The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What Happened to my Focaccio

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

What Happened to my Focaccio

For the last several years I have been baking focaccio using Peter Reinhart's recipe (with some modifiations). The result has been uniformly excellent, until yesterday. Yesterday's focaccia was terrible; and I have no idea what went wrong.

Here's the scenario:
I make the focaccio in 3 stages: first a pre-ferment, then a shaping and an overnight rise in the refrigerator; finally, the topping and final rise, and the baking. I start off with 325g of flour; use some in the pre-ferment; add the remainder the next day; then allow it to rise for an hour. At that point I divide the dough in half, and store half in the freezer.

This is what I did with the latest attempt. I made the focaccio 2 weeks ago, used half (it was delicious) and stored half. Yesterday I took the second half from the freezer, allowed it to come to room temperature; stretched and oiled it, and put it into the refrigerator overnight. Yesterday I took it out, allowed it to come to room temperature, put toppings on it, allowed it to rise, and then baked it. It was awful!! There was no oven-spring; the dough never appeared to rise; and, when baked did not cook properly. One could still taste the flour, and there was no crumb.

My question is: What happened? Why was the first half excellent, and the second half terrible? How did all the yeast die (if that's what happened)?

Insights will be welcomed.
Tom

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The yeast froze to death. You got some rise with warming due to the CO2 bubbles already in the dough but no new CO2 was made during the first part of the bake, thus poor oven spring.


David

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

That sounds probable. However, does that mean that I can't store dough in the freezer? Or should I modify my method so that I can take the risen dough out of the freezer, add a small amount of a pre-ferment made while the frozen dough is warming, and proceed from there with a second rise,etc.?
Tom

pattyfermenty's picture
pattyfermenty

in my experience, freezing dough for more than 6 days makes the dough unusable and everyday in the freezer, the gluten structure of the dough breaks down further and will not hold a rise. in addition, the yeast activity is brought to a halt and needs much time to get back up and running (if in fact you haven't already let the dough rise sufficiently).

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

Your conclusions are based, I'm sure, on your experience; but they don't agree with what I've seen. I routinely keep yeast in the freezer for months, with no bad effects. When I take it out, it is as lively as it was when it went in. I've kept sourdough starter in the freezer for months as well, with no bad effects. Since the original posting, I've put my focaccio dough in the freezer for longer than the two-week period mentioned, and it worked very well when I took it out.

As the King of Siam (Yul Brynner) said, "It's a puzzlement."
I 'd like to hear some other's experience with storing either dough, or yeast in the freezer.
Tom

pattyfermenty's picture
pattyfermenty

Hi Tom,


I was referring to the original poster's claim that she had put the finished dough in the freezer, not yeast or starter. In my experience, I have placed dough that I knew was good in the freezer and tried to use it. It appeared to me that the freezer destroyed the gluten network of the dough over time and almost completely after 2 weeks. After a few days the dough was fine and the gluten network could still contain the rise, but it degraded thereafter. I assume that this was what was happening. I'd be interested in other's thoughts on the subject.

La masa's picture
La masa

I keep my fresh yeast in the freezer. I've read somewhere on this site that fresh yeast that has been frozen turns into an unusable liquid mess. I can assure you that my frozen yeast turns into a completely functional... liquid mess. I don't know why it almost liquifies that way, but it's still completely functional.


I'm now using small 25 gr dices, but have been using a 500 gr brick before, that lasted for more than a year. It worked great to the last cell. God bless 'em, those little cells.


 

sicilianbaker's picture
sicilianbaker

I thought our journey of Artisan Breads was to avoid the freezer?.

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

I think you are in the wrong Forum. There is a forum for Artisan Breads, but this isn't it.

milwaukeecooking's picture
milwaukeecooking

If you are going to freeze yeasted dough you need to up the yeast content.  You can even go as high as 5-7% of your flour weight.  The more yeast for the freezer the better. 


 


 


milwaukeecooking.blogspot.com

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

I'm afraid I don't agree with your comment. A discussion of yeast in a different forum reached the consensus that the amount of yeast used in a recipe was inversely proportional to the time the dough is allowed to rise. Yeast will continue to multiply while there is food, so long as its waste products are not excessive. Therefore, adding more yeast to a dough merely because it will be going into the freezer doesn't make sense. A greater addition of yeast will result in the same number of yeast cells in a shorter time period. Most recipes use doubling in volume as a sign that the dough is proofed. With a greater initial yeast addition, this will take place in a lesser time span.

If the reasoning behind your suggestion is that the cold freezer temperature will kill the yeast cells, and that more yeast will result in a greater chance for an individual cell to survive doesn't agree with the general experience that yeast may be stored in the freezer for extended time periods.

Please explain the reasoning behind your statement.

milwaukeecooking's picture
milwaukeecooking

Cold temperature will kill activated yeast.  Once yeast has fed it is vulnerable to freezing cold temperatures.  Storing yeast dough in the freezer for more than a couple of days will produce a dough that will not rise.  However, there is yeast designed specifically for freezers.  Now, in defense of my statement earlier, upping the yeast percentage will provide a chance that there will be some yeast that will survive.  By adding more yeast you are in fact adding more yeast cells.  This is a gamble though.  There is no way to insure that your yeast will survive the cold.  I agree with sicilianbaker, we should avoid the freezer.  There is no viable option for long-term storage in a freezer other than forking out $$ for altered freezer yeast.  Retarding the dough in the refridgerator for a couple of days works.  Retarding also helps flavor.     


Barefoot-Baker:  your reply seemed fairly hostile.  Maybe I am just reading into your blunt statements. 

Barefoot-Baker's picture
Barefoot-Baker

Thanks for your explanation. What you've said makes sense, even if it doesn't agree with my experience. I've stored dough in the freezer for long periods of time with no noticeable effect, except for the one occasion that started this thread. If your explanation is the correct one, how does one explain the frozen dough that one can buy in any supermarket?

As to the perceived hostility - it certainly wasn't intended, and I apologize if you interpreted my statements as hostile. As many have observed, it's difficult to convey the nuances of speech in a written communication. Rest assured I'm looking for information, not confrontation

pattyfermenty's picture
pattyfermenty

Yeast can survive in freezing temperature and that is evidenced by the fact that one can freeze a wild sourdough culture in the freezer and then quickly revive it. Additionally, one can freeze dough and have it rise when thawed. From what I understand, some yeast will die, but not so many that you can't either revive a culture or use a dough.


From my experience, yeast dying in the freezer is not the problem. What I have seen is that after a week or so, it is the gluten network that erodes from the freezing and so when the dough is cooked it can no longer hold the rise so well. As for store bought dough, well, I have never known it to rise much anyway and have never used it or seen it in use. I would guess also that they have very short usage dates on them.


My guess is that you let this focaccia dough sit too long in the freezer, longer than your usual. After a week or so, doughs become usuable in the freezer from my experience.

milwaukeecooking's picture
milwaukeecooking

I have never used store bought freezer dough but I have seen my grandmother use it once.  I tasted it.  It was bland.  The one thing that helps store freezer dough rise is the addition of a leavener like baking soda.  Store bought freezer bread also has a list of other chemicals in it that help yeast survive freezing a bit better.  I would never buy or use store bough freezer dough.