The Fresh Loaf

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Susan from San Diego's "Ultimate Sourdough:" A trial of cold retardation in bulk.

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dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Susan from San Diego's "Ultimate Sourdough:" A trial of cold retardation in bulk.

 


There has been quite a bit of discussion on TFL regarding cold retardation of late. This is a recurring issue, as a site search on “retardation” will reveal. My overall conclusion has to be that, particularly for sourdough breads, there is no hard and fast rule. This is not surprising, since review of several highly-regarding bread books reveals considerable variation in how this subject is approached.


Most home bakers are fundamentally pragmatic. Some groove on the science and want to understand each process in detail, but most just want to make really good bread. Retardation is mostly a matter of convenience – to fit bread baking into a busy schedule – for both the home baker and the professional. For some, retardation during bulk fermentation works better. For others, retardation of the formed loaves is more convenient. But does the choice effect the quality of the bread?


I have generally made my own choice according to the procedures specified in the formula I was using. I've made breads that call for retardation in bulk, like Nury's Light Rye and Anis Bouabsa's baguettes, and I've made breads that are retarded after the loaves are formed, like most San Francisco-style sourdoughs. But I've never switched a recipe from one to the other, until today.


The bread I chose to make was Susan from San Diego's “Ultimate Sourdough.” I have made it several times before. I have made it without any cold retardation and with cold retardation of the formed loaves. I decided to see how it would turn out with overnight cold retardation in bulk.


Susan's formula makes one smallish boule. I generally double the recipe to make 2 small boules. This time, I tripled it to make two somewhat larger (22.5 oz) loaves. For your interest, I have included a table of ingredient quantities for one, two and three small loaves.


 


Ingredients

 

 

 

 

1 loaf

2 loaves

3 loaves

Active starter

12 gms

24 gms

36 gms

Water

175 gms

350 gms

525 gms

Whole Wheat Flour

25 gms

50 gms

75 gms

Hi-Gluten Flour

225 gms

450 gms

675 gms

Salt

5 gms

10 gms

15 gms

For this bake, I used KAF White Whole Wheat and Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached flours.

Procedures

 

  1. I dissolved the starter in the water in a large bowl
  2. Both flours were added to the water and mixed thoroughly.
  3. The bowl was covered tightly and the dough was allowed to rest (autolyse) for 20 minutes.
  4. The salt was then added and folded into the dough using a flexible dough scraper.
  5. After a 20 minutes rest, the dough was stretched and folded in the bowl for 20 strokes. This was repeated twice more at 20 minute intervals.
  6. The dough was then transferred to a lightly oiled 2 liter glass measuring “cup” with a tightly fitting plastic cover and refrigerated (10 hours, overnight).
  7. The next morning, the dough had expanded very little. I took it out of the refrigerator and left it at room temperature. After 3 hours, it had expanded only slightly, and I was concerned how little gas formation was occurring. I transferred the dough to a lightly floured bench and did a single stretch and fold. The dough was then returned to the bowl. From that point, it became more active and doubled in another 2.5 to 3 hours.
  8. I then divided the dough into 2 equal parts. One was preshaped into a round and the other into a rectangle. After a 10 minute rest, I shaped one boule and one bâtard, each of which was placed in a floured banneton and then in a plastic bag to proof.
  9. I proofed the loaves until they were expanded by 75% or so. They were then transferred to a peel, slashed and transferred to a pre-heated baking stone. The oven was then steamed.
  10. The loaves were baked at 480F with steam for 10 minutes, then another 17 minutes at 460F without steam. They were left to dry for another 10 minutes in the turned off oven with the door ajar.

 

      The dough did not become too extensible during cold retardation. This may have been due to the very strong flour I used. However, I did find the crumb less chewy than expected. The crumb structure, on the other hand, was not appreciably different from what I got when I retarded formed loaves of this bread. There was no significant difference in the flavor. You might note, however, the absence of the "birds eyes" - the little bubbles of CO2 under the crust surface. 

      I would not hesitate to cold retard this bread in bulk again. When I do the cold retardation would be governed by my scheduling needs. The end result is about the same: Really good sourdough bread.

      David

      David

       

       

      Comments

      avatrx1's picture
      avatrx1

      Since I'm new to this using starters, I'm going to assume that this is a 100% hydration starter?


      Now for the really dumb question.  using the starter.  freshly fed?  within a couple of hours of being fed? 


      I've put mine in the fridge as of late because I didn't want to kill it off and my schedule was a mess.  I feed, put in the fridge and just to check it, after a couple of days I take it out the evening before and by morning it has obviously been rising.


      Is it good to use at that point?  I could take it out in the morning and then make the dough in the evening - refrigerate it and then go from there in the morning?


      Once I get the hang of using the starter - I'll be moving on the issue of creating the steam environment.  I have an old vintage 1941 Comstock-Castle Restaurant range in my kitchen with the big wide oven 6 burners and 24" griddle.  It seems to be fairly consistent in temperature, but because of it's age - maintaining a steam environment is a little more difficult than your standard ' state of the art" new oven which has a tight seal on the door.


      Would I be better served to rig up some type of steam cover using a heavy duty stainless steel pan over the dough?  There was a post using a ceramic pot.


      Hmmmm...........


      -Susie


       


      -Susie

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      Hi, Susie.


      My starter is kept at about 75% hydration. I feed it with 1 part starter, 3 parts water and 4 parts flour.


      You should "always" use starter that is very active - fed in the preceding 12 hours. My confession is that my starter had not been fed for 72 hours when I baked this bread. That may explain, in part, the slow rising of the dough. The best schedule for me is to feed the starter either before going to bed, if I'm going to use it in the morning or in the morning before going to work, if I'm going to use it in the evening. In this case, I was out of town Friday, so I used starter fed Wednesday evening.


      David

      avatrx1's picture
      avatrx1

      IF your starter isn't the same hydration as the recipe calls for - what happens?  Do you just get a different crumb or does it flop altogether?


      I have a 100% hydration starter most often, but I suppose I could keep one at 60-75% and one at 100%.


      Every time I look at these wonderful photos, I get inspired to try the recipe, but it never fails - I always seem to have the wrong starter. :-(


      -Susie

      Paddyscake's picture
      Paddyscake

      Honestly, I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference as long as you have a very active starter. I keep mine at 100% and never have a problem. This recipe has a very small amount. I have seen recipes that call for a 1 to 1 1/2 cups and then it certainly would make a difference. None of the sourdoughs I bake are much over 40-50g. You certainly can take a portion of your starter, feed it as you normally would before a bake, with David's feeding menu of 1:3:4 to get the 75% hydration. You don't have to keep separate starters at different hydrations.


      Betty


       

      deblacksmith's picture
      deblacksmith

      Susie,  Some of us would love to have your old -- "not state of the art" restaurant range.  From what you have said I would assume that this is a gas range with a gas oven.  The "lack of a door seal" should not be much of an issue since all gas ranges are vented anyway.  I would start by using the cast iron pan / skillet method to make steam.  You want this preheated with the oven.  Then use boiling water, not ice cubes as sometimes call for to make you steam.  (You want lots of steam at the start of the bake -- none after the first 10 to 15 minutes.)


      The cover method for steam works very well -- lots of information on this site about it.  Do a search on "Magic Bowl" or "Susan's Magic Bowl".


      Dave

      avatrx1's picture
      avatrx1

      Dave,


      I do love my stove.  I hunted all over for one and finally found it at a used restaurant supplier warehouse for $800.  My hubby still laments having to move it from Galena to our new house 16 years ago.  It was VERY heavy.  Took 3 VERY strong guys to move it off the truck and into the kitchen and that was WITH the burners and griddle removed.


      Yes - gas range modified to work with our propane.


      We do lots of canning so the 8 large burners come in handy.  My son just fixed the "throttles" on them.  Couple of them had a small leak and you could smell the propane, but now they're fine.  Not much you can do to hurt the thing.  My son-in law made me new oven door handles and trays that slide in under the burners.  He worked at a shop that let him fiddle with stainless steel projects in his "down" time.  He even made me a new door, but that didn't work out.  It was way too heavy and would warp when it got hot.


      I"m not complaining. Just trying to work on making good loaves of bread.


      I will check out the Magic Bowl topic.  I did just read one that gave me an idea.  The turkey roasting pan lid.  That might work.  I can fit one of the large commerical jelly roll pans in this oven because it's so wide, then I could put the roaster lid on the bread inside the edges of the pan.


      thanks!


      -Susie

      venkitac's picture
      venkitac

      David, that's a beautiful loaf. I'm only 3 hours from San Joaquin, can I get some?:)


      You had a bulk ferment of close to 16 hours, which seems ok because of the very small amount of starter you have. In such a case, you really have to let the dough expand significantly (maybe not double, but significantly) to make sure the bread is ready to bake. If you use a significantly higher percentage of pre-ferment (say, as in vermont SD), then you don't really need to watch for dough expansion, you can assume the starter did it's work and oven spring takes care of the rest? Also I assume the bread was fairly sour because of the loong ferment?

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      The dough was at room temperature for about 90 minutes before refrigerating, during which time I was stretching and folding every 20 minutes.


      Interestingly, the bread was not very sour at all - "mildly sour," on the Snyder Scale.


      David

      venkitac's picture
      venkitac

      That's interesting. Thanks!

      Pablo's picture
      Pablo

      Great info, David.  I appreicate your going throgh the trouble to do the experiment.  I had thought, logically, that the results would be close to identical, but I'm often surprised that my logic has a hole in it.  For me, cold retarding preshaped loaves is difficult, especially baguettes.  Finding a suitable container is a challenge, supporting them in such a way that they don't sitck is a challenge, the crust seems to get it's moisture sucked out by a couche in the 'fridge, etc. etc.  Bulk retarding is much more convenient.  Thanks for the confirmation.


      And, of course, stunning loaves, as everyone expects from your bakes.


      :-Paul

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      David

      Shiao-Ping's picture
      Shiao-Ping

      I did the same experiment a while back and found no noticeable difference in either crumb structure or flavor.   At the time I thought there must be something wrong with my taste buds; I could not be sure of these things.   But now reading your post I think it makes sence.


      Just out of curiosity: with these two loaves, how long did they proof in the bannetons, 60 minutes?


      It took you 7 hours or so after the dough had done its cold retardation.  I am sure, like your San Joaquin sourdough, the time it takes would vary depending on how long you left it at room temp before it goes into the refrigerator.


      Thanks


      Shiao-Ping


       

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      Hi, Shiao-Ping.


      Proofing took about an hour.


      I'm glad you like the SJ-SD! I agree with you about the fermentation time before refrigerating the dough. In this case, I was limited by needing to go to bed. I was pooped after sitting all day in meetings then driving 3 hours to get home before I was able to get some dinner and mix the dough.


      I hope you are enjoying your California vacation!


      David

      SylviaH's picture
      SylviaH

      David, Beautiful loaves!  I feel the same as Pablo has expressed!  I'm all for bulk retarding in the frig.  My frig space is very limited. 


      Sylvia

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      David

      ehanner's picture
      ehanner

      David,
      Once again, another beautiful bake of my favorite style of bread. Concerning the performance and resumed activity on the other side of the retarding time, can you tell us at what temperature you keep your refrigerator? It seems to me the LB activity especially would be sensitive to the colder ranges. I'm trying to hold 40-41F for food safety but I suspect that is a little colder than optimum for these purposes.


      Thanks,
      Eric

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      Hi, Eric.


      Thanks for your kind words.


      Last time I checked, my refrigerator was 42F.


      David

      ehanner's picture
      ehanner

      Have you ever thought about slowing down the cooling of the dough? I think I have read where the big SF bakery's use something like 48F for the retarding. That would also be a better place to hold a starter. Unfortunately for food safety that's not practical for most of us. If you had a second refer unit with a brewers thermostat or a wine cooler one could obtain these warmer, cooler temps.


      One thing I have done is place an amount of bulk dough in a container inside a small cooler which is then placed i the refrigerator. The insulation helps shield the dough from the cold for a while and the result is a slightly more active and better risen dough. You might shave off a couple hours from the 7 after removing from the cold. Since you are looking at bulk retardation, I thought I would mention it.


      Eric

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      Hi, Eric.


      Hey! I have trouble enough fitting my 8 cup bowl in the refrigerator!


      I have thought about getting a small wine cooler to use for retarding dough. They are not that expensive, and I could retard at 50F, which is closer to what is used in professional settings, as I understand it. I could also use it to store whole grain flours and even wine.


      Again, room is the issue. If we ever remodel our walk-in pantry, I would definitely allow space for that appliance. When we built the house, I had an electrical outlet installed in the pantry in case I wanted to install a wine cellar-type unit for temperature and humidity control. That's still an option, in theory.


      David

      avatrx1's picture
      avatrx1

      The other thing you might want to check into is a dormitory refrigerator.  They are really small and very inexpensive.  They use very little power ( a requirement in the dorms).  You can usually find one for around $25 or less when school lets out in the spring.  Think garage sales!


      The wine coolers are nice but kinda tall.


      We also have outlets in our walk-in pantry and I'd thought about doing what you're talking about, but so far I just keep a small fridge at the bottom of the stairs to the basement next to the upright freezer.


      -Susie

      Shiao-Ping's picture
      Shiao-Ping

      The cold retarder at the San Francisco Baking Institute is below 40F.  Very often they cold retard shaped loaves straight after shaping, and bake the retarded loaves staight out of the cold retarder.  And because the the dough is cold, it scores beautifully (and very easily) with beautiful boom. 


      Have you ever had the experience of baking shop-bought frozen desset (like Sarah Lee's apricot or Danish pie or something like that)?  You get the best result when you bake it frozen - the shape kept its integrity.  


      Shiao-Ping

      summerbaker's picture
      summerbaker

      Thanks for doing this experiment.  I have been wondering about this as a way to bake SD during the week when I don't have all day to check on the dough.....  Now that I've caught the SD bug and would like to fit in an extra bake!  I wouldn't mind spreading it out over another night.


      Summer

      jj1109's picture
      jj1109

      That's interesting David, thanks! I'm in the middle of performing a similar style test with your version of Susan's original sourdough, however after I finished my stretch and folds, I have divided the dough into the sizes I'm after, wrapped the dough tightly in cling wrap and put them straight into the fridge. I've baked them on day 0 (no retardation, normal rising schedule), one day retard and this evening will be two days retardation, with one final one tomorrow. I'll post up the results in my blog later this week!


      the photos in my most recent post are the first two trials.

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      I'll look for your discussion of your experiment.


      I'm going to guess that the loaf that is retarded for two days will have a denser crumb and some problems with oven spring due to gluten degradation. The flavor should be quite sour.


      David

      jj1109's picture
      jj1109

      yup, i'm looking forward to tasting that one!

      SylviaH's picture
      SylviaH

      Hi David, I started out with all good intentions of following your instructions.  As the day went on things changed.  This is my second time to make Susan's lovely sourdough and I really must make it more often...


      Here's what happened!  I followed your instructions and made a double recipe.  I only had KA for the bread flour  Maybe that's why the dough seemed very hydrated and was difficult to form into a ball!  After mixing I let the the dough bulk ferment for 8 hrs. on top of my refrigerator..it looked awfully flat but had risen some so I shaped it into a ball 'not much of a ball' and placed in a well floured banneton and refrigerated it...that was about 10pm.  I took it out of the frig this morning at about 9AM and it looked as if it had hardly risen.  After about 30 mins. and still cold.  I plopped it onto my parchment lined paddle and into a 500F oven reduced to 450F and covered it with my stainless steel bowl.  I thought it turned out looking good and tasting even better much to my surprise!




       


      Sylvia


       


       

      dmsnyder's picture
      dmsnyder

      David

      SylviaH's picture
      SylviaH

      Thanks, David!  My timing was off to do the mix and then overnight the bulk ferment.  Next time your method will come very handy!


      Sylvia