The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Developing sourdough flavors through retarding dough

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Developing sourdough flavors through retarding dough

I think I asked this question before about a specific recipe but wanted to ask in generalities and get feedback from yall. I've recently read many sourdough recipes describing retarding dough after shaping in order to let the flavor develop. My question is: Do you think it matters if you let it go through it's bulk ferment then punch it down and retard the dough in the fridge for however long you want to develop flavor and then scale, shape and do a final rise? Or do you think it's important to scale and shape first then retard to allow flavor development.

I ask this because my dough usually rises some amount in the fridge before it chills down and so in essence, I'm flattening it again a little bit when I remove it and scale and shape for the final rise. So it will have gone throught 2-1/2 to 3 rises...

Opinions appreciated!

rcornwall's picture
rcornwall

First of all the dough needs to be flattened out  when you retard it in bulk to get an even and quick chill on the dough, otherwise the dough starts to chill on the surface while still fermenting in the center. As far as whether to ferment in bulk or after forming the loaves, I have done it both ways and have had good results both ways, but I can get a longer overall fermentation if I retard in bulk, then scale, proof, etc... This has been my experience, I hope it helps.

rcornwall

mariana's picture
mariana

You know, it's a good question.

If your fridge is set to below 50F, then there is no flavor development due to bacterial activity, according to Prof. Calvel, only due to yeast fermentation, which produces ethanol. Once ethanol is produced, it converts into other organic molecules responsible for the dough flavor. Presumably, the purpose of retardation by chillling the sourdough, is to have a longer window of time to produce such flavor molecules. Punching the dough down will get rid of gas - ethanol - the source of flavor, so what's the point?

The sourdough, when it undergoes its first fermentation, should hardly increase in volume at all. This fermentation, also called 'primary fermentation' lasts only 1-2 hours at room temperature in sourdoughs. So there is no need to punch it down.  You can retard after/during bulk fermentation, after/during second fermentation (proofing), or after/during both as Reinhart does in his prize winning SanFrancisco style sourdough formula.

I learned a neat trick from Maggie Glezer. Scale (divide into loaf-sized or roll-sized pieces and round them)  your dough right after mixing and then do bulk fermentation (retarded or not). Shaping will be much easier afterwards because dough will be at its peak of softness and extensibility and the quality of the resulting breads much better in every regard. Try it. It's amazing.

browndog's picture
browndog

Mariana, do you mean that 'primary fermentation' is the first phase within the entire period, a matter of 2-4 hours, of bulk fermentation for sourdough? Or are you saying bulk should only last 1-2 hours before the dough is ready to shape and proof?

Another question: my dough is never hard to shape, that is, it never has so much strength that it seems to require a rest first. I do it anyway just because, but every time I wonder if my dough just isn't getting where it should in terms of gluten development. Is it under-developed if it isn't fighting back?

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi,

'primary fermentation' is what happens between mixing final dough and shaping it into loaves/rolls.  In sourdoughs it takes anywhere from 50 min to 2 hours. After that the dough is ready to shape and undergow 'secondary fermentation', otherwise known as proof. The entire period of fermentation of sourdough , from mixing to baking, at room temperature, takes anywhere between 5 to 8 hours. In that time, your dough will already quadruple in volume and be ready to go to oven. What else could one wish for?

 

This is assuming that you have a vigorous vibrant starter and good dough development. If the starter is sluggish or your dough is undermixed, it might need longer periods of fermentation with folding, punching down, etc.

 

I don't know whether your dough is usually underdeveloped. Can't see it from here : ) Does it hold its rather tall round shape and bloom even taller in the oven? I mean, can you actually shape a boule and proof it on a flat surface prior to baking a tall round loaf?  Normally, you pursue both extensibility and elasticity in your dough. It should be extensible enough to stretch in to a very thin window pane and elastic enough to hold its shape fairly tall and round if proofed on a peel. 

 

 Does your dough ever get into a tight state, i.e. when you do a series of folds during primary fermentation?  Even relatively wet doughs will feel on a tight side eventually as you fold them every 20-25 min after mixing, and after you roll them into a ball or a log prior to shaping.  Try practice folding and experience will get you there. You will discover what a mature (developed) dough looks and feels like.  Keep me updated, OK?

 

mariana

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

:D

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

When I mix a batch of one step sourdough, I usually start with an initial inoculation of a few small grams maybe a teaspoon of starter. I do this knowing that the bacteria and yeast will take about 16 hours to multiply enough to double the dough. It may not make it to double but I let it grow until it's 180% at least. At that point I shape, proof and bake. If I'm pressed for time I up the inoculation so I start off with a larger community and, or I warm the components up to speed the activity and thus shorten the primary ferment as needed. There might be some instances where the primary ferment is shortened to 4-5 hours but a 50 minute ferment in any of the conditions I'm familiar with would be unheard of. The starter % would have to be greater than 80% I would think to get anywhere near that kind of time frame.

I don't doubt that most of us over ferment and over proof the dough but what you seem to be suggesting is that the majority of the volume increase should come from oven spring. Is that what you mean or am I missing your point?

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi Eric,

 

the majority (80-90%)of the volume increase comes from secondary fermentation of the shaped piece of dough, i.e from proofing your loaf before baking. You can add another 10-15% to it from the oven spring.

 

 Your method of handling bread dough leavened with wild yeast resembles more 'direct method' of mixing yeasted doughs than the typical for sourdoughs 2 stage build: first, build preferment-leaven, then build final dough.

 

I.e. your transferred the method of direct yeasted doughs (prepared without preferment)  into the sourdough area. A small amount of yeast/leavening agent is used and the dough undergoes two periods of fermentation, each time doubling in size. OK?

 

Each time you seed the final dough with starter, instead of with leaven/sponge, you will have to let it ferment for 4 hours at least. Indeed. 50 min won't cut the mustard, for sure.

 

 50 min is done for sourdoughs made with sponges. A sponge is seeded with starter, fully fermented for up to 48 hours, then final dough is mixed with sponge.

 

Sourdough sponge can constitute from 15% to 50% of the final dough. I have never heard of 80% of the final dough being starter or sponge.  OK?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Marianna, What you're saying makes a lot of sense and I see I am guilty of mis-using the word starter. (for starters) I should be using more terminology like sponge and leave the starter in the fridge and use part of it as an ingredient in my sponge, the starter being like a bag of commercial yeast stored there to be used at will.

The starter requires at least a two step process (first mix it with water and flour, let it multiply and use it) and commercial yeast requires at least a one step process (throw it in). I will try to be more precise in the future. Thank you... Mini Oven

mariana's picture
mariana

 

MiniOven,

 

I figured out the terminology of preferments and leavening agents myself about 2 weeks ago after struggling with it for month while reading different authors. What a relief!

 

could you tell me about your starter more?

 

mariana

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

in my refrigerator. I have three: 1) Chinese Breakfast: BC was developed from rolled oats. 2) Austrian, is originally from my baker direct from the bakery sourdough bin. And 3) is from a sourdough extract package purchased in a supermarket in Austria, refreshed with flour instead of putting directly into a sourdough recipe. The first two are now firm starters and thru a most recent development resulting from an experiment in trying to store them well.

The Apkg starter is not in a firm stage and is fun to campare to the first two. By keeping it in a more fluid state, it is more like a sponge and needs to be refreshed and maintained more often, however, I like to use it to preferment or sour part of my rye flour. I could easily use it in a firm state.

My biggest challenge baking in China is the flour, like Italian 00, very low glutin and the only flour locally available. All the starters are fed with this flour and I've added a little rye to an Austrian one, Apkg gets 50/50. Chinese AP does act very differently from typical American AP wheat and seems to require more kneading to a stiffer dough that later relaxes and gets softer with the bulk rise. My firm starters were made working in as much flour as possible and even they are in a thick liquid state but very dense. In fact, I think they are easier to manage with this flour than one that stretches so much, I rarely have any starter or sponge overflo accidents. I did bring with me rye flour and one kilo of 700 white wheat flour from Austria a month ago and tested the starters, and it was no trouble getting them to make super sponges.

I think with the new firm starters, I can actually reduce the fermenting times and raise my loaves without adding instant yeast. I will try making a sponge, and wheat soaker side by side and then combining the two and bulk raise cutting back on the time not waiting for doubling (just like my sponge) but watching the clock, 24°c. I first have to refresh some of my starter and then make a sponge from it from what I understand.

In getting ready to travel again, I dried each type starter from firm starter. It was thick, but spread thinly on baking parchment it dried in record time! Took a rolling pin to break up the large chips and tucked them neatly away. The rest of the cold starters will cover my baking needs for the next week. I'm enjoying your input into Fresh Loaf. All comments welcome. --Mini Oven

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi MiniOven,

I noticed you mention that you have different schedules of refreshment for your starters of different hydration. What are those schedules? How do you know when to refresh?  Do you measure pH or something?

 I learned to refresh storage cultures of both consistencies every 12 hrs at cool room temp (between 57F-65F, as Daniel Wing suggests) and every 3 days when storage cultures are kept generously salted and cooled down to 50F. I.e. hydration plays no role in the frequency of feeding, only temperature and, maybe, salt content (below 0.5 baker's percent as in ordinary starter and between 1.8-2% as in salzsauer technique).

I follow your experiment with drying and freezing a variety of starters. You have a truly scientific mind, MiniOven. A rare trait. I know that wild yeast survives refrigeration better, but lactic bacteria survive freezeing better. Complicated matter, huh?

From your experience, how does it affect your starters?

Re: Chinese flours. I hear that in large supermarkets a variety of european breads can be found these days in China. My husband just came back from China and he was not complaining about breads there. So there are some sources of cheap bread flour, mail-ordered from a big city, maybe? Can you mail order a good quantity of bread flour from Japan? I am totally in love with japanese breads (besides japanese rice, of course). French breads and pizzas  in Japan are tastier than in France and Italy, I swear. They are just Purrfect.   I mail order flours from the US when I try some very specific formulas. Like Memo's bread, for example. It requred a very specific brand of graham flour.

I know you are very resourceful. You will find a great solution to the issue of Chinese AP flour. I know.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

I see I am guilty of mis-using the word starter

Mini Oven, I would not say you are guilty of anything if you use the word "starter" to refer to the mixture of fermented flour, water, and microorganisms that you add to your final dough to leaven it. Not only do we all know what you mean, but this is the terminology used by, among others, Nancy Silverton, and several bakers in Maggie Glezer's book. Others refer to the starter as the the thing which is elaborated into a larger amount before baking, this larger amount being called the levain. Etc. Etc. Different terms to refer to the same processes.

It would be great if we all used exactly the same words to refer to the same things, but we don't, and it doesn't make one person wrong and one right. Most of the bakers I know or have read use "sponge" to refer to a commercially yeasted preferment, not sourdough, but I understand what Mariana means when she (and Prof. Calvel) uses the word in this way.

Please, everyone, lets not beat ourselves and each other up for using the "wrong" words.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

browndog's picture
browndog

Mariana, you're like a sourdough fairy godmother. Thanks for all the attention and information you're sharing.

From working with yeast doughs of low-moderate hydration I am familiar with a tight, strong dough. My sourdoughs only rarely get so springy and strong. Maggie Glezer says in Artisan Baking that bakers usually want a moderate gluten development at the end of mixing and that complete development comes with time and folds, so I never much worried about it when kneading. I only ever get a gluten window in pizza crusts that I've let ferment some hours in cool temps. Perhaps I do need to add folds and never mind what the recipe says. I'll have to experiment. My firm starter is pretty good, though very unpredictable, there's another can of worms; I won't bake with it if it's not giving me quadrupling in about 7 hours.

Now, about fermentation times. Essential's Columbia, for example, calls for a fermentation of 4-6 hours and a proof 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours. Thom Leonard's Country French asks for a 3 hour ferment and a 4 hour proof. Do I understand you correctly that it is a better thing to shape much earlier and let most of the fermentation occur as proofing, after shaping, without particularly changing the total number of hours the dough develops? Would you be handling the Columbia quite differently? It makes sense, what you say, as it seems without punching down but just gentle shaping, it all becomes one big rise time anyway. What a lot to think about. Do you have any more books to recommend? Your own loaves look fabulous.

Thanks,
browndog

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Browndog, I have worked with slack sourdoughs myself in the beginning and thought it was ok until I learned that it wasn't : ) Obviously, gluten is weakened in starter and sponge/leaven due to sourness and long fermentation times. I learned to be more careful and now things got better on the gluten front.

 

You are so right about firm starter, so right! Demand strong performance from it, always.  Calvel says that if 'the level of sourdough [starter] rise after 5 to 6 hours is les than level 4 in the graduated cylinder... conclude that such a culture is no longer active'. Firm starters must quadruple in 5-6 hours at room temperature, and sponges seeded with them as well.

 

You are very observant, browndog, very. Keen eye, indeed. Both Essential's Columbia and Thom Leonard's Country French are formulas by American master bakers adapted to flours milled in the US.  North American flours require slightly longer primary fermentation periods and slightly shorter proof periods compared to flours milled in France (see Calvel, p xii). Maggie Glezer advocates gentle handling of doughs after primary fermentation (not degassing them) and 4-4.5 hour proof will get them to increase 3.5-4 times more, sure. Both doughs have elevated ash content, i.e they are nutrient rich and buffer acidity well, keeping yeasts happy and rising well.

 

I would never change anything in Maggie's way of handling doughs. She is very precise and following her guidance have always resulted in great breads in my kitchen.  Other authors are less ... how to say it ... not as good formula writers. : ( 

 

the only thing I would do differently with the Columbia River bread is to divide dough into 2 portions right after mixing and let them undergo first fermentation this way, to eliminate bench time and further reduce contact with delicately swollen dough. This technique is from Glezer's second book (A Blessing of Bread, p. 45). I use high domed covered proofing pans by Nordic Ware, square and rounded, for that.

 

Books? I think you are more than ready for Calvel's books. His masterpiece, Le Gout du Pain, was translated as The Taste of Bread and Calvel himself participated in translation and editing so much that this is a different book! It's like a second edition, with lots of additional material specifically for North American Bakers. At the same time, it is necessary to have the original French version, because illustrations are different, some tables and charts are, and translators sometimes are off in their translation, slightly distorting the meaning of Calvel's words here and there.  I am now waiting for Calvel's DVDs to arrive from the Bread Bakers Guild. Will report once I am through with them. OK?

 

How about you recommending me books? What gives?

browndog's picture
browndog

Well, you are amazing, Mariana. You make me want to learn and learn. Thank you very much, there's a lot of information to work with here. Well, Calvel, huh? A little scary, but I'll look into it. It won't be in the original French, though, or all I could do would be to admire the pictures.

There's no baking book I can recommend that you don't already know by heart, probably. But Good Omens by Terry Pratchett is a great book if you like a good laugh. : )

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Browndog, just thinking about Terry's books makes me laugh hysterically. Fun. Fun. Fun. This guy is a terrific writer. Can't wait for the return of Moist von LipWig in September.  I'll pick up a copy of Good Omens tomorrow. Thanks a million!!! Now I owe you one : )

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Now I'm even more confused. So the main part of flavor will come from the levain since it is left to ferment for 12-16 hours in many cases?

My bulk fermentation always doubles for some reason? Across the span of 2-3 hours while I'm folding it, the dough is rising fairly rapidly for bread dough. It seems to be quick out of the starting gate but slow to finish. After I do the scale and shape, it seems like it takes forever to get to almost double so that I can bake it?

Any info or help would be major appreciated!

Thanks rcornwall, mariana and browndog for participating. I hope others will jump in to discuss!

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi,

there are three major sources of flavor in bread: (1) leavens, preferments and soakers of all sorts (2) processes of alcoholic and bacterial fermentation in the final dough (3) Maillard reactions in the crust as it bakes.  In leavens and doughs, besides alcohol, many other flavorful chemicals are produced, for example, acetic acid.

 

Now, there are two major ways of teasing flavor out of sourdough: through thorough development of leavens and though thorough fermentation of final dough.

 

The first one is known as classic or 'old-fashioned' sourdough. It results in a quite sour bread that has a rather dense texture. In this method, you let the sponge/leaven sit for many extra hours, preferably warm, use sour/tangy starter, and sometimes spike dough with yeast. You proof your bread briefly until it doubles in volume, slash and bake. Classic sourdoughs are usually made with organic flour without additives, all purpose type of flour.

The second one could be called 'modern sourdough'. It is much lighter in taste and texture. The final dough rises for a long time, sometimes for several days at lower temperatures, which allows acidity and flavor to develop. The sponge used for such sourdough is mild tasting, 'sweet', with very active wild yeast. Starter is activated to the frothy stage, before seeding the sponge, no longer.  Modern sourdough doesn't need to be spiked with yeast. Usually, bread flour is used (malted, selected for high quality protein, etc) and maybe some vitamin C is added to help dough withstand long, long, looooong rise : ). Very little or no punching down during dough fermentation. You proof your bread until its volume quadruples or even quintuples before the bake.

 If you sourdough doubles in 2-3 hours, it means you've got a great starter, bluezebra, and it is warm in your kitchen.  It should double, indeed, in that period of time. OK? That is why sourdoughs are not let to ferment for longer than 50-100 min before shaping. If you let yours double before shaping, handle it gently during shaping, make sure you tighten the surface of your loaves properly, and you will get it to at least triple by the time it goes to oven.  OK?

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

go back in the water! :D Sometimes I feel like I'm in the remedial class of sourdough because I try to grasp these concepts and they just flit a little bit out of reach. I will re-read through this 3 or 4 times and hopefully some of it will stick before too long!

 Today I took my starter out and I fed him 1:4:4 today after taking him out of the fridge. I had fed him only about 5 days prior. So I used 8oz of flour and 8oz of water to 2oz of starter.

The idea being that I would let it get good and frothy and stir again and let it get foamy again which is when it gets thinner and pourable rather than thick and viscous. So at this point I am making the "increase" to use in my baking tomorrow, right?

Then tonight I will make my levain but that is different than the sponge right? I figured at that point I would put it in the ice box till tomorrow morning when I would take it out and let it finish fermenting. Is this the point where I can go up to 16 hours for ferment? And this is old-school right? Then I add the rest of the ingredients and take it to only about 2-3 hours then shape and let it come to double. Am I thinking this through correctly? This is how I've been doing it...

Or am I completely off on this?

Eric, I didn't want to try the one step method till I figure the first one out lol. Do you like the one step better than the 2 step method?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

BZ, it isn't that I like it better, it's easier to put it all together at a certain time and not have to do anything until it's time to shape and bake. If I start a batch at say 4PM I know I'll have something to bake for dinner the following day. After all most of us are not professional bakers and I'm squeezing this in between a very hectic schedule.

Eric

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Does it work with everyone's starter that way? Or does it have to be a firm starter only?

mariana's picture
mariana

 

BlueZebra, you understand the process well. It works for you.  And you can experiment with variations of it, if you'd like to. Otherwise, don't fix if it ain't broken : )

 

When you took your starter out from the storage and fed it, it created a refreshed starter from storage starter. It was ready to seed the sponge when it got 'good and frothy', gassy, thick and viscous. If you let your refreshed starter get thinner and pourable, it starves, loses quality of gluten, goes past its prime, actually, but it does develop more sourness.

 

Levain and sponge are the same thing, just in two different languages : ) It means 'prefermented dough or batter that will be mixed into the final dough'. Leavens/sponges are inoculated (seeded) with refreshed, very vigorous sourdough starter or with very active baker's yeast.  

 

Ferment your sponge until it reaches maximum volume and begins to show signs of gluten fatigue such as sagging or wrinkled surface, bursting bubbles, etc. You can refrigerate this sponge/levain in the middle of fermentation, ok.  Do not refrigerate if it's past its prime.

 

 Then you add the rest of ingredients, knead thoroughly, and let this final dough ferment for an hour or two, shape and let the loaf  quadruple in volume. To make sure it triples or quadruples before baking, take a generous tablespoon of dough out of your shaped loaf, : ), about 20ml volume, and put it in a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Once the test dough fills that cup, you know that your loaf has quadrupled as well. 

 

It seems that you like to work with 100% hydrated starter. The way to work with them is well described by Daniel Wing in his book Bread Builders .

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

this and helping me. This does answer many questions I had and is very clear!

It's not that I like working with 100% hydrated starter but more that I haven't done anything else to change it. It's still a relatively new starter. I think Sir Stinky is around 3 months old and is my first starter?

I will look for the Bread Builders book in our library. Thanks so much!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana you are correct in that what I'm doing with the one step isn't a classic sourdough process but rather more a direct method.

I'll have to try a modern sourdough and your suggested method of a short primary ferment moving on to shaping and proof without looking for expansion in volume first. Maybe you mentioned it above but what do you use as a key to know the primary ferment is over? Will the proofing bench times be longer this way?

One other question regarding sour rye and other whole grain flours. I have had some trouble getting high percentage ww and rye mixes to rise using a natural levain. Coincidentally I discovered that I don't need to lengthen the preferment any longer than is necessary to get the gluten developed a little so it will rise in proofing. Even with the detmold 3 stage starter which is intended to give you a very vigorous starter a spike of Instant  makes me feel safer. Do you have any advice using these flours?

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

Eric, I know when the primary ferment is over if I hear my alarm clock sound : )  In sourdoughs, primary fermentation takes about 50-100 min for white wheat loaves (the whiter the longer) and just 20 min for high % rye loaves. 

Bench time is the period of time between delicately rounding your dough in a rough boule/log and actually shaping pieces of dough into their final fancy shapes with tight smooth surface. Bench time is zero if you divide and roughly pre-shape pieces of dough prior to 'primary fermentation' and bench time is about 20-30 min for a batch of sourdough that was fermented in bulk, then divided into individual pieces, rounded, etc. 

Eric, have you had your high percentage rye or WW breads rise really high when leavened with normal amounts of baker's yeast? Without using sourdough starter or natural leaven? Just to make sure that you know that the cause of lack of volume is not the leavening agent, but something else. OK?

To get your high percentage whole grain loaves rise high, use 30 min autolyse of the wheat portion of the dough before kneading it and adding sourdough sponge. Knead the final dough until you get really thin and transparent window pane. I.e. make sure gluten IS developed. Use sponges/preferments to help develop gluten better. Also, 100% WW doughs benefit from added fat in the dough, about a tablespoon or two per loaf.  Fats that are solid at room temperature, i.e butter, lard, coconut oil, etc. will make your wholegrain and multgrain loaves rise higher than oils. 100% rye will never quadruple in volume, but 100% whole wheat sure will quadruple in volume prior to baking and then rise some in the oven if you rely on these methods. Mine does and it is simple WW from organic WW flour without additives.

Here's what 50% sourdough rye (left) and 100% whole wheat sourdough (right) look when their gluten is developed and they are let to quadruple before baking. The larger loaf is Multigrain Extraordinaire by Peter Reinhart with 50% rye in it, the smaller loaf is sourdough WW challah by Maggie Glezer. The white one in the middle is Pan de Horiadaki in a pan loaf form (irrelevant : ) . The starter was only 2 days old, i.e literally I started from scratch - water and flour mixed at room temperature, and in 2 days I had a fragrant starter that was quadrupling in 5 hours,  ready to lift breads you see in the pictures below. I was testing Prof. Calvel's method of creating starters, described in his book The Taste of Bread (Le Gout du Pain).

It's my first time inserting images in a message, I hope they are not too big.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

Your breads speak for themselves, very nice. It seems that my experience has been that it is hard to develop gluten when using very high ww mixes. Even the bread I make often which is a 50/50 ww/rye blend seems to need to be folded multiple times during a long ferment. Eventually it will become elastic when folding and that's how I know the gluten has developed. Failure to get elasticity is to be disappointed with the rise later. Are you kneading by hand or mixer? I have been trying to use the mixer as little as possible and except for these whole grain loaves I hand mix and knead or use the so called "french fold" to develop gluten.

 Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Eric,

it's hard to develop gluten at home even in pure white doughs. [sigh].  I got myself KA Professional (6quart). It was scary, to buy such a monster and to let it work for such a long time, but it gets the job done. The dough gets well mixed in under 5 min. Then after 30 min autolyse, I knead it 3-4-7 (for sourdoughs, minutes on 1st, 2nd and 3rd speeds), as Calvel prescribes, or even slightly longer, because I work with Canadian flours.  I tried to knead by hand, but after 30 min I gave up! I can't get windowpane stage when hand-kneading, no matter what I do.

 

Letting dough to get extensible in the mixer and then elastic due to folding works for me.

 

Eric, which version of french fold are you referring to? Could you describe it, please, or give me a link?  Thanks.

 

mariana

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

telling you welcome to TFL. Most likely you've been here a long time and I am just now noticing, in my absent minded manner! Welcome and your input is so lovely.

I have yet another question for you regarding a comment you just made to Eric.\\

" You let your KA mix to develop extensibility and then let the folding develop elasticity."

I do not have a stand mixer so any mixing is done by hand here. I have been doubting how much development my dough gets, mainly because I do not get a classic window pane in my bread. I can "smoosh" it out and tease it to thin-ness but it lacks that satiny feeling of fluidity? It's the only way I can describe it.

I've been playing with Julia Child and Dannielle Forrestiere (sp?) technique lately. The one where you grasp one edge of the dough and sling is up and around your shoulder and let it smack down onto the bench. Then you roll it up, applying a rolling knead as you follow through with the stroke. The next movement is to grasp the dough again at the end, this time 90degrees perpendicular to the way you last threw the dough and repeat the motion. Doing it repeatedly until you feel the dough change. By slinging it over and around (like a very slow moving centrifuge) the dough stretches.

I just finished doing this to knead my sourdough pita bread. It's quite lovely feeling. Sooooo very extensible. It took me 2 sets of doing this with one 20 minute rest in between. Each set was about 15 minutes in length. I do not knead very quickly. It's a very low stress movement. Sounds hard but doesn't tax your muscles or joints. 

The point being, I "know" I have extensibility here. There is that fluidity I referenced above where the dough almost wants to escape your hands when you hold. As if it must move!

But I'm curious about the elasticity you refer to? Are you saying that at this point, I still need to work my dough further? That it still isn't there? By the window pane test, I am still not quite there. It's very close but still some semblance of tearing. And am I correct in understanding at this point, I am now ready to fold the dough? As in stretch and fold (letter fold in 90 degree perpendiculars = 2 times = complete fold session)?

TIA! 

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Thanks : ) Now I feel like a real person and can extend welcome words to other newcomers. Hurrah!

I wish I could do the same as you. I tried Danielle's 800 bangs, but my neighbour got scared, LOL. She came to ask if I was OK. I said. "Oh, it's just bread I am working on." ...And stopped banging, because now I feel self-conscous.

 

You know, Calvel says that sourdoughs must undergo autolyze, which you did (20 min rest) in between. It helped you with extensibility part. You probably can stop just short of developing window pane, because it's pita. Pita is more famous for its structure than for its texture. Still, I like pita that melts in my mouth and is very fragrant, like the ones you are about to bake.

Elasticity is when dough  resists stretching and you get there by flattening it into a round and doing 'kaiser fold', so to speak, as many times as necessary, until dough resists and doesn't let you to continue.  You can do letter fold as well if you don't mind squarish or 'log' shaped piece in the end. I prefer individual 'boules' which will undergo primary fermentation and be thus preshaped for the final make-up. This is particularly good for pitas which then balloon very well, because they get well relaxed prior to contact with rolling pin which tightens them up again, a little.

 

 

Have you baked SD pitas before?  Teach me!

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

The pitas came out very nice yesterday. I made sourdough pitas. The way I do it is to mix everything together, even the salt! I then just let it rest for about 30 minutes or so, then go back and start kneading. As I said, I tested the Forrestierre method and the dough was very supple but I noticed after it went to bulk fermentation that it became "thready" and had hair like structures when you pulled it apart. I think that means I overworked the dough? Or else the amount of sourdough starter damaged the gluten strings. But I still divided and shaped into balls. I let them rest then rolled them out with a rolling pin to about 1/8" thick. Covered with a towel and let them rise for 45 minutes. Then baked on their parchment paper for 3 minutes at 500. They all puffed up. They were fairly stiff coming out of the oven but the real trick is throwing them in a ziplock back (I think a paper bag might also work). I seel it and they soften again from the steam, which is how I prefer them. It's almost as if the bag gets a vacuum seal on them as they cool! Then I store them in the fridge and use one by one.

Here's the recipe:

I found this sourdough recipe at Randy's Vegetarian Cookbook http://www.nanday.com/cookbook/45.php . I haven't looked at the rest of this site but I like this recipe quite alot. It only makes a small amount so I make 12 at a time. It is convenient though because you can try only making 3 or 6.

Sourdough Pita Bread
By Randy - Randy's Vegetarian Cookbook
Yields 3 - 7" pita breads

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
 
1/2 cup additional flour (approximately)

Makes 3 Pitas

Mix sourdough starter with next four ingredients, mixing/kneading well. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Add additional flour. Knead well. Divide dough into three equal parts. Form each into a smooth round ball. Let balls rest, covered for 10 minutes. Roll each ball to 1/2 inch thickness. Place on nonstick baking sheets and let rise.

Preheat oven to 475°F. The high temperature helps the pockets form. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until puffed up and just starting to turn light brown.

Blue Zebra NOTE: I cooked these at 500 degrees for only about 3-4 minutes. I like mine moister than most. Ten minutes as the recipe states will most likely be wayyyyy too long! Also I think the amount of starter used is ok because it's a very short rise/ferment time. It doesn't seem to interfere with the gluten structure in this recipe.

I double this recipe and make six at a time. I have even made 12 at a time before by simply quadrupling the recipe and it worked. I still have some concern over the amount of starter used however.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Blue Zebra, so you are enjoying your pitas, huh? They will be my next baking project. I will start in 6 hours, tonight. I will use your/Randy's formula. OK. Interesting to note that there is no oil in the recipe, but it has sugar. I have never tried them like that. I also like my pitas snow white and soft.

 

Are you sure about 1/2 inch thickness in the recipe?  And then they are supposed to double or triple on top of that as they proof???

 

I don't worry about the amount of starter, because I will not use 'starter', but a preferment seeded by starter, otherwise known as levain, or sponge, or refreshed starter or fully active culture, or whatever. I also salt my starters and preferments, so gluten is very protected and will never become ropy - thready.

 

Thready dough happened to me once recently. I had an 8qt bucket of cuban bread dough placed in refrigerator to take out pieces and bake daily. By the third or fourth day during shaping (i.e probably due to too much handling) it turned quite thready, porous. Oh. Oh. I still managed to bake great cuban bread for cuban sandwiches from it. I understand that it happened due to the damaged gluten caused by prolonged fermentation.  Reduced gluten strength became obvious when I started molding pieces.

 

BZ, are blue zebras blue all over, or just the stripes?

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

please be sure to read my Blue Zebra Notes about the recipe! I think they are very important. Not least of which is the thickness of the rolled dough! I roll them out very thin. They are 1/8" thick. When I put them into bake, they may be a little under 1/4" thick but have definitely risen more or shrunk up but they are thicker than the 1/8" when they go in the oven.

Also here's a piccy of me! I'm blue with black stripes! :D (pssst...I'm the blue one...)

 I shape them on parchment. Then cover with a floured towel and let them rest and rise for 45 minutes. Then I place them in the oven on a stone and bake at 500 for 3 minutes. When I take them out they are just starting to have a bit of color here and there and are quite puffy. I put them in the ziplock bag and they eventually deflate and return to moistness.

Hope that helps!

Yes, I figured I overworked the dough yesterday and also figured that I had used too much starter! I hadn't thought about making a preferment instead of the starter! Doh! I will try that next time. I had one for lunch with leftover chicken, mayo and lettuce. It was super!

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Do they look anything like yours? Toasty spots are only on the bottom halves of pitas that were sitting on 500f stone. Tops are pale, baked strictly for 3 min, ziplocked them ASAP to protect them from becoming crackers, LOL. Sourdough pita is so much better. Thanks a million for the recipe and your kind guidance, Blue Zebra. {hugs}.

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Mine have just barely a tiny bit of color at 3 mins 500deg F!!! But your's look like beauties! I think the gold gives more flavor! Do they taste yummy?!!!

mariana's picture
mariana

 

BlueZebra, mine are pale as well, rest assured. The hearth got a bit overheated because tonight we had pizza baked on a 600F stone. Below is the image of the top half of flatbreads. I absolutely loved the softness that sitting in a sealed Ziplock gives them. Freshly baked they are leathery, chewy. After a few minutes in a bag, they became very tender and 'fluffy', for the lack of a better word. Amazing. These are strong pockets as pitas should be yet they melt in your mouth like lightweight macDo buns. Thank you for this thread that taught me so much about retardation and refrigeration rules and limits that professional bakers set for themselves and for the gift of that flatbread. Tres grand merci. : )

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

turned out for another baker! I wish I could take credit for the recipe but that's for Randy on his website! I'm just glad I found it on Google! :D

I can't wait to try it your way though, with making the levain first instead of using just straight starter. I feel really dumb for not thinking of doing that. I knew 50% from a 1:1 starter sounded kinda "whacked"...but I just don't have the baking experience to know what the writer really means you know? Cuz I will amend the recipe to building the levain.

For 1/2 cup of levain, let's say 4oz by volume for now, until I have a chance to weigh what 1/2 cup of starter weighs...would you do basically 1:4:4? Then use 4oz of by volume?

 TIA

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Blue Zebra, I know that when you inoculate a sponge with storage starter there are two rules to follow

1) take your starter out of the fridge and let it fully rise (you are supposed to refrigerate immature starter that still has a lot of rising potential left, OK? ). Once you see the signs of fatigue - retreat in volume, excessive porosity, etc, it is ready to be refreshed and it is the best time to use it to inoculate sponges/levain.

2) when you refresh your starter or use it to inoculate sponge, how much to use depends mostly on your specific bread formula and time restraints. However, you should always at least triple it as a result. This is done to relieve acid load and to enclose gas with an adecuate amount of fresh gluten. 1:4:4 formula for refreshment/inoculation increases leaven's weight nine-fold. It's doable, of course,  and usually is done more often when milder acidity and sourdough flavour are pursued. If you use sponge to both increase the sourdough flavor and vigor of your leaven, then do tripling.

Therefore, to make 1/2 cup of sponge for Randy's sourdough pita, assume that he is talking about 'starter' or sponge at its peak, i.e. about doubled in volume. Thus you will need 1/4 cup of immature sponge, or a total of 4 tablespoons.

 

Take 1 Tbsp of storage starter that rose to its maximum height after being taken out of the fridge , add to it 2 tbsp water. Whip thoroughly, so that stiff foam forms. Add 2 Tbsp flour. whip until smooth. The total will be about 1/4 cup of sponge. Let it double at high room temp if you are looking for flavor or at low room temperature if you are interested in tangy, sour aspect of taste, and mix it into your final pita dough.

 

good luck! I must make more of those pitas. I made four large ones yesterday (doubled the recipe) to create 8 demi-pockets for salad sandwiches and they are GONE. I couldn't even test how well they store at room temperature, LOL

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

The French Fold Video or "so called" is a very interesting maneuver. One is able to develop gluten fairly well without a lot of serious physical effort. Many people are unable to knead for 20-30 minutes and I have found that this technique works well. What you don't see here is that the person in the video mixes the dough well and does a frishage if necessary and lets it set for an hour to hydrate fully. Then he does this French Fold. Here is the link.

http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/jimpics/index.html

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Eric, thank you! I see what you mean. This baker tells us in the beginning that he has a batch of well mixed high hydration dough developing its extensibility during 1.5 hrs of fermentation and then he develops its elasticity, 'shapeability', by folding a few times.

I thought you referred to the French French fold (pardon my French, LOL), i.e. folding dough as a means to mix it and develop its extensibility first and then elasticity. French baker Rich Bertinet shows in in his DVD that comes with Dough, published in 2005. He actually kneads by french folding and then he folds (tightens it up) by folding as well. Cool stuff, works with higher hydration doughs.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

rock star! Those loaves are beautiful!!! Do you work as a professional baker by any chance?

mariana's picture
mariana

 

You are so funny, BlueZebra, LOL. No, I don't work in a bakery. I sit in my pyjamas all day long in my home office, managing investment portfolios, while breads rise in the kitchen ; ) Do you work in a bakery? Do you own a bakery?

 

Thank you for the compliments to my loaves, dear [blushing]. I can't believe the miracle of bread, I will never get used to it. Thank you.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Mariana, I appreciate all this information which is more evidence to me just how much I have been at overproofing my sourdoughs.  Yikes!  I think based on your recommendations for fermentation and proofs it will require a leap of faith the first time to shorten them significantly. :o)  But if we don't try how will we ever know?

 

I am also a super fan of Glezer and can't apologize. :o) I just love Artisan Baking and will always bake Thom Leonard's Country Fresh and Essential's Columbia, two of the best breads I've made to date.  (Not to mention Della Fattoria Rustic Roasted Garlic bread, TDF!) Today, while I am very much enjoying other books as well, namely Daniel Leader's, Local Breads, I find my comfort is always in Artisan Baking and Blessings of Bread.  I just think she cuts out a lot of unnecessary elements and gets to the nitty gritty of sourdough starters and bread baking plus her recipes are interesting to me.

 

I also keep a firm starter, which Glezer advocates, but she has said the gold standard is for the firm starter to quadruple in 8 hours or less.  My starter generally quadruples in 6 hours and sometimes sooner but I know the gold standard is a minimum of 8 hours.  Just wondering if your statement about quadrupling in 5 or 6 is a Calvel note.  I have not read his book.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Zolablue, you are my favorite baker!  I learned so much from you; everything. Your thread on firm starters is brilliant and your breads are like poetry, they inspired me. Thank you for sharing so generously. I learned to like and appreciate Glezer's books from you as well. : )  Now I think there is nothing better than her books for successful breadmaking. Other books might offer tasty formulas, but hers offer home bakers principles and methods that are simply the best.  I bake sourdough rendition of her Acme baguettes formula again and again and again. Tremendous bread, tremendous. Roasted Garlic bread is heavenly, yes. ; )

 

About stater. Maggie writes that Calvel helped her with her first successful starter which they created during seminar, i.e. in a relatively brief period of time. But then she doesn't teach that same method and her method of creating starters is different from Calvel's: longer and wetter to begin with, saltless and maltless, etc., etc., etc. She also allows it to live in fridge and 'be forgotten' for longish periods of time. Calvel is adamant that a refrigerated starter is no longer a true thing. It will leaven perfectly well, but it will lack that je ne se quoi of true sourdough flavour which is like fine wine or an autumn fruit garden aroma. He says

 

'coolers or refrigerators simplify the preservation of the chef/starter and allow the use of one or two cultures in breadmaking. However, the storage temperature should be kept at 50F or slightly higher in order to preserve intact the flora that make up the natural leaven or 'sourdough'. At a temperature lower than 50F, part of the flora is damaged, and the bread loses some if its distinctive characteristics. That is not to say that fermentation is inhibited: the chef and the sponges rise correctly, but the resulting loaves do not have the distinctive aroma of bread made with natural levain.

 

It is regrettable that the temptation to preserve doughs at too low  a temperature or to freeze them is so great. As a consequence, it is rare today to bite into a levain-fermented bread that retains the original and distinctive characteristics. ' end of quote.

 

That, Zolablue, made me curious and I tested Calvel's method and in 2 days and 6 hours had the same starter going as Calvel&Maggie's first. I am still in shock that it happens that quickly and that leavening power and true sourdough fragrance are there and that by the 2 days and 6 hours mark the starter proves itsefl though several refreshments, more than quadrupling each time. I now keep it as he suggested: above 50F but below 60F, doing Saltzeig schtick a la Hamelman as well. 'Tis thriving so far.

 

 Hamelman teaches the same method (or almost) as Calvel in his book, but again insists that it takes a week or two, not just two and a half days to 'create' a starter. Hmmm.

 

Yes, Calvel in both editions of his book states that at 81F  his 50% hydration starter should more than quadruple in 6 hours or else it is not an active starter.  In his starter creation process, a 42 hour old baby starter already finishes its first quadrupling in 6 hours. I had to live through that to believe it 8-) Then you take it through 2 more refreshments, seeing it more than quadruple in 6 hours each time. It shows that the first quadrupling was not a fluke and lets sourness to develop appropriately. Et voila. Check out starter's pH, to make sure it's 4.4-4.6, and if it is, a true sourdough bread is possible from that point on.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

So Calvel would say that i'm flavor killing my starters at about 41°F and freezing is a real no no. hmmm. Well I have lots of samples of dried SD that hasn't been frozen so I can add another catagory to Bill's suggested SD environmental experiment (Austrian SD, 6 months later Austrian SD via China, and Austrian abused SD via China). There are going to be some interesting buns in my kitchen when I get everything kranked up and going in Austria. Thanks for the quote by the way. :)

42 hours? (48?) Maybe my Austrian package extract isn't a starter and only created the correct conditions for yeast formation from the flour I was using... (I'm always keeping my mind open.)

Time to add an electron microscope to the list of kitchen equipment. -- Mini Oven

mariana's picture
mariana

 

We have a variety of good microscopes with photocameras attached in our lab at UofT. Now, I only need to get a degree in microbiology of yeasts, LOL.

 

MiniOven, seriously, fridge temperatures killed flavor of all my starters from SourdoughInternational. I ended up with terrific leavening power in starters, but little to no flavor left in them just in a couple of months of storing them in our kitchen fridge, with regular refreshments, etc. Breads made with them also were becoming stale rather quickly. They had alcoholic smell, faint acetic sour smell, fragrant crusts, typical of well fermented doughs, but not that fine wine or ripe fruity smell typical of real sourdough bread which smells heavenly, tastes like BREAD, and never stales.

 

Don't mention it about the quote. I saw it in Hamelman's book as well. You probably have Hamelman's book? Find it on p.355: "It's important to mention the effect of cold temperatures on a natural sourdough culture. According to Professor Calvel...."

 

42 hours . yes . fourty two. I am testing that method again right now. It's been 30 hours so far and my baby-starter, Calvel boy #2, is very much alive and kicking. I'll refresh it now and expect it to quadruple in 6 -7 hours for the first time.  I agree with you that extract is not a starter. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Mariana, MiniOven, ZB, BZ, Eric,

Thanks for an interesting discussion here. I have enjoyed finally getting around to reading some of it.

I wanted to comment on this topic of refrigeration, as I've been using refrigeration regularly for over three years now.

Maybe I haven't been checking my starter carefully enough, but I really don't think I've had a bad experience with refrigerating my starters. In my case, I have typically firmed up the starter to a Glezer style firm starter and then left it in the refrigerator anywhere from a week to about 2 months. I don't feed the starter during the storage period. Instead, I "revive" the starter when I am ready to bake. What I mean by that is that once I take the starter out of the refrigerator, I serially feed the starter approximately every 12 hours or so at room temperature with about a 1:3:5 or 1:4:4 ratio depending on the consistency I'm using, and I do that until the starter is rising well and also has a good consistency and has those good "flowery" smells of a healthy sourdough starter. I don't think these starters have lost their essential character even after leaving them in the refrigerator for 2 months. The expected aromas and consistency have been there in full force within 3-4 feedings at room temperature after removal from the refrigerator.

I have used my own homebrew starters and also SDI starters (recently) in this way with no problems that I can see. In fact, the SDI starters seem to have maintained their individual flavors after spending about 3 weeks in the refrigerator after a trip I took to Montana recently, i.e. the SDI SF sourdough starter still has the intense flowery aroma, but the "SDI French" one has a less intense yet distinctive flavor of its own, after having revived the two of them. They both seem quite lively and have all the normal characteristic smells and consistency of a healthy starter maintained serially at room temperature. Same with my homebrew starter, which I've maintained for over three years now.

Glezer has mentioned reviving old starters after periods much longer than 2 months. Mariana, I don't doubt your experience as you describe it, but it struck me as so different from my own, that I thought I would mention it. Maybe the difference has to do with feeding the starter while it is stored in the refrigerator? That might be a problem, depending on the procedure you are following. In other words, if you feed the starter without letting the culture revive at room temperature and put it back in the refrigerator, you would be diluting the culture, similar to overfeeding, and that could lead to a loss of some key portion of the microflora if done repeatedly during the period of storage in the refrigerator.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Could some of the difference seen in your and Mariana's experience be due partly to the differences between Canadian flour and American flour? Just curious.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

Nice to hear from you. How's old Sir Stinky doing? Anyway, I hope your SD baking is going well. It sounds like it is.

I doubt the difference has anything to do with flours, but who knows? All I know is that refrigeration for me has worked just fine over a number of years and any number of fairly long periods of refrigeration using various starters.

I suspect the key microflora of the culture aren't completely lost at around 40F over the period of refrigeration storage time I've used, i.e. up to about 2 months (haven't tried longer), so the starter culture is not fundamentally damaged. Given the exponential growth rate (doubling population about every hour or two very roughly) of the culture organisms at room temperature, it is possible that serial feeding at room temperature can re-establish a stable culture composed of the same organisms within a day or two.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Hope you had an excellent summer and I missed you when you were in Montana!

Stinky is doing great (I think...until someone tells me otherwise that is!) haha. Today I'm baking Vermont Sourdough and I still have your levain for the pagnotta refrigerated. I ran out of flour and am waitin for B to get home with more! So will start that tonite. Here's a piccy of his latest Vermont Sourdough.

Thanks for the answer to this, Bill!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

BZ,

Loved the blog entry on the VT SD and all the explanations and pictures. Nice work.

Don't know if I really answered anything. All I'm saying is the fridge has worked for me and suggesting a possible explanation for why it might work. Mariana's experience shows there are some conditions where refrigerated starter storage is a problem. Unfortunately, it's hard to compare notes on procedures in detail over the internet.

Another possible difference might be refrigerator temperature. When I probe my cultures in the refrigerator, they seem to hover around 40F.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I'm doing another go at the Vermont Sourdough using Mariana's methodology of the short bulk ferment and then extra long final proof.

A thought on this is...that as long as the gluten is developed enough to support the rise...then it makes sense. As I understand it, Calvel's and her premise is that it's the gas that actually contains the flavor components? Which would be interesting cuz wouldn't that be esthers? If they are part of the gas then it's become either micronized or else become an aromatic itself...and the ones I'm more familiar with are esthers...But anyway, the degassing is what she's saying causes a loss in the flavor. Am I understanding correctly?

So anyway, will let yall know how it turns out! I have the little pecan-sized piece of dough in it's measuring devise acting as a rising gauge! Am hoping for 4x the original size. I hope it works cuz I accidentally made a flub up and left out the levain overnight so it was past it's prime...

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

I think the flavor will be affected by the composition and concentration of fermentation byproducts that remain in the bread after baking. There are a number of organic acids that are produced during the fermentation, which goes on the entire time from when the yeast or sourdough starter is introduced to the dough until the temperature rises sufficiently in the baking process to kill the organisms. The amounts and relative composition of those acids are the primary contributors to the unique flavor of sourdough. The other flavors come from the salt and natural flavors of the grains.

The fermentation flavors will develop during the entire time from introduction of the sourdough levain or starter through until bake. During refrigeration, such as in retardation, the fermentation will go on at a very slow rate, or even come to a complete halt depending on how cold the refrigeration is, and the relative contributions of the acids may be somewhat different at the cooler temperatures, since the relative activity of the yeast and Lactobacillus are different at cooler temperatures than at room temperature. That's one reason why the flavor would be somewhat different when you use retarding.

You can handle the dough any time from mix to bake, so there are various strategies to develop the gluten early or late in the process. I do like moving to final proof before the dough has doubled, although I haven't tried reducing the time to only an hour or two, but it certainly is a reasonable thing to do. When you go to shaping early, assuming the gluten is developed enough, you give the loaves longer to produce gas and rise undisturbed, so you can achieve a lighter loaf. As long as the time from mix to bake is about the same, the flavor should be about the same regardless of when you shape.

The time at which you shape is not really a fixed time, because you have to take into account the initial concentration of starter in the dough. For example, I know Eric likes to do a "one-step" method, where only a very small amount of starter is introduced into the final dough. Since the initial concentration of the starter, and therefore also the population of organisms, is very low after mixing the dough in that method, it makes sense to let the fermentation go on longer before shaping than you would if you introduce a larger levain to the mix at the beginning. The reason is that the fermentation acids contribute to the development of the gluten, and they won't be at a high enough level with the "one-step" method until the fermentation has gone on long enough to bring the population up to levels that would exist immediately when you introduce a larger levain into the dough initially.

So, in order to implement the "short bulk fermentation" strategy the same way with different amounts of initial starter, you have to adjust the bulk fermentation time so that the populations of organisms are the same in the two doughs at the time of shaping, if you want similar results from the two methods.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

being contributed by gas. Mariana made this comment above:

"If your fridge is set to below 50F, then there is no flavor development due to bacterial activity, according to Prof. Calvel, only due to yeast fermentation, which produces ethanol. Once ethanol is produced, it converts into other organic molecules responsible for the dough flavor. Presumably, the purpose of retardation by chillling the sourdough, is to have a longer window of time to produce such flavor molecules. Punching the dough down will get rid of gas - ethanol - the source of flavor, so what's the point? "

So that's why I was wondering about the gas?

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Yeast fermentation produces two main products, gas, and alcohol. Ethanol is the alcohol, not the gas.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Susan, I see what you mean. You see "gas" as CO2 in raw dough and ethanol as liquid, yes?

In my earlier post I meant that alcohol is a volatile compound and water+ehtanol solution in fermenting dough undergoes distillation, with elevated amounts of ethanol becoming gas in a fermenting piece of dough. When it is punched down, it certainly gives off alcoholic odor. So 'gas' for me is both CO2 and ethanol.  It certainly smells like it : )

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Kind of like that old Welch's (or was it Smuckers) jelly commercial where they say that if you could smell it, some of the flavor was getting lost (am I dating myself here?)

Seriously, I really would not worry about a loss of flavor from degassing. I can smell a glass of wine when I pour it, but in my experience, most of the alcohol remains in the glass, until it goes into me (or onto me, which is pretty much guaranteed if the wine is red and my dress is white :-)

Here's a quote from Hamelman (in the context of why dough is folded during primary fermentation): "If the excess of carbon dioxode gas that is generated by the yeast is not periodically expelled, fermentation can be impaired."

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

certain compounds can be reactive too and can bind with alcohol and many are volatile. Here's what Wikipedia says about this:

Esters are a class of chemical compounds and functional groups. Esters are formally formed in a condensation reaction between an alcohol and an acid in a reaction known as esterification. The most common type of esters are carboxylic acid esters (R1-C(=O)OR2), but other acids including phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, or boric acid also form analogous esters. Volatile esters often have a smell and are found in perfumes, essential oils, and pheromones. Volatile esters also give many fruits their smells. Ethyl acetate and methyl acetate are important solvents, fatty acid esters form fat and lipids, and polyesters are important plastics. Cyclic esters are called lactones. The name "ester" is derived from the German Essig-Äther (literally:vinegar ether), an old name for ethyl acetate

___________________________________________

But what I remember most of them is from organic chemistry class. We made esthers and the whole flour smelled like our artificial "perfumery" like bananas, etc...So that's what I was talking about with the estherification of some of the volatile products of fermentation and lb metabolism and reproduction...I think this has a significant part to play in sourdough cookery. Especially sense smell is the overwhelming applied in tasting a substance...and let's face it we are dealing with lots of acids, alcohols and I even image some aldehydes too...very smelly and volatile compounds...

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

I think Susanfnp's comments on retarding dough were informative. I agree w/KipperCat, Atropine, and others who say that probably quite a few extremely complex things go on as the temperature drops from 75F to 40F, so who knows what all the effects really are and then there is your starter, my starter, your kitchen, my kitchen and all the subtle differences in process and environment from one place to another. As Atropine says, it is somewhat freeing to just try things out and experiment. Maybe the best thing is to just try retardation and also to try out refrigeration of your starter for storage purposes and see if you can make it work for you and if you like the results.

As far as bulk fermentation times, it's worthwhile to consider that it takes longer to get to the same point if you put in less starter for the same amount of dough. For example, very roughly you might put in 15g of starter in 1Kg of total flour and wait 12 hours to get the same fermentation byproduct amounts in your dough that it would take maybe only 4 hours if you put in 250g of starter in 1Kg of total flour. So, before it makes any sense to say how long a fermentation should be, you have to at least talk about what percentage of the total flour is contributed by a levain, in addition to what temperature you're using, let alone all the other factors like whether salt has been introduced yet, the hydration, whether there is olive oil in there, milk, garlic, who knows what else.

BZ, thanks for starting and moderating a fun thread.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

At least my experience, a much shorter time than you've done sourdough, is that my starter smells and tastes the same as it did at the first.  I actually marvel at how sweet and aromatic the scent is whenever I refresh it or use it.  It reminds me quite of the beautiful scent I get when I make the Acme baguettes and another reason I would love to see what happens to that when converted to sourdough.

 

I also have to say I can tell no difference in the flavor of my breads.  I know they have not suffered and are such mild, delicious breads.  Now, I have never kept it in the fridge for longer than a week and then only once when we went on vacation last spring.  The longest generally it gets the cold treatment is up to 2 days at most only when I know I can't be avaiilable to feed it when necessary.

 

Mariana, I would also love to hear your feeding schedule (oh, no, BZ, you're gonna kill me...tj :o).  How often do you feed yours?  I found I really had to wait longer periods in between feedings to create optimum strength.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

So here's my story and I'm stickin to it! Or at least the story of Sir Stinksalot my starter. Bill held my hand thru the whole thang! He smelled awful! Mad, scary awful at first. putrid! But thanks to his level headed encouragement, I persevered...and eventually he just smell soured like vinegar. He's never had that gorgeously delightful "new baby smell" (that's a joke) but really he has never had that lovely smell of yeasty lust I smell from traditional yeasted doughs...I've learned to love him in spite of that...but over the time as he first crawled then walked and now as a teenager, talks back to me...he still smells like a vinegar. Tart and sour. But sometimes when he comes out of the fridge he smells like bananas and it's lovely!!! Then I let him warm up and take the chill off of his acetyl acids and then feed him and he starts smelling like a really good pickle again! :D Hence his name Stinky...

 The point is, I think he did undergo a change in smell cuz of the fridge. He never smells like a nana when I leave him out...

 

Just sayin... :D

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Seems to be a starter if I can get it up and going in a recipe in 36 hours.  That's the puzzling part.  It claims to be made from sourdough.  I had had no previous experience with such before, completely sealed off from air.  Resiliant little beasties aren't they?  It is such a rich thick starter that I brought it with me here, dried.  And it's a hungry little starter, not happy with just 12 hour feedings (water to flour 50/50 half the flour rye).  So it gets refreshed, stands out for 4 hours and then back to the fridge.  In the cold, it continues to rise and quadruple.  Next day, give it a good rap on the cutting board to knock down the bubbles so it won't overflo sinking the level to about starting height.  Here is where I can decide to use it or refresh it but most times I let it just stand in the fridge for the morning. 

As far as my firm starters go, I find that mine react much like Bill's.  My cold firm starters do need a few refreshments before using into a recipe.  And although they smell like wet flour, if I let them stand at room temp. smell developes and flavor too.  i have tested the flavor by making a small pancake of my dough and frying it on a dry non-stick pan.  Flavor does progress with age and the two still have different characteristics.    --Mini Oven

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi MiniOven, where are you? are you back to Austria or busy baking in China?

 

I am not familiar with sourdough products available to homebakers in Austria. There must be a variety, I think.

 

Bakers, when they buy something called starter, expect it to contain lactic bacteria only (bacterial starter) or lactic bacteria WITH yeasts (mixed starter) which lifts dough sponge in 18 hours to its maximum height. Tiny amounts of such dry sourdough mixtures are used, about 10g per 20kg of raw  dough. The end result - fresh loaf of sourdough bread in 24 hours or less.

 

Dry 'inactive' starters are also sold and used strictly for aromatic purposes, as flavor enhancers. They contain tiny amounts of lactic bacteria and yeast, they display little or not fermentative acivity if mixed with water in the first few hours, and require use of baker's yeast to leaven dough. They do reinforce the taste of bread significantly, though. That's their purpose and function.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

In my house that would require a separate fridge or cooler, as I don't have any rooms that cool.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Good evening KipperCat,

Right now I keep them starters under AC vent, so they are fairly cold, about 55F.  I also salt them to extend length of storage time at room temperature and protect gluten from effects of such prolonged fermentation(2% salt, as in regular dough would be, suggested Hammelman). This way starter  reaches its maximum height after about 3-4 days and it's time to refresh. Not very taxing, I think, refreshing 10 g of starter twice a week , or taking that amount and developing a designer starter from it.

Starters are so fragrant, alive,  and fine tasting this way, I am thiniking about using wine cooler, or portable minifridge just for that purpose: both for retartding starter and for retarding final dough/shaped loaves. Iwant to be able to bake when it is convenient, to serve hot from the oven to the table. I like the looks of Mobicool

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I like the idea of using salt to extend the storage life of starter.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Gee, you humble me with the kind words that I do not deserve.  I'm a baby in this and grateful if I can help by imparting even a small tidbit of what I learn along the way but the truth is I've learned far and away more from all of you.  There are so many fabulous bakers on this site with such interesting things they share. It is why I love this site so much.

 

Now, I must beg you for the information and, BZ, this is gonna be a TJ...hehehe!  I love the Acme baguettes but never have figured out how to make them into a sourdough recipe.  Please tell me how you do it.

 

Interesting about the Calvel formula.  What is it?  Or where is it and I'll buy the book.  I'm interested in testing for myself.  I thought that a starter developed some nasty stuff in the first few days and that it is not safe to use it.  If someone has posted about this in further comments forgive me as I have not read below yet.  Perhaps you should post that info on my firm starter thread as many of us would appreciate it.

 

Oh, also I rarely put my starter into the fridge but sometimes I must if I know I can't be around to feed it when its ready.  Often I find it gives my starter some kind of boost and will actually grow bigger faster.  But even so you are saying that might be damaging the fine components of its flavor?  Hmmm...interesting.  I'll mull that.  :o)

 

I have been gone from home the past couple days so I have missed all this continuing great info.  I have a lot to read to catch up! 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

information comes in the form of t/j's (threadjacks) :D :D :D ;) *Mwuah!*

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

To get back to BZ's original questions about retarding:

This week I am taking the advanced artisan bread class at SFBI (last day is tomorrow). Retarding is covered in some depth and we made some doughs today that went into the retarder, some in bulk and some after shaping. We will bake them tomorrow.

The instructor for the class is Didier Rosada, one of the "rock stars" of baking and considered by some professional bakers to be the best baker in the world. He maintains that retarding does NOT develop more or better flavor, although it can make the flavor a little different. Yeast fermentation pretty much stops during retarding. The main advantage of retarding is in gaining better control over the baking schedule. And dough cannot be retarded indefinitely; the gluten will degrade if retarded too long.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi Susan,

 

I can't believe you are taking a class with Rosada and not a word about it here or in your blog! When, then? Please, tell us your story. How is it? Do you like it? Are Rosada's breads as good as his reputation? Or is it a matter of personal preference?

 

Retardation does change something, definitely. Maybe even a lot of things. However I am not a very sofisticated bread taster.  My tongue or nose are not the most sensitive in the world. I tried Reinhart's formulas with and without retardation periods, and the consequences are not simply blisters on the crust or not. Bread smells, looks, and tastes differently with and without retardation.  You know how Reinhart favors retardation and just can't stay away from introducing it at some stage.  Some say that retardation in his formulas simply allows for fuller, more complete fermentation. I dunno.

 

At the same time I agree with you and Didier that from the theoretical point of view, retarding shouldn't develop more or better flavor because both yeast and bacterial fermentation stops at low temps.  What about your personal experiences with retarding doughs, sponges, starters?  Did you notice any differences?

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

attending these classes!!! I can't wait to hear about the results today and get your take on all this as well!

I do have a general question for the group here...from a pseudo-scientific perspective. I say pseudo cuz I used to be involved in it but most of what I learned from chem and biochem has been long forgotten, due in part to over-fermentation from the yeast in beer, no doubt :D ;)...

But there is SOMETHING still at work when doughs are retarded with refrigeration. My box is set to 38degrees F. When I place my starter in it, it's at its peak. It soon falls due to the cold no doubt. Or it could just be due to the difference in atmospheric pressure on gas (CO2) in the bubbles. But...

If there is no biochemical activity going on...such as fermentation or lactobaccilli reproduction or metabolism...then why if it's "asleep" do you still need to feed it? Why does a liquor of alcohol, byproducts, and dead organisms form on the top of the starter if left too long?

To me, that's evidence that SOMETHING is happening in there and I sure wanna think that's from beneficial organism activity and not from attack by foul bacteria. Ick.

Any thoughts on this?

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I've also found that a recently fed starter will continue to increase for quite awhile in the fridge - but I didn't time it, so conceivably that activity could have been before the starter was fully chilled.

My very unlearned opinion is that there are other things that contribute to dough flavor and changes besides the yeast and lactobacilli.  I would imagine there are minute quantities of other things in the dough and other processes that continue on.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi KipperCat,

I observe the same thing. I also see changes in the starter over the course of days and weeks in the fridge. I've seen some scientific data, including the table below from Ganzle quoted in one of the SD Faqs, that shows non-zero activity levels at 2 deg C. As Atropine states, there are all kinds of reasons why things may work here and not there. I was just pointing out, in case someone reads this thread, that refrigerating a starter for storage purposes has worked fine for me with no drastic loss in the character of the starter and that there may be reasons to believe it ought to work in some situations at least. I do believe the flavor has been different, maybe in a good way, when I've tried retarding loaves, by the way, though I don't usually have the patience. Sometimes I do retard loaves if baking them right away isn't convenient.

Temp  L. sf I  L. sf II Yeast (C. milleri)
2     0.019    0.016    0.004
4     0.026    0.022    0.008
6     0.035    0.031    0.013
8     0.047    0.043    0.021
10    0.063    0.060    0.033
12    0.084    0.08     0.052
14    0.11     0.11     0.078
16    0.14     0.15     0.011
18    0.19     0.20     0.16
20    0.24     0.26     0.23
22    0.30     0.29     0.30
24    0.37     0.37     0.37
26    0.45     0.46     0.42
28    0.49     0.55     0.42
30    0.61     0.64     0.35
32    0.66     0.70     0.20
34    0.66     0.70     0.05
36    0.58     0.54     0.00
38    0.39     0.31
40    0.1      0.055
41    0.00     0.00

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

The class was great. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Didier - not only is he a masterful baker (he has only to look at the dough and it does his bidding) but a gifted teacher as well. This was my third class with him and I heartily recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to learn from him grab it without hesitation.

If I correctly understand what Didier said, it is not that retardation changes nothing, it is that it does not make a BETTER bread. Retarded dough will develop a sharper flavor due to a greater production of acetic acid, which is favored by colder temps. Retarded breads also have a redder crust, because the enzyme activity that breaks starch down into simple sugars continues at the lower temp, while fermentation is slowed, so the yeast is not able to metabolize all these sugars. Residual sugar changes crust color. Didier's point as I understand it, is that retarding produces a somewhat different bread, but not a superior bread. The focus of the retarding discussion in class was how to use it to control a bakery production schedule, not on how retarding changes the bread.

My humble advice is this: if you want to retard, because you like the result and/or the way it helps you manage your time, do it. If you don't, don't. Just don't think you HAVE to, or that you're less of a baker of you don't.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

So glad you enjoyed your class and learned so much! Now teach us Obewan Kenobe! :D

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Susan, wow, how awesome you are taking this class.  You are a super baker and I always love to see what you're up to.  This is great to know.  I keep reading that retardation does indeed increase the acidity and flavor but this has simply not been my experience at all.  I just can't tell a difference in my breads when I do this. 

 

What I do notice is that retarding shaped loaves does indeed cause those wonderful blisters to form when baking.  I'm not sure why that happens but it does and I think it makes them quite beautiful.  You are the queen of the blistered loaves and when I get the courage I am going to try the baking-under-glass method. :o)

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

ZolaBlue, I asked about the crust blisters in class and I was told that they are caused by small degradations in the dough as it ages (from acidity and protease action), making little "chimneys" for the gas to travel to the surface. I like the look of the blisters, but in France apparently they are considered to be a defect.

Baking under glass -- I have yet to try that, but it's a good idea. I think the other Susan came up with that.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Sorry I confused you with the other Susan - so you're not the queen of blisters. :o)  I have read the French do not like the blistered loaves.  They definately have their own way of doing things which is great, we learn a lot from them.  I personally think the blistered loaves are beautiful and noticed when I stopped at Thom Leonard's bakery Wheatfields this is something he obviously strives for in his breads.  They were some of the most beautiful loaves I've ever seen.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana I would suspect that a starter that has been kept in the fridge would re develop the flavours if left to mature again at room temp wouldn't it? The fact that Rosada is in conflict with Clavel on the issue of retardation effecting flavor is troubling. The science of bread-making is unsettled on this matter it seems. I would be nice if we could agreement on this basic issue.

What is the process for creating this quick starter?

BTW Mariana, I ran a test yesterday that showed me the weaknesses in my process for mixing SD French bread. My 65% hydration boules were mixed, scaled, pre-shaped, fermented for 1.3 hours and then shaped and proofed. The boules fell flat and spread like Frisbee's. After 12 hours, I reshaped and baked them. Next trial will lower hydration, use stronger flour mix.

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi Eric,

 

Rosada doesn't conflict with Calvel. God forbid. Rosada is Calvel's student. I'll ask Didier about skilled retardation of sourdoughs in detail, when I see him in Chicago in a month or two.

 

For a damaged starter to pick up sourdough flora at room temp again, it would had to go through 3 days fermentation with 7 specialized refreshments again, just as if you started a new one from scratch. The formula is in Calvel's book on pp 89-90 . I'll see if I can briefly summarize it for you later. OK?

 

Good luck with your French SD boules, Eric. 12 hours of proof is a long time! I would expect them to go flat, unless you support them by proofing in a banneton. 65% hydration is already low. 70% is closer to the right level.

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi Eric,

I found a document for you that outlines the schedules of creation of fully developed starters used by French bakers.

 

Two methods are by prof. Calvel and they create stiff starters:

 

(1) using water from wheat bran soaked for 30 min at 38C, which takes about 4 days to obtain a stiff starter that quadruples in volume in 7 hours

(2) using mixture of rye and wheat flours, kept at normal room and cold room temps to develop a stiff starter that more than quadruples in 5 hours.

 

One method is by Eric Kayser and it creates liquid starter in 2.5 days.

 

Finally there is a method called 'French' and it begins with simple rye meal/pumpernickel flour and ends up with fully fermented sourdough sponge made of whater and white bread flour in 3.5 days.

 

http://www.cannelle.com/BILIOTHEQUE/revuetec/PDF/ Click on the first document on the list called SUPSTn49.pdf.  On p.6 you will see tables with schedules for creation of Prof.Calvel's starters (from bran soaker water - de trempage de sons, from rye-wheat flour mixture - de melange farine de ble et farine de seigle) . On top of p 7 you will see a table with schedule for classic French leaven that begins as pure rye flour (elaboration d'un levain naturel selon la methode francaise).  On p 8 you will see Eric Kaiser's formula for liquid leaven (elaboration d'un levain liquide).

 

Godspeed!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

I just found this, sorry I didn't respond earlier. Thank you for these references. What I was really looking for is the process with which you create a healthy starter so quickly. French or otherwise. I looked at the link you posted above but in French it's a little hard to understand the nuances of the dialogue. I have had good luck using rye at 100% hydration and temps in the range of 86 degrees F. In just a few days I can use it to rise bread.

I read with interest your point about converting the starter to feeding the type of flour you intend to bake with to continue the flora. You may have stated this elsewhere but how many refreshments would you say it would take before a rye starter could be properly used as a Semolina or hard winter white bread levain?

Thank you,

Eric

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Please indulge a fairly uneducated opinion here, but I do not think it is necessary that one man be wrong and the other right.  I think that there are many variables that would contribute to each man's declaration of what temperature has to do with flavor.

 

A few of these MIGHT be:  each man's tasting ability, each area the man works in, various microflora, age of flour, interaction of each specific microflora, etc.

 

Perhaps the differences are not because someone is right and someone is wrong, but due to the SPECIFIC flora of each person's area/starter.  Perhaps we are looking at two trees (the balance of the main yeast and a specific lactobacillus), and missing the forest of other, albeit minor, players. 

 

Perhaps both views (retarding changes flavors, retarding does not) is really dependent on an even finer degree of microflora than we generally consider when talking about sourdough.  I am in doubt that a starter sent to me from, say, Italy, left open to the air in my home would not somehow change in reaction to the specific flora in my home.  While conventional wisdom says that a vigorous starter does deny overtaking by another flora (which I have seen disagreements about as well), that does not mean that it will not tolerate a small bits of this or that microflora (bacteria or yeast), *OR* that it will not be somewhat affected by an onslaught of an intruder, even if it maintains its dominance.

 

I would think that this would be particularly observable if one lives in a house or area where there is a predominance of a bacteria/mold/yeast/etc. 

 

For example, my house is almost 30 years old.  It has been a rental before.  It is in a damp area by a slough, across the street from livestock, and has pets, kids, etc in it.  I would be willing to bet that there is a very stable (and HIGH) population of bacteria, yeasts, molds, fungus that one might not find in, say, the desert, a more temperate climate, in a house with no pets, in a house with wood floors only, in new construction, etc. 

 

I believe we see this happen when two people have the same starter from the same batch, but the bread tastes different from each of those houses.  While the starter has the same roots, each house offers its own "flavors".  We can look at microflora in our houses as "seasonings"--not actually a main part of the recipe, but still offering a tiny bit of flavoring, even in minute doses.  We can also see this when people say "Oh it was easy to start a starter!" and others struggle for weeks to get the right ph, elminate mold, etc.

 

Also, a healthy starter will maintain its dominance and kill molds and other microflora.  However, it does not VAPORIZE the mold, it just kills it.  Now, let's say that I have a mold, "Mold Atropine" floating around my house.  It will alight on my sourdough starter, is carried on dust that lands in the bowl, etc.  Even if the yeast overcomes the mold, you still have bits of what was that mold floating around in the starter, as well as some mold that is always landing on my starter trying to get established.  It is very probable that that would affect flavors, as I have never tasted anything with mold that did not have a different flavor (which, unfortunately, I discovered by accident.....I cannot eat a twinkie to this day).  These do not have to be unpleasant at all!  They might be so minute that we do not notice them, but add to the overall taste of a bread.

 

Same with a bacteria, yeast, etc.  Even if it is not the predominant strain of bacteria or yeast, that does not mean it does not work on some properties, especially flavors.

 

In fact, a very cursory google search reveals a patent for using three amino acids to change the flavors of bread, wine, etc.  There are other things that will work on flavors besides just the main yeast and bacteria.

 

Perhaps these very well known bread bakers are both correct...for THEIR particular starter, area, flour they use (even the age of flour would make a difference), etc.  For one, his starter is hardy enough to withstand anything, including cooling, without any change in flavor.  It is also possible (though not probable if he has been baking for a long time) that he has never really tried letting his starter or his dough NEVER be chilled.  Again, i think that is doubtful.  I think it is that whatever flora he has is "resistant" to changes in temperature. 

 

Frankly it is also possible that he is not as strong of a "taster"--while he might be an expert in bread baking, he might not have the same ability to taste subtle flavors that the other fellow has.  Some of tasting can be learned, but some of it is plain genetics, with a portion of the population having "supertaster" genes, or are sensitive to various flavors, or with damage being done to the taste buds via smoking, burning, etc.  It might even be that the specific flora he has in his MOUTH or his body chemistry makes a difference .  My grandfather had a body chemistry that made onions taste putrid and even his fingers smelled putrid if he handled onions.  This might seem farfetched, but it is not really--we each perceive sensory input slightly differently, and that includes taste.

 

Along with that, it could be that the other fellow has a starter that DOES succumb to changes in temperature.  Either his starter is tempermental OR he is accustomed to tasting all of the "extras" (dead and dying microflora) in his starter.  Perhaps when his starter is exposed to the air, there is a constant battle in his starter to retain homeostasis, and that is what he tastes.  In that battle, there are "intruder microflora" constantly killing and being killed.  However, in the fridge, a)exposure to free air movement is greatly reduced, meaning there are not as many "intruders" to fight and b)the intruders that are there are more likely to be overwhelmed and broken down further, again altering taste.

 

We can illustrate this with ants and a house.  If the ant hill is very close to the house, with multiple ants, then we are always fighting ants, and there are always some alive, dying, dead, and decomposed.

 

However, if the ant hill is small, far away, or the house is extremely tight, then we might only see one or two ants that are easily overcome and easily broken down. 

 

I know this is getting REALLY long but there is one other point that I would offer for consideration and that is the idea of synergy.  In my, albeit amateur, studying of epidemiology, I have come across the concept of "synergy" where a virus and a bacteria will act with their own specific level of effect in a body UNTIL they are brought into the same organism at the same time.  THEN the effect is GREATLY amplified, the effect is much greater than the sum of its parts.  While bread baking is much more benign than disease outbreaks, it is not unreasonable to assume that there COULD be synergy going on in starters that we do not realize.

 

It is possible that microflora that we generally do not consider (not viruses with bacteria, per se, but maybe bacteria with molds, molds with yeast, etc) actually contribute more to the flavor of bread than we think.  Some of these components might be temperature sensitive.

 

The more I study bread baking, the more I learn that the science is much deeper and more precise than merely "yeast and bacteria in a starter".  I think we can see this in our discussions--why some things work well for one person, but not for another.  I think this is why there are so many disagreements (though pleasant ones :-) ) regarding the "right" way.  There are just so many variables that change from one person and one house and one starter to another, that it might be that either we need a completely controlled, sterile, laboratory environment to always get the exact same results OR we just have to say "we each have to discover what works in OUR area/starter/bread because we cannot identify all variables and cannot come up with a blanket formula.".  In one way this is frustrating for those of us who say "I want to do it RIGHT--tell me what to DO to make it RIGHT.  Give me the checklist to follow!", but freeing as well, as we can learn to say "this is a process, a path, a meander through a wonderful forest of experimentation in which *I* can be an expert on what works best for our situation.".  It is hard for us precise people, or for us who are just starting, but in the long run it is wonderful and creatively freeing :-)

 

 

 

 

 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Very well stated. You might want to put this in a blog entry so it can have its own discussion thread.

I would also point out that people have tried many cold and freezing techniques to rid houses of unwanted mold and that none have ever been successful. Even deep freezing at -30 deg.F/C does not serve to kill molds. And if there is yeast on winter wheat it must be capable of surviving a Montana winter.

sPh

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

to any and all if I came across in this thread as trying to proove someone right over the other!!! Many apologies to any and all!

This was the exact kind of information and discourse I hoped to see in this thread. Wow, Mariana, Susan, Bill, browndog, Eric, Zola, Mini, Atropine, SpHealey, and I know I'm missing people so please excuse me... Please tell me I haven't hurt anyone's feelings!

My head is a jumble with all this. I ingest only so much info then I have to retreat back into my hermitdom to absorb it all. I get stuck making one recipe of bread because I finially learn to make it right then poke my head out to try to bite off the next little chunk of info and maybe, just maybe I will be adventurous enough to try another type of bread or yeasted product. So thanks to everyone for their input and I hope yall will all continue to discuss this and talk about the regional differences in how your breads behave cuz I really think these things matter.

Maybe even something as simple as how long you mix your bread, or how long you let it rest, etc...makes a difference? I sure don't know.

I do hope someone can answer about fridge activity of a starter? Does anyone know definitively?

sphealey's picture
sphealey

We are all on the same bread journey - no hurt feelings here.

Besides, I have been conversing on the Internet since 1980, and I participate on a number of political blogs. Even the Baker Who Must Not Be Named didn't even come close to bothering me. Since his departure this has been the most polite community I have ever seen on-line.

sPh

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...you gave an incredible explication.  Thanks for breaking it down and making such great food for thought.  It goes hand-in-hand with my belief that bread baking; sourdough making are not only sciences but arts as well.  I think you need some of both for the very reasons you state.  We must feel free to trust our own experiences and experiments and why this is such an interesting topic.

 

I've read books from real masters of baking and note how they can disagree quite extremely at times on the same subject.  This can't be by accident rather they are giving what they have learned is true for them.  I have experienced this in so many parts of sourdough baking first hand.  I will just defy certain things I'm reading by my own real-life experience which can't be ignored.

 

These things are very dynamic and we are doing them in dynamic environments.  I think we have to consider that results must vary while still holding some truths.   It is inevitable but gives us choice.  That's why I never think there is only one "right" way.  If we ever believed that to be true we would stop learning.  And once you think you have learned it all; the truly only one "right" way I think you're stymied.

Atropine's picture
Atropine

You did not come across to me as being "This is right and you are wrong" at all :-).  I think this discussion has been wonderful all around :-).

 

I think you are 100% right about technique/mechanics (rising/resting/kneading) being a big factor.

 

Regarding the fridge activity--again i think that is one of those "depends on your starter AND environment" sort of question.  I do not think there is a one-size answer to this, if I am understanding the question :-).  There are too many variables from a scientific POV to say with any confidence that chilling "always" or "never" affects a starter. (but that might not have been your question that you were asking...this thread is so chock full of great information, that I might be mistaken in what you are asking :-) )

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

No my question is actually esoteric in nature. It's more a science question...or a solution to an if:then question...

If Calvel says fermentation and lb activity stops under refrigeration, then why do we get alcohol "hooch" on top of our starters after they are kept in the fridge, unfed for too long?

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Well, hmmm...that is a good question....

 

I know that metabolic activity does not totally cease during refrigeration--even milk will go bad in the fridge, mold grows, bacteria DOES grow, etc, so there is obviously still some activity going on.  Now to what extent this affects flavor, I do not know.

 

However, part of the "hooch rising" does not NECESSARILY have to be from metabolic activity.  In all likelihood it probably does, but also settling/separating will occur in a non-agitated suspension.  My GUESS would be that a starter is at least partly a suspension--the hooch is not chemically bound to any flour molecules, yeasties, or what have you.  Just like if you set non-homogenized milk on the counter you will get cream at the top, or if you set a salad dressing on the counter (or in the fridge) the vinegar will separate from the oil, at least some of the hooch was already in there and just rises, without metabolic activity.

 

I would offer that this is plausible because I have poured the hooch off of my starter and the starter is much drier (wet oatmeal instead of pancake batter).  I have also repeatedly stirred the hooch back in and have it rise to the surface a little while later, with a much greater amount of hooch than one would expect from metabolic activity (meaning some might be from metabolic activity, but some might be ONLY from separation).  It is possible that the agitation of the bubbling in a warm, well fed starter, helps to keep the starter "stirred" enough that the hooch stays in suspension....when the metabolic activity slows or stops, this allows the hooch to come to the surface.  Possibly.  Just a guess on my part.

 

Or, I believe, it is a mixture of both metabolic activity AND separating of the heavy material (the yeast and flour) from the unbonded lighter material (hooch).

 

I feel a science experiment coming on....("Oh children!  Got a homeschool project for you....")  ....lolol

 

Now, for my personal experience, I found that there was a lot more metabolic activity, meaning the flavor of my starter was changing, when out on the counter.  I have (anecdotally) observed that if I refrigerate the starter, the flavor is more stable.  Seeing as how my starter does not taste as good as it used to, I have put it in the fridge to try to "freeze time", and keep it from changing too much. 

 

Was this correct?  I dunno, I am not the most starter-savvy person on earth.  But the flavor was stable when I kept him tucked in the fridge, and changed drastically when I went through a bout of sourdough baking and kept him out of the fridge for a couple of weeks.  However, because I was not on a strict schedule, there are too many variables to declare this as "evidence" of anything.  To make this valid and accurate, I would have to be a LOT more careful in my routine. 

 

I don't know if we can find the answer to this question, but it would be neat to try!  We would have to come up with some pretty specific guidelines for an experiment, and even then we might have too many variables to know for certain.  BUT it would be fun to try! :-)

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi Bill,

 

this discussion began as a conversation about refrigerating dough, not starters, but sourdough staters are little doughs as well, huh ? :)

 

I cannot be happier for you since you are so pleased with your starter maintenance schedule. Great!  Mine evolved very quickly into something else. :(

 

Scientifically speaking, doughs and starters do react to cold temperatures, not just in terms of how much fermentation slows down and whether it can be brough back full speed or not at all. Changes in microbial and yeast population take place at lower temperature. Just as when you travel from your place to Montana you may see the same trees but in different proportions, in refrigerator stored starters microflora shifts to different composition in terms of who becomes more dominant and survives better/dies slower. I found a small article on biology of sourdough ecosystem from Discover Magazine, September 2003 issue.  See what Ganzle, Sugihara and Onno have to say about it.

 http://discovermagazine.com/2003/sep/featscienceof

Also, you have probably already read Good Bread is Back book by Steven Kaplan. If you reread the last chapter about today's superstars in French bread baking world, you will see how their bread formulas never take doughs, starters, and preferments below 8-12C (about 50F). Malineau, for example, completely rejects deferred fermentation and is quoted as 'Malineau simply found that his pain Paulette - the best baguette in Paris - did not perform well in cold gestation'. 

 

Kaplan also separates skillful use of dererred fermentation using mild and gentle changes in dough temperature from inappropriate dough refrigeration when the proofing process is stopped at 0-4C (32-40F) and then abruptly reactivated by raising the temperature to 25C (77F): the thermal shock inevitably damages the bread dough. However exactly that method of inappropriate handling is recommended to homebakers: take dough to fridge temp and from fridge to room temp in one step. Just like that. In one hour.

 

More on deferred fermentation in this book is on pp30-32.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Thanks for letting me know this is an inappropriate method. I'm sure you're right.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

methods and I am too, and we are still going strong, Does that mean we are inappropriately successful? :) Wonderfully glad our journeys cross! --Mini Oven (I'll keep you posted on the abuse.)

leemid's picture
leemid

Somewhere back in the dark recesses of my brain I am beginning to see that the 'facts' as I have read in the prominant bread books are more opinion than fact. Not to dispute them, just to realize that I don't always get the same results as they do. So I/we naturally attribute the 'failures' to ourselves for not following correctly or having the right flour, or temperature maintainers or something else, when the truth might well be as discussed above: I can't do what you do and vice versa. What I know is that I can make bread I like; not always but mostly, now. I can't make bread just like, or 'as good as' some of the great bakeries I have visited, but better than some lesser bakeries I have visited. And I do this as much for the fun/joy/fulfillment as for the bread, except that I have a really hard time eating store-bought bread anymore.

I also know that this is an addiction. After ruining my oven controls with over-zealous steam retention methods, I have to do something to ensure I don't waste my oven again, even by accident. To me that means I have to design my own version of a brick oven, build it and have a bullet-proof resource. For me that's gonna be a forno bravo design redesign. Now, if I ever get around to actually making it, I will document it to the hilt and keep you posted...

That's my story,

Lee

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Lee,

Everything you say above makes so much sense to me. I believe we are living parallel bread making lives. In fact, I needed a bulletproof resource, too. Too many cracked light housings, deformed oven interiors, and besides, to many pictures of bakers having way too much fun loading their brick ovens at shoulder height with a peel.

I decided to install a Woodstone oven. I can use gas or wood to fire it, and it came assembled, so all I had to do was build a good slab foundation and a brick facade around it, not that doing all that wasn't quite a project. Much more cool to build your own from scratch, of course. Still, this is feeding the addiction for now.

I've only had it working for a few days and baked about three times, so I don't yet know for sure, but it seems bulletproof so far.

Sorry for going so far off topic, though.

Bill

Woodstone OvenWoodstone Oven

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I can't wait to see your loaves and pizzas that come from that!!!

salmanq's picture
salmanq

Hi, This post is very informative, however I would like some specific information. If someone can help me then please send me a private message. Best Regards,

 

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susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Oh my goodness, that oven is something! But here you tease us with a solitary photo when we want details. And let's see the bread!

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Susan,

Well, yes, I've been holding out. The problem is that I'm still learning how to just control the temperature, and there is a lot more going on in that chamber than even an old engineer would have suspected. I just got back from Nantucket, and I have failed to unpack completely and have a load of paperwork to do. This baking thing must be brought under control. Anyway, once things get settled more, maybe I can get a blog entry going on this indulgence.

Bill