by double, I can make up a recipe for the sponge and dough along with rise times, assuming an overnight rise for the sponge.

Whole wheat would work similarly, except you might want to soak some or all of the dough ingredients at the same time the sponge is rising. My most recent blog shows a WW recipe with overnight rise and also one where the whole dough is done in one step overnight. However, they probably won't work right for you because of the warmer temperature you would be using.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Wow, my own custom recipe! First I have to do my homework though; it probably won't happen until Monday, as I want to be right around to check both the progress and the temperatures throughout the process, and tomorrow is a long-scheduled sliding day! Hope it doesn't get too warm here, though there's enough snow on the ground to carry us through a short thaw.

On the other hand, a couple of warmer days might make my poor beleagured starter feel better!

I'll let you know what the results are...

edh

edh's picture
edh

Oh dear Bill, this is no longer a very happy starter! Maybe weavershouse is right, and it just behaves differently in the winter, or else it's still recovering from being in storage for well over a month, but it is really slow right now! I just gave it the normal maintainence feeding yesterday 10g:20g:40g at 3:30 PM. That will usually triple in 6 hours or so, but this time it had only reached about 2 1/2X by 9:00 AM, sitting at 70 degrees. I can't tell if it's still going up, but I'm going to watch and feed again this afternoon. Maybe it just needs to have some attention paid to it for a few days...

Onward,

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

If you are feeding it 10g:20g:40g (starter:water:flour by weight) then I imagine it would be very dry and stiff? If so, in cooler temperatures you might want to do something like 10g:25g:40g or even 10g:30g:40g, which should make it a little less dry and maybe a touch toward a paste. It will still be a firm starter, but it should rise and ferment better in the lower temperatures. Are the temperatures still very cold at night, or was it at 70F the whole time? A couple of feedings should bring it completely back if it is getting as far as 2.5x. You might also want to sprinkle in some fresh whole rye or WW if you have some available to hopefully re-inoculate the starter and speed up the fermentation a little at the same time. I tend to use a firm consistency in summer and a little more of a paste in winter.

Good luck with it. I could see trying the 10:40:40 experiment just to see if the starter is behaving. One problem I have with firm starters is that, while they always rise - good for beginners in that way, they don't rise in a way that's easy to measure because of the "crown" on top. Also, if you get them too stiff and cold, that can cause them not to rise as much, even though they are just fine. It can be confusing. I've found that when you are trying to measure the speed of the starter a paste consistency and only measuring the 2x volume increase is more consistent and reliable. Also, the maximum rise is too much affected by variables other than the actual health of the starter and can be misleading.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Yes, it is a very firm starter; I ended up following Mariana's instructions, which involve kneading the starter slightly before putting it back in the container. For whatever reason, this was the only thing that really made it take off back in the summer when I was having difficulties with it.

I like your point about making it a little wetter for cold weather, and even more so for tracking its rise. The crown does make it hard to measure the rise.

When the weather is in the 30's here, there's a spot on the back of my stove by the vent that stays just about 70 all the time. Once we get down in the teens, inside the oven is the only place I can count on for roughly consistent temps. Once I get this guy up and running, that's where I'll do the experiment.

Thanks for the reminder about adding rye; I have some organic berries I'll grind up and throw in this evening.

Now, off to a sliding party!

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

The sliding party sounds good. The starter will be fine meanwhile. I'll await results later in the week, if all goes well. Have a great time.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I have not been around here for a few days so sorry I missed this but Bill gave you very good info as usual. 

 


Let me tell you what works for me just in case it makes sense for you as well.  With Bill prodding me I did some interesting starter experiments and found that my starter performs very differently depending on the amount I use.  For example it is quite a bit slower if I use 10g than 15g and that is even more pronounced when I up it to 20g. 

 

I was happily feeding at my normal 15g starter:30g water:50g flour until the temp started dropping like crazy outdoors.  My kitchen is generally around the same temps anywhere from 68 - 70 but the outdoor temps seem to matter.  My starter seemed a bit more sluggish than normal and at first I tried feeding it more often.  That just doesn't work well with my starter. 

 

So when I thought about those experiments, and also the fact that Glezer mentioned to me to use more starter in the winter in recipes if necessary, I decided to mix 20g:30g:50g.  That was all I needed.  My starter just became completely stable again and has remained so only requiring one feeding per day. I don't know if that is normal for a starter to behave as mine does but that is how it works for me.  I'm sure as soon as the next warmer season comes my way I will go right back to 15:30:50.

 

Also, worth mentioning, is that I use a one-build method when making doughs and I consistently have wonderfully flavored, mild sourdough breads.  Like Bill, the only time I have had a problem with overly sour bread is when I once created a liquid starter to compare to my firm and I think it just ripened so differently which I was not used to and the bread was more sour.  Also, I can really tell if I have let something seriously overproof where I have used a larger innoculation. 

edh's picture
edh

Thanks for your thoughts, ZB. It was largely your thread on firm starters that got me to switch over, followed by Mariana's writing about Calvel. Everything was very so-so when I was using a liquid starter, but it all took off when I switched. Then I put it away for the holidays, the weather got cold, and it all fell apart again!

I think there must be a weather connection as you say; even if I keep it toasty in the oven with a pilot it still moves slower than in the warm weather. Great, my starter has Seasonal Affect Disorder.

On the other hand, after taking Bill's advice to make a little less firm for a while, and spiking it with some Rye, it seems to be waking up again. Enough so that I'm going to do his timing experiment at 100% hydration tomorrow (today it finally doubled in about 4 hours as opposed to 12).

Thank you for writing in; you guys are so generous and helpful, there really wouldn't be a whole lot of bread happening in this house if not for this site!

edh

edh's picture
edh

Bill and ZB, it worked! I finally did the 100% hydration test. As it turns out, in warm weather like this my oven sits at about 82 degrees, and it took just 4 hours to double. I think when it's wicked cold out, and the kitchen is hovering around 56, the oven sits at something more like 78. So, thanks to your experiment and your table, I should be able to figure out rise times a little more predictably. I think the real problem here has been impatience. I didn't give the starter enough time/feedings to wake up from its long winters nap, then didn't give it enough time in the dough to rise it. Good bread really can't be rushed! I just need to remember that if I want it to go faster, I'll have to add a little yeast, otherwise take a deep breath and let the dough go as long as it needs to. It will end up tasting better anyway! I tried Weavershouse's pain de campagne and just let it take as long as it needed, and it all worked fine. This is just like beekeeping; the more I learn, the less I know. Thanks again for all your help! edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

For the 100% hydration test, how did you feed it and what kind of flour? Do you think it was right around 82F the whole time? Oh, and what was the hydration of the starter that went into the test feeding? e.g. was it 10g of 60% hydration firm starter fed with 40g water, and 40g bread flour?

Thanks, Bill

edh's picture
edh

Hmm, I'm not sure of the hydration of the starter that went into the test; it was firm but not so much that it had to be kneaded. I'd been feeding 10g:20g:30g for a couple of days to wake it up, so that's probably about where it was, 60%-ish.

The test itself was 20g starter to 40g each organic white bread flour and spring water, and the oven seemed to stay solidly at 82F.

Everything seems to be going kind of nuts with the warmer weather; I fed the test, my regular starter, and started a build for the Calvel bread this morning, and they all grew really well. The one for the Calvel actually lifted the plastic that I had over the ball jar.

Maybe it's all just feeling better now...

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

My starter would rise in 3.5 hours at 82F if I used a 66% hydration version of my starter and fed it 20:40:40. So, if yours took 4 hours at 82F, that's not so different. It would be better to redo the experiment using a 10:40:40 feeding if you want to figure out an overnight recipe for a levain at 78-82F. Let me know if you want to figure that out. It helps to stretch the time out on the experiment for the overnight recipe to be as accurate as possible. In fact, if you were to do a 10:100:100 feeding and see how it goes in the oven at 78-82F, that might be even better. The reason I say that is because for the overnight version at such a warm temperature in the oven w/pilot on (around 78 to 82), you will want a tiny amount of starter in the overnight sponge, so better to measure the starter at a very high feeding ratio to know what it will do.

It's fine to use some of your storage starter that you were feeding 10:20:30. The trick is to know the hydration of the starter, the amount of water, the amount of flour, and the temperature, then figure out as closely as possible how long it takes to double the volume.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

It's slowly sinking in Bill; sometimes the number of variables in this process overwhelms me, other times it just fascinates!

So even doing an overnight with a tiny amount, you get a mild flavor? I think I've been confused about the effects of time on sourdough flavor. It's become very clear to me that time impacts flavor, but I was thinking that meant very sour when using wild yeast, and only multiple builds would allow mildness.

I'm going to be out of the kitchen for a while, so I'll have to take this up again in a week or so. Drat, just when it was getting interesting!

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

All other things being equal, like temperature, hydration, salt, the mildest bread should come from "no builds", in other words from a small inoculation directly into the dough. Each build, if allowed to ripen fully, can contribute extra fermentation byproducts, since the ripening stage results in a building concentration of those byproducts in the build. If you do a "one-step" method and you don't overproof it, none of the extra byproducts from ripe previous builds will be contributed. The biggest effect on "sour" flavor comes from overly ripe (overproofed) dough itself, and secondarily from very ripe levains contributed to the dough. There is also a temperature effect, and the condition of the starter, which affects the relative activity and relative population of yeast vs. lactobacillus. However, if you have a well maintained starter and use temperatures closer to 70-80, those issues will be less important.

By using your oven at 80F or so, you could probably make a "one-step" bread starting in the morning and baking in the evening.

Bill

 

edh's picture
edh

Well that does make sense, when you put it like that. Bother. I remember way back when (last year), at the start of my sourdough journey, reading about the effects of different levels of lactobacillus vs yeast on taste, and getting thoroughly confused. As a result I've steadfastly ignored the effect of temperature on anything but time, since factoring that into my flavor issues sent me into a tailspin.

Of course what you say makes perfect sense; fewer builds, less opportunity to build up the acid levels. Now that the starter is behaving in a reasonably predictable fashion, maybe I can go back and start again with single builds.

I have a vague memory from just about a year ago of one of those ridiculous beginners luck moments when I took the NYT NK recipe, replaced the yeast with some random amount of starter, and produced the best looking and tasting loaf I'd ever made. Never been able to repeat it; they always overproofed and tasted like sour bricks. I think I'd like to work towards something like that again, though I don't really mess around with the pot anymore, just bake it on a sheet with a roasting pan over it for the beginning.

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Edh,

I did a blog entry on an SD no-knead recipe I tried. At 82F, it should bulk ferment for about 7.5 hours and proof for about 1.75 hours. That was with a white bread flour. It will go faster with whole wheat or rye in it. You could try doing the whole thing in one day, as described. It should somewhat less than double (maybe 1.5 to 1.75 times in volume) before shaping, but is fine if you let it fully double before shaping, just use the same total mix-to-bake time, regardless of when you shape. So, note the time you mix the dough, and figure out when it should go in the oven, based on total bake time. The timing shouldn't be too different for your starter, but I'm wondering if it has sped up to be about the same as mine and very typical now that you've fed it for a while longer.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Thanks Bill,

That looks like a great place to start when I get back into the kitchen. Sounds like something I can start early-ish and finish before a reasonable bedtime!

edh

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Zolablue, can you explain to me what you mean by a one build method? Following an experiment (to avoid dumping any starter) I have now completely altered my bread making methods and it works great - I wondered if yours was the same??!!

 

Andrew