The Fresh Loaf

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Cold bulk ferment - total disaster

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

Cold bulk ferment - total disaster

Hi all.

So I attempted a cold bulk ferment and it has gone  horribly wrong. My loaf is currently melting over the oven...

Quick recap:

105g levain - very active
600g white flour
100g light rye
550g H20 @ 30C
14g Salt

Autolyse for 45 mins, then miced for 2-3 mins, performed 40 stretch and folds.

Dough temp = 26C 
Final Hydration = 80%
Weight = 1.3kg (for two loaves)

Straight into fridge (at roughly its coldest which seems to be 7-8C) for 10 hours. Dough does not rise at all in fridge - is this normal?

Take out fridge, sit for 15 mins, dough seems like it has good strength. Preshape. Bench rest for 45-50 mins (as cold, bringing up to room temp)


Shape - dough seems fine. and final proof for 1.5 hours. dough does not seem to rise at all during this time. 



Now when I take them out to score they just melt everywhere. I ended up getting the round stuck on itself and folding over on top when putting into dutch oven, and the batard, well... here's the pic:


What the hell happened? There may have been some loud swearing heard in the vicinity of my flat after this...

 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

You have managed to handle it well because it's spent most of it's time cold. However when popped into the oven it turns into mush. I'm assuming you live in the UK and using local flour. 80% hydration for a mostly bread flour dough is going to be tough to do.

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

It's Shipton Mills Canadian flour - which would suggest it can handle that...

Lechem's picture
Lechem

105g levain - very active
600g white flour
100g light rye
550g H20 @ 30C
14g Salt

Now to re-arrange it:

700g flour (600g bread, 100g white rye) 100%

550g water (78.57%)

14g salt (2%)

105g levain (15%) [I'm assuming it's 100% hydration]

 

Final Hydration : 80% hydration

 

This looks like a pretty sound recipe. You've just said it's strong Canadian flour so the high hydration shouldn't be that big of an issue providing the gluten formation is still done well. The only thing I can add is perhaps drop the hydration to 70-75% and see if it handles better. I'm also not sure on your gluten development technique. How many stretch and folds and how did you incorporate them? Typically I'd do an autolyse, add the levain and salt then incorporate. Do some stretch and folds at about 20 minutes apart until I see good gluten formation and the fermentation is under way then I'd refrigerate for about 12 hours to continue with the final proof at room temperature etc.

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

Yes, the levain is 100%. I had done a 75% hydrated loaf last week which turned out the best of any of my loaves so far (I'm still a newbie!) and so decided to up a bit and see what would happen. I did however change two variables and went with cold bulking and upping the hydration - maybe should have just upped the hydration or done a cold bulk.

Re. stretch and folds. I did about 35-40 right after mixing in levain and salt, but then popped straight into fridge. 

Could the problem have been that fermentation never really got started in the first place? I've had so many issues with over proofing that I am a bit paranoid on timings now and undershoot things...

Thanks for the quick Friday morning replies btw ;)

Lechem's picture
Lechem

If you wish to employ some time in the fridge then why not do so at the final proof stage.

1. Autolyse just the flour and water for 30 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the dough, followed by the levain then fold, squeeze and knead the dough till fully incorporated.

3. Give the dough a stretch and fold every 20 -30 minutes (fold like a letter one way and then the other) until the gluten formation is done, the dough is aerated, billowy and you can see visible signs of fermentation (you can see bubbles just beneath the surface).

4. Pre-shape and let rest for 20 minutes.

5. Shape into prepared banneton and then refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

6. Bake cold from the fridge.

 

TGI Friday. Enjoy the weekend and your next bake.

Uncle Crusty's picture
Uncle Crusty

I dunno. Seems to me like maybe you didn't get enough gluten development for it to hold shape as it warmed up in the oven. Cold dough is stiff, but not springy, and you went from fridge to loaf pretty fast. I would have let the bulk ferment come to room temp and rise a bit. Maybe give it some folds if it seems slack, then the usual proofing. I've had great luck with retarding the bulk ferment, but I let it start rising first.

Gill63's picture
Gill63

When you say 35-40 stretch and folds, are you meaning the same as Lechem - a set of letter folds followed by a 20-30 min rest, which would have taken over 10 hours? I wonder if you are you referring to ‘kneading’ by the French/Bertinet/slap and fold method? I found the terminology quite confusing to start with. Just to add to the confusion in Richard Bertinet’s sourdough recipe he folows the gluten development phase (slap and fold) with a set of stretch and fold. If it is the latter, 35-40 may not have been long enough, as you are aiming to develop the gluten, which usually takes me a good 10 mins - but go on feel rather than time/numbers

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Till ready! Not however long it takes to do the stretch and folds. Spacing out the stretch and folds 20 minutes apart, doing them like folding a letter (one way and then the other each time), then your dough at 15% starter should only take (at a guess) 3-6 hours for the bulk ferment. If the dough is strong enough and the gluten developed before the end of the bulk ferment then rest till its ready. 

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

As per one of the recipes on the perfect loaf, he does about 30 stretch and folds in the bowl directly after mixing, and then does the the rest at timed intervals.

this brings me onto another point I have been trying to get my head around. Slap & Folds vs. Stretch & Folds and how they have the same (seemingly) net effect.

I did my first couple of loaves using slap & fold technique and everything was super messy, exhausting (took about 30 minutes to get the dough anywhere to near resembling a dough) and the results were, well, meh.

The stretch and fold technique seems deceptively less-involved. How do a few sets of these over two hours match 10-15 minutes of slap and folds in terms of gluten development? Is it that the stretch and fold built a little strength, allow the dough to relax, and then build more strength on top of that, whereas the slapping builds lots of strength initially and then the dough relaxes for the entirety of the bulk process (unless you're bertinet)?

Under development can totally be it, I think I am going to experiment with a couple of different loaves with no retardation just so I have down the "feel" of a dough that is ready in each stage, then I might start experimenting with a retarding at the final proof phase.

jcope's picture
jcope

I cold bulk ferment.  Never a problem. 

The differences:

1) I would allow more fermenation time.  10 hours at 7-8C (45.5F) is less than 2% fermented.  If you want to take it out of the refrigerator at 10hours, then I would allow another 7hours or so at room temperature to complete fermentation.  If you want fermentation to complete in the refrigerator, at that temperature, I calculate it will take around 72hours.

2) no stretch/folds: these are necessary for gluten development when you are fermenting the bread at warm temperatures.  In that case fermentation will complete before the gluten develops.  But if you ferment for at least 10 hours in the fridge, the gluten should develop on its own.  My procedure is to mix thoroughly and send to the refrigerator.  Early in my sourdough days I had a few attempts with a fair amount of stretch/folding, and the bread went completely slack, similar to what yours has done.  Now I do none and the structure is good.

3) no autolyse: I've found this makes absolutely no difference in the outcome.  It's just a hassle. 

Later today I'll be making a 75% hydration bread, recipe similar to yours.  I'll mix it, put it in the fridge for 10-12 hours, take it out and let it complete fermentation for 6 or 8 hours longer at cool room temperature (less time if it's warm), shape it, proof it for a bit over an hour, score and then bake.  I'm getting very consistent results that my eastern European wife and her family have given their stamp of approval. 

If you want, send me your refrigerator and room temperature, and I'll tell you the fermentation times I would use.  I actually use a combination of cold and warm fermentation to have the bread ready to bake at times that are convenient for me.  I don't fit my schedule to the bread, I fit its schedule to mine. 

 

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

My fridge is about 2.5C in bottom drawer, about 4-4.5C on upper shelf (hard to tell as opening door changes temp by .5 pretty quickly. Kitchen is between 19C and 23C at the moment, but will be getting colder...

I have been wondering about this for a while actually, it would be great if you could share your method for calculating fermentation times. I know to go by the "feel" but having a somehow scientific method behind it will help me narrow my window to check when it "feels" right. Haha.

Thanks!

 

jcope's picture
jcope

I have a spreadsheet I can share by email.  It calculates recipes based on desired percentages and the amount of starter I have available (I found that it's easier to fit a recipe to the starter than it is to weigh out starter to fit a recipe).  It calculates fermentation times based on temperature. I'll just say that I developed it for myself so it comes as is.  I'm happy to go over it with you.  It has some custom macros and functions in it that your computer will probably caution you about.

Assuming an average of the temperatures you gave me for your refrigerator (3.5C).  If you ferment for 10hours in the refrigerator, and then finish at room temperature: when your house is cool you'll can ferment for 10.5 hours longer.  When your house is warm you can ferment for 6h20m.  Those are ferment-to-exhaustion times, so I'd try to cut it short by a bit.  That part I usually just guess at, maybe 10 to 15%

Early on I was struggling with slack dough and flavor, so I did some research.  This site started it all for me: https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/a-few-tips-on-dough-temperature/.  I was also inspired in my process by the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. 

I'll just say that it seems complicated, but actually if you account for temperature, making sourdough is about the simplest thing you can do.  I find it to be pretty forgiving if you're consistent with the basics, and it's way easier than yeast breads.  Cold fermentation is the key for me, as it eliminates kneading and stretching and folding and frees me from the kitchen.

scoop1618's picture
scoop1618

I would love a copy of that spreadsheet! (I love spreadsheets...)  if you could email me my address is pl.traynor@gmail.com

I will also read those reading suggestions, and yes, the idea of eliminating the kneading process is very, very attractive :)