The Fresh Loaf

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Bulk Fermenting and Proofing above room temperature?

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davidg618's picture
davidg618

Bulk Fermenting and Proofing above room temperature?

There are numerous threads on TFL about the benefits of retarding fermentation and/or final proofing by reducing yeast amounts or, more commonly, refrigerating the dough.  However, other than using higher temperatures to manage production scheduling, and a few posts discussing warm fermentation increasing lactic acid production in sourdoughs there doesn't seem to be an equivalent interest in other benefits (if any exist) warmer temperature fermenting and proofing might bring to our baking. I have read cautions against working at warm temperatures--I think in Hamelman's Bread and Hitz's Baking Artisan Bread--but I don't recall any discussion of benefits. I haven't taken the time to refresh my memory, so if I'm wrong, apologies to the authors, and please point me in the right direction.


As some of you know, I've recently completed building a proofing box, and I've been using it regularly but not, until this morning, at significantly elevated temperatures. Yesterday, I mixed a kilogram of dough to make baguettes. For about six months I've been using the same formula--68% hydrated straight dough. all AP flour, 2% salt--and the same techniques: DDT 55°F (I use ice water in the mix) and begin chilling (55°F) immediately. 1 hour autolyse, 1 round of sixty in-bowl folds after autolyse, and 2 or 3 S&F's at 45 minute intervals. Total retarding time is 15 hours. As usual, this morning I divided the dough into three equal portions, and pre-shaped baguettes. Normally, I let them rest, and warm, at room temperature for an hour, before shaping. Today however, because the house temperature was a chilly 65°F (and I wanted to play with my new toy) I decided to use the proofing box to warm the preshapes, and suubsequently final proof the loaves. I set the thermostat control at 82°F, and warmed the covered pre-shapes in the box for 1 hour. I didn't measure the dough temperature when I removed it, but the box temperature was holding steady at 82°, and the heating lamp was mostly off: an indication the dough is at or near the same temperature. I returned the shaped loaves--couched and covered--to the box. I did a poke test after fifty minutes, and checked the dough's temperature: 80° and a fraction, within the accuracy limits of the thermostat and the Thermopen.  Ten minutes later I loaded the loaves on a pre-heated stone (500°F) and lowered the oven temperature to 450°F; baked 10 mins with steam, and ten minutes without. Except for the elevated warming and proofing temperature everything was the same as numerous times before.


Perceptively, I thought the finished loaves seem to have slightly more oven-spring than usual, but nothing surprising, and my main weakness continues to be inconsistent shaping and scoring. However, when my wife and I cut into one still warm--we have no patience when freshly baked baguettes are cooling--the crumb was clearly more open than usual. This formula and techniques consistently produces an open crumb, but this time noticeably more so.



I can't help wondering if the elevated proofing temperature was the cause, and more to the point, is there something going on here besides just more yeast production. For instance, does the dough's elasticity and extensibility change significantly at this slight temperature change from normal room temperature? And, as always my curiosity kicked in and I am also wondering, are there other phenomena, in-your-face or subtle, we can exploit fermenting and/or proofing at above normal room temperatures?


David G


 

Comments

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

It looks nice.


How was the taste and texture? Crispy?

davidg618's picture
davidg618

always delivers a wheaty flavor we love. I've never made it with anything other than KA AP flour. The crumb is mildly chewy, nothing like the "bite" my sourdough breads have. Crust, when just cooled to mouth-watering warm, is crisp and crackly, but softens within a couple of hours. We often put them into a 375°F oven for a few minutes just to crisp them up. Flavor is always first and foremost with my wife and me. I wasn't getting the flavor I wanted until I started retarding the dough at a temperature higher than the usual 40°F refrigerator.


Thanks for the nice comment.


David G

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Isn't the ideal temperature for yeast activity around 80F?  The question is does maximum yeast activity do more than just make the dough rise faster?  Does it result in more open crumb?  I am another person who does not know.


Glenn

davidg618's picture
davidg618

is nominally that temperature commercial yeast activity is maximum. I think different strains' optimum activity form a bell-shaped curve around that temperature, but, for our purposes it's a good rule of thumb. Perhaps Debra Wink, or Sally can lend more information to my assumption.


David G


 

ackkkright's picture
ackkkright

When I get unusual results, I usually want to attribute it to the most obvious change in procedure. However, I often find that the results are probably the result of some subtle variation in fermentation progress.


It could be the good results were not necessarily due to the higher dough temperature, but your procedural change confused you enough to cause you to allow the dough to become more fully/less fully fermented.


I usually find that my best bakes happen to the dough that I'm convinced is overfermented.


 


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I made a considered choice to warm and proof the fermented dough at higher than usual room temperature; and the yeast amount, flour type and brand, salt, and bulk fermenting time, and temperature were the same as ever.


But your comment triggered a possible alternative. I tested the state of final proofing once, estimated an additional ten minutes would be sufficient, but didn't retest when I turned them out to score and bake. The loaves seemed like others, but they may have been slightly over-proofed. I'm certain they weren't under-proofed.


For the most part we liked the results, although a few of the holes are larger than we prefer. We like a crumb that doesn't leak topping into our laps.


David G


 

ackkkright's picture
ackkkright

Not confused, but I don't think it takes much to make a remarkable difference in the bread.


Occassionally I will hit a sweet-spot, getting the loaves loaded at the perfect moment of fermentation. I find there is a BIG difference between the sweet-spot, and either side of it (slightly over/under prooved.)

davidg618's picture
davidg618

That's why I try to be as consistent as possible bake to bake. That said, I welcome the occasional surprises, happy or unhappy. Of course then I want to be able to exploit them, or prevent them, routinely.


I've abandoned trying for the perfect loaf, but I would like to hit that sweet-spot you speak of as often as possible.


D.

Pam D's picture
Pam D

Okay, as a real newby, could you explain what you mean by an "open crumb" - are you talking about the air holes in the bread, or is that just a part of what "open crumb" means?

davidg618's picture
davidg618

For the most part, yes, that's how I think of and use the term "open crumb". However, I would add, there are other attributes, e.g., mouth-feel and flavor that also need be included to fully characterize a bread's crumb. Additionally, when I bake I self-critique by asking the question, "Is the loaf's crumb appropriate to the kind of bread I'm making?" For example, a sandwich bread with a crumb full of gaping holes would likely be deemed not hitting the mark.


You probably would do better answering your question by reading what the experts have to say about proper crumb. Hamelman, and Reinhart are both good sources. Try Hamelman's sidebar, "Tasting Bread" (pages 29 and 30 in my edition of Bread), while Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice has a lengthy chapter, (#11) "Deconstructing Bread" with much to say about crumb.


David G