The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough loosing elasticity - please help

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Sourdough loosing elasticity - please help

Hi,


I would like to ask for help with my sourdough breads. Even if the dough looks nice after kneading, it becomes extremely loose (sometimes even liquid) during the fermentation. And in times it is possible to handle and somewhat shape, it becomes completely flat during proofing.


I have my second starter now. My first starter produced wonderful breads, I never experienced any big problems. But the one that I started after the Days od Unleavened Breads is really strange. I keep it the same way - 60% hydration, 20% whole rye, 80% white flour, feeding every 12 hours and it rises very well.


It happens only when the bread is pure sourdough. When I add the starter to a yeasted bread (1% fresh yeast), everything is OK.


It happens with whatever recipe (the same recipes that were OK with my first starter), so I will give only one example:


80g firm starter


100g T800


100g T650


200g whole wheat


340g water


10g sugar


5g salt


1 tsp caraways seeds


Mix, autolyse 30min, French fold 100 strokes, 10min rest, then 4 Stretch&Folds after 15minutes. Bulk fermentation 3-4hours in the kitchen (71-74°F) then overnight in the fridge. In the morning preshape - shape - proofing app 120min.


The same problem happens when there is only 20% whole wheat or whole rye. Moreover when I tried to replace the white flours with KAF AP (a present form US), in the morning the dough was completely liquid.


Well, that said if I do not watch the flat shape or bake in a pan, it tastes wonderful, the bread is quite light and the cumb is open.


Any idea or suggestions?

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

rye involves a lot of proteolitic activity, thus in few hours your flour will turn into something resembling a glue.


Generally proteolisis can be kept under control adding salt already in the biga, did you try it? I usually dissolve salt in the water, then use this water to dissolve the starter and prepare the biga.


When you use yeast you won't notice the effect because yeast requires much less time to raise the dough.


Another possibility is to use a higher gluten flour, but I wouldn't particularly like the idea to use high-gluten flour for bread...


 


You can also consider converting your starter to all AP, or use much less of your mixed starter to begin with (e.g make a salted biga with 10 gr and prepare the final dough when it's raised).

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Thanks, for you comments. I am happy to see an answer from somebody from Europe! I am also thinking of too high enzyme activity, but compared to my first starter I do not understand why.


Rye? Only 10%? I did these same recipes with my first starter, following the same method. I used even 25% rye and I never had problem.


When I do yeast bread with addition of the starter just for taste, I also follow the same schedule with overnight fermentation. So the time is the same as for sourdough.


It is not really easy to get a very high gluten flour on regular basis here. Could you give me more details how you prepare you biga? Or an example of a recipe?


Thanks


Zdenka

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

When I do a bread like yours (mostly... never with white flour) I prepare my biga with a method similar to this:


-I dissolve 2 gr of salt in 50 gr of water


-I use that water to dissolve 10 gr of sourdough


-add 100 gr of flour and let raise overnight


 


at morning the biga will have raised  and if all was well it won't be almost melted as you observed in your doughs: it will surely be a little softer than the night before, but still kneadable.


Dissolve this biga in the salted water of the final dough and add the rest of the ingredients. Generally I use 1/4 of the total flour in the biga, thus 300 more grams in the final dough.

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Thank you Nico,


I will certainly try it. I only do not know - do you use some salt for regular feedeng as well or only when you prepare a biga for a concrete bread.


I know that salt inhibits enzymes (I have already used it with soakers) , but it inhibits yeast as well, doesn´t it? So does it inhibit enzymes more than it does yeast?


Sorry, I have still a lot to learn


zdenka

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Hi Nico,


I wanted to try out your trick with salt but too late I realized I put there 5g (1tsp) salt instead of 2g. It has been 16hours now and it does not seem to rise.


Any suggestion???

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

I'd redo the biga reducing salt. 5% of salt seems really too much in my opinion

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I concur with nicodvb. It sounds like too much enzyme activity.


However, another thought is the flour. Do you home mill? I find my Nutrimill really heats up the flour unless I start with frozen/chilled  wheat berries.If it heats up too much, there can be damage to the starch and this can also cause increased enzyme activity with the slackness of the dough you describe.


I've also had this situation and it continued until I changed flour to a different batch.I just used the suspect flour for cakes and cookies without a problem.


Also, different types of whole wheat have different types/characterisitcs of gluten. Kamut wheat has plenty of gluten but it is very extensible and you end up with freeform loaves that won't hold a shape.


I have also found that my starter can sometimes acquire more liquid characterisitcs if I neglect a feeding or 2 without refrigeration.And then if I try to activate and use in bread, my dough is as you describe.The answer is to rebuild the starter using only a few tablespoons of the original, heavily discarding before the next feeding and continuing until it is back to normal.I do keep my starter at a more liquid state than you do.


So a few more thoughts/ramblings on the matter.

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

I do not have a mill. I use store-bought flours, always the same producers. But with my second starter the problem happens with any flour.


What I do not understand is why the problem is now.


My starter is fed quite regularly at 10g starter - 30g water - 50g flour. I use approximately the same rates when I need more starter for a concrete bread.


Do you thing beginning a new starter could help?

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Zdenka,


I would try this:  After your mix, autolyse and folding, transfer the dough to the refrigerator.  In the morning take the dough out and do one stretch and fold.  After two and one half hours more at room temperature, do another stretch and fold.  After thirty minutes more, divide and preshape, then shape and proof.  The proofing should take anywhere from ninety minutes to four hours dependent upon all of the factors affecting proofing.  Make certain of your ability to tell when dough is fully proofed.  Correct proofing is the most critical aspect of all this.


You will meet with success,


Jeff

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Thanks Jeff,


I think I have already read about your method in another file. In fact I printed hat comment and it is still in my notebook waiting to be tested :-)


But I did not know it could be connected to handling with enzymes. I wonder what is the explanation behind that - why is it better to cool the dough first? It will come to room temperature later anyway and the enzymes will be activated the same way as if it was first fermented at room temperaure and then refrigerated.


Sorry, I am confused. But I will certainly try!!!


zdenka

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Zdenka,


Try what I suggested and then let's talk about the outcome.  Put simply, with your stated method, you are getting the dough completely ready for shaping, final proofing and baking but instead, it is going into the refrigerator.  By the time you pull the dough out on day 2 it is, in all aspects, well past being ready for the oven.  The refrigerator is slowing down the process not stopping it and you have an almost fully processed the dough before it goes in.  By putting in the refrigerator right away you are slowly down and retarding the entire process before it happens.  Then on day 2 it should all go as you would hope.


 


Jeff

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Jeff,


thanks for at least a short explanation. You are certainly right  now I have to try and see.


Today I have already mixed the starter with salt as suggested by Nico. But I will try your method on Sunday/Monday.


Looking forward to experiment and results :-)


zdenka

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


Nico always offers very sound advice; he's nailed your problem straightaway.   The dough structure is breaking down too rapidly due to enzymatic activity being too rapid. [Nico, I'm wondering if you may come back to me and clarify on croissant lamination??]


You can control this more effectively with Yerffej's idea.   If you chill the dough immediately, and allow for a slow fermentation first, then process for final proof, you should enjoy greater success.


Best wishes


Andy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

just in case.  Be careful not to contaminate it with the present starter.  Use 20g Rye and 20g unsweetend pineapple juice.  Keep the starters away from each other.  Then in a few weeks test out the new one.  It can't hurt to get a new one going.


It could very well be that you have a combination producing a lot of enzymes.  Maybe one of the flours contains a good amount of malt, I know that barley malt and rye are seldom combined resulting in too much enzyme action.  Maybe something along those lines is happening. 


To find out if the problem is the sourdough starter, try taking just a small amount of starter and feeding it only one flour.  Or, better yet, make three starters using your present starter.  Try making a rye only, a whole wheat only,  and an AP starter feeding for a few days and see if the problem clears up when comparing them in dough.  If all three are affected or affect the flour the same way, then you'll be glad you started a new starter.  If one flour falls apart before the others, you've got a good indication which flour is a problem. 


To test the flours, make firm dough balls (just flour and water or mixtures of various flours and water) label them, set them in a row, cover and watch them.  If one contains a high amount of enzymes, the gluten will fall apart on its own without additional help from yeasts.


Mini

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Mini, I am happy you understand the problem is with this particular starter and it is not really "normal" - the enzyme acctivity seems to me really excessive. (And this starter was iniciated with the pineapple method described on this site)


You mention:



I know that barley malt and rye are seldom combined resulting in too much enzyme action



- when I see my notes the breads with some rye, even as little as 10%, were more problematic than only wheat breads. Could this have a meaning?


Your suggestion with 3 starters sounds interesting. I love biochemistry :-) It would take some more time but it may be worth trying. Hmmm.


Can I ask you what starter do you keep on regular basis? I know you bake both rye and  wheat loafs...


Thanks


zdenka

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

fed with Austrian rye flour.  I also have a spelt starter that was rye at one time.  So far no problems.  Both kept in the fridge most of the time. Try the flour ball test and let it run 2 or 3 days.  The result may or may not help.


Maybe you can reduce the enzymes by refreshing the starter with baked day old bread instead of flour.  A blender works miracles!   That way no added fresh enzymes get into the starter and you get longer working times with the dough.  I don't have a lab but I sure am the curious type.  It might be worth a try.


Mini

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Have you already tried the thing with bread? Do you have an idea about how much starter : water : bread for how much flour?


So, if I understand well you use you pure rye starter even for wheat breads. I only wonder what would the taste be if I put it to a challah as last weekend...


Do you use whole rye or medium? I can imagine the flour cannot be so different in Austria - it just 2 hours drive from where I live :-)


Actually here nobody keeps another starter than 100% rye. The most traditional bread in my country is 45-55% rye - all of it in the form of a sour. Well I have not dare to try yet. But I will one day.


I was also amazed by you 100% rye. This is another challenge for me... BTW - how and when do you make the hole in the middle?


zdenka

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Looks like you got your investigations ahead of you.  Lots of them.


I must be using a medium rye  it's #960.  The bread feeding?  Yes, I do it all the time.  Keep my mother starter with rye and refresh using rye bread.  I soak it with just enough water to soften and weigh it as flour & water combined.  Leave it at room temp until I like the aroma.  I've never baked a challah with sourdough.  


Mini

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

I was convinced I saw the special "scoring" or rye bread in your post. Bad memory. I will have to find it again.


So if I understand well: regular feeding 100% hydration rye starter with flour / water. And for preparing a starter for baking using old bread instead of flour. I have just found the link to backersuepke´s web page and your experiment, so I will read it as well.


Can this starter be used for any bread?


You are certainly right. I have a lot to try and to learn yet. It has been only a little more than a year that we bought a breadmaker and made our first home-made bread. And it is 5 or 6 months that I stopped using it. Thanks to TFL I prefer working by hand and baking in the oven.


Sure I am still an "unexperienced baby" baker but I love learning both theory and practice :-)


The sourdough challah was my husband´s wish. BTW it came wonderful!!! Even with my disbalanced starter...


Thanks for help and patience!


zdenka


 


(my 3 new starters seem to rise well on their new food...)

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Sorry, but there's something that doesn't fit with what I read previously: I thought that enzymes (and protease in particular, that is Zdenka's cause of concern in this case) were totally unaffected by cold and refrigeration. Am I totally wrong?


Andy: I'm coming back to you in the lamination thread, it'a a really fascinating matter:-)

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Nico,


You've had long and complex conversations with Debbie Wink on this.   I'm sure she states that acidification is slowed down by use of colder temperatures.   Do you not think this is significant in terms of the dough rheology we are discussing here?


Look forward to hearing from you on the lamination blog


Ciao


Andy


ps love your formula for working with the biga.   Perfectly balanced; you are some baker, I must say!

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Evidently I should have chosen a different job rather than doing the programmer ;)


 


Since I'm not a microbiologist nor a chemistrian I'm not sure i understand Debra's explanations to the full extent. My understanding (hopefully correct) is that acidification -that as you wrote is surely slowed down by colder temperatures- is only one of the causes of the gluten deterioration, and not even the most preminent one. If I understand correctly what I read (and remember...) protease works on its own whether there's some fermentation/acidification ongoing or not, as on a parallel path. Isn't it the reason why autolyse is particularly advised when the flour is particularly high in gluten and yiealds a very elastic dough that can't be spread easily?


 


Sorry, I don't want to spread confusion in this particularly complex matter. It's not my world and everytime I write something I'm concerned I could be writing something completely wrong.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Nico,


I'd say this seems right to me.   Once the protein is hydrated, yes the enzymes will get to work.


Personally, I use autolyse to fully hydrate the starches, as well as the protein.   A bit of a soaking allows for greater uptake.   Then time to allow the water to be taken up by bran in any wholegrain flour being used.   I don't think I'd dream of making a geneuine wholemeal bread now without using autolyse


Best wishes


Andy

ananda's picture
ananda

...to your starter between bakes?


You give a feeding regime...fine


But how often are you baking?


Are you using any form of refrigeration here?


I'm thinking you need to change the way you maintain the culture


Best wishes


Andy

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Hi Andy,


thank you for all your comments. I will reply to them gradually.


For my first starter I followed Dan Lepard´s instructions except for yogurt. That starter was OK. This time I tried the "pinapple solution" described by Debra Wink and SourLady on TFL. It was about 2 months ago.


After the first 5 days, the starter was maintained 100% hydration, then 80% (fed 1:4:5). But I found it was ripe too early. So I converted it to 60% hydration (the same as with my first starter).


The starter is fed 10:30:50 every 12 hours and kept on the cupboard. I bake 3-4 times a week (Sunday, Monday, Friday and the rest depends on the situation) so I do not put it to the fridge.


For feeding I use 20% whole rye (T1700) and 80% white flour (T55 or T65 - the producers here are not forced to write the exact type any more)


Is that enough to make a diagnosis? What should I change?


zdenka

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Zdenka,


if you are using your culture 3 to 4 times a week then the line I was looking at does not apply.   Your culture should be wonderfully active ordinarily, given your current feed regime


Best wishes


Andy

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

What was the possible cause you were thinking about if I had not bake so often? If I may ask?


I also wonder what kind of enzymes are probably so active in my starter - amylases, proteases or both? I got a literally liquid dough when combining wheat T800, rye T950 with american KAF AP where barkey malt flour is added.


What I do not understand why there is not a problem with yeasted breads containing the addition of the starter which I equally retard overnight. It seems like the problem is in the interaction of my starter with flour and other conditions. The enzymes come both from the flour and from the wild yeast don´t they?


I will be very grateful for some explanation.


Thanky zdenka

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Zdenka,


A culture not maintained properly will become overly acidic.   The result is that if used in a bread dough, the protein structure will break down very rapidly, and the fermentation will just..never happen!


Best wishes


Andy

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Both the dough and the shaped loaf rise well despite their more or less liquid state.


zd.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

I've had similar issues to Zdenka's with my rye starter. At its peak it's incredibly feisty. I have retarded doughs made with it in the fridge but it managed to double the dough over a 16 hour retard. This helpfully worked as the first proof, but it quadrupled it over a 21 hour retard. This happened even with relatively low rates of starter to final dough weight (11%). Most doughs I make contain rye, up to 30% but it's the same with predominantly white bread flour.


Not sure if its the yeasts or protease that are so lively. The dough gets more slippery over time. It doesn't collpase but gets harder to shape. I'd hate to get rid of the starter, however, as the bread made with it tastes delicious. I may try to get a more stable starter, however, just to compare.


I will try lesser quantities of rye starter, try cutting it with the slower white starter and also try a cold water retard, as per the Anis Bouabsa baguettes to see if it slows down yeast activity in the fridge. Otherwise the starter just makes mincemeat of the long retardation and the dough comes out overproofed  In case its enzymes I will try adding salt earlier. I had been adding it after the autolyse of the final dough.


I have had most success retarding an initial levain or preferment rather than the whole dough, as in Pierre Nury's rye or Jan Hedh's lemon bread, which both turned out beautifully. Think Andy had previously advocated this as a good way to work with rye and see nico mentions biga here. I also wonder from my limited experience of a similar starter if this would be helpful with Zdenka's starter?


Any reflections on this welcome.   Regards, Daisy_A

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Daisy, that sounds more like the starter yeasts are strong and fast.  The same results I get when using high % rye and instant yeast, the yeast is doing the ripping of a more delicate rye structure, not giving it the time to stretch.  (Sort of like blowing up a frozen balloon with compressed gas.)   I'd be tempted to slow them down using the methods you wrote about.  Salt tightens the protein structure so I don't think adding it earlier would help, just make it worse.  I'd go with less sd and therefore less yeast, cooler temps but too cool also limits rye stretch.  You need to find something that will weaken the yeast, how about adding it after it has peaked?  After it has been refreshed and fermenting 12 hours or more?  Or try to  reduce the feeding amount, go to a 1:1:1 before using.  That's what I would do with such a krafty starter…  tame it.


Mini

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Thanks Mini for this good critique. Your balloon metaphor makes it much easier to understand. I do think it is linked to the strength of the yeasts. In another post I compared managing the rye starter to riding a horse - it's like riding an arab cross - full of power and character but if you don't rein it in, or tame it, as you say, it will be off down the field with you!


I think most people with new starters worry that they won't be capable of raising bread, so recently I had been feeding the rye 1.3.4 in preparation for baking. However after 3 days of that schedule it could quadruple the dough. I will take your advice and try it on 1.1.1 again and also try using the starter later in the fermentation process.


With thanks, Daisy_A

kolobezka's picture
kolobezka

Mini,


I do not understand your suggestion. I can imagine that after feeding my starter 1:1:1 it would peak in 3-4hours. But what then? Feeding again? Or let it starve till the 12 hours are gone?


Well, as for my starter, it rises quite fast, but reaches max 2-2 1/2 its initial volume. The final dough with about 15% prefermented flour rises much slower and it goes up to app doubling its volume. Sure it is not the same as Daisy´s which can rises 4times more.


BW


zdenka

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Zdenka, as you noticed, you two have two different starters.  Her's is crazy about growing with tight dough structure, yours is crazy about falling apart and eating dough structure, probably from enzymes. 


Variety is the spice of life.


Mini

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Zdenka, Mini,


I thought my starter might have similar issues to yours Zdenka, until I read Mini's really helpful clarification and realized they were different.


If I need to post more questions and reflections on my own starter, I'll post on a new thread. In that way you will know that all the responses on this thread from now on are likely to refer to the situation with your starter.


Thanks again Mini for giving me the pointers. I will try out some of the suggested approaches but probably post on a new thread, as said.


Kind regards,  Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

One is on the hearth - 800g of rye sour dough...fully ferment by the morning


T'other is in the fridge - 480g white levain...slowly bulking as a perfect dough


BUT: what do you want???  I differentiate here.   Rye should be sour, in order to benefit the pentosans and give dough stability.   Use at low levels with wheat flour, and the dough quality is uncompromised, and the flavour undeniable


Wheat levain should produce bread similar to that described by nico in the context of a white biga.   In other words, mild, yet flavoursome, and utilising the strength of wheat gluten.


Then to the high ryes some of us are so fond of...different animal altogether.


So, I've always seen differences between rye cultures, which I call sour dough, and wheat cultures which I would refer to as leaven.


I hope this makes sense to all


Daisy, you should let you rye FULLY ferment through before use!!!


BW


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Thanks Andy. Okay, I want to do the right thing here...Does this mean I should fully pre-ferment all the rye flour in any given recipe before mixing or that I should make sure my rye starter/sour is fully fermented before using it in any given dough, or both?  No problem with sourness, the starter is beautifully sour but also retains complex nut and fruit flavours, which is why I'm keen to learn how to work best with it.


Best wishes,  Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,


A number of highly esteemed bakers on TFL use a small amount of rye flour in their formula which is not part of their pre-ferment.   This is absolutely fine.


For preference, I like to use the rye element as part of the pre-fermented flour.   As I say, that is my preference.


So what I'm saying is that your rye sour should be fully fermented.


Here's a VB example: 2.5kg of spent rye sour was used to ferement 18kg of Dark Rye flour in 33L of water @ 30*C.   Fermentation time was 16 hours.   The bin contents were "kicking" after just an hour, with bubbles approaching the top of the bin.   When we came to use the sour, the culture maybe had a small yeast crop on the surface, and the texture was creamy, with the colour mutated from grey to a vaguely pinkish hue.   We are talking pre-separation of liquids and solids here: if that has happened, then the ferment has gone too far


Best wishes


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Thanks for the illustration. I've not yet had separation of liquids and solids with the rye starter or any preferment made with it so I will try to carry on observing it to see when it is fully fermented. With the Jan Hedh lemon bread, which was one of the most successful breads I've made, all the rye flour for the total dough was in the preferment, so will definitely try that approach again.  Kind regards, Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A


separation is the "hooch" you will see discussed on here.


I've witnessed certain esteemed bakers drink this stuff; not me I hasten to add


We shall go no further!


BW


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy, Good grief - I can't imagine what that would do to you if you drank it in industrial quantities! Was thinking it must basically be like moonshine - roughly fermented grain - when I had a lightbulb moment. Of course moonshine is also called hooch! I hadn't connected that description with the use of the term in baking.


I sometimes think trying to bake sourdough at home will turn me into a drunken baker...Not because I drink the hooch but because when the dough seems to be going south the chilled bottle of Leffe in the fridge sparkles more enticingly. Up to now, though, I've resisted drowning my sorrows at the bread's up and downs ;-)   Best wishes,  Daisy_A

ananda's picture
ananda

Do you mean the Belgian Trappist Bier Daisy_A?


That is my favourite Blonde Bier..ever!


You'd better ask Andrew about the moonshine; he's the expert!!!!


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Yes definitely Leffe blonde - don't think I could manage the moonshine!


A close friend of mine was invited to a festival of home brewed liquor while on placement in Crete and she and most of her colleagues had to take the next day off - a bit worrying as that was most of the staff of the local hospital. Not a good day to get ill...


Cheers, Daisy_A

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

the dough looks nice after kneading, it becomes extremely loose (sometimes even liquid) during the fermentation. And in times it is possible to handle and somewhat shape, it becomes completely flat during proofing... I did these same recipes with my first starter, following the same method. I used even 25% rye and I never had problem... I use store-bought flours, always the same producers. But with my second starter the problem happens with any flour.

Zdenka,

What you describe sounds very similar to an experience I had last year right after firming up my starter. I was making pain au levain, and my dough actually went flat in the mixing bowl right after adding the levain. So the connection to the levain was fairly clear. My starter had risen well and matured an hour and a half quicker than stated, so I took that as a good sign of vigor and proceeded to mix the flour and water for autolyse. It seemed overly stiff and dry, and so I added about 1/3 cup more water. It was looking just barely wet enough at that point. (side note: I was maintaining the starter at 60%, and barely could get all the flour to incorporate, so I anticipated having to add more water.)

After autolyse, I added the salt and the levain, and resumed mixing/kneading in the stand mixer. At first, it looked just like I expected---a shaggy dough that at least partly came away from the sides of the bowl. But as it smoothed out, instead of forming into more of a ball, it quickly became more fluid and sticky, settling into the bowl like a puddle of batter. I worried that I had added too much water, but I resisted adding any more flour in the mixer. Instead, I scraped the dough out onto a floured counter to see if I could bring it into a ball, I gave it a few kneads, and it was sticky and slack, but the hydration really seemed about right. It didn't take long for it to slump and flatten out in the bowl.

50 minutes later, I dumped it out for the first s&f. When I pulled the edge closest to me (what turned out to be dangerously close to the edge of the counter), it almost got away from me. Have you ever tried to pick up a slinky by grabbing just one part of it? That's what it was like. Fortunately, I caught it as it tried to sag to the floor. Except it was more like a dive to the floor, it happened so fast. Janij's description of taffy (here) is a good one. It seemed like it could stretch for miles. At the second s&f, it was only slightly better, so I decided it needed at least a third, and more fermentation time. The third time, there was some elasticity, and some puffiness, so after an extra 50 min of fermentation time, I proceeded to dividing and everthing else as given in the procedure.

When I turned the loaves out of their bannetons, they stayed inflated, but started to spread immediately. My shaping must have been okay, because they rose upward in the oven, rather than spreading even more, and they came out looking not great, but better than I expected.

At first, I too wondered if the problem was proteolysis, but it was so different from my previous experience with excessive proteolysis, which looked more like this: 

First rise 

Second rise

Final proof 

Also, because proteolysis is enzyme-driven, it takes time to see the effects, and only gets worse. This weird stretchiness developed immediately after incorporating the levain, and elasticity actually improved a little with extra fermentation.

Others were contacting me around that time with similar problems, and I ended up writing to Michael Gänzle at University of Alberta, to see if he could shed some light on what organism(s) might be doing this.

Based on past work, I have encountered very few sourdough starters that are proteolytic to a point that they would alter dough elasticity, however, most organisms produce thiol compounds which depolymerise gluten and thus alter the dough structure.

If you have read the milk powder thread, then you already know that thiol compounds interfere in the formation of the gluten network by blocking cross-linkage between gluten proteins. Cross-linking is what pulls the gluten together into a strong, elastic mesh. Some sourdough bacteria produce thiol compounds from peptides and amino acids containing sulfur such as glutathione, cystine or cysteine (and may throw off a cheesy or sulfury odor in the process). More people seem to be complaining of these problems lately, with starters in transition (or maybe I'm just more in tune to it now that I've experienced it first-hand). By transition I mean changing hydration, changing flour, etc., as well as new starters that haven't stabilized yet, or even established starters that have gone "off" because of underfeeding or neglect. 

Click here: Problems transitioning from rye/whole wheat to white flour 

Starting over doesn't necessarily help. What I recommend is stepping up your feeding to 3 times a day, if you can, or to a bigger feeding twice/day if you can't. Feed at peak, before it collapses. I did 5:3:5, three times a day, and when I couldn't manage at least two feedings, I parked it in the fridge to slow it down in between. It took 9 to 10 days to rid my starter of the offending organism, but the transformation was dramatic and overnight. It had been in sort of a holding pattern for 9 days, and then changed all at once, indicating to me that a new (more desirable) organism took over. It has behaved beautifully ever since, and my doughs have elasticity again. Give it a try.

-dw

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

This post is gold!


I kept my breath for a couple of days to read your explanation. You are really and endless source of surprises:)


A question rises spontaneously: other than refreshing and stabilizing the starter as you said, is there some magical pixie dust to counterbalance thiol compounds and prevent their interference with the gluten when the starter is not in an optimal condition?


Thanks a lot for dedicating us so much time, Debra!


 

jj1109's picture
jj1109

It sounds like Debra is talking about a natural by-product of certain micro-organisms. You've just provided optimal conditions for this other bug to grow better than the ones you want - so you have to tip the balance back to the ones you want, by providing nice conditions ie. nice strong healthy starter, by a regular feeding schedule.


great post Debra!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Thanks Nico,


Thiol compounds are also what make "green" flour difficult to work with. Generally, the way they are disabled is through oxidation---either by letting freshly milled flour sit and age naturally in the presence of oxygen, or by adding chemical oxidizers to speed up the process.


Aging isn't a solution you can use for your dough, but I suppose you could try a commercial dough conditioner mix that has oxidizers. Or adding bean flour which also oxidizes, but expect that these things will have a negative impact on flavor and crumb color. The only other thing I can think of to help improve elasticity, is ascorbic acid.


But the best solution, I think, is to fix the starter :-)
-dw

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

and flavoring the bread with bean flour doesn't sound very exciting ;-)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Above you mentioned you feeding the starter  "5:3:5, three times a day"   Do you mean the starter and the flour had the same weight and "3" refers to water?   Just wanting to be clear on that ratio.  (or is it  1:3:5   S:W:F ?)


Mini