The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Overnight retardation causes gluten strength to drop dramatically? (updated with the resulting mess:))

  • Pin It
venkitac's picture
venkitac

Overnight retardation causes gluten strength to drop dramatically? (updated with the resulting mess:))

I've been on a sourdough roll, until this morning. I'm being ambitious and trying to bake a Pain Poilane type sourdough bread. An option in the recipe was to retard the bulk fermentation to 12-16 or so hours by refrigeration. I chose to do that (doing about 3 stretch-and-folds till 10PM yesterday), for a total 16 hours bulk ferment. When I left the dough in the fridge at 10PM, it was really strong, almost like hard rubber bands, and I was super happy. This morning, the dough had just about doubled, but all the strength is gone, it's runny now. I'm now trying to resuscitate it with stretch-and-folds. I'm hoping that it comes back, cross fingers.


Is this normal with long fermentation times? Is it ok to stretch-and-fold after ferment but before proofing if bulk ferment was too long? Or did I overwork/over-stretch-and-fold the dough yesterday and kill all that strength, or make some other mistake?


Thanks for the help!

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I think the extended amount of fermentation you gave your dough allowed the protease action to go wild.  Decrease the fermentation, make a firmer dough, use a firm preferment, and/or add a bit of ascorbic acid to make it work next time.  No amount of stretch and fold will work at this point, I'm afraid.

SOL

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Ack. I missed this comment.


If all the discussions and conclusion below is what happened, would ascorbic acid help? Does ascorbic acid retard the bacterial action? Thanks.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

You can read excerpts from 'How Baking Works' on the topic of dough maturation and dough conditioners such as ascorbic acid.  Here's a link for you (or just buy the book):


http://tinyurl.com/mw9mso


I think this will open to page 129 ...but click the left arrow button at the top and start reading on page 127.



Brian



venkitac's picture
venkitac

Thanks, it seems that ascorbic acid would've strengthened the gluten and maybe prevented the gluten breakdown from enzymes, but wouldn't have addressed the basic issue of excess acidity.


I just got Emily Buehler's book, going thru it now. Thanks for pointin me at "How Baking Works". I think I'm gonna get that too:)

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Yeah -- Brian's right.  Figoni's How Baking Works in an excellent baking science book.  I've heard great things about Buehler's book as well, and I intend to get it.


--Dan DiMuzio

Yippee's picture
Yippee


I'm hoping that it comes back, cross fingers.



It will.


 



Is this normal with long fermentation times?



Yes.  Happened to all my doughs after sitting in the fridge for either hours or weeks.


 



Is it ok to stretch-and-fold after ferment but before proofing if bulk ferment was too long?



Yes, but be gentle or you'll deflate the dough.


 



Or did I overwork/over-stretch-and-fold the dough yesterday and kill all that strength, or make some other mistake?



I don't think so, unless you left the dough at room temperature for an extended amount of time, say, hours when the dough was over fermented.  Otherwise, give it another few S&Fs, if the hydration is not super high, it will regain most of the strength.


 


Do not give up and good luck!


Yippee

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Didn't. BTW, I had to give it like 3-4 folds to get it even in the shape of the mess below...but hey, it's edible.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I can't be certain without seeing your starter and your dough firsthand, but it sounds like your dough encountered significant degradation due to protease activity.  All doughs are subject to some degradation, and this is more of a concern over a very long fermentation, but a sourdough bulk dough made from only moderately acidic sour starter would, I think, withstand your bulk fermentation in most cases.


How do you maintain your starter?  Liquid starters tend toward providing high enzymatic activity, and even a firm starter kept too warm can amplify the protease action, as I understand it.  If you don't feed often enough or use too little new flour when feeding, the starter can get too acidic, which will (again, as I understand it) accelerate protease acting upon gluten bonds.


So maybe be sure to use a firm starter (60% hydration or less), keep it no warmer than 70-75 degrees F., and feed it often enough and with enough fresh flour that just at the scheduled feeding time, the dome on the starter is just barely showing signs of receding (collapse).


What is the dough's hydration, and what flour do you use?


--Dan DiMuzio

venkitac's picture
venkitac

The starter is around 70% hydration, I refrigerate it on warm days, feed it about once a day. Sometimes, if it's in the fridge, I check on it, wait till the starter is ripe and full of holes in the fridge, then take it out, feed it, leave it for an hour outside, and then re-refrigerate it. If it's not in the fridge, then I feed daily. After a feed, it's usually full of holes in about 8-10 hours. I use King Arthur all purpose for feeding the starter.


Regarding acidity of starter: when I taste the starter, it isn't too sour at all. Actually, it's almost not sour. But it smells sour/sweet and alcoholy and overripe fruity.


This particular dough was about 75% whole wheat (half KA, half bob's red mill) and about 15% King Arthur all purpose, and about 10% bob's red mill bread flour. (Yeah, it was a mess, too many flours). Also, the dough hydration was about 72%. Regarding acidity of this dough after the long ferment: it's pretty sour, yes. (I'm still in shock, as a sourdough newbie, that the starter that is not very sour can produce dough that is super sour).


Update: I streteched-and-folded 4 times throughout the morning. The strenght did come back a lot, it's WAY better than it was. I think I'll get something out of it. I wish I didn't introduce this extra 3 hours between ferment and proof. But hey, I'm sure I'll learn a bunch of stuff from TFL about this:)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

venkitac,


I've made some bitingly sour breads with mild starters.  The common thread was a significant percentage of whole wheat flour in the dough.  Debra Wink, in a series of posts a few months back, gave an excellent explanation of the how's and why's of sourdough.  Most of the chemistry eluded me, but one of her points was that whole wheat flour offers the sourdough bacteria ample material for cranking out plenty of acid.


Paul

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Ah, thanks! I read that post, but those were mostly about starters. I didn't make the connection that all that still holds true for dough too!

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

There's baking beauty in salvaging a potential disaster, and a good education to boot. Hope the bake turns out!



venkitac wrote:


I'm still in shock, as a sourdough newbie, that the starter that is not very sour can produce dough that is super sour



The sour taste does not come from the starter itself. It comes from the process of fermentation once the starter is introduced into a dough. There's quite a few discussions about this, and if you search around while you're baking, you will probably find a few 'lighbulb' topics and/or posts to further your understanding there. Understanding this concept will connect a lot of sourdough dots for you, and should help you going forward. : )


- Keith

flournwater's picture
flournwater

In my search for a sour taste in my "sourdough" bread, I have reached the point of seeing all those sourdough dots but every time I try to connect them, one or more of them moves.  In my baking world, it's a never ending game of hide and seek.  Is there a key to nailing that element down?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Dan's advice, that I've seen him give several times, is spot-on. Don't try and chase and/or change too many dots at one time. Their relationship(s) with each other is so complicated and fragile, that changing more than one or two items, while experimenting, will probably leave you with more confusion than enlightenment. Some people have success with random tweaking, but the rest of us have to take it one step at a time if we want consistent results.


- Keith

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Is this the bread-related version of The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?   (Probably not).


Any change in dough ingredients or procedures has effects you may have wanted (like increased acidity) but also has effects where you may not have wanted them (like somewhat less yeast activity, or increased proteolytic effects, or less volume -- all of which can occur in conjunction with increased dough acidity).


I recommend that you feed at least twice a day, in a 1 to 2 ratio of ripe starter to fresh ingredients at every feeding (That is, triple the size of the starter at every feeding.  Discard any ripe starter that you can't use right away.)


Or go three times a day and double the size of the ripe levain used in every feeding.


You might also consider going to 60% hydration if your starter is made from white bread flour.  If the starter is whole wheat, then 70% would probably be fine, as the bran absorbs more water.


 Now, this might also make things a bit less acidic, but at least you'll have a usable loaf of bread.


--Dan DiMuzio

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Extracted from a blog:



If you’ve ever been in a Parisian café, you’ve seen Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle at work.  In this environment, waiters move about like errant electrons, brushing past you with little care for their momentum, their movements, or their duties. To a stationary observer, it is impossible to know both the location of a server and the speed at which he is ignoring you.



--Pamela

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

That's clever.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Glad you liked it, Dan. It definitely amused me.


--Pamela

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Flournwater, there's an excellent thread here with a lot of info about sourdough:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/keyword/sourflavorsourdough


(When I said I'm in shock, it's not in terms of "OMG, what the heck is going on here". I read all these posts, but I still found it hard to believe that it works:))


Having said all that, I have a basic question about SD. I have read too much about the yeast/bacteria topic, and there's a lot of info out there including in TFL, half of which contradicts the other half. My understanding is that:


(1) a wet starter, say 125%, will have more yeast activity, less bacterial activity. It is quicker to raise a dough with a wet starter. Resulting dough will be milder and have less sourness.


(2) a dry starter, say 60%, will have less yeast activity, more bacterial activity. It takes longer to raise a dough with this. Resulting dough will be sourer.


If my understanding is correct, then *contrary* to what Dan DiMuzio said, my wettish starter should be less sour. Since I'm wrong and Dan is right, I'm clearly missing something here. (Maybe around enzyme activity?) If there's A Correct Thread I should read, I'd appreciate it if you could point it out to me. Thanks!


 

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I'm sorry if my comments have contributed to the seemingly contradictory information available.  I have been swimming in the same sea of information and misinformation that you are.


"Sourness" as a flavor component is subjective, I guess.  I try (when I remember)to describe the effects of starter manipulation as "tendencies" instead of as assured facts, if only because most of us implement these changes under not-very-controlled conditions.  We can communicate with each other here in print about what we think we're seeing, and then ask others to comment, but the fact is that without standing there right next to you as you make your bread, I can't give you rock-solid, incontrovertable advice about what to do.


But I'll try anyway.


With regard to the specific comments above:



a wet starter, say 125%, will have more yeast activity, less bacterial activity. It is quicker to raise a dough with a wet starter. Resulting dough will be milder and have less sourness.



I'm not a scientist by trade, so my comments here must be general in nature.  Yes, a more liquid starter will TEND to encourage the fermentation activity of yeast, because a wetter environment encourages chemical interactions and microbiological activity in general.  However, it now seems clear to me that the wetter environment is also favorable to the multiplication of all lactic bacterial populations (in the past I was led to believe otherwise).  So there isn't really less "bacterial activity" in liquid pre-ferments.


Instead, the manipulation of the wetness of a starter seems to affect how the bacteria ferment the flour.  Or, to put it another way, manipulating the hydration of the preferment affects the TYPE of bacterial activity -- it doesn't stop or start activity or reproduction altogether.


In wetter environments, lactic bacteria seems to produce a preponderance of lactic acid, while in drier environments they seem to produce significant acetic acid as well.  So it would be more accurate to say that a liquid levain's hydration tends to encourage the production of more lactic than acetic acid.


Still, lactic acid can produce sour flavors.  If you eat yogurt you'll see that the sourness can be significant, while not over-the-top.  In concentrated form, lactic acid can be noticeably sour.  If we look at a range of feeding frequencies, with once-a-day feeding as the minimum, and, say, six-times-a-day feeding as a maximum, then the once-a-day feeding schedule will, within those choices, tend to maximize the potential acidity of the starter.  Six-times-a-day feeding would tend to minimize it.


So a liquid levain tends to discourage the creation of acetic acid, but if fed only once-a-day, the accumulation of lactic acid can still be quite significant.  That could potentially create a condition where the wild yeast are negatively affected by the amount of acid in the levain, and the accumulated lactic acid could still accelerate enzyme activity.



a dry starter, say 60%, will have less yeast activity, more bacterial activity. It takes longer to raise a dough with this. Resulting dough will be sourer.



Yes, a firmer (not bone dry) starter will inhibit yeast activity when compared to a more liquid environment, but that doesn't imply a cessation of yeast activity.  Yeast will ferment dough there more slowly (by comparison), but that doesn't always mean "slow."  The difference might only be a matter of minutes, depending upon individual circumstances.


And the drier state does not "encourage" lactic bacterial activity.  It just changes the type of bacterial activity.  In this case, acetic acid will be produced together with lactic acid, and the overall acidity of the dough should increase when compared to a more liquid product.  It will usually be more sour.


It should be noted that hydration is just one way to manipulate a starter's microbiological activity.  Temperature affects things at least as much, as does the time allowed for fermentation before feeding the starter again (feeding interval).  So a liquid starter kept in the 'fridge can still get pretty sour, and a firm starter kept at 85 degrees can still seem to exhibit milder flavors.  A liquid starter fed only once a day can become fairly acidic, and a firm starter fed 4 to 6 times a day might not seem sour at all.


It ain't simple.  This is where experience comes in to guide you in making choices, and, unfortunately, there will be bumps here and there as you gain experience.  You can read all you want about theory, and that is important for shortening your learning curve, but you don't usually learn much about what to avoid until you actually run into it.


--Dan DiMuzio

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Hydration also affects the mobility of the micro-critters in the starter.  It may have been wrong, since I'm not a microbiologist either, but I read somewhere that yeast have no problem 'getting around' in a lower hydration environment while lactobacilli tend to stay where they are unless the environment (starter) is wetter.  Supposedly, this is why it's a good idea to stir your starter a few times while it is fermenting, so the lactobacilli can get fresh 'food' after digesting what was closer to them. 


I thought I read the info above here on TFL somewhere, but could be wrong.  Sometimes these explanations can be more hypothesis or theory than fact or laws of nature too ...but, if the model fits and allows you to modify results as modeled, then I guess it doesn't matter too much (although I want to know the real reasons why things work the way they do.)  Does anyone know the answer on this topic?  Does hydration affect mobility, and therefore the food supply and reproduction rate, of lactobacilli differently than for yeast?


Brian

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

What I know for sure is that your wet sarter will have more bacterial activity, and the dry will have less (relative to each other), all else being equal. (And it sounds like this is what you're experiencing, no?)


Yeast, on the other hand, are not as sensitive to low hydration (or low pH) as bacteria, but they are sensitive to the acetic acid produced by bacteria (another dynamic that depends on more than one factor).


How long either starter will take to raise a dough, or how sour it will be depends on a multitude of factors not limited to hydration. We tend to consider only one or two factors at a time, but it's much more complex than that and so it's easy to attribute results to the wrong factors. I think that's where the contradictions come from.


It's just never that simple with living things :-)
-dw

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I think that puts what I'm trying to suggest in much more succinct form.


As we learn about baking (or about anything, really), we want to be able to define patterns that can be easily grasped and remembered, but nature is under no obligation to make our organizing efforts any easier.  Knowing that doesn't make the disappointment from bad bread any more pleasant to bear, of course.


I think that in blogging and other information sourcing on the internet we tend to either discount the importance of experience as an educator, or we use our on-line exploration as a way of "simplifying" the process (usually unsuccessfully) and circumventing bad results (often unsuccessfully).  Certainly conversations like these can alert us to things we hadn't thought of before, but I believe you actually have to run into the bad things that can happen personally sometimes before you know how or why to avoid them.


In my work with baking students, I do think they learned a lot more from their production goofs than they ever did from my lectures.  I'm not saying that the academic end of baking isn't important, but I see it more as filling in the gaps in our knowledge than in being the primary source of knowledge.  Since I was an educator then and not a bakery owner, I could use the badly formed loaves, incorrect scoring or overfermented poolish as learning opportunities that would illustrate the caveats I'd been talking about in lecture.


Sure -- the student who committed the error felt embarrassed or disheartened by the negative results, but they walked away from that experience with a better understanding of the process.  That eventually made them better bakers.  I doubt if any one thing I had said before that would have helped as much in their clear retention of important baking concepts.


So I don't know if there is a "correct thread" or "correct source" that will teach you all you need to know about solving issues with fermentation.  Different bakers will accept or reject different theories about how baking works.  Your own experience -- which might take years -- will help you eventually sort out what theories make sense.


--Dan DiMuzio

nova's picture
nova

Dan,


I have taught adults for over 20 years...what I came to realize in the last 7-8 years is that our mistakes, as we learn, so often are blessings.  As I often tell my students, making a mistake once really clarifies what you didn't know, and now should know, once the mistake is understood and the "proper, better" way has been re-inforced.  Theory is all fine and good.  But we really do not know what we understand in theory until we go into action.  Our pursuit of bread baking with all its complexities (since it is a truly living process) is the perfect demonstration of this learning principle.


To all who are writing in, the sharing of your mistakes is like gold for so many of us.  Thank you for your willingness to show your errors, so we readers can make connections we otherwise might not have!


nova

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Dan,


I'm not sure it could have worked out much better. I started my response just before you posted, apparently, and was thinking about many of the same examples that you gave. But in the crunch for time, I needed to distill it down to just basic concepts. And then, there you had illustrated them beautifully :-)


Best,
-dw

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Don't forget your other factor ...you used whole wheat in your recipe and that'll make the final product more sour.  To compare the type and amount of sourness while manipulating your starter's hydration, fermentation temperature, and fermentation time, you'd want to do so with a consistent recipe across all trials and not compare the recipe to the starter itself ..just to other instantiations of the same recipe, made/fermented exactly the same way.


Brian

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Thanks a lot, Dan and Debra. I wish I had a chemistry lab and a microscope to figure out what kind of bacteria and acid I have. Based on your *extremely* helpful observations, the conclusion I have come to is this: I had a starter that was high in lactic acid, but not so much in acetic acid. Hence the starter still was not super-sour, but the pH level was likely much lower than indicated just by the sourness. As a result of all the acid, yeast activity was inhibited, the bacterial activity also increased the enzyme activity, and also broke down the dough. Hence the mess. Please correct me if some part of that conclusion sounds illogical/wrong.

And yes, both of your comments are spot on about experience. As Dan said, I've learned a lot about bread by baking bad bread - you're entirely right there. Let me chalk this up to experience. But really, it would not be a learning experience except for TFL and the folks here (it would just be "heck, why is this bread bad? who knows?"), the above posts were very helpful for me figuring out a bunch of stuff. Thanks a whole bunch.

Now for the update:

As you can see, shapeless mess, with no oven spring to speak of. I expected the bread to be dense and inedible. But but but, the crumb looks decent, especially for the high whole-wheat percentage. The crumb is quite tasty too, though it is not very soft at all. (I still don't understand in-depth the connection between softness and what happened to the dough. I'm chalking it up to "the dough was a mess, so it was not soft, whatever". I wonder if there's something more I need to figure out about that). It was also quite moist and flavorful. And surprisingly, it was not really extrmely sour, it was pretty much like your normal San Francisco sourdough sourness or perhaps a little less sour than that. Which would make good sense based on Dan's comments, if it was just a truckload of lactic acid.


Thanks, all.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, including the pictures.


Brian


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I think you've got it for the most part. Except that I would say yeast activity may or may not have been inhibited---we can't draw that conclusion just yet. It's hard to tell, because it looks like the main problem here may have been proteolysis. When gluten breaks down, it no longer holds in the gas produced by yeast very well, and so you won't see as much rise no matter how active the yeast are. Yeast are not inhibited by lactic acid or the pH range normally encountered in sourdough. Yeast are inhibited by acetic acid, specifically. Wild sourdough yeasts can tolerate a higher concentration of acetic acid than bakers' yeast, although they too have their limits. You may or may not have reached that level.


As others have pointed out, your bread has a very high percentage of whole wheat flour, which brings a lot more protease to the party. I can't see the rest of your posts from here, but I'm guessing you gave it a long fermentation---maybe even extra time? Not a good idea with high percentage whole wheat. My advice, set aside white bread logic when it comes to whole grain breads---they are a different animal. The best (100%) whole wheat sourdoughs I've had (not my own), go from mixer to oven in no more than about 6 or 7 hours total. Less is more :-)

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Thanks, Debra! It had about 75% whole wheat. This was a recipe for Pain Poilane, I was mostly following the recipe, which said I could do the bulk in 3 hours at room temp, or retarded  to 12-16 hours in the fridge. I did choose to retard.


I probably need way more experience with sourdough before I bake this particular bread again. Atleast, before I retard.

yozzause's picture
yozzause

 Very interesting thread


I believe ascorbic acid is a key ingrediant used in modern instant doughs (no bulk fermentation ) at all, the exact opposite from what you are trying to achieve, long and retarded fermentation.


 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Wild-Yeast Susan and Debra Wink had a very interesting discussion on the topic of vitamin C which can be found here.


Sometimes I think just about every aspect of bread baking has already been discussed at TFL, and can be brought up from the cyber-tunnels with the search bar.