The Fresh Loaf

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Help! No Rise During Bulk Fermentation

makerman's picture
makerman

Help! No Rise During Bulk Fermentation

Hi TFL-ers.  I'm new here and was finally moved to post after a series of failures with my Tartine loaves.  I successfully baked Tartine loaves for years, then took a break after my son was born.  Now I'm back at it, but all of my loaves have been flat as pancakes.

My new starter seems pretty active.  I feed it equal parts (by weight) ww flour and water, morning and night.  It doubles (or more) in about 8 hours at warm room temp.  When risen, it is full of bubbles and seems very aerated.

When I make my levain, it also seems active, and passes the float test after about 8-10 hours at warm room temp.

When I add my levain to the dough for the bulk fermentation, however, everything comes to a grinding halt.  While I do see some bubbles form on the surface of the dough, I am seeing very little rise, if any.  I have tried extending the bulk fermentation to as much as 12+ hours, but ended up with a soupy mess instead of dough.  I have tried reducing the bulk fermentation to see if perhaps I'm exhausting the yeast with a too-long rise, and got dense, unleavened loaves.

I don't think temperature is the problem, as I have used a proofing box (an old cooler tricked out with a thermostat and a 30W bulb) to maintain a temp of about 80 degrees, and still saw the same results.  I have also tried bulking on my kitchen counter and on top of the water heater.  Same results each time.

Any thoughts on what could be causing this?  I am so puzzled as to how I could have an apparently active starter and then fail to leaven any of my loaves.

Some thoughts that occur to me:

1.  I'm feeding my starter 100% ww flour.  The levain is 50% ww flour.  The dough, however, is only 10% ww flour.  Is it possible that my starter has been trained to only do well with a high percentage of ww flour?

2.  I'm using coarse kosher salt, whereas I usually used fine salt in the past.  Is it possible the coarse salt is dissolving later during the bulk and messing with fermentation?

Thanks in advance for your replies.  I'm loving this community!

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Weigh and Mix up a few tablespoons of the ready to use culture with enough flour to thicken into a medium dough ball stiff enough to hold its shape. Weigh again.  Roll in flour, cover with a glass bowl and watch it.  Record everything on the hour.   What happens?

makerman's picture
makerman

i will try that this weekend and report back

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

advance to use in a bake when it is mature.  You might want to repeat adding a few tablespoons of water before adding the flour.  :)

phaz's picture
phaz

Tell more about the starter - how old is it? I ask cuz a doubling in 8 hrs at those temps seems a little slow. Room temp in my apt is 60F in winter, and my starter will go more than double in 8 hrs. At 70-75F, it's under 4 hrs to at least doubled. My starter lives in the fridge. I go straight from fridge to levain build (about 15% starter and a mix of white and about 20% ww) and will at least double at 60F in 10 hrs., at 70-75 it'll triple in about 5 hrs. A young starter with low yeast and high lab counts may be making things too acidic, which may account for the "soupy mess" after the longer ferment.

makerman's picture
makerman

It's about 6,weeks old, I think.  It went inactive at the beginning after an initial bout of frothiness, so I fed it pineapple juice for a few days and switched from 50/50 ap/ww flour to 100% ww. That was about 4 weeks ago.  It's been on water and ww flour ever since.

its quite acidic tasting when it's ripe.  I store it in the fridge and have been taking it out and feeding 2x per day starting a couple days before I want to bake.

if the problem is low yeast count, is there anything I can do to encourage more yeast? 

phaz's picture
phaz

How much are you feeding it after it comes out of the fridge? What ratios?

makerman's picture
makerman

i usually feed 1 tbs starter with 3 tbs flour and 2 tbs water.  By weight I think that breaks out to 1:2:2 starter:flour:water

BreadBabies's picture
BreadBabies

I've been really struggling with something similar. My starter is rye and insanely active growing 3.5 times its normal amount in probably 10 hours. But I just made a levain last night with 100% white flour and it's barely showing any life at all after 12 hours.

If I recall correctly, the tartine starter is 50/50. Maybe you'd have more success working with that.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

looking for here was if the starter was all rye.  :)   It's a wheat starter, just a little weak I think.

phaz's picture
phaz

That's what I was focusing on. It seems a little slow, not enough feed when it comes out of the fridge to dilute things much, so it just looks a little slow. You can try a higher starter ratio, or work some rye in and give it a little more time.

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

Over the past few weeks I used a wee bit (3g) of my rye starter to create what is now pretty much a whole grain durum starter (there may still be a few molecules of rye in there, but nothing discernible).  I found that the wheat wasn't nearly as quick to respond as the rye, and so did some searching here and followed some suggestions that I found on some old threads here to go back to the basics with discarding and then rebuilding with a very small amount of starter and 3 to 5 times as much flour and water for a bit.

I found that keeping it at no less than 78 degrees (I keep it in the microwave with a cup of hot water - so between 78-85 degrees), and doing the first feed of 3g starter / 15g flour / 15g water (shooting for 100% hydration), waiting for four (4) hours then discarding all but 3g and repeating the first feed, waiting for 4 hours and - if it HAS doubled in that time, then use it for the levain build (I go 3 stage based on dabrownman's NMNF http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/40918/no-muss-no-fuss-starter ) or if it has NOT doubled, then discarding all but 3g and repeating it again... and this time letting it peak and fall at least 12 hours before starting the process again.

It took 3 rounds of discard / feed on the first day, and 2 rounds of discard / feed on the second day before it more than doubled in the 4 hours.  After that, I built it up to my wanted levain size plus a bit more to put back in to the fridge for a future durum / wheat bake.  I do find that the durum is more picky than the rye for timing on using the levain, and that it works best for me when the levain has peaked and dropped to the start of the "turning back to liquid" stage (about 8-10 hours after peak for me).  When I tried to use it just after peak, I got minimal bulk rise.

From what I just experienced, I'm wondering if you might want to give this kind of schedule a try for a couple of days, and see if that changes the nature of the beasties in your starter - and see if trying a different timing for when to put the levain in to the dough helps with rise, too.