The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough stages

Barmaley's picture
Barmaley

Sourdough stages

As I understand, there are two major stages in sourdough baking: first they make sponge and then they make dough. In reallity, sponge is a form of dough. Sponge raises and bubbles the same way as dough would. At the same time some fuel for bubble generation is used ny yeasts. So, what is the reason to make sponges, why just not make gough in one step?

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Flavor

Barmaley's picture
Barmaley

Flournwater, your answer is obviously correct, who will doubt in this! However, it dos't explain processes, inner-mechanics so to speak. I was interested to learn deeper into what is going on there?


There are two methods to teach mathematics: in the first the teacher dictates formulas for students to memorize with the hope that they will apply them to get the results and in the second the teacher explains WHAT they are doing and then all the formulas became obvious. The first method is very popular, but if you ask many students in USA they will say that they "hate math" or that they are "bad at math". Understanding helps you to get creative approach to achieve better results.


I applologize about my English - this is a secon language for me.

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

A sponge is a small portion of the final dough. It is made ahead of the main dough and gets lots of time to ferment and develop the aforementioned flavour. You could make dought immediately and bake it as soon as it rises but the flavour would be lacking. Dough that's allowed to rest and develop has much more intricate and nuanced flavours.


In a bakery setting, creating a sponge (of substantial but still manageable size) allows it to sit on the site aging and developing, then this is used to add the extra "flavour" to numerous different types of doughs. It's a much more logical way of adding developed, well aged dough to a faster dough. And it's multi-purpose aspect is better than making eight different, full-sized doughs and letting them all sit around for a couple of days.

ArieArie's picture
ArieArie

 


One should ask the question, why not let the whole dough sit and develop flavor? 


if you do that there will be very little sugar left for the critters to eat, the gluten structure will brake down, and the alcohol levels will be high enough to slow a second fermentation you will need for  the bread to rise...


 


so, as a compromise, you "sacrifice" part of the dough to develop flavor, and the fresh part of the dough is viable enough to make the bread rise..


 


 


 


 

maryserv's picture
maryserv

Also, when one makes a "sponge" from a sourdough starter, they are also increasing the amount of active yeast available to rise the bread.  Sourdough bakers who are adept at moving around the hydration in their starters and the hydration in the finished dough do so depending upon the recipe they are making. Also, the longer the dough ferments, the greater the "sour" in the sourdough.  There is a recently-revived thread started by JMonkey about getting more "sour" out of the sourdough.  Someone at the end of the thread stated that the more the dough goes between a range of temps, the more sour the end product will be. 


I used up some whole-wheat starter that I converted from a true Amish sweet starter to a sourdough (few months of flour/water only) and followed the theory with the counter-top/room temp feed; mix dough then bulk ferment room temp; then shape final rise in fridge (over 12 hours).  Very wonderful tasting sourdough!

Barmaley's picture
Barmaley

What is Amish sweet starter?


What was the goal of conversion?

maryserv's picture
maryserv

Amish Friendship Starter is a type of sourdough starter that has a specific every 5 days of adding and baking/dividing (and handing the divisions out to "friends"); hence the name.  The major thing about it is that the additions are measure-based 1c sugar, flour, milk.  It sits on the counter (I eventually put mine in the fridge when I started converting).  The bread recipes are basically quickbreads and include instant pudding mix (:0- ).  So, when I got a bag from a friend, I looked for alternate ways to use the starter.  I found many websites with great recipes that I also "tweaked" a bit, and then decided to convert at least one starter completely and the other half as a whole-wheat, less sugar "Newlywed Bread starter" (it made a really nice bread). 


All my research made me want to do real sourdough, so instead of dumping it all, I converted by doing a poor version of flour and water feedings.  I now know the "right" way to do those and started my own sourdough starter w/ rye flour and water on the counter.  I've baked with all of the converted starter that has been in plastic bags in my fridge.  I now have a sourdough starter that I "caught" in my own kitchen, using no commercial yeast.  Nothing against commercial yeast, I have some and use it.  But there is something about doing things a different way that appeals to me. Here are three webpages/blogs that I referenced when learning more about the Amish Friendship Bread process:


http://thenewlyfeds.blogspot.com/2009/03/better-amish-friendship-bread.html


http://www.momswhothink.com/bread-recipes/amish-friendship-bread.html


http://mysisterskitchen.wordpress.com/2007/03/22/amish-friendship-bread/


Hope that isn't TMI!  : )

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Hi Maryserv,
I enjoyed those links. You've come to sourdough the same way I did via friendship starter/bread. I have my own homegrown wild yeast starter now too and have three different kinds going.

maryserv's picture
maryserv

I remember how excited I was that it "took"!  I can't believe how much stronger and active the wild yeast starter is than the stuff I was using that I converted from AFB.  My first loaf rose so fast!  I love the sourness I can get with a cold retard, but what I like the most is the increased shelf life. 


What 3 kinds are you doing?


 

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Hi Mary,


Sorry I forgot to check back with you. I started out with the sweet Amish Starter back in April. It was given to me by a friend but eventually went bad. I got interested in sourdough after that and looked in Joy of Cooking for more information about sourdough bread. I used it with a recipe there for French sourdough and it was good. It would rise the bread well at first, but after several months it took longer and longer and then got unpleasantly sour, so I discarded it.


I'm trying out a potato flake starter now, so I have that, my plain flour/water starter and a less sweet version of the sweet Amish starter with half as much sugar. Joy of Cooking uses that recipe. You can refrigerate it, but I leave it out till it looks a bit bubbly.  I made it using my home grown plain starter.  My rising times are about the same with the various starters. It takes over 4 hrs to rise my loaves most of the time.

maryserv's picture
maryserv

Those rising times sound about right from all I've read and experienced.  I have not tried the potato flake or a fruit juice starter. 


I like how you can do a bit, then put it to bulk rise, then do a bit for another rise then retard or do a final rise with the sourdough.  My yeast experience is that it has to be so regimented and it is hard to do a lot of other things while baking. 


I have Rose Levy B's Bread Bible that I need to go through and start making yeasted breads out of as well as some other amazing recipes I'm finding here on TFL.  Yum yum!

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Oops, I said it exactly backwards. I fed my budding whole wheat/flax meal starter with milk, sugar and flour like the Amish sweet starter after I started adding white flour then started my plain starter with that. I reduced ths sugar after it got going and made it into the  Hermann starter.


The potato flake starter makes a wonderfully light loaf. I love making yeast breads too. It's inspiring to be among fellow lovers of bread baking here.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I suggest you do.


Also:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/14913/very-liquid-sourdough


Liquid sourdough and firm sourdoughs behave a little differently.  I keep a firm one but feed it to a more liquid stage to use for most of my favorite recipes.  The sponge can work as an intermediate stage.  It is possible to manipulate the rate of overall fermentation at this stage.


Mini

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

if your starter is healthy and robust, but keep in mind, you won't have as much flexibility to create and fine-tune different effects. The way I see it, there are actually three stages to sourdough---the stock culture, the pre-ferment(s), and the final dough:


The stock culture (starter, chef, mother, seed, storage leaven---whatever you choose to call it) is for preserving, maintaining and propagating the organisms that give your breads their desired flavoring and leavening. While they produce substances as metabolic by-products that we consider flavorful, exploiting that is not the primary goal at this point. After all, you won't be baking your stock culture. The object is to keep desireable organisms alive, healthy, and in sufficient numbers to do what you will call on them to do for your breads, or in other words, to develop potential. So the goal should be to cultivate the right kind of environment to foster the desired organism profile. That's not necessarily the same thing as what is best for dough or any particular bread. That's an important distinction.


The pre-ferment(s) (first build, second build, etc., levain, starter, sponge, pre-dough...) have two jobs. One is to continue to build a healthy population of organisms with enough collective power to raise and flavor the dough. The other is to start building flavor before the dough is mixed. Using a pre-ferment allows for more variation in the use of hydration, time and temperature as flavor building tools. It also serves to shorten the dough fermentations later, and allow more scheduling flexibility, because part of the flour is already fermented. Maybe your pre-ferment is treated the same as your stock culture; maybe it isn't---that's up to you and the formula you'll be using.


The final dough could be considered the last build or feeding of the sourdough, if you will. At this point, you inoculate the dough with the active cultures that you have cultivated, and infuse the fresh flour with flavor already developed in the pre-ferments. The hydration can be higher or lower, depending on the dough and type of preferment, but there is also an addition of salt. Salt slows organisms, LAB more so than yeast. So do reduced hydration and retarding. Fermentation time may be shorter, or it may be retarded at this point, depending on the temperature, so all these factors add up to create an environment where reproduction is limited. But whether they multiply or not, they continue consuming sugars and producing effects in the dough. At this point, the organisms are headed for the oven, so it's the end of the line for them, making leavening and final flavor development their main function.


Do you see how the objective shifts from propagation and preservation, to flavor and lift as you move from one stage to the next, and why you might chose to treat each stage differently? Again, what is best for the bread is not necessarily the same thing as what's best for the microorganisms and the stock culture. The fundamental difference that sets the stock culture apart from the other stages is "continuous refreshment." It's the continuous nature that allows natural selection to determine the evolution of the starter, and its potential. The pre-ferment to dough stages are but a relatively short dead-end spur off the continuous loop where that potential can be realized. The organisms are more fixed, because there won't be enough generations to lose them through natural selection (and they'll be sacrificed to the oven anyway). So we have a temporary opportunity through preferments and dough, to manipulate them into producing the effects we desire, even if it isn't ideal for them and their long-range survival.


-dw

Barmaley's picture
Barmaley

What a good and clear explanation. Thank you very much!