The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Proofing Time

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chris319's picture
chris319

Proofing Time

I'm trying to capture the flavor of the really sour San Francisco sourdoughs of years gone by, such as Larraburu. In a recent effort I was so close but so far away. The good news is that I had the flavor pretty much nailed. The bad news is that the bread didn't rise. Now we must ask why.

In my pursuit of a really sour flavor, I'm afraid I let the dough proof way too long (actually I fell asleep and by the time I got up it was too late.) The dough had proofed for about 12 hours at around 86 degrees F and had turned to mush. It went in as dough and came out as batter. No amount of added flour or kneading could save it; it was gone. I'm thinking the 12-hour proof is the reason why. Is this a telltale symptom of overproofing? I baked the loaf and the lesson learned is that the long proofing time was likely responsible for the flavor being just right. I'm thinking a lot of yeast spores died in those 12 hours.

The next day I made another loaf but proofed for just 8 hours (an alarm clock is your friend). This loaf had somewhat lower hydration. This time it went in as dough and came out as dough and had a pretty good rise and texture. The flavor was good but definitely milder than the previous loaf.

So my dilemma is this: how to maximize sourness by using a longer proof time without the dough turning to batter and failing to rise? First I must answer the question of whether overproofing was the reason my dough went mushy (I suspect it is).

The Larraburu bakery proofed for 4 hours at 105 degrees F, but the question has been raised whether such a high temperature would kill some of the microbes (including L. SanFran which gives it the sour flavor). A competing S.F. bakery proofed for 8 hours at 86 degrees F.

I am thinking about arriving at a good proof time experimentally, increasing it by one hour each time until I find the proof time at which the dough turns to batter. For my next loaf I was going to try a 9- or 10-hour proof.

Another way to increase the sourness which I haven't tried would be to add diastatic malt which is already in the flour I'm using (KA unbleached all-purpose).

Thoughts?

Ford's picture
Ford

After you have bulk proofed and shaped your loaves, place them in the refrigerator overnight to proof.   When they have risen appropriately, bake as usual.  The bake time may require an extra minute or so to reach the proper internal temperature.  If this is not sour enough for you, do both the bulk and the final proofing in the refrigerator.

Ford

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Ford has hit the nail on the head.  The unfortunate thing is that most of our refrigerators are (should be) kept at a lower temperature than the ideal for retarding.  Ideally to get a good sour you want to stay at around 50-55 degrees where as your fridge is probably more like 40...none the less, it is your best option.  At different temperature ranges a sour will inclined to produce either acetic or lactic acid, so the temperature you are proofing at is very crucial to obtaining the characteristics you desire.

chris319's picture
chris319

With S.F. sourdough it is all about cultivating the L.SanFran.

I will give the cold retard a try: 8 hours at 86 degrees followed by some more hours in the fridge.

I just reread a post complaining of SFSD not being sour enough. The proofing temperature was 104 degrees. The poster may have killed off a lot of microorganisms, and flavor, at that temperature.

Some have introduced rye flour to try to get more sourness, but I'm not going to go there because I don't know that any of the S.F. bakeries used rye and I want to remain authentic.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

How do you keep / maintain your starter, hydration?, inoculation ratio?, temperature?

I keep an Italian style sourdough for Panettone and this has a great deal in common with San Franciso sourdough. Currently I make lean breads and I'm constantly trying to fight the sour...!

You starter is batter-like from what I remember, right? Make the move to a firm dough as would be the case with the gold miners of times gone bye... This will certainly help avoid the dough breakdown you have experienced.

chris319's picture
chris319

I am making my dough less hydrated to compensate for the use of a liquid starter. The starter consistency I'm using is what works for me. I wouldn't call it batter-like. It's a bit thicker than that but still pourable. Think milkshake thickness.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Making your dough less hydrated is no compensation at all. The nature of a liquid starter is completely different to a firm, solid one. Maintenance of the starter is key, there is no escaping that fact. Follow the procedure for San Francisco sourdough French bread and you'll get the results... When you say "it works for me" I take that, what you really mean is that it is most convenient for you. Well you're going to have to forgo the convenience if you want the results you seek because evidently it doesn't work for you...

Some history. Back in the days when all bread was naturally leavened the French adopted the polish technique of a wet starter because it produced a milder bread compared to the solid sourdough so typical at the time.

Every little difference matters. Realise this and realise the craft of sourdough bread making.

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

@mwilson...

"the nature of liquid starter is different to a firm, solid one".

Besides the obvious hydration difference, can you elaborate on the other differences, as you understand them?

TIA

Les

mwilson's picture
mwilson

A firm starter matures more slowly but it accumulates more total acid before L.sanfranciscensis stop reproducing. Flour potentially equals acid as LABs grow. The flour is simply more dilute in a wet starter.

A firm starter has more force and can operate harder and longer before the dough melts due to proteolysis. Way longer!

So essentially you can introduce more LABs with a firm starter and mature your dough longer to achieve more sourness / total acid.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Check out   Refreshment of starter, second paragraph   Wiki link

note there are two types of sour flavors, the trick is in balancing them for what you want when you want it. 

We all taste things a little bit differently and memory does play tricks.  The same piece of bread or wine can taste differently depending on what's pared with it and when it was tasted.  Part of the fun!

chris319's picture
chris319

I tried the refrigerator proof -- thanks for the suggestion -- 8 hours at 86 degrees and 4 hours in the fridge. The good news is that the dough didn't rurn to mush after 12 hours of combined proofing, but it's still milder than I would like. The L.SanFran flavor is definitely there but I would like it to be more intense. Maybe 8 hours in the fridge instead of 4?

As stated in the OP, I had the flavor down pat with the same starter and a 12-hour proof at 86 degrees, but the dough turned soupy and didn't rise. That I was able to get the flavor just right with the same starter leads me to think there isn't a problem with the starter. I,too, am interested in hearing the rationale for the stiff starter vs liquid.

One thing we know is that the Larraburu proof was at 105 degrees F. The other bakeries used 86.

Here is some temperature data from Cranbo's blog:

Reproduction Rates of Labs and Yeast 
T(°F)T (°C)L. SF IL. SF IIYeastL/Y Ratio
36° F2° C0.0190.0160.0053.787
46° F8° C0.0470.0430.0212.222
61° F16° C0.1440.150.1141.265
64° F18° C0.1870.1980.1631.145
68° F20° C0.2390.2590.2251.064
72° F22° C0.3010.3320.2951.021
75° F24° C0.3740.4160.3651.024
79° F26° C0.4530.5080.4141.094
82° F28° C0.5350.5980.4171.284
86° F30° C0.6090.6720.3461.76
90° F32° C0.6580.7060.2023.255
93° F34° C0.6570.6710.05013.127
chris319's picture
chris319

I'll have to make a firm starter. I should be able to use my existing liquid starter as an inoculum.

Could it be that the acid buildup from a 12-hour proof not only gave me the sought-after flavor but also caused the proteolysis that liquified the dough?

This from the article about Larraburu:

"The starter sponge consists of 100 parts of clear flour (14% protein), approximately 50 parts of water, and 50 parts of the starter sponge.  The ingredients are mixed and fermented for 9-10 hr at 80°F."

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Yes. The protease enzymes are pH dependent. As the acidity increases proteolytic activity increases. 

chris319's picture
chris319

A simple trick seems to have alleviated the problem of dough liquification.

In his book, Professor Raymond Calvel suggests that salt inhibits proteolysis in bread dough. We add water and salt to sourdough bread dough. The trick is to dissolve the salt in the water prior to adding them to the dough.

I have a loaf which has been proofing for 10 hours and the dough has not liquified.

I hope this is for real and not just a temporary illusion.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Salt works by reducing water activity which slows enzymes. The same thing is accomplished with lower hydration. A firm starter will introduce less proteolytic potential.

Whether you dissolved the salt first or not shouldn't really make a difference. 

chris319's picture
chris319

I made a firm starter Sunday according to the Larraburu formula. After 8 hours at 86 degrees it was mush.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

One feed is not enough. You need to condition it to the new environment. Repeat the process and you'll see over time it will not break down under those conditions.

chris319's picture
chris319

I already said it is not breaking down and I explained what I did differently.

chris319's picture
chris319

I used the salt water trick and my dough survived a 12-hour proof with no breakdown. The sourness is definitely coming along. For my tastes it would take a lot to make this bread too sour. Progress!