The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dead Dough

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louie brown's picture
louie brown

Dead Dough

I've been baking sourdough for more than fifteen years, and this has never happened before. 

I made up a dough with a very active starter, as always. Due to circumstances beyond my control, the kitchen became very hot. Very hot. Maybe 95 degrees or more. The flour and water were also far too warm. The dough just died. No life at all. 

Is there any other explanation for this than that the yeast just died? Anyone have similar experience?

Bread Engineer's picture
Bread Engineer

Studies of yeast growth rate vs. temperature indicate that the maximum rate occurs at at temperature on the order of 80 or 85 degrees F, and at higher temps, which are definitely not beyond the realm of "a warm place in a kitchen", the rate decreases significantly, even if the yeast is alive and could begin to grow at a more acceptable rate if cooled. I have a copy of the data somewhere - I would expect it to be somewhere on TFL.

I have had trouble with dough degradation due to enzymes being too fast for the yeast at mid-90's kitchen temperatures, particularly when using a relatively long autolyze at the front end to encourage said enzymes. The dough wasn't dead so much as it couldn't hold onto the CO2. The top surface was pockmarked. Depending on the portion of the flour in the starter, I could see this happening pretty easily.

If the kitchen temperature is unavoidable, I'd try mixing with cold water and partly fermenting in the refrigerator.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Your analysis is more to the point than my suppositions, but I fear we get to the same place. I needed to bake for the Jewish holidays, temperature notwithstanding, so I paid the price. The real baking season begins for me in a couple of weeks, whenn temps moderate.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I doubt that its dead, probably no food left after high activity. Just refresh using a small ammount of starter. eg. take 20g starter mix with 100g flour and 100g water. leave for 24hrs. See if it comes back to life... let us know.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

it's not the starter that has a problem. It was the dough mixed thereafter. Bread Engineer may be right that the dough might have revived at lower temps, but it never had the chance. Shame. My starter's fine, though.