The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is It Possible to Overproof Sponge?

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

Is It Possible to Overproof Sponge?

Hi, I am brand new to this site and fairly brand new to bread baking. I have a French bread recipe that I've made several times with reasonable success (I'm assuming this is true since my kids circle like sharks around the table while it's baking:) but I would like to do something that would add depth to the flavor of the finished product. I wondered if I could extend the fermentation time of the sponge from 2-3 hours to perhaps overnight without negative consequence, and if this is possible, would it produce an improvement in the depth of flavor, which is what I am seeking. The recipe is a very basic one that calls for bread flour, salt, yeast and water only.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have. I'm posting the recipe below for more detailed information:

 

French Bread

 

Sponge:  1 tsp. active dry yeast, 10 oz. bread flour, 1 1/2 cups warm water (approximately 80 - 90 degrees F)

Dough:  1 tsp. active dry yeast, 1/4 c. warm water 80 - 90 degrees F) 14 oz. bread flour, 2 tsp. salt (preferably kosher)

Method

  1. Prepare sponge: In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix sponge ingredients. Cover and let rise at room temperature until the mixture looks bubbly and is at least double in volume (see video). Approximately 2-3 hours.
  2. Make the dough: In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir one teaspoon yeast into the ¼ cup of water and let sit for a few minutes until softened (dissolved).
  3. Add the softened yeast, 14 oz. bread flour and salt to the sponge. Stir with a spoon to incorporate ingredients well. If dough feels dry, add a bit more water. If it feels too wet, add a little more flour. Make adjustments, if necessary, in small increments (one tablespoon at a time-or less).
  4. Empty dough onto table and knead for 8-10 minutes, using as little four as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. This may be done using a heavy duty stand mixer and mixing on speed two for 5-6 minutes or speed one for 10 minutes. Use the slower speed if your mixer sounds as if it is straining.
  5. Round the dough and place back in the bowl. Cover and let rise until double (usually between 1-2 hours).
  6. Divide the dough into four pieces and round each piece. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. .
  7. Follow the video for the shaping, rising, slashing, and baking of the loaves with steam.
  8. Loaves will bake in approximately 20-25 minutes at 425°F. There should be a hollow sound when the bottoms are tapped. Be careful - bread is very hot!
  9. Enjoy!
tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

will yield a longer fermentation and better flavor. 70 degrees is the usual temperature recomendation for preferments and maybe 1/4 tsp yeast will get you 12 hrs? I'm not sure about the exact amount of yeast for your recipe.

look around the site for 'autolyse' and' stretch and fold' and you can cut out all the hand-kneading and/or wear-and-tear on your mixer.

be careful - this website can lead to and/or fuel an obession with baking bread!

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

Thanks for lending your experience! I thought yeast is one element that lends a significant amount of flavor to the bread as well as leavening, or am I incorrect? If I am right won't reducing the amount of yeast used kind of defeat the purpose of the extended ferment, or should I add the remainder of the original amount after the fermentation when I am making the dough? Sorry I'm such a noob...

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Probably the biggest booster of flavor is time so less yeast and cooler temperature would increase time.

Gerhard

G-man's picture
G-man

They both influence flavor for different reasons. Yeast eats the sugars in the flour and makes alcohol and various other byproducts.

I'm no biologist so bear with me, but I think the water is a catalyst for enzymes, which break down the longer sugars, proteins, and oils in the flour, making it easier for you to taste them. Given more time they'll do more of this work.

squidmaster's picture
squidmaster

I always use delayed fermentation whenever I make bread.  If I make a sponge, I either add some of my sourdough starter culture, or very little yeast and let the sponge grow over 8 to 12 h.  Alternatively, I mix the dough using either an active starter or about half the yeast called for and then, after the first kneading, let the dough proof out in the garage (stays around 45 to 50) over night and then shape the loaves after the dough has warmed up in the morning.  The slower fermentation yields longer chain fatty acids and other flavor elements.  If you use a wild yeast starter, it will also allow lactobacillus to do its work, which also greatly improves bread flavor.  Note that sourdough starter is not terribly sour and the resulting bread is not usually sour at all.

For the o.p.'s recipe, I'd use a smaller amount of yeast (someone above recommended .25 tsp, that sounds about right), put it in a covered plastic bucket and then, as soon as it started to rise, I'd put it in the garage overnight.  Proceed as the recipe from that point on.

Darxus's picture
Darxus

Reducing your initial amount of yeast and increasing your fermentation time will still result in lots of yeast at the end, because the fermentation *is* the yeast reproducing.  So no, reducing the amount of yeast (while increasing fermentation time) will not defeat the purpose of the extended ferment.  If you don't reduce the yeast, the yeast will eat up all its food then die off before your longer ferment finishes.  I've been doing 24 hour ferments around 60°F.  I think I read that more fermentation = better flavor up to at least 36 hours, wish I could find the reference.

And I wouldn't say that the yeast directly lends a significant amount of flavor - it's the biproducts of the yeast and bacteria consuming the flour.  Like lactic acid and acetic acid (vinegar).  All kinds of crazy stuff going on in there, all good.

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

hmmmm....maybe cut the yeast amount in half and refrigerate the sponge overnight...?

G-man's picture
G-man

What I do personally is let it sit for long enough to see some action and then I put it in my refrigerator. Mine isn't very good and it has cold spots and warm spots. I put it in the warmest spot, in my case the front of the middle shelf. If you put it into a very cold area, the yeast will just go dormant.

jcking's picture
jcking

If a tsp gives you 3 hours, then a half for 6, a quarter for 9 and an eighth for 12 ~ at your room temp.

Jim

Darxus's picture
Darxus

I'd love to see somebody test / measure that.  It's the basic assumption I've been working with, but I'd love to see it tested.

Darxus's picture
Darxus

Wait, what?  What is the math there?  I expected something more like:

1 tsp = 3 hours

1/2 tsp = 6 hours - with you so far

1/4 tsp = 12 hours (you said 9)

1/8 tsp = 24 hours (you said 12)

Although I can't say I have a decent source for that expectation.

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

Thank everyone. I'm going to give this a try tonight to bake tomorrow. I will see how it goes. Your experience and suggestions are much appreciated. 

 

TastefulLee's picture
TastefulLee

Thank everyone. I'm going to give this a try tonight to bake tomorrow. I will see how it goes. Your experience and suggestions are much appreciated.