The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Room temperature

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

Room temperature

I have to say that in the couple of years I have been trying very unsucessfully to bake bread it is finally the "room temperature" that has done me in.  My home in the winter is at 55-65 degrees. I was ready to give up on yeast bread making. I finally read a blog that told me yeast needs 75-85 degrees to ferment. Since I read this blog my starters are growing like they are supposed to albeit on a heating pad to keep them at the desirable temperature. I hope when "newbies" come to this site that maybe the room temp will be a little more clear. Every recipe is so specific about everything else except "room temperature". Really helpful info to us who do not know that room temp is 75-85 degrees.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

in the last few weeks, I've seen a number of threads from new folks, especially those starting sourdoughs, struggling with getting them going. In more than a few cases, it seems to be room temp related, at least in part...


sage advice, kathleen!

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

If you could have seen my smile when my starter grew at the right temp, it is worth all the attention you put into your starter. I have been using the oven light proofing chamber to rest my breads and they are coming out brilliantly. How could so many bakers leave this secret out??? Ok so I'm cheap and will not turn on the heat in the house. You just can't put a wool sweater on a starter. Who knew.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I find that 55 - 65 degree temperatures, while they admittedly do retard fermentation and require longer rise periods, work fine for developing yeast breads.  I just finished a loaf that increased in mass by 75% over a three day period; in the refrigerator.  Wondering if temperature was truly the culprit.

Jaydot's picture
Jaydot

Although my bread does get better almost each time I bake, the one variable I am still in the dark about, is temperature. 


My starter lives on the kitchen counter, I started doing bulk fermentation in my mini oven (using the turn on/turn off method) because room temp didn't work and overnight proof in the cupboard under the stairs, which is three steps below floor level and has a reasonably constant cool temperature (I tried the fridge first, but decided it was far too cold).


Just now I went out and bought this:


From Brood

It tells me I'm sitting in a living room with a temperature of 18 C (64 F), and my kitchen is generally cooler than the living room... No wonder fermentation at my room temp was no succes!

Anyway: now at least I'll be able to see what I'm doing when I warm up the mini oven. And I'm going to find out what the temperature is in my cold cupboard.
And then I'll probably have to knit a sweater for my starter :).

Does anyone really keep their house at 80 F (in temperate climates)? That might be nice for fermentation, but for me it would be very uncomfortably hot.

 

wdlolies's picture
wdlolies

Hi :-),


the temperature only plays a role if you want the fermentation to take place within a certain timeframe.  If the timeframe is not important, you can ferment your dough in the fridge, as many people do.  You actually get a better flaovor, if you take your time and let your dough ferment slowly.


However, I'm delighted to read that you are getting the results you were looking for and that, I suppose, is what it is all about.


Happy baking.


Wolfgang

Chuck's picture
Chuck

My understanding has always been that "room temperature" is a shorthand phrase rather than any specific temperature. I've always read it as


"whatever temperature you've already got that doesn't require anything special ...so long as it's somewhere near the human shirtsleeves range (typically 66F-72F) - you can of course go ahead with something special whenever you wish; you'll have to do something special if your room temperature is significantly hotter or cooler than 'normal'"


I don't believe recipe writers ever meant "your room temperature will work okay" to be interpreted as "your room temperature is optimal". Serious bakers often move beyond "room temperature" to repurposed microwaves and ovens, blankets and sweaters, proofing boxes, warmish refrigerators, kludges with styrofoam ice chests or reptile thermometers, and so forth.


 

wdlolies's picture
wdlolies

I think that serious bakers don't really care much about temperature outside the oven. Temp and time, that's the formular.  The only time temp is of any importance, is in the oven and even here you can differ.


Newbies are often put off by too many figures, i.e. temp, time, etc.  Let's chill out and make it as simple as possible, because that's what it is, simple.


All the Best from the Green Isle.


Wolfgang

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Let's chill out and make it as simple as possible...


Yes, let's not obsess about every last degree.


 


I think that serious bakers don't really care much about temperature outside the oven.


To each his own. :-)  Although I for one am somewhat casual about temperature outside the oven, I do care about it...

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I'm surprised this graph hasn't been posted already on TFL, but after a reasonable search effort, I still didn't find it or anything similar. I found this on the WWW about a year ago, and have subsequently found corroborating similar information for both other sourdough starters, and commercial yeast.



The vertical axis is simply a linear scale. The horizontal axis is temperature in degrees F. (I converted the original °C temperatures to °F.)


Shown are three curves showing normalized growth rates vs. temperature for two bacteria, L. sf I, L. sf II; and C. Millieri yeast commonly dominant in SF Sourdough cultures. These growth curves were developed in a laboratory medium, not doughs. However, the author states


"The generation times measured in laboratory media are different from that in rye/wheat/white wheat dough, however, if the generation time at 20°C [68°F] is 1/2 of that at 30°C [86°F] in my medium, the organism will also grow 1/2 as fast at 20°C compared to 30°C in dough (we checked). So, it's not the the absolute numbers that matter, but the ratio of growth rate to growth rate at opitimum temperature." *


Pertinent to this discussion, one can see from the curves that yeast and bacterial activity--i.e. fermentation--will occur, at practical rates, over a wide range of temperatures both above and below the "room temperatures" discussed in this thread. For example, I ferment a commercial yeast straight baguette dough routinely at 55°F, for 15 hours. The dough's volume doubles. I also ocassionally retard predomninantly white flour sourdough doughs for 8 to 12 hours, at the same temperature, and the volume increases by approximately two-thirds.


If you are not experiencing at least some volume increase fermenting for four to six hours at your "room temperatures" then there is something else going on. You didn't post the time your doughs ferment, nor how you manipulate the dough (if you do) during fermentation so I can't comment further.


* Ref.: http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/whatistherelationshipbetwe.html


David G


 

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

My point was more to new bakers that want to have a great tasting and looking loaf of bread on the first couple of tries. It is nice to know that a little temperature goes a long way. I do have starters that I am using the cold method for and I am happy to be patient with them. I also use the refridigator method to ferment my yeast breads. I just wanted to mention that while proofing a loaf of bread to bake in 55-65 degrees is fine on the weekend a little warmth would assist in the timing. With the help of TFL I am finding all kinds of methods to use. I almost gave up at the beginning because of my lack of sucess. I am now the proud baker of a beautiful loaf of apple-anise-walnut bread all because of a little heat. I now have the confidence to try these other methods.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

your comment as a complaint,  Most of the bread baking books I use suggest a DDT--it's most frequently 76°F--which is, in the winter months, 4° to 8° above my "room temperature". I built a proofing box, and pay close attention the the fermentation temperatures be they the DDT or a lesser retarding temperature. I'm retired, so everyday is Saturday, except Sunday, for me. Nevertheless, I preplan and monitor time and temperature carefully throughout each baking cycle.


I'm glad you didn't give up, and I meant no offense with my earlier comments.


David G

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Kathleen -


"My point was more to new bakers that want to have a great tasting and looking loaf of bread on the first couple of tries. "


Having been cooking/baking for over fifty years, I am not a "new baker" by any means.  Nevertheless, it took me years, lots of years, to produce a "great tasting and looking loaf of bread" and I probably never would have been able to do it without this forum.  Now that I've got three years of success under my belt (which is larger than it was three years ago  -  thanks to good bread) and have a much better understanding of what it take to make that special loaf I'm much more secure in the flour/salt/yeast/water arena.


Thanks, davidg, for the graph.

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

Thank you to everyone who added to the room temp discussion. This weeked I baked Reinhart's ciabatta, and Tartine's country bread, using my own starter. The thing I learned most is that the slow fermentation is so forgiverable. Both breads came out wonderful tasting. The crumb on the ciabatta was beautiful as I let it store for 6 days, in the fridge, and the gas bubbles were abundunt. The Tartine was a little moist but I suppose that had to do to cooking conditions. I used a 2' round Batali pizza "stone" and pan of steam water. The crust was amazing but the crumb was small and as I said a little moist. With the temprature info I was patient and did not give up when things did not stay on time with what was quoted as time frames. I believe that was my most valuable learning tool, I can use temp and time to help me, not hinder me. Thanks again for the input.


 

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...did not give up when things did not stay on time with what was quoted as time frames...


I've heard "lose the clock" so many times I'm thoroughly sick of it  ...I keep forgetting that not everybody has had it pounded into their head. Maybe it should be in the TFL masthead:-) The times in bread recipes are just "estimates", and can easily be long or short by two or three times even with typical temperatures.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Good idea Chuck.  Let's make it a masthead.  We could use David Snyder's "Watch the dough, not the clock" logo.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15784/organizing-12-steps-baking

tamiandandy's picture
tamiandandy

That is such a good idea.

tamiandandy's picture
tamiandandy

Being a novice baker (one loaf under my belt).  Room temp matters.  Thanks so much.  I keep my house 65- 68 degrees.  I am warming it up for my 2nd loaf.  First loaf was not so good ;)