"Issues"; 50% WG Over-proofing Experiments; and rebuilding a starter...
So, there I was last Thursday with two fine loaves for all of the sandwiches that I'd need for a busy weekend out of town, a container of "issues" in the fridge, and a lot of questioning on the strength of my poor old NMNF starter. Well - the husband managed to do some neck damage, which cancelled the plans for the weekend (and cancelled the need for so many sandwiches!), and left me with some actual time on my hands.
Besides the "issue" in the fridge, I also had been pondering the idea that I have been under-fermenting and under-proofing all of my loaves out of some kind of paranoia that going over was the ultimate unrecoverable error. That this paranoia was sheer balderdash was proven by dabrownman's still-really-good-even-though-way-overproofed 100% WG bake, so I figured that maybe this would be a good time to experiment.
Friday had me feeding and babying that container of "issue", and by dint of getting it really nice and warm and feeding it up, I managed to get it acting fairly lively by the end of the day, and it was looking even better on Saturday morning. The only problem was that I had so very, very much of it...
I took the weight, figured that I didn't want to go more than 25% pre-fermented flour, and did a quick mix of 15% rye, 10% spelt, and 50% AP flour that would add to the 25% rye in the "issue levain", and started working with it, getting to a comfortable 75% hydration and kneading it to full windowpane. I put it in a large clear container for the bulk ferment, and had it in the oven with the light on and the door open an inch (which gave me about 83 degrees F) and I let it go until it had fully doubled (which I have never done with a partially whole grain mix - never more than 30-50% increase) which took about 5 hours.
While it was fermenting, I got this "brilliant" idea that I should do a loaf with half of it and then do rolls with the other half (since I had the perfect amount for 12 x 90g rolls --- and I have NEVER managed a successful bake of lean dough rolls). The dough felt pretty good when I dumped it on to a damp work surface, preshaped half in to a quick batard and covered it to bench rest, and then started scaling out the rolls. I got them all measured out, and then used a light dusting of flour on hands and bench to lightly shape them and put them on to parchment covered baking sheets to proof. They needed to be covered, so I used some floured plastic wrap that I have frequently used over loaves (I keep it set aside for this), and then got the loaf shaped and in to a parchment lined banneton to proof.
Well - I let them proof, and proof, and proof... and got to the point where there was finally some visible rise in the loaf and a bit of enlargement in the rolls, so fired up the oven. I figured that the rolls should go first --- aaaaand found that the flippin' wrap was fully and completely stuck to each and every roll. Well, drat (not the word - but you get the idea). I used the scraper to get the wrap off as well as I could, but things didn't look good at all. Ah well - in to the oven with them! I had a baking steel preheated in the oven, and a couple of empty tins (no lava rocks yet) heated, and had blocked the oven vent, so had the husband carefully pour in a couple of cups of boiling water to try and get some steam going, There wasn't a LOT of oven spring, but there was some at least --- and I could see that adding the lava rocks could be successful for future tries.
While they were baking, I was watching the loaf, and I got to actually see as it tipped over the edge in to being over-proofed (it started deflating quite slowly, almost like a balloon losing the air). It actually is kind of sad and pitiful to watch... It was just a few minutes from that point to the oven being ready, so I tried scoring (oh, dear, how sad) and got it in to the heat. It had some minor oven spring, but more sideways growth, and the scoring barely opened, but the crumb was surprisingly light:
All in all, I ended up with a truly ridiculous amount of bread for two people. It all came out tasting wonderful, so it has been carefully wrapped and frozen and we are working our way through it, but there is no way that I need to bake this week!
That is just as well, since I have dedicated this week to getting a hearty and happily refreshed new round of NMNF ready to be stashed back in to the fridge, and the sad last remnants of the Feb and Mar versions can go in to the "discard" bin and get baked in to some muffins or biscuits or scones or something. It has taken a few days now of keeping it warm and fed and cranking out new levels of yeast, but I finally have it truly zinging along now. It more than doubled in less than 2 hours after the last feed, so it's now time to thicken it back up to 67%, and put it back in to it's slow cold snooze. It's amazing how satisfying it is when your starter finally looks like this:
There's enough for me to try freezing some of it, and enough for a fully matured levain to just wait in the fridge for me to be ready to use it next week (if we manage to get through all that I made last week)... 'Til then, I'll be gratefully living vicariously through everyone else's bakes and blogs!
It is fairly typical that things don't go as planned, but the baking and the playing and the experimenting has still been a source of fun and happiness. As a bonus, I am starting to learn not to be afraid of over-proofing, and have a much better feel for what my dough should look and feel like at various points in fermentation (and will be letting them go longer than I used to --- but hopefully not over the edge again!). I also learned that I can get steam generated (and that I really need to get lava rocks - if only I didn't loathe shopping!) for baking things that can't really fit in to my trusty roaster.
Thanks for all of the encouragement, support, suggestions, and inspiration --- and keep baking happy!