The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Do you allow your sourdough to double during bulk fermentation?

Syd's picture
Syd

Do you allow your sourdough to double during bulk fermentation?

Was wondering what everyone else does: do you allow your sourdough to double during bulk fermentation?  I always have, but had really good results with a much shorter ferment this past weekend and now am questioning my past techniques. 


 


I have always puzzled over recipes that talk about a DDT of 76F and then a bulk ferment of only 2 and a half hours.  It always amazed me how on earth they managed to double in that time.  (I have always taken it for granted that recipes implied the dough should double during bulk ferment.  Now I am thinking  I have been mistaken).  And this coming from recipes where people say their starter matures in 8 to 12 hours.  I have a much more vigorous starter:  it will double in 3, triple in 4 -5 and force its way out of a wire clamp jar in 6 hours.  I usually only use a small amount of starter in my recipes (not more than 15% of the total flour comes from the starter).  However, I live in a very warm climate and our kitchen is always somewhere between 27 and 31 degrees C.  Even under those warm conditions with my vigorous starter I can't match the optimistic proofing times of most recipes. 


 


This got me thinking that perhaps not every recipe meant for the dough to double during bulk fermentation.   So this past weekend I gave a new light rye loaf I have been working on a 2 and a  half  hour bulk ferment.  My dough temp after mixing was 26C which is about 76F.  I let it ferment at room temp for 2 and a half hours.  Shaped it, let it rise until 3/4 risen and then retarded it for 10 hours.  The result was delicious.  Mild but full of flavour.  The crust, especially, was intensely flavoured.  I can't wait to try again this weekend.


 


The advantages of not letting it double during the bulk ferment seem to be: 


It produces a milder sourdough, which is what I like.  No overt tang but full of flavour.


It is easier to shape.  No huge fermentation bubbles to shape around and the gluten hasn't started to degrade as it often can with very long bulk fermentations. 


I can't seem to find any disadvantages.  It certainly didn't compromise flavour but perhaps I did make up for it with the longish retard.  The only thing I wasn't satisfied with was the height of the loaf.  Even though the crumb was tender and full of the right sized holes, it slumped a little and didn't stand up as high and proud as my white sourdough boules usually do.  I can only attribute this to the 20 percent rye flour in the recipe.  (I have only very recently begun to work with rye and shaping it is a whole different ball game).  Perhaps I should have baked straight from the fridge as I always do.  I find baking from the fridge allows the dough to keep its shape better.  Perhaps I should have included some ascorbic acid or added an extra fold during bulk ferment. 


 


Anyway, that is my story and I was just wondering what everybody elses opinions on the bulk ferment were.  Is it at all necessary for the dough to double?  I always do with my yeasted loaves but I think that is necessary for flavour development and it doesn't seem to interfere with shaping.  Sourdough can be much more delicate, though (especially rye breads).  The length of the fermentation will also depend on the dough temp and the room temp where the bulk fermentation takes place.  But is there a guide as to how much the dough should increase in volume?  Would love to hear your thoughts/experiences.


Syd

Ford's picture
Ford

I believe that long fermentation of sourdough is detrimental to the structure of the bread.  The gluten hydrolyzes with long term contact with the acidic water.  Besides, sourdough does not need the long bulk fermentation to develop the flavor.   Much of the flavor has been developed in the mature starter itself.


In my opinion there is no wrong way to make the bread, as long as it suits the baker.


Ford

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or those using commercial yeast.


Sourdoughs vary and take normally longer so it isn't wise to degas when the loaf has finally reached "double."  I plan that the loaf will reach "double" after the oven spring.  So it should go into the oven before it "doubles." "Double" with a sourdough might imply... over proofed.


I judge a sourdough bulk rise by the gas content and it should slowly increase as time goes by.  The rising wheat dough should be interrupted with folds to strengthen the surface tension and one feels how the dough is getting springy and spongy inside as the dough gets softer and the outside skin gets tighter.  


At first the folds are easy.  The sourdough is getting a few folds and it starts to rise.  As time and folds progress, I feel and see the dough putting up a resistance and if pushed too far, it will tear.  I don't want it to tear.  (If I have tearing and little rising the dough is either too dry or the yeasts are too weak to raise the loaf before the enzymes break it down.  Then the starter needs work.)  I want to test the resistance and then stop.  I know I am close to my last fold when the dough feels this way and so I let the dough rest 10 minutes and do a final shape and keep a close eye on it.  When the dough passes a poke test and isn't quite doubled (doubled from the original dough size when mixed) I make a quick decision about slashing and bake the thing. 


Mini


 

CelesteU's picture
CelesteU

I agree w/Mini....I definitely don't allow it to double.  I let it go to about 20-30% increase, or three/four hours at 74-78 degrees (my usual ambient kitchen temp).  I try not to degas it very much when shaping, then it might increase another 25%--40% in size during the shaped rise.  But I always get serious oven spring this way......

G-man's picture
G-man

Hi there Syd,


I personally don't wait for my dough to double to shape it or to start baking, but that's because of the way my starter tends to behave when I have it on a good feeding schedule. See, once my starter starts displaying signs of action it tends to pick up steam pretty rapidly. Thus, once I notice that a dough is rising I have a limited amount of time before it needs to go in the oven or I risk overproofing. If this happens during the bulk ferment I'm in trouble, and I've lost otherwise good dough this way. Over time I've noticed that this behavior tends to correspond nicely with how long my oven takes to preheat when it has a pan full of water and a baking stone in it.


Because of how my starter behaves I always retard my bulk ferment in the refrigerator overnight or at least 6 hours. It never doubles during this time, usually just spreads out to fill the bottom of my proofing bucket. From there I let it sit on the counter for about an hour before I shape it.

StuartG's picture
StuartG

I've read doubling is fine and read that only going to 75% is fine too.


I've had good results with both.  Just recently though, I've had some really good sourdough where I went over doubling (was a serendipitous accident where we were out shopping too long).


Having said that, I also have a vigourous starter which can bulk ferment double rise in a little over 2 hours.  Indoor temp is about 25C.

Davo's picture
Davo

No.


If I let it double, it is too late. I want it about 1.5 times, and I want to just see small holes in it. Then I shape and place in banettons, and usually overnight retard then warm up for an hour or so and bake about 20 or so hrs after shaping.


Or if I'm shaping in the morning I'll bake around 5 hrs after shaping dep on temp.


I find if it doubles before I shape and then I try retard, it's always overproved despite the retardation.

roBinleeroBerts's picture
roBinleeroBerts

I am getting the rise after proofing, and shaping, but nothing while baking. Why?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Are using sourdough?  

roBinleeroBerts's picture
roBinleeroBerts

I am getting the rise after proffing, and shaping, but nothing while baking. Why?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

For SD I don't usually let the dough double during fermentation on the counter even though yesterday I did and now wish I wouldn't have.  I would rather let it sit on the counter for an hour after S&F's finish and then do a 12 hour or more retard on it and let it finish its fermentation and doubling in the cold.  I think the sour comes out more the flavor of the bread is better but I go for sour too and like it.  I also don't like doing S&F's an hour after the initial mixing takes place and has rested.  So it is about 20 minutes of slap and folds, then an hour of S& F's every 15 minutes and then one hour of fermentation on the counter before hitting the fridge for me.  This is the norm for summers in Phoenix,  In winter, we let the dough sit on the counter for 2 hours before retarding

suave's picture
suave

Doubling is a faulty concept in general - there are more doughs (and starters) that don't double then those that do.