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:))

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:)

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.

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

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!

 

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

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.