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?