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how to know sufficent bulk fermentation?

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Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

how to know sufficent bulk fermentation?

When bulk fermentation is said to be in most cases, until doubled in volume.... is this mandatory across all types of dough? I allow all my doughs to double in volume, but still have issues around poor oven spring, overall dough strength and a dense crumb. My dough always passes the window-pane test after mixing. My dough also passes the finger poke test before going into the oven, but I feel that the dough should rise a lot more.

Am i correct in thinking that bulk fermentation increases the doughs extensibility and ability to hold more gas, resulting in a higher rising loaf during the final proof?

I mainly make traditional panned english loafs, such as white, wholemeal, and granary (malted grain) with a 12 hour sponge

Maybe i'm not de-gassing my doughs enough? I don't know....

Any help will be much appreciated...

Many thanks

cranbo's picture
cranbo

When bulk fermentation is said to be in most cases, until doubled in volume.... is this mandatory across all types of dough? 

I believe this is true for most doughs...although may also depend on kneading technique as well. I would revise to "approximately doubled in volume". In the simplest terms, the goals of bulk ferment are to develop flavor and texture. 

I allow all my doughs to double in volume, but still have issues around poor oven spring, overall dough strength and a dense crumb.

Poor oven spring, dough strength and dense crumb have to do with so many factors.

1. Dense crumb may have to do with flour selection, dough hydration levels, level of dough enrichment (proteins/fats), kneading duration & technique, shaping techniques, proofing level. 

2. Dough strength has to do mostly with same issues as #1. 

3. Oven spring typically has to do with fermentation, shaping,  proofing, slashing/scoring, loading into oven, and baking technique (temp, steam, duration), and also can have something to do with some of the items in #1 as well. 

I guess more details are necessary. Make it easy on yourself: tackle the problem with a single recipe and a single loaf, one loaf at a time. Share your outcomes here, and people can provide recommendations.

I personally got much better spring on loaves when I learned how to develop gluten to the right level, and learning how to shape and properly proof loaves (I tended to overproof).  

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Letting the dough double in volume during bulk fermentation is one of those rules of thumb, Matt.  Mainly because it seems to produce good results most of the time and because it is reasonably easy to gauge.  And then there are the recipes that direct you to let the dough treble or even quadruple in volume during the bulk fermentation. Those seem to work, too.  If you use enough of those rules, being all thumbs becomes a virtue.

Part of what goes on during the bulk fermentation is the initial inflation of the alveoli with the gases produced by the yeasts.  Extensibility may increase some during this phase but your 12-hour sponge will contribute to your dough's extensibility more noticeably than the bulk ferment.  I'm not aware of a connection between bulk fermentation and the loaves' loftiness during final fermentation, except to note that there won't be a final fermentation if there isn't a bulk fermentation, first.

Some things to ask yourself:

1. What kind of oven spring are you seeing now?  Since you are making panned loaves, is it realistic to expect that they will have as much expansion as hearth-baked loaves?  (Point of reference: a hearth-baked loaf may more than double its pre-bake height, while a panned loaf may only increase 1.25 to 1.5 from its pre-bake height.)

2. Is the dough volume compatible with the pan volume?  A too-small amount of dough may not increase in height at all if its full expansion is only enough to reach the pan walls.

3. Does your shaping technique produce a tight gluten cloak or sheath at the loaf's outer surface?  If not, it may not have enough structure, even with the pan's support, to enable upward growth.

4. If your dough passes the finger-poke test before baking, it may already be very near its maximum expansion, leaving little margin for further oven spring.  Have you tried baking the loaves when they were slightly under-proofed to see how they behave?

5. Are the flours you are using strong enough to sustain the type of expansion you wish to achieve?  You mention that dough strength and a dense crumb are still issues you are working on.  Flour could be a contributing factor, as could too-dry dough.

6. What is the hydration level of the breads you are baking?

If you can post a picture or two of the loaves and their crumbs, that would also assist in making a diagnosis.

Paul

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

I believe that my dough weight is correct for standard 400g and 800g tinned loaves (485g and 950g scale weights).

My white tinned loaves have a hydration of 62% and the flour has a protein level of 13.1%

Therefore I don't believe these are the issues. Im thinking more towards the de-gassing of the dough after bulk fermentation, if this is not done sufficently, could this lead to over-proofing sooner rather than later?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think that could be where the problems lie.  Details please  :)

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Mini, I always do my sponge with 0.2% fresh yeast of the total flour in the sponge, which is less than 1g, so this is difficult to weigh accurately. I leave it to ferment at room temperateure for approximately 12 hours or until the sponge starts to fall in the middle, before incorporating it into the final dough.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It could be that the sponge is a bit overripe when added.  Try cutting a few hours back and keep everything else the same to see what happens.  ---> unless it is a cool day.   Call it a "summer adjustment."  

More can be found in the site search box under   "poolish, when is it ready?"

:)  Mini

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

hmmm, im not so sure.... i always take my sponge just after it starts to 'crease' in the middle? is this the peak time of a ripe sponge/poolish?

Matt

hanseata's picture
hanseata

The rule of thumb that dough should double during bulk fermentation pertains to white breads, but not to whole grain or rye breads. According to Peter Reinhart (in WGB) whole grain dough should grow ony 1 1/2 times its original size, not double.

Karin

ananda's picture
ananda

Helo Matt,

Sorry, I've been on holiday, so unable to asnswer your message.   However, I cannot do better than direct you to Dan di Muzio's photos here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/14913/very-liquid-sourdough#comment-95326

It's a great thread started by Nico; try to read the whole thing if you can.

All good wishes

Andy

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Hi Andy....

Not to worry, had a good read from the link you provided. Some interesting points made :-)

I think a lot of my trouble lies in the bulk fermentation stage and degassing? what happens if the dough is not de-gassed sufficently?

Matt

 

Divine Crust's picture
Divine Crust

Hi Matt,

I am so excited about my most recent light bulb moment I'm going to share it with you and hope it makes sense!

The thing that has has really helped me to understand my dough is to think of it in terms of its aging process. I try and get it into the oven in its prime. I think most recipes and methods do not reference the risk of getting dough past this point, and this guarantees a poor loaf (all the symptoms you describe). So regardless of what you are using to raise the dough or the temperature/schedule you work with, the dough will have a peak - to me this is when the gluten is most developed, the dough most relaxed, the yeasts most active. If you fully develop gluten at the mixing stage (only really appropriate for zero fermentation times), it will decline from there, with extensibilty overtaking elasticity (I love Jeffrey Hamelmans description of this making the dough feel like a molusc). If you allow the dough to reach a fragile peak volume in the bulk fermentation, the yeasts will be slowing down from there, the rate of aeration decreasing (just think of the starter/levain/poolish whatever being at its peak before falling/collapsing, the main dough is just more of the same. There will still be activity, but now in sharp decline towards old age!!) If you think about scaling and preshaping and shaping and final proof all happening to this geriatric dough...well its going to struggle.

Study your dough and your schedule and try and identify the dough in its prime. Now rework the timings shortening the entire process so it goes in the oven at that point. For example, if my sourdough is capable of reaching a doubling in volume in 12 hours, I think of that as my window for getting it in the oven. Within reason, it doesn't matter at which point I scale and shape. If I do it early, final proof will be longer. If I leave it late an hour will be enough.

Have fun!

Annie

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Annie,  I read your response to Matt, but I have a similar problem.  Yes I know that sometimes I put a loaf in the oven that is underproofed, and other times it is overproofed ( or too hydrated since that can give a similar look to over proofed )   I would guess the ideal moment to go in the oven 10 to 20 minutes before it reaches its peak height so I get some oven spring.  On the other hand, it is like the old joke, where someone on a bus asks what stop to get off to see the museum, and the person next to him says just watch me, and get off two stops before I do.  That is, having made a particular recipe about  a half dozen times, I can tell when it has overproofed, usually even before I put it in the oven, it sort of sags.  On the other hand, I don't know what to look for in the dough to say - yes that is it, this is the optimal time to put it in.  I am pretty sure time is not the best indicator, since I made the same loaf, same hydration, with the same proofing time, at the same room temperature, and one week it was perfect, the next time it seemed underproofed, and the following two times, when I cut the time by 20 % it was underproofed.  

Divine Crust's picture
Divine Crust

I can really hear your frustration, but I cannot give you a definitive answer. I think that all the information is out there, but its only through trial and error that you can gain confidence to know what is right. I have seen my dough over and under proofed, over worked, over fermented, using starters of questionable vigour etc and its just my impression that things work best when the dough is nowhere near exhausted. The fact that yeasted recipes call for a doubling in volume and a degassing, is not helpful for sourdough, because certainly in my experience the dough does not have the same vigour after the first rise. So its just about looking really closely at the dough, put it in a straight sided container and mark the rate at which it rises, smell it, taste it, poke it, pinch a bit off and pull it, and do this at various stages to get really familiar. Then make small changes or do side by side tests. I agree that timings are a poor indicator of the progress of the dough, that's why its important to get other signals too. I don't think this process can be curtailed, after all microbes don't come with an instruction manual!

Take Care

Annie

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Hi Annie

I'm making yeasted loaves, not sourdough. I'm beginning to believe that my problems lie with my sponge... maybe over ripe? What would an over ripe sponge do to my final dough? Also I hand knead my doughs until I get a window pane, am I correct in doing this?

Many thanks

Matt

cranbo's picture
cranbo

overripe sponge will cause less food to be available to the yeast & bacteria, and therefore denser texture, poorer oven spring, and possibly less "sweet" flavors