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Long bulk room temperature fermentation compared to biga/poolish or fridge

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scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

Long bulk room temperature fermentation compared to biga/poolish or fridge

For a little background, i am in my second or third month of "real" breadmaking here, and making a lot of progress thanks to this site and the books I have learned about here.  I have now read several Reinhart books and am most of the way through Hamelman at this point.  From all of these books I have come to a conclusion that a strong pattern in good bread recipes is having at least some of the dough ferment for a long time.  What I don't understand however is why it seems to be either they recommend a smaller amount of dough fermenting at room temperature for a long time (biga/poolish/starter), or the whole bulk fermenting for a long time in the fridge (pain a l'ancienne etc).  The way I have been fermenting is based on what I learned from pizza making, namely a long room-temperature fermentation (the traditional Neapolitan pizza method).  For white breads I do around 12 hours and up to 24 hours for whole wheat, always starting with a very small amount of yeast.  I use active dry yeast in a very small amount and do not hydrate it in advance; it can take up to 12 hours for any rise to start (but, I have yet to have a failure).  I like this technique because of its simplicity.  The dough de facto gets a long autolyze step in the beginning due to the very low concentration of yeast.  I have done some fridge fermentations, but don't particularly like doing it because of the longer time and need to pull it out to warm up, which gets me behind time-wise.  I don't like the extra hassle of the biga/poolish/etc even though I am sure they work well.  All I have to do is throw it in a bowl and do a stretch-and-fold every now and then.


I have read various posts here on the different methods and have heard mention of the advantages of the cold fermentation in the fridge vs a warmer one due to the yeast processes.  I am also a beer maker and have clearly noticed the importance of fermentation temperature there. But, room-temperature in fact does lead to world-class beers in some styles.  What I don't quite understand in the end is why there is not more focus on long, low-yeast, room-temperature fermentations since it seems to work very well to me and is incredibly easy.  Has anyone every done a side-by-side test for example?


 


Scott


PS here is my latest concoction, "Mutt Loaf".


 


220 grams KA white bread flour 50%


44 grams each of rye spelt oat amaranth quinoa flour 10% each 50% total


366 grams water 83%


9 grams salt 2%


pinch (30 granules or so) active dry yeast

 


 


Mutt Loaf


Mutt Loaf Cross Section

LazySumo's picture
LazySumo

Beautiful bread, Scott. I belive there is some sort of sliding relationship between fermentation temps and amount of yeast required and time it will take to achieve complete ferment. Also, don't forget that (speaking in brewer's terms) a 'complete ferment' is subjective. If you put the bread in the oven before the ferment is done you WILL end up with residual sugars in the bread, resulting in slightly sweeter bread than a complete ferment. Maybe that's another variable you want to be able to control.

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

It's really a question of differing goals between bread and beer making.

You see, in bread making, the goal of long fermentation isn't to allow the yeast to act over a long period of time. It's to give enzymes and bacteria in the dough more time, so the former can break down starches and proteins into sugars and amino acids, and the latter can consume some of that food to produce flavour compounds. It is this action which, ultimately, produces the flavour complexity we're shooting for.

As such, there is no particular reason to allow the yeast to work at room temperature, and at least one reason not to: there's a much greater chance you'll overproof the dough, which will result in gluten breakdown.

As an aside, I'm really not convinced you can compare the process of making beer with that of making bread. Ultimately, the goals are very very different: in the former, the yeast act primarily to consume sugars to produce alcohol, generating flavour compounds as a by-product. As such, yeast is really the prime actor in the process, and the goal is typically to encourage yeast activity at relatively warm temperatures. In the latter, the purpose of yeast is first and foremost to leaven the bread, and to produce some flavour compounds as a by-product. But they are by no means the whole story, as things like enzymes and bacteria also play a key role. As such, you typically want the yeast to only work enough to leaven the bread fully, and no more, lest they exhaust the supply of sugar in the dough (which we like!) and produce by-products which will break down the gluten structure.

scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

Thanks for the comments.  It sounds like the main downside of long room temperature fermentation is overdoing it, including too little sugar left due to too-long fermentation, and gluten breakdown.  I have never noticed gluten breakdown, I always get a good rise.  Having too little sugar I am not sure how to tell.  


The way I gauge the degree is by how much it rises.  I aim for two doublings, the first one taking 12 hours and the next one taking maybe 8 hours.  Sometimes I don't get the first doubling until 18 hours.  Sometimes it gets three rises.  I don't proof the loaves before putting them in the oven, so that will limit the total amount of yeast activity compared to most recipes.


It seems like the amount of rise is telling us how much total yeast activity has occurred, since the CO2 is the byproduct of yeast activity.  So, if I am getting the same number of rises as a "regular" recipe then it should be the same total amount of activity.  The one exception to that is if one of the rises is overdone, so it goes "over max", venting gases out of holes in the top.  I try to avoid that but occasionally it happens.  But, as long as I avoid that and control the total number of rises, there will not be a problem with overfermenting (in terms of total yeast activity that is).  Right?


 


Scott


 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Sounds right to me. :)

TroutEhCuss's picture
TroutEhCuss

Good educational discussion.  Sounds like class is dismissed.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

My settled-on MO has been to take a bread recipe with interesting-looking ingredients and convert it to 100% whole grain with a small amount of yeast and a long refrigerator rise. I pretty much ignore the recipe instructions (like proofing the yeast, even though I use active dry yeast) and whatever they say about rises. So far my results have been splendiforous - good light crumbs despite being 100% whole grain, and great flavors.

Your idea, Scott, would change my routine by allowing me to use even less yeast. Currently, I change the recipe quantity from 1 or two packets of yeast to a teaspoon or less. With the room-temperature rise, I would use just a few grains. Room temperature around here runs in the low sixties anyway.

We'll just have to see what happens. Maybe it'll be better, maybe not. Timing is more critical, but it's something to try.

Rosalie

scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

Rosalie, it sounds like we have similar philosophies as far as sticking to a standard method with all recipes - I am always doing my long, low-yeast room temperature rise whatever the recipe states.  I have also been primarily doing 100% whole grain.  If you do try the room temperature method I would be interested in your comments on how it compared with your fridge method.


Scott


 

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

About the only difference between our philosophies, I think, is the amount of yeast and the temperature.  That's why I thought I ought to try your approach. 


Rosalie

rideold's picture
rideold

While I have not done a side by side comparison between the two methods but I have found over the last couple of years that I've been baking that I prefer room temp over fridge.  I find that I can time my breads to my schedule better by adjusting the leaven content.  Just a personal decision for me.


From what I understand the reason to extend fermentation is to allow the water and flour to interact so the gluten is fully hydrated and any enzymatic interactions can develop the flavor.  Yeast will leaven a bread quicker or slower depending on how much you use and how warm the environment is.  Using the "right" amount of yeast is a balance between proper rising/fermentation and allowing the water and flour an adequate interaction period.  Using a larger dose of leaven and then delaying fermentation in the fridge is one way to do this.  Using a small amount of leaven and leaving it on the counter is another.  Do they give the same result?   I think the results are pretty similar.  Using pre-ferments is another way to get at developing good flavor as well.


With that said.....if it is a hot summer day the fridge may be the only option just as in the winter my kitchen stays pretty cold all night so for a period of time I have to add more leaven to get the same schedule to work.  Elevation plays a similar role but that's another topic all together :)


I'm with both of you on the whole grain focus and I don't use the fridge unless I have to.  I don't have much desire to work on changing my technique to use the fridge.  There's never much room in there most days.  Anyway, kind of a rambling repsonse to say I agree with you that long ferment, low leaven, room temp breads are great.  Historically this was about all there was since refridgeration was not available to the masses until pretty recently (in terms of how long bread baking has been around)  I'm not big on doing controlled comparisons but if someone takes the time I'd be interested in hearing their thoughts.


As to why there isn't more focus on the low leaven, room temp fermentation?  I'd say it is largely because books like The Bread Baker's Apprentice have put the fridge forward as a convenient way to get great flavored bread.  It is an innovation in some ways and does allow for a more "precise" timed baking schedule.  I for one am not terrible concerned about that.  I bake bread because the process is enjoyable and the end result is nourising, useful and brings my food closer to home.  Letting the bread drift into that magical window where everything comes together is worth a little extra time for me and I have a hard time feeling refridgerated dough and knowing when it is right so room temp is my goal.  Well, baking something good is really my goal.  Room temp fermentation is really just my preferred tool.

scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

Thanks, its very nice to hear I am not the only person into this method!  I had read a recipe or two here with long room-temp ferments but that was about it.  


i am just now learning about the points you mention on how the temperature affects things -- when it was still warm I got a good rise every night, but when the cold weather came recently, I was waking up to barely risen dough.  I actually find it easier that way because for making bread during the week it is most convenient to have a full 24 hours of fermenting: make after kids go to bed one night, and bake after they are in bed the next night.  I do a stretch-and-fold the next morning however much or little it has risen.  It will be harder in the summer when the bread is rising too much.


Scott

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

That's the advantage of a controlled environment like a refrigerator.  You can have a consistent schedule.


Rosalie

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Let's see.  I started Sunday afternoon.  I followed The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book recipe for Buttermilk Bread on page 176, using just a pinch of yeast.  It was a nice dough, albeit sticky.


Then I left it out at room temperature (low sixties most of the time) all Sunday night and all day Monday, occasionally doing a few folds.  I thought I detected a bit of a rise and panicked because I would not be able to bake it until Tuesday afternoon, so the dough spent Monday night in the refrigerator.  I pulled it out first thing Tuesday morning and continued to monitor and fold it from time to time. No indication of a rise, but the character of the dough kept improving, though staying sticky.


Today's Wednesday.  My patience is not unlimited.  I put it in the oven with the light on.  That was 9am.  Every hour or so I pulled it out and did more folds.  Around 1pm it happened - a distinct rise!  (My folding may have disguised some rising, I don't know.)  I left it alone for another half hour, then divided it up into 8 mini-loaves.


That's where we stand right now.  The mini-loaves are back in the warm oven proofing.


I have some questions for Scott.  What exactly is "a very small amount" of yeast?  Is your room temperature higher than mine? Do you have further advise?


Rosalie

scottfsmith's picture
scottfsmith

Rosalie, my apologies for missing your question; in the event you look back here is my reply.  I now use 100 grains of ADY.  I don't count out 100 but I have that idea in mind when I eyeball it.  I would guess that is something like 1/16th tsp.  My house is warmer than yours, mid-60s night and 70 day (and if it is sunny it will get up to 80 even on a frigid day -- we have passive solar).  I would suggest the next time you try to use half of a 1/4 tsp, i.e. 1/8 tsp, and see how that goes -- it sounds like you need a bit more yeast than I do given your cooler conditions.  As rideold states above, use the amount of yeast to tune the rise time.


Scott


 

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

But I don't remember how much yeast I used.  A pinch?  I'll try 1/8 tsp.


Rosalie

davec's picture
davec

I'm so glad the two of you came back to this discussion, because I had missed it entirely when you started it.


I got interested in baking when I came across Jim Lahey's no-knead method, which was originally published a couple of years ago in the New York Times.  His fermentation method is exactly like yours.  He uses 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of yeast for 3 cups of flour, and a very wet dough, then lets it ferment for 12 to 18 hours.  In my own experiments, I found I could let it go up to 24 hours, and that the longer times improved the flavor.  Like you, I use ADY, and don't proof it first.


Serious bakers on this forum seem to treat Mr. Lahey's methods with polite dismissal, probably because he was targeting people like me, who had no experience baking, no hearthstones, misters, or other baking paraphenalia.  Lahey's method doesn't knead, only folds once, barely shapes, and doesn't slash.


Anyway, the more I learn, from this and other forums; from Reinhart, from Hamelman, etc., the more convinced I am that the simple, long, room temperature fermentation is a really big deal, and needs more attention.  I'm glad to see that you are experimenting with it, andI'd love to hear more of your recipes and techniques.


Dave

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

It may be that some of the bakers on this forum aren't interested in Jim Lahey's methods.  But others are.


There's one thing I've learned about making bread since I joined this forum: that there are many ways to do it.  I now laugh to myself at lessons that insist that you must proof the yeast in water at a certain temperature, you must knead for 20 minutes, let rise for two hours, shape and let rise for one more hour.  I laugh because that's only one way to do it.  It's fairly fast (four hours or so), but not the most flavorful way.


Of course, it's fine for beginners to learn one way to start.  But then, when they've learned these basics, each step has many options.


No need to apologize for liking Jim Lahey's approach.  Enjoy yourself exploring it.  And don't forget to let us know what you've learned.


Rosalie

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

I agree with the long bulk room temperature fermentation...  I have been baking for quite some time, I find that the preferments that have different hydration than the final dough are difficult to mix into the final dough, so I prefer to mix all the ingredients together at once and use miniscule amounts of yeast (1/8th, 1/16th, 1/32nd tsp), and iced water to delay and extend the fermentation without the use of refrigeration.  Plus I have found that a 24 hour bulk fermentation works better with my work and sleep schedule.  I can start a dough in the evening after dinner, and the next day when I return from work, it's ready to shape and bake...


There are many different ways to get the same result, and based on my experience, I prefer simple methods...  I have a baking stone, and do all my mixing by hand with a wooden spoon.  I don't bother with any misting, spraying, or anything complicated...  This just works for me...


These are one of my latest batches of baguettes using the 24 hour bulk fermentation...


Tim


ilikefood's picture
ilikefood

Beautiful bread Tim! Do you kneed or do a stretch-and-fold type technique?

Great topic, I haven't tried 24 fermentation at room temp, but after seeing these results I will have to give it a shot and report back.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Thanks!


What I do is the following:


In a large bowl, I mix ice water with the dry ingredients (flours, salt, yeast) into a scrappy dough, cover and let autolyse for about 30 minutes.  Then, with wet hands (have a bowl with cold or ice water near by), I knead the dough in the bowl until all the lumps and dry bits are almost gone (about 5 minutes), and then begin the stretch and fold process, every 20-30 minutes, 3 times, and then let the dough ferment at room temp for between 22-24 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen...  So if I set up the dough at around 7pm, I can be ready to bake at around 7pm the following evening...


Let me know if this helps and if ou have any success with this techique.  Also, I usually make doughs that are 70% + hydration.


Tim

rainwater's picture
rainwater

Boy! I have some questions.  I would love to ferment (proof) at room temperature, and 24 hours would be perfect for me....I could come home..make dough.....come home the next day, shape, proof, and bake.  I would have to say that my bread baking since joining this site is places I never thougt it would be.  I'm doing well, but for the first time, always thinking of more flavor, better texture, better feel in the mouth......artisanal bread has to be chewed well to be appreciated......layers of flavors. 


Is the initial idea to use cold water and less yeast?  How cold should the water be?  Tap cold, or refrigerated cold? 


Everyone is throwing out amounts of yeast, but every recipe is different, and sometimes I double or triple the recipe.....


So, for example, if the recipe called for 2 tsp. yeast.......for a beginner's guideline, would you use 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8 that much yeast?   or 1 tsp. 1/2 tsp., or 1/4 tsp.   ?????    I need a 24 hour ferment, at least.....and my house stays about 75-78....all year, I live in Houston, TX.


One more question?  Is the dough given any attention during the ferment......maybe a fold or two or three.......


these are the only issues I can see that would come up in a long room temperature ferment. 


Okay.....one more question.....any experience with long room temperature ferments with sourdough creations.  I'm currently in the sourdough zone...bread, pizza dough, pancakes....sourdough.....yummmmmm.....


Thank you...

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

You know what's crazy is that when I do a bread that has a 2-3 hour bulk ferment, it's very clean tasting, not very complex...  When I do a 22-24 hour bulk ferment, the smell, texture, taste are on a completely different level...  When I eat these types of bread, the taste lingers long after you finish eating it...  Kind of like a good wine or something...


Anyways, to give you an idea of the yeast quantities I am working with:


For a baguette recipe that I have been working on with good success, I am using a 75% hydration.  I figured that for a 22-24 hour ferment, the amount of yeast should be 0.05%, so for my recipe that includes 1424g of total flour, I used 1/8th tsp + 1/16th tsp.  This seems to have worked well.


Basically, if your recipe calls for 1 tsp of yeast for a 2-3 hr bulk fermentation, I would keep halving the amount of yeast, and doubleing the time.  So for a 4-6 hr fermentation, it would be 1/2 tsp.  for 8-12 hr, it would be 1/4 tsp, and for 16-24 hr, it would be about 1/8 tsp...


Hope this helps...


Tim

teojen77's picture
teojen77

This is interesting! Do you have a formula for fermentation time: yeast amount: temperatures deviating from normal room temperature?

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

In this thread Reinhart's observation that for every 17 degrees change of temperature the proof time doubles (+17°F)  or halves (-17°F) is used for a different purpose than you want, but it demonstrates how the information can be used:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/18541/culture-will-mature-12-hrs-70-degreesat-what-temp-have-it-ready-1820-hrs


 


You may find it interesting to read this post from bwraith and to check out the table linked in it. But don't get overwhelmed! There are things you can do (see below) to control temperature.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5381/sourdough-rise-time-table


 


I recommend this post from Susan's Wild Yeast blog. The downloadable calculator at the bottom is very handy. Using it to achieve a specific water temperature, you can start with dough of known (and desired) temperature. An instant read thermometer is a great tool.


http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/05/water/


Some TFL contributors have spoken of using icepacks in cool boxes during times of summer heat to keep dough temperatures down to so-called 'room temperature' during bulk fermentation and proofing.


Perhaps some experimentation to get a feel for what actually happens in your own conditions will prove useful. Eventually you will be relying on your observation of your dough, but it does help with planning, when you are learning, to have some idea of the likely time frame!


Robyn

teojen77's picture
teojen77

Hi Robyn,


Thanks heaps! This really opens up my mindset - there are so many variable factors! I can't wait to try them out..hahah!

rainwater's picture
rainwater

I have to say.  Philosophically, I agree with the room temperature loooong ferment....this makes sense.


On the other hand, thank goodness for refrigeration for sourdough starters.  I'm sure sourdough could be handled quite easily at room temperature if one baked bread (commercially) everyday.....but I'm not able to bake everyday (yet!), and I think the refrigeration helps the sourdough starter stay healthy for occasional (3 days a week) bakers.

proth5's picture
proth5

but I can't help myself.


I had a short and unpleasant exchange with "my teacher" on the virtues of the retarded overnight ferment. And here's what came of it.


A biga or a poolish (or a pate fermentee) really does create a very long ferment  for a portion of the flour.  It is a type of compromise method.


Frankly, the people you cite are professional bakers who have learned professional techniques.  To a certain extent it is commercially impractical to have such long process times for all of your doughs.  It may yield a "nicer" result, but you have to find a place in a crowded bakery to store all that dough(or mix doughs on an odd schedule), and you have inventory carrying cost in the meantime.  Bakeries have small margins.  This cost may be the difference between profit and loss.  To compromise, most bakers use a pre-ferment,which adds flavor without some of the problem of space and cost.


Same with overnight retarding.  There is only so much space in the retarder.  You (the baker) need to decide where you get the best result by retarding.  If it is your baguettes, then you retard those.  If you feel it is other breads, then those use the scarce resource. You will use a combination of pre-ferments and retarding to make what you consider to be your optimal product mix.


When "the book" is written, you communicate the techniques you learned in your bakery.  You do not consider that many home bakers have luxuries that you do not and you communicate the best of what you know.


Also, many home bakers cannot take 24 hours between mixing a dough and baking it.  For me, in what passes for my "normal" life - this would mean that I would have to stop baking bread.  I won't do that, so I use compromise methods.


The great thing about being "serious home bakers" is that we are free to do and try things on a small scale that may or may not translate to a large one.  We are on a quest for bread to our taste and for our baking style, else we would just stop by our local "mega mart" and just pick up an "artisan" loaf.


Sorry to rant.  (But you missed the rant I got...)


Your ideas sound good - not for everyone - but good nonetheless.


Happy Baking!

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Baking artisan breads is an art form...  Different methods work for different people...  I have done the poolish/biga/refrigeration stuff with varying degrees of success and or failure.  While none of the techiques are wrong, they just didn't work as well as a 24hr room temp fermentation, further delayed by iced water...  Technique doesn't really matter as there are many ways to get the same result.  What matters is that you are happy with the result.


Tim

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I'm very interested in the topic of ways to achieve sourness (long fermentation vs. an acidic starter). I hope you will keep it going until I can catch up on your discussion.


--Pamela

loverboylou's picture
loverboylou

Having trouble getting big air holes?????????????????????????Can you send me your  complete recipe and procedure~~~~ Lou