The Fresh Loaf

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Stiff levain fermentation

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mauiman's picture
mauiman

Stiff levain fermentation

As a serious home baker, I'm learning without a net.  I have no bakery experience or the patient ear of a mentor so it's a long learning curve.   Here are a few questions to anyone who has been down this road.  I'm fermenting my stiff levain for 48 hours at 46 degrees before mixing.  I'm shooting for a more pronounced sour flavor.  Does this amount of stiff levain fermentation cause any problems I should be aware of?  Also, I'm bulk fermenting for 6 hours at about 74 degrees.  Same question, am I creating any issues with the quality of the final product?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Does this amount of stiff levain fermentation cause any problems I should be aware of? 

It depends on the activity of the levain, and the amount of levain you use in your recipe. A levain stored cold for 48 hours is going to be pretty slow. If you're using a lot of levain in your final dough, it might lead to overfermentation if you're not careful. 

I'm bulk fermenting for 6 hours at about 74 degrees.  Same question, am I creating any issues with the quality of the final product?

Same issues: depends on the activity of the levain, and the amount of levain you use in your recipe. As a result, any advice you get regarding that specific amount of time is near meaningless. Let the dough tell you when it's ready: when it's just about doubled. 

 

 

 

mauiman's picture
mauiman

You are right and the bread IS coming out very exceptable but I'm reading things like "If you bulk ferment for more than 3 hours terrible things are going to happen".  But to answer your question, I let the levain sit out at room temp for 4 hours then I refrigerate it at 46 degrees for 48 hours. The levain does not recede in the container during this 48 hour period.  The amount of levain in the recipe is 40%.  I do 3 folds in 1.5 hour increments during the 6 hour fermentation.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

You are right and the bread IS coming out very exceptable but I'm reading things like "If you bulk ferment for more than 3 hours terrible things are going to happen". 

Yeah, that sounds like an unfortunate generalization by people that don't have all the facts.

Sure, bulk ferment for 3 hours @100F might overproof your bread. Bulk ferment at for 3 hours @ 75F using only 5% levain in a recipe might be seriously underproofed! There are so many factors involved. 

A personal example: I've made a version of Silverton's Country White with 15% levain which took 4 hrs @ 75F to bulk ferment, and 5hrs for final proof when it came out of the fridge (it was already shaped). My personal experience suggests that your timings don't seem unreasonable. 

mauiman's picture
mauiman

No it does not.  I also retard the proof overnight at the same 46 degrees.  The bread has good oven spring, crust, crumb and flavor although I would always like it a bit more sour. I know you're thinking "what is this guy worried about?" but as a neophyte, and with all the contradicting information I've read out there I am always wondering what step in the process might I be screwing up.

jcking's picture
jcking

An easy way I've found to kick up the sour is to add old bread to the new dough. Save a slice of your current or next loaf, remove the crust, and soak it overnite in a portion or all of the water you'll use in your next loaf. Mash it up very well before adding it to the mix.

Jim