The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sponge

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petercook's picture
petercook

Sponge

Hello,

I am having a bit of trouble with my preferment, sponge. In my bread baking books they talk about a sponge, that if properly prepared, and ripe will impart a slightly sour flavor to the finished loaf. Mine does not and I'm wondering why. My sponge is a 64% hydration and made as follows: 1/4 cup water with 1/8 tsp of dry yeast mixed in and set aside. In a small bowl I put 80 gm of water. I then add 30 gm of the yeasted water (2 TBLSP). Add 30 gm of whole wheat flour and 140 gm of unbleached A.P. flour. Mix well by hand. Cover and set aside on counter for 12-14 hrs. (No salt added). Also, I have tried letting it rest on the counter for 3 hrs and then refrigerating it over-night. Neither method yields the slightest sourness. I then proceed to make my loaf as normal (125 gm of unbleached A.P flour, 30 gm of water, 38 gm of milk, 3/8 tsp yeast, 1 TBLSP of butter, 1 tsp sugar. After an autolyse of 20 min I add 1 1/8 tsp of salt. 3hr bulk ferment which includes 3 folds. A very nice tasting loaf but alas NO sourness. P.S. I am NOT attemping to create a sour dough, just a slight tangyness. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong but I don't know what it might be. Any thoughts?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

it doesn't have a strong population of lactobacilli.  All it has is the commercial yeast that you have provided.  To get the bacteria in play, you will need some sourdough starter.  Or wait a few days until the lactobacilli in your sponge have enough time to establish themselves as dominant players (along with the wild yeast that will have replaced your commercial yeast by then).

Since you say that you are not attempting to create a sourdough starter, you may want to look for other sources of acid to mix into your dough.  Start thinking along the lines of yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, kefir, dill pickle juice, vinegar, or lemon juice.

Prefermenting some of the flour, whether by commercially yeasted sponge or other means, will offer a greater depth of flavor than simply making a straight dough.  However, it does not have  enough of the sour-producing bacteria present, nor will they grow fast enough to produce a sour flavor in the amount of time that the sponge is ready for use with the final dough.

Paul

petercook's picture
petercook

So, what do I do? Just make a sponge and let sit on the counter for 2 or 3 days? Then do I use the whole sponge or use just a tiny bit? Also, I assume that I should cover the sponge with a loosely woven cloth to let in wild yeast? Thanks

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

is a bit of a stretch.  You can add sour-flavored ingredients as I mentioned in my earlier note.  I'm particularly fond of buttermilk in some breads.

Or, you can take the sourdough plunge since that seems to be the flavor that you really want.  In which case, I would direct your attention to The Pineapple Juice Solution, Parts 1 and 2.  That will give you an in-depth discussion about what goes on in a starter and an almost-foolproof method for launching a starter.  You could also follow SourdoLady's directions which are based on the same information provided in The Pineapple Juice Solution, minus the science.

Starting and maintaining a sourdough starter will actually be simpler than trying to turn a commercially-yeasted sponge into a starter that has the flavor you desire.  And it will open a whole new world of bread for you.  I've transitioned from having baked 100% commercially-yeasted breads to approximately 95% sourdough breads over the past few years.  The driver has been pretty simple: flavor.  While I don't enjoy a whangy-tangy kind of sour in my bread, I do like a subtle acidity along with all of the other flavor notes that are inherent in sourdough.  Those just don't exist in commercially-yeasted breads, no matter how careful one is to use slow, cool preferments.

Paul

petercook's picture
petercook

Thank you for the helpful comments. Perhaps I misread my books. I have been loathe to do a real sour dough because I only bake once or twice a week. That and i didn't want to waste all the flour necessary to get to a real sour starter. But I now have food for thought. Thanks again.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Many people who bake using sour dough only bake once or twice a week.  Their starters are kept fresh and active in the refrigerator between bakes.  Easy to do and all that is needed is a good weekly feed or two for the starter in your refrig.  No huge waste of flour either.  Some here keep as little as 50g of sourdough then simply build it up to the correct amount needed a day before they plan to bake save a bit of it and build that up for the new batch to store in the refrigerator.

Have fun :-)

Janet 

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I only bake a couple of times a week, and I don't even bother refrigerating my starter; you don't need to keep much.

Farmpride's picture
Farmpride

try putting all the yeast in the sponge except salt, let sit the hours you want, then the rest of the flour and salt ext... when mixed go directly to bench round up , let rest till ready, make into loaves.. proof. then yes a touch of vinegar, buttermilk, or even a instant sour (which i use) would help also for that bit of tang..you could e mail me about the latter...

albert