The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Trying to work sourdough into my busy week

DavidEF's picture

Trying to work sourdough into my busy week

Hello all fellow TFLers! I have a particular challenge that maybe you can help me with. I'm trying to figure out how to get my bread making time down by letting the sourdough do it's thing while I'm sleeping and while I'm at work. I figured if I can do it in 12 hour increments, then I can start in the evening of day zero, build it up again on the morning of day one, then bake in the evening of day one. I tried it with a 66.67% hydration starter and final dough. I took 30g of my starter from the fridge, added 72g flour and 48g water at about 4:30 PM. The next morning, at about 4:30 AM, I added 360g flour and 240g water. Then, at about 2:00 PM, I was going to add 450g flour and 300g water, but I got distracted while pouring the water in, and got way too much, so I added more flour as well, to keep it at 66.67% hydration, and I also then added 20g salt. At about 6:30 PM, I took it out of the bowl and tried to shape it, and it was already overproofed. I knew I wasn't using any rigorous scientific method or finely calculated mathematical formula, so overproofing was a known possibility. I was just trying to see if the process could be done this way at all. What I'd like is to fix my amounts, and maybe add the salt at the very beginning, so it slows the yeast growth. I'm looking for suggestions. I'd also like to get it to work out that it will be ready to mix in the last amounts of flour and water at 3:00 PM. Then, I'd like to start baking it by 8:00 PM at the latest.

I want to do bulk ferment at room temperature, versus refrigerated, so that my dough is active and ready. My house is refrigerated at 70F during the summer. But, summer just ended, and it is sometimes cooler outside than 70F, and yet not cold enough to need heat, so my house may be cooler inside than the set point of the thermostat at times, though not by much. Let me know if you need any more info, and please help me move in the right direction. I know you won't be able to tell me exactly precisely what to do to get it exactly perfectly timed, but maybe you have some general suggestions? For one, should I start with less sourdough starter? Should I feed less at a time, and put most of it in at the last, or feed more at a time, and not put as much in at the end? I'm aiming for around 1450g to 1550g total in the end. The reason for the range is because I'm using loaf pans, and I have three of slightly different sizes, so I can use whichever two will work for the amount of dough I end up with. I like easy math.

tgrayson's picture

You'll control your process better if you toss in a little commercial yeast in addition to the sourdough starter. I get a 2 hour rise time vs 4 hour by doing this, and that makes the process much less time-consuming and thus more doable during the week.

And there's really no reason to ever get distracted and let your dough overproof: Set timers.


dabrownman's picture

For 80% hydration white breads I finally gave up and now do 2 sets, of 8 minutes each, of Slap and Folds before doing at least 3 sets fo S&F 's in order to get the gluten developed.  I put it seam side down in the basket and then bake right out the fridge while still cold after it hits 85% proof.  No slashing and the oven and stone are 500 F.    The bread opens at the seams in a  'rustic' way.  Otherwise it seems to spread before it springs for me.

I get pretty much the same holes with 75% hydration though.  it is fun to try to do 80% hydration white breads without using a tin - even though it probably belongs in one .....or be called a ciabatta!.

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

The "Real Bread" movement in UK requires that sourdough sits in bulk ferment for at least four hours. This develops flavor complexity that doesn't happen in quick ferments facilitated by extra instant yeast.The bacteria that makes sourdough to be what it is has actually been shown to perform more poorly when instant yeast is added as an augment to the levain.

In the commercial bakery where I worked we used those four hours to do stretch & folds, once each hour. We formed the loaves and then refrigerated them until the next day. We took them from the refrigerator, proofed them about an hour or so, and baked them. They did great. I wonder if refrigerating the bulk dough would be different than refrigerating individual loaves.

pjkobulnicky's picture

Here is what I recommend and what i do

Refresh starter night 1 (10 minutes work)

Mix proper amount of levain from starter morning day 2 and let work in coolish place till later in the afternoon or evening. (10 minutes work)

Mix bulk dough as soon as i get home, do stretch and folds, and bulk proof. Shape loaves before bed. Retard (let sit out one hour before retarding if you can but not essential). Maybe 45 minutes total work.

Bake first thing in the AM day 3 or when you get home in the evening. If evening, don't let shaped loaves it sit out that hour before retarding on day 2. 15 minutes total work.