The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain amount for long bulk ferment ?

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Levain amount for long bulk ferment ?

Yet more questions from an inexperienced but obsessed baker! I am trying to find a method that fits in with a very busy life. I have read that a lengthy bulk ferment produces excellent results. The suggestion was for an overnight bulk of 18-20 hours at ambient temperature, with reduced hydration and reduced amount of levain.

My present recipe is for 1000g whole wheat flour, 770g H2O, 20g salt, 300g levain@ 100%. If I adopted the long bulk approach, what would be the amount of levain and hydration that I should use?  Does anyone have any opinion on the efficacy of the suggested long bulk ferment? Many thanks. Valerie

I

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Valerie,  yes, you need to dramatically reduce the amount of levian -  though the amount is pretty temperature dependent, ambient will mean different things in different places and seasons.    Pizza dough is a little different, but here is a chart, and tons of info, on levian temp and performance  https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=22649.0

Long bulk fermentation is an excellent approach - especially for those that go to work every day.  I am currently playing around with a 11 hour BF -  since that allows me to mix in the morning, bulk ferment while at work, preshape, shape and bake when I get home in the evening. It has taken a few days of fine tuning the temperature and the amount of starter to get the timing right. 

 

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Many thanks for your response,Barry. When you say you bulk ferment during the day while you are at work, do you mean at room temperature or in the fridge? Valerie

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Val,  it depends on what you are shooting for.  I like sour, and have found that fermenting at 82 degrees F really brings out the tang.  Others would likely want less tang, and might bf at 60.  The purpose of the chart that I linked to is to give you a rough ballpark of what percentage starter to try at first, then of course, you need to keep notes, and vary the percentage of starter and temp to you get to what you want.   

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

prefermented flour you can use for your levain to get an 18-20 hour counter ferment.  This is a very long time way more a 12 hour no knead SD bread on the counter.  Whole grains make it worse.  Here in AZ you could not make the levain small enough this time of year but if it was 66 - 68 F in the kitchen then you would have a shot if the levain was 5% prefermented flour.  Use 950 g of WW flour and  50 g in the levain with 50 g of water in the levain to make a 100% hydration levain.  Use 720 g of water for the dough flour and 2% salt.  

The hydration might be a little low for a whole grain bread.  The minimum for me would be 80% but 77 might work well for this very long bulk ferment.

Mix the levain with the dough water then add the flour and salt.  mix with your hand until just combined and let it sit for 18 hours before shaping it with a quick set of folds from the 4 compass points.  Let it proof for 1.5 hours or until it rises 85% and bake.  You are going to have to watch the bulk ferment the first time,  It may not make it the full time before it doubles in volume.  When it doubles then fold to shape.  You may need less levain but certainly not more.

You just have to play with it but this will get you in the ballpark.  Happy WW SD baking the easy way.  You will be amazed at how open the crumb is.

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Thank you, dabrownman and barry (how does one discover members' names?) for your helpful contributions. They have certainly given me a pathway to explore. Who could have guessed that sourdough baking has so many side roads and pathways? 

Regarding the 18-20!hr ambient BF to which I referred - that was something I read about that seemed a potential path to follow but I would be quite happy, perhaps even happier, with a 12 hr ferment, which would fit well into my daily schedule.  

I see now that my preference for a 100%!wholemeal loaf introduces an additional set of considerations. I was surprised by your comment , dabrownman,  about an open crumb. To date, that is something I have not achieved. Though my crumb is not tight or dense,  it is definitely not as open as the breads displayed in photos on the site.

Now I am rambling, but mainly because your inputs have made my head whirl with thoughts of the potential for development of skills that  are at present very basic. Again, thank you both for your generosity in sharing your expertise. Valerie

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and we posted a bread this week for you to get to 18 hours if 12 of them are in the high 50's to low 60's.  It turned out well enough with 4% pre-fermented flour.  The taste was excellent, with a moderatly open crumb

This SD Bread Makes Itself While You Are At Work ….Or At Retired Play

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Val,  no problem.  In terms of a starting point,  I have been playing around with 1000 grams of home milled wheat flour, 800 grams of water, 20 grams of salt, and 28 grams of starter ( 100 %) hydration.  I suggest you try that, hopefully on a day when you can be around all day and monitor how long it takes to double in volume -  if it is around 11 hours, great, if not , then increase the temp or the amount of starter on you next attempt, and keep good notes on each attempt.   Of course, it if was overproofed at 11 hours, then reduce temperature or amount of starter, and try again and keep notes .  Barry.

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Barry, how wonderful it is to be given the opportunity to build on someone else's wisdom and hard work! I will begin again this weekend with your experience firmly in mind. Your advice about keeping notes is an excellent one, especially given the many changes one makes as a beginner, albeit one at a time! Reading through the previous week's notes reveals how very unreliable the memory can be! Thanks again. Enjoy your baking. Valerie

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

Good baking requires organization. It's not difficult to manage fermentation times even if you are a busy person. My regular process at home is 20 to 30% sourdough, two hours of bulk fermentation with one fold in between. Then preshape, and 30 minutes later shape. Final proof inside the fridge until next day (I can bake in the early morning or during any moment in the day).

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

I agree that clever organisation is essential when one is busy. I wish that my dough would behave in a similarly organised fashion! Here in Australia my kitchen temperature is about 17C during the day and there is mo way that I would see any dough expansion in two hours. I think I  will have to drop some heavy hints regarding a dough proofer! Many thanks for your input. It is always valuable to know what works for other people. Valerie

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

What it's important in natural fermentation is the temperature of the dough, not the room temperature. When you make wheat sourdough bread, try to get dough at 26ºC from the mixer, if you make rye bread you need 28ºC aprox. Use the temperature of the water to balance and get the desired temperature.

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

I usually use a mix of whole grain flour (red wheat, dark spelt, dark rye and to sometimes buckwheat) and let them bulk ferment at room temperature at 10-14 hours at around 22-25 ºC/72-77ºF.

I aimed for close to 100% hydration or about 85% if more spelt is used . The % of prefermented flour would be 5-6% which means 10-12% leaven. Since your hydration is much lower, I think you may aim at similar % of prefermented flour for about 14-16 hour fermentaion or you may try upping the % to 7% for 10-14 hour fermentation.

Hope this helps.

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Thank you Elsie for your suggestions. I see some serious experimentation lies ahead but it is really useful to have some base line figures from which to launch my next attempts. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Valerie

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Hi Valerie, I have been consistently (16 loaves) testing baking a bread that is very similar to the one you mentioned. I am no expert but I have quite a bit of experience. I have failed quite a bit. IMO, lessons learned from failure are a much better teacher than those from success. After that statement, maybe I am something of a expert :D

These are some of the things I’ve learned concerning extended, warm fermentation

  • Dough temperature, hydration, flour, and quality of starter are vital in order to succeed 
  • Failure occurs because of dough degredation (This is a biggie)
  • The flavor of the bread is extraordinary, IMO. The bread has a smooth, creamy, yogurt like flavor without any sharpness. It is an absolute favorite of mine.

 My target bulk ferment is 16 hours @ 76F. Even as little as 2 degrees higher can degrade the dough. Dough degredation takes place by the enzymatic action produced when water and flour mix and also when the Levain introduces yeast and acids.

I have tested various flours, Bob’s Red Mill Artisan, King Arthur BF, KA AP, KA Sir Lancelot (aKa, KA high gluten), and Morbread. For extended warm ferments, Morbread excelled in all test. I plan to test with Central Milling flours soon.

Whole grains will greatly accelerate fermentation. I don’t think it is possible to do an extended warm ferment using your criteria. I’d consider a different formula for the goals you seek.

I have also tested the effects of different starter on long warm fermentation. Even though the Levain is a mere 2% of total flour prefermented in the test formula the acid load is a consideration. You can see the affects in the images below. The stronger flour baked fare but the weaker failed miserably.

I am working with 70% hydration for this bake. 77% sounds pretty high to me. The wetter the dough, the quicker it will break down. Here is an image of grossly degraded dough. It is too weak to hold a shape and it will bake up like a pan cake.

It will bake up like this. It is only about an inch and a half high.

The bread below was baked at the same time with all things being equal EXCEPT the flour. Above I used KA BF and  below, Morbread. By-the-way, neither of these bakes were as nice as those that used a less acidic starter.

I’m not claiming that Morbread is the best for all situations. All I know at this point is that from all the flours I have tested FOR THIS BAKE, Morbread has excelled.

I’m not sure how your formula will perform, since the Bulk Ferment  is less time than my testing. The hydration looks high and the percentage of Levain looks way high to me. Since I have no experience with your bake I can only make a guess. But IMO the hydration and Levain should be more conservative. Once you get consistent, you could increase the water and Levain gradually, until it fails. Then you know the max your formula will tolerate. Baking a sourdough using an extended and warm fermentation is a balancing act. You want to push the fermentation to the dough’s limit and then stop before it goes too far (dough degredation).

I was introduced to the techniques by joining a Northwest Sourdough class, taught by Teresa Greenway. It’s only $20 and you can check it out here.  http://www.northwestsourdough.com/ Click where it says, “Bake San Francisco Sourdough Bread”.

Don’t be scared off. You can learn from my mistakes and help from others. This bread has an absolutely phenomenal taste!

I hope this isn’t too much information. 

Danny

albacore's picture
albacore

I agree with Dan, dough degradation is a constant danger in longer ferments. I was experimenting with an SD biga preferment; it was all bread flour, 55% hydration, with 15% stiff levain, 1% salt. Lightly mixed and stored at 20C. for 7 hours.

The plan was to then take hydration up to 70%, add 15% high extraction flour and trim up salt. However as soon as I started to mix I could tell the dough had no strength - the dreaded degradation had struck!

I'm now wondering if early salt makes things better or worse?

Also it looks like the Morbread flour has Ascorbic acid in it - I wonder if this gives some protection from degradation?

Lance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Good catch, Lance. I didn’t know Morbread had ascorbic acid. That’s interesting. I need to look into that. Whatever it is, Morbread really tolerates extended, warm ferments much better that the other flours I tested.

Salt, IMO, should b added right away. It strengthens the dough, inhibits enzymatic action, and retards the affects of the Levain.

Danny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Valerie, which formula/recipe are you using. I’d like to take a look.

Dan

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Apologies, Abel and Dan, for my tardy response to your informative comments and photos, all of which gave me food for thought. Life seems determined to get in my way!

The recipe I use is one that I have constructed from various blogs by Maurizio and Trevor. 1000 WW stoneground very finely milled at an Indian mill, 20 salt, 3 tablespoons gluten, 3 tbspn linseeds, 750 H2O, 300 levain@ slightly more than 100%. I have very limited options regarding flour, as I live in regional Australia.

I have never noticed any dough degradation but I do have difficulty knowing when both bulk and final ferments are sufficiently risen. My autumn kitchen is cold. 14.5C at 9.00 in the morning,  so I suspect my loaves are going into the oven too early. Dough temperatures today started at 13.5C at 8.40am and were only 17.8C when I divided the dough, fearing that it would never rise! Room temperature at that time was 21.2C.

Bulk ferment was 20 hours , including overnight 12 hours in the fridge and final ferment was 2 hours. Once again there was no visible expansion in the height of the loaves.

Surprisingly , oven spring today was the best ever, even producing ears along the lline of scissor scoring. As you can see, my efforts are very hit and miss, and I cannot explain why today's loaves turned out to be much better than normal. I haven't cut them yet, so I do not know what the crumb is like. Certainly, it will not be like the ones I see on TFL. 

It seems to me that WW flour absorbs so much water that my 750g H2O do not make a really wet dough that is difficult to handle, though it is quite sticky to begin, becoming smoother with each working in the bowl. It would not be possible to to do a conventional S&F. WW flour seems to produce an entirely different dough. I also have to bake it for a much longer period than that used in recipes I see on the site.

Next week I plan to try the approaches you have suggested. 

Again, my thanks. Your expertise  is impressive.  Valerie

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I think your inconsistencies have a lot to do with your inability to control the temperature of the dough.

As you can see, my efforts are very hit and miss, and I cannot explain why today's loaves turned out to be much better than normal

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Glad to read about your success. If you choose to get a proofer, you will have much better control over the process. Your environment is much colder than mine. If a Brod & Taylor is out of the question you may consider a temperature control. You could plug a small light bulb into it. The controller could be set to come on at a certain temperature and turn off at another.

Here is an example of a controller.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000NZZG3S/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1  It is very simple to setup. 

Dan

 

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Many thanks, Dan, for the link about a temperature controller. It would be a cheaper alternative to a Brod & Taylor. Actually, I have a birthday coming up mid-year and I have already placed an order with my family for the Brod & Taylor. Oddly enough, though, I can see that there is always room to experiment and to learn to accommodate all those factors that contribute to a successful loaf. It's always good to know that one is not totally dependent on a device and that ancient skills are preserved and passed on to others.

By the way, your photos of the different results obtained with different flours were an eye-opener. Thank you for going to so much trouble. Valerie

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The Brod and Taylor is awesome. It is reliable and accurate. The folding capabilities is ingenious.

I don’t think you’ll regret the purchase.

Dan

Thanks for the kind words. So many on this forum have been patient with me. I’m happy to share what I learn and work hard to publish accurate information. 

ValerieC's picture
ValerieC

Thanks, Dan, for your opinion of the Brod and Taylor. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising!  I agree with you completely about the dough temperature and it will be wonderful to have a reliable method of controlling it. Now I need only to be patient and, while I wait, to learn as much as I can about the whole process of fermentation.

Actually,, I have made bread for years, using my own strange method,adapted from who knows what sources, but most probably baking bread with bakers' yeast. I used to mix up a batch of 3 cups of sourdough, 3 cups of water and six cups of WW flour. This mixture was left on the bench overnight for about 15' hours. The next step was to add more WW flour until I had a fairly firm , kneadable dough before transferring it to a basket to allow it to rise. This usually took between 2-4 hours,  depending on the weather. I used to make a central linear slash BEFORE proofing and when the slash opened up, I knew it was time to bake the loaves. The bread produced was flavoursome enough but had a very tight, dense crumb and it lacked the moist, chewy texture of my newer method. As you can see, I didn't agonise over any part of this procedure aad really had no idea what I was doing. Then one day, I chanced upon TFL site and you know the rest of the story!! 

I have learned heaps since the days of these priimitive loaves and thanks to the generosity of people like yourself I am sure that I will continue to learn. Valerie