The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Climate affecting dough rise

suambumeri's picture

Climate affecting dough rise


This is my problem/challenge: We used to live in a cooler climate where I made this no-knead bread with a fantastic oven spring. This is the recipe:

1/2 cup starter
1 1/2 cup whole meal flour
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/4 cup water (or a bit more)
1 1/2 tsp salt

I mixed with with a wooden spoon at around 9pm and let it sit on the counter at a temperature of about 18 deg C. In the morning I'd shape into a boule and let rise again for about 3h, then bake in a cast iron pot. It rose beautifully in the oven with a nice tangy (but not too sour) flavour and a chewy soft crumb.
However, we moved to the tropics...I'm using the same starter which is very active/strong. The first attempt with this recipe flopped completely, the dough cracked pretty much straight after shaping, way over fermented. The temp here overnight is probably around 26/27deg C. I tried again with half the starter (so 1/4 cup) and it was better but still over fermented I think. It cracked a little bit after which I put it in the oven straight away. Not much oven spring and fairly dense outcome. 
I tried again this time with 1/2 cup starter, bulk ferment at 28 deg C room temperature for 1,5 h with two stretch and fold and then shape and put it into the fridge overnight. The next morning I took it out, let it come to room temperature and baked it. Definitely the best outcome but still not great oven spring.

Anyone got any suggestion as to how I could improve this with keeping the high ambient temp in mind?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is one way to slow down fermentation (add more flour and water to the dough to make up for the loss)  

another is to use cold water or even crushed ice in the dough or use frozen or chilled flour.

yet another is to use the refrigerator, more retarding the dough after it has risen a little. 

your starter can easily be fed more flour or even thickening up the starter (lower the hydration) 

storing the starter in the fridge is the way to go to slow it down.

reduce your rise times when at room temperature.  Watch the dough not the clock.

What you can easily do is pinch off a small bit of dough and pack it into a tall narrow glass to observe the fermentation and rising process separate from the work you are doing on the dough.  Then you can easily judge when dough volume  has doubled, deflate it during loaf shaping and let it rise more.  It might be easier to prevent over proofing.

Pick up a flat brass sieve to sift the flour before using it.  Tropical conditions.  Keep it dry and clean by banging out the flour.

suambumeri's picture

Thanks for the comment Mini Oven.
I might start to freeze the flour, just to see what that does. Also, there is also the danger of getting creepy crawlies in  the flour so that would
I definitely always keep the starter in the fridge!!!! After I take it out and feed it it takes about 3 or 4 h until it is super active! The climate is crazy here! Really does affect bread baking a lot I find. Wonder if anyone else had climate related issues?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You are living in the proofing box!    

More tips: Sift the flour before freezing.  My sieve was my best kitchen tool and those little bugs grow quickly.  Keep all whole flours, nuts in the fridge.  They tend to go rancid quickly.  I would bang out the sieve and slip it inside a plastic bag to keep the bugs off it.  Plastic ones can be washed but don't wash the brass ones, stick the metal sieve in a hot oven if you think you need to sanitise it.  

Try finding a tall narrow glass for watching your dough, like a olive jar or tall shot glass.  For your standard wheat based bread,  pack a little ball of ready to proof dough into the bottom and flatten out with wet finger tips.  Mark the level and again for when it is "doubled."  When it gets to that second mark, degas and shape your dough.  Also degas the little dough blob.  Depending on your dough, you will end up baking at double or shortly before and your little gauge will help you no matter what the ambient temp or air pressure.