The Fresh Loaf

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Mixed Flour Levain with Long Autolyse

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breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Mixed Flour Levain with Long Autolyse

There has been lots of discussion here and elsewhere (notably Ken Forkish in FWSY and Ian in his Ars Pistorica blog) on the benefits of long autolyse.  I thought I would do a side by side comparison to see what the difference in taste is, since, after all, that's the main reason we all bake so much.  Just for fun, I also wanted to try a more complex levain.  I have been using a simple straight wheat levain that I maintain at around 100% hydration.  After reading posts by Tom (Toad.de.b) and MC (Farine) on the mixed flour blend used by Gérard Rubaud, it seemed this would be a place to start in order to get a better flavor.  I adjusted the levain flour blend to the same as in the final dough. For the autolyse, I used only the wheat flours (AP, bread and whole wheat), mixing in the rye and spelt together with the levain because I am not sure if the additional enzymatic activity would make the dough too slack (aha, another experiment!).

The loaves baked very much like other levain loaves that i have made with similar hydrations (about 72-73%) with nice blooms and singing crusts. 

The comparison loaves were made with the same formula except for using a 30 min. autolyse instead of the overnight refrigerated autolyse, and I did deviate slightly by shaping them into 500g loaves instead of the 1000g ones above.

The flavor was definitely more intense on the loaves that were autolysed for around 16 hours.  Compared to breads I made in the past using a straight wheat levain with the same flour blend, the flavors were  more nutty and wheaty.  Also, the texture was much more creamy on the longer autolysed loaves and the crumb highly gelatinized (the photo doesn't do it justice). 

This is all consistent with what others have been saying.  I've been just a little slow on the uptake here.

The formula, which is scaled to two 1000g loaves after baking, is below:

I'm very happy with these loaves, and I plan to try them again upping the hydration to around 78%.  The other questions that still need to be answered are whether long autolyse with rye and spelt negatively affect the dough, and what is the difference between the refrigerated and room temperature autolyse used as an enzymatic preferment.

-Brad

 [Edit: Replace formula panel because some lines in Method were incomplete.]

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Wow, these are really awesome loaves.  Would you mind if I featured them on the home page for a bit?

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Appreciate the kind words, and I'd be honored!

-Brad

(BTW, the site looks great and everything seems to be working for me.)

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Thanks, Brad.

ml's picture
ml

Hi Brad,

You've restored my will to try again:) My 12hr autolyse of 100% WW gave me an exhausted dough. No much oven spring, no cut, soft crust. Oddly, the flavor was fine, even had some nice open texture, although fairly flat.

I'll try yours, next.

ml

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi ml,

You learn from every success, but also from failures.  A mixed flour dough may do better than a 100% WW.  Don't give up on the long autolyse, the results make it worthwhile.

-Brad

varda's picture
varda

we can't taste the difference over the interwebs, but nice to hear your report.   And nudging me closer to giving it a try.   In any case, nice baking!  -Varda

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Do try it when you take a break from those great rye breads and pugliese you've been perfecting.

-Brad

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

that your bread is top notch and now taste wise too. I've been experimenting on autolyse and retards for some time now and will back up your findings.  I've developed the 6 hour rule for autolyse.  if it is gong to be longer than 6 hours, than at 6 hours it goes in the fridge for breads that are up to 50% whole grains.

I too like to pack starters and levains with whole grains and do not use any AP in them at all any more.   Since we usually go for 30% minimum up to 100% whole grain breads, packing the levain with whole grain isn't a problem adn we usually have a lot of dough flour that is whole grain too.  We haven't had any problem autolysing 100% whole grains on the counter for 4 hours if the room temp is 75 F or less.   We even chuck in some diastatic malt and non diastatic malt without problem along with BM Syrup and sweeteners.   For 50-100% whole grain autolyse we also add the salt and,at 4 hours, it goes in the fridge so we can get an 8 hour total autolyse out of it without problem.  We have done 12 hours too but it is less fool proof. 

I think you too will find the best way for you to get in a long autolyse for every bake as it does make all the difference in taste, sour and color.  I'm not into holes much since most of my bakes with so much whole grains don't lend themselves to large holes,  But it you want taste, then your experiments with autolyse will  pay big dividends. as will those exploring retarding of dough, starters and levain builds.  Between long cold autolyse and retards for dough, starter and levains with a high temp final proof seem to produce the best tasting SD breads with the best crumb and crusts around here.     Now that is getting to be summer around AZ we will soon be going to our Summer Schedule that just means less time on teh counter and more time in the fridge. 

Happy baking 

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

I read your posts, and even have tried a couple of your formulas even though the ingredient list is sometimes intimidating and I can't find Toadies anywhere ;-).  It took a while before the long autolyse technique connected with me, but I'm a convert now.  For this loaf, my thinking was that if the levain was made with the same ratios of flour as the final dough, it would grow the most efficient mixture of LAB.  Maybe that's crazy, but it seemed logical at the time.  I'm glad that you confirmed that your whole grain autolyse doesn't exceed 6 hours at room temp.

-Brad

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Seems like a very productive experiment with a great outcome.

I'm betting that including the rye and spelt in the long autolyse won't do any harm, but I'll stay tuned for your report.

David

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

It's certainly nice to compare the different techniques side-by-side instead of trying to remember what the last bake tasted like.  I hope to follow up with some more variations very soon.  I'll keep you posted.

-Brad

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Beautiful Breads, Brad! they look perfect.

I agree with David, adding spelt and rye to the autolyze will not do any harm. However, you may want to reduce the bench time after refrigeration, as spelt and rye activate fermentation faster.

-Khalid

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Khalid,

Thanks, and I'll certainly keep that in mind.  Watching the dough has become an ingrained habit by now.  I'll let you know how it works out.

-Brad

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Very nice Brad,

Cheers,
Phil

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Thanks Phil.  I watch the progress of your WF oven and hope you're ready for production soon.

-Brad

Bread Head's picture
Bread Head

why did the crust crack like that in the 3rd picture?

I try to figure that out all the time with some of my loaves.

Thanks

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Bread Head,

That loaf was scored with two "interlocking" semi-circles or spirals from the center out.  It's a fun way to score.

-Brad

Edit: I think I misread your question. The cracking comes during the cooling of the loaf, and if it happens a lot, the sound is referred to as singing. The crust needs to be fully baked and hardened for this to happen.

lumos's picture
lumos

What beautiful loaves you made there.  Both crust and crumb are just perfect! Love the way you scored them, especially the 2x semi-circular cuts.

Interesting experiment on long autolyse, too. I've been contemplating if I should try that myself, though I keep my SD in a fridge, so it may not work as well, as art has warned in his blog.  Longest autolyse I've done before was 5-6 hrs at room temperature. It worked fine but only slight difference in flavour from shorter autolyse. (but required much more muscle power to mix autolysed flour and SD in evenly....)  Maybe I need to be a little braver and extend autolyse...

Thank you for sharing your experience.

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Lumos,

That type of scoring works well on boules especially.  It takes some good hand-eye coordination (which I often lack) as you have to rotate the loaf on a peel while you adjust the position of the lame.  If you try it, I found that it requires less baking time based on the weight lost (and assuming this is all water loss).  The batards generally lose about 15% of their weight and this one lost nearly 20%.  The scores are equivalent in length to about twice a single score in a batard, so I guess there is more escape vents for the steam.  For all that, though, the crumb didn't seem dry at all.

Try the long autolyse, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  I think it was Tom (Toad.de.b) that suggested that 2013 would be the year of the long autolyse, and I think he's right.

-Brad

ml's picture
ml

According to the Ars Pistorica  blog, the maintenance starter is THE determining factor of the bread, started & maintained with specific % of seed/flour/H2O.

Everyone says the % of seed in build, & hydration of build, & what flours, but no one mentions the % of their maintenance starter, as far as seed. ie- the above formula " I have been using a simple straight wheat levain that I maintain at around 100% hydration." Each baker is so convinced that their ratios are what make all the difference, so why do we not include this info in the formulas?

How important do you all think this is?

ml

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

I'm sure Ian (Ars Pistorica) has a lot of great information.  I have tried (unsuccessfully) to reproduce his method of creating a starter twice.  My "old" maintenance starter is almost 3 years old, and was done using the pineapple method and I refrigerate it.  It works fine, and the breads are excellent.  Are the all the LAB L. sanfrancensis? I have never had it tested.  But as I said, it makes great bread. I also don't think I have the tastebuds to discriminate between great bread and the best.

Having said that, just to clarify, for this recipe, I converted my 100% wheat starter to an 80% mixed flour starter (the %-ages are listed and the seed listed is the maintenance starter).  I'm maintaining both starters for now.  I may give one up at some point.

-Brad

ml's picture
ml

Thanks Brad, for your response. I'm also not sure that I could maintain the LAB L starter.

But the question I still have is about the seed amount used in everyone's maintenance starter, ie-your 100% WW, do you use 10% seed in your maintenance build , 1/3rd, 5%(as Pips does now),30-50% as SFBI suggests, etc.?   Someone posted a worksheet to easily figure a build from one hydration to another, using about 33% seed. The builds I started with, a certain person's personal opinion of the best, is about 15% seed in the maintenance build. I understand that, then, that a percentage of THIS is used in whatever levain formula someone has chosen to make.

So, how much difference does it make? How much flavor difference will there be using 15g of a starter with a 15% seed, as opposed to 15g from a 1:1:1 build?

What has made the decision for some of you? Has anyone here done any comparisons? 

ml

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi ml,

I'm not sure I understand your question.  It may be a matter of the name we use for different things.  What I call the seed is my maintenance starter (kept separately).  I use a portion of it for the final build of the levain.  The amount of seed that I use is nominally adjusted to fit with my schedule.  For example, I may use a large seed if I want to bake later the same day, since the larger the seed, the larger the population of LAB and yeast and the faster it will ripen.  I might use a small seed if I let it ripen overnight and extract the most flavor.

I hope this helps. Sorry if this doesn't answer your question, but please clarify it further.  

-Brad

ml's picture
ml

Thanks,

I am asking what percentages do you use when maintaining your starter. Not the build to a levain.

For example, is your 100% WW maintenance starter  100g flour, 100g H2O, & 25g levain? Or 100g levain? Or does it matter?

ml

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Any starter can become a maintenance starter, although I am not sure I like the word maintenance.  Different flour blends give you different flavors, so experiment to find one you like.  Like most cooking, there is no right or wrong answer.  I don't think I can say I have a specific starter, as I am keeping up 3 at the moment.

For this bread, I used the flour blend recommended by Gérard Rubaud (there's a link in the original post).  It's 70% white AP flour, 18% WW flour, 9% whole spelt and 3% whole rye mixed to a hydration of 80%.  The purpose of this experiment was to compare the flavor in this starter to my previous standard 100% white bread flour.  I find that it does make a flavor difference, and I prefer the mixed flour starter.  Now that will probably become what I keep around as the basis for my future levains, or I may make further adjustments.  It's all a matter of taste.

-Brad 

ml's picture
ml

Hi Brad,

Thanks for your patience, & responding to all of my questions. I promise, this is the last one.

Frank Sally believes that the beginning starter can be anything, because, after 3 builds with the formula you want, it is totally converted. That would make it simpler. What do you think?

ml

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

It seems reasonable for wheat based starters, and that is basically what I have been doing for years.  I'm not so sure ryes would behave the same, but I don't really know enough about them.  Give it a try and let us know how you fare.  Good luck.

-Brad

ml's picture
ml

ehanner mentions the same in his blog Sour starter frustrations.

I'm just wondering how people decide what to use, & how much, when maintaining their starter.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

thanks

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Sorry, I was using shorthand since there have been a number of recent posts on the book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.

-Brad

LanaD's picture
LanaD

I know this is an old post so dont know if anyone will see this.

I am new to this site andhave only been obsessed with breadmaking for about 5months (the age of my sourdough starter, as well) Been trying to get a decent steam with mixed results.  I noticed in your formula above you used wet towels. Can you explain how you did that?  Lay them around the stone? under it in a pan?

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Lana,

Steaming is one of the things I found most difficult to accomplish, so don't feel bad that you are having trouble.  I tried many different methods (you can search for "steam" or "steaming" here on TFL for many discussions on the subject).  The method I use is twofold and is based on a post by SylviaH.  I have a small cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven and a large cast iron griddle on the top shelf.  I presteam the oven with a cup of boiling water poured into the bottom pan.  While this is steaming, I saturate two terry cloth towels with hot water, place them in a pyrex dish and microwave them to get them good and hot (about 5 min.).  I then peel the loaves onto the stone, and using tongs transfer the towels to the griddle and close the oven door. I have tried steaming with the towels from under and above the stone and get the best results from above.

Based on a number of comments that I have read, steaming is highly dependent on your oven.  Gas ovens are very difficult to steam because they are well vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  My oven is electric, and it seems to be very well sealed since I can feel a big blast of steam when I open the door to remove the towels. Another word of caution: avoid splattering water on the glass door of the oven as it may cause it to shatter.

Good luck.

-Brad

LanaD's picture
LanaD

Thanks for the great idea, I'll try it with my sourdough loaf tomorrow