The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

newbie question

fractious's picture
fractious

newbie question

a newbie question: for sourdoughs, we do (at least) a bulk fermentation followed by shaping and proofing. what is the purpose of the proofing period? is it to


1) allow bubbles to get larger (for a more aerated dough going into the oven)


2) increase the yeast population (for more oven spring when the dough finally gets in the oven)


3) some other reason?


i know it is probably some combination of the 2 (or 3). is there a good, detailed writeup detailing directional relationships between bulk fermentation time/temp and proofing time/temp? i am looking less for precise tables and more for the thinking behind these two phases of the dough preparation process. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Longer controlled proofs tend to have better flavour. 


4) Let the gluten form and gluten structure build and stretch for a pleasing crumb.

fractious's picture
fractious

yes -- so flavour and gluten development are both important too. but what is it that is specific to the proof (as opposed to the bulk fermentation) that does this?


as in, is there something specifically beneficial about the last rise after shaping? how important is it to proof after shaping rather than give the dough time before shaping? (ie, extending bulk fermentation by the proofing time, cold retarding, shaping, then baking immediately without a traditional proofing time)

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

Yes, to all three

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you compact it a little bit.  Giving it time gives the compacted parts time to loosen up and recover from handling. 


The Bulk rise is generally longer as it takes time for the generations of yeast to multiply and give off enough gas and other products to get a good stretch and lift to the dough.  As their numbers increase, so does the rise.  The last proof generally goes much quicker than the bulk rise.  In sourdough the lines get a little fuzzy between when the bulk rise ends and proofing begins because much folding is going on during the bulk rise.  That is when it becomes important to know the feel of the dough when it is nearing final proofing time.  As one folds to strenghten the dough, the folds may become more frequent as the fermentation progresses softening the dough structure.  The dough relaxes, the baker tightens it up, and this may repeat thru the bulk rise until it is shaped.  Then the dough needs to have some relax time before it has to stretch in the oven or it may tear, the skin being too tight.


One has to decide if the ferment has gone on long enough and still keep the integrity of the dough.  Too short of a ferment, can lead to a dense loaf and all kinds of irregular expansion problems when the gas heats up in the dough and the dough hasn't had time to develop it's stretching potential.  Too long a ferment and the dough starts to tear and fall apart.  Then it becomes neccessary to suport the dough with a form or risk a very flat loaf.  Find that middle ground between under-developed and over-developed.  That is what you need to know and to feel with your hands.


Many things have to be taken into consideration when looking for the right moment to final shape.  The recipe will give you some ideas but factors like temperature, type of flour and the amount of water (hydration) of the dough, not to mention the type and condition of the starter will all have a big influence on bulk and proofing times mentioned in the recipe.  The closer one comes to following the recipe, the closer the timing should be. 


In the case of retarding, one should know that there is some rising in the refrigerator as the dough cools down.  If enough rise has been achieved before it was retarded, then the shaped retarded loaf can go into the oven directly.  If the rise hasn't been satisfactory before and after retarding, then some warm up time is needed, and sometimes  re-shaping and a final proof.  Recipes will vary. 


The big influences on bulk time are the amount of yeast and the amount of time the yeast has been allowed to work before retarding.   The big influence on final proof time, is the success of the bulk proof. 


I hope this helps. 


If you are asking what would happen if the dough was simply mixed up and allowed to rise and then be baked without any break in the rising event (that is no redistribution of air pockets and uneven dough temperatures or continuous retightening of the dough surface) then I suggest you try an experiment.  Take a recipe you are familiar with and after mixing divide it equally into two lumps.   Shape one and lay it into a form and cover to prevent drying.  Work with the other dough lump during the bulk rise and eventually shape and lay it also into a form.  If you retard a loaf, do both at the same time.  Bake the two as recipe with a good amount of space between them in the oven and see what happens.


Mini

fractious's picture
fractious

dear mini,


thank you for this long and detailed answer. it is really useful. it goes a long way toward answering the question which i suppose was at the bottom of the original post: if i'm making a high hydration bread and the proofing period is when the dough turns into a flat puddle, could i possibly figure out some way to go into the oven cold so that the temperature of the dough helps it retain some initial structure.


maybe i'll try a long bulk fermentation to bump up the yeast population and go into the oven moderately cool with a short proof. does that sound like it would work?


best,


v

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...if i'm making a high hydration bread and the proofing period is when the dough turns into a flat puddle..."


This sounds serious.  Are you folding the dough?  Stretch & Fold is a basic technique to build more inside dough structure.  A flat puddle doesn't sound good.  Stretch & Folds  help high hydration doughs and it is fun to see it happen.  What is the hydration? 


About the long bulk, yeast bump, cold oven question.  It might work if you cover the dough while the oven is heating up.  Then the moisture is also retained allowing a good stretch of the crust in the first half of the bake.


Mini