The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cold retarding dough during either bulk fermentation OR proofing, but NOT both? (...says Ken Forkish)

The Fermentator's picture
The Fermentator

Cold retarding dough during either bulk fermentation OR proofing, but NOT both? (...says Ken Forkish)

Hello friends,

I've come across a piece of advice in Ken Forkish's FWSY: To cold retard your dough during either bulk fermentation OR proofing, but NOT both. 

Now I'm wondering what the rationale behind his advice might be? Might this just be another one of Forkish's inexplicable idiosyncrasies (such as his colossally wasteful levain builds)? What are YOUR thoughts on the subject? I'd love to know.

Happy baking from Hanover, Germany!

-Nils

bikeprof's picture
bikeprof

I'm not sure what KF is using as a basis for his claims, but generally speaking, dough can only keep is structural characteristics for so long before enzymatic activity will take a toll.  Of particular concern are proteolytic enzymes (break down protein, including those in gluten).  Temperature does slow these enzymes down some, but typical retarding temps don't do enough to prevent their effects if you extend the time out long enough.

On a related note, salt inhibits proteolytic enzymes...which is one reason we hold salt out of the autolyse...BUT increased acidity (up to a point) actually helps activate these enzymes, and can overcome the salt inhibition...so particularly in mature dough using sourdough cultures, really long fermentation times can be a liability.  This is even more so for dough with high proportions of whole grains...as they serve as a buffer allowing for more total acid production in a dough.

There could be other factors involved, but I think this is one of the primary ones...

The Fermentator's picture
The Fermentator

Thank you! The proteolytic enzyme activity could easily be what Forkish's advice is aimed at. (I wonder: Why didn't Forkish just write a sentence or two in order to explain his reasons...same with his outrageous levain builds, which I, like most bakers here, ignore. Oh well, don't get me started, ha!)

Anyways, thanks again and happy baking!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I haven't read the book, so I can't say with any certainty why Mr. Forkish advises against doing everything cold, but my best guess is it doesn't develop the flavor and dough properties he's aiming for. After all, with just flour, water, salt, and yeast... process is everything.

Best,
dw

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi bikeprof,

I thought the main reason to withhold salt from autolyse is that it interferes with gluten proteins taking up water and relaxing, which means less spontaneous development and the need for longer mixing, which in turn means more oxidation to the dough and loss of color/flavor. Perhaps there's more than one reason.

Increased acidity does indeed make certain proteases more active, but it's not the total acid in the dough (concentration). It's the drop in pH. Remember that concentration and pH correspond to different aspects of acidity, and some proteases are pH-activated. A buffer will hold the pH more steady as acid is accumulating, i.e., the pH may not be dropping any faster or farther, due to the buffering capacity of whole grains even though more acid may be forming. But whole grains naturally have more proteolytic enzymes to do the damage. That's why whole grain doughs can fall apart so fast.

All best,
dw

albacore's picture
albacore

I've done a few bakes where I've done an overnight bulk fermentation, warmed up the dough for an hour, shaped and then put back in the frij for another 8 hours.

It's always worked well for me - you get the improved flavour of the retarded bulk and the easy scoring and good ears of the cold FP.

I've always used a high proportion of a strong bread flour - that may help.

It also needs a bit of planning as, at least for me, it is a 48 hour + process, from first levain build to baking.

Lance

Bigblue's picture
Bigblue

I've had several good loaves combining both retarded bulk and retarded proof using fresh-milled, 100% whole grain. 

The Fermentator's picture
The Fermentator

Same here, Lance! I've done a number of FWSY bakes where I've retarded the dough both during bulk AND final proofing. With good results. I was just wondering whether I was hurting anything (especially in terms of flavor) by "double-retarding", as it were.

If you care to elaborate: You mention using a "high proportion of a strong bread flour"...How would that be conducive in doubly retarded doughs? Is it because there's just less gluten breakdown over time?

Thank you and happy baking!

-Nils

albacore's picture
albacore

Nils, I think the double retard is likely to give you improved flavour, rather than the opposite.

Regarding strong flour, yes I would say it is better to use some good proportion of it for long fermentations. If you look at pizza dough making, which is closely related to bread making, then the flours supplied by the likes of Caputo tend to be stronger for long time doughs, usually by addition of more Manitoba flour ("Rinforzata").

Lance

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

Hi Nils,
Debra Wink's comment in this thread
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/14913/very-liquid-sourdough#comment-95232
gave me a better understanding of why the recommendation for building the levain is usually "let it rest in a warm place" while for the final dough it is often "retard in fridge". Here's a quote from that comment:

"It is the yeast fraction in the culture that provides the lift. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) could raise dough in theory, but in practice, they fall flat. So, a good rise is all about healthy, vigorous yeast. Bacteria contribute acids which flavor dough, but also play a big part in gluten structure and rheology. In the short term acid tightens gluten, contributing to dough strength, but in the long term, it accelerates proteolysis, contributing to its breakdown. And it adds sourness that is not welcome in all breads. You'll find yeast/lift at one end of the starter spectrum and bacteria/sourness at the other. You can't maximize both at the same time; one comes at the expense of the other.
...
Sourdough LAB thrive in warmth at high hydrations; low hydration and cool temperatures really slow them down. Yeast benefit from this, because they have less competition from the bacteria, so they have more space, and the resources to expand. They aren't quite as hindered by low hydration, low temperature, low pH, salinity, etc., as lactobacilli are, so even if they do slow some, they gain an edge because the bacteria are slowed more. And the one thing that yeast are more sensitive to than lactobacilli---acetic acid---is reduced as the bacterial population shrinks. So, when you knock back the bacteria, yeast tend to flourish, and rising power increases as sourness decreases."

So if I understand that correctly, you first let both LAB and yeasts really get going in a warm environment during levain build, and then in your final dough, after developing the gluten you can retard at low temperatures to slow down the LAB and acidity, and give the yeasts more time to work on lifting the dough.

But bulk fermentation and final proofing are simply two parts of the final dough's life. If you wanted to bake just one single loaf, you could (and I often do) develop the gluten and then let your final dough rest in a tin and, without further dividing and shaping, bake it in that tin after one long, uninterrupted bulk fermentation, as it were. As that works both outside the fridge and with an overnight retard in the fridge, I see no reason why bulk fermentation and final proof couldn't both be at low temperatures. 

I think with Debra's explanations, you can use those two parts as more opportunities to fine-tune the result you want, or simply make the process better fit into your schedule that day. Happy baking!

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

So if I understand that correctly, you first let both LAB and yeasts really get going in a warm environment during levain build, and then in your final dough, after developing the gluten you can retard at low temperatures to slow down the LAB and acidity, and give the yeasts more time to work on lifting the dough.

Hi treesparrow,

Something to keep in mind is that your quote of me is a little out of context in the discussion here, because it is about starter maintenance which involves continuous refreshment under various conditions to affect natural selection and the balance of LAB and yeast populations. Building the work force.

Once you put them in the dough, it becomes more about what those populations are consuming and producing, because you aren't going to change the work force as much after this point. They are what they are and you choose how much starter to put in based on your goals and process. But you can influence what they produce, how fast, and in what balance. The ratio of lactic to acetic acids (as well as many other compounds) is influenced by temperature and process, but the magnitude depends on the size of the workforce.

If you do everything cold, you hold back the LAB at all stages and diminish their contribution regardless of what they're producing. If you start out warm, you may get some increase and have a larger workforce going into the cold. If you start out cold and end warm, growth probably won't occur until later. Theoretically each should produce a different effect. In practice, you just have to experiment to see if it makes a difference. And beware the law of unintended consequences :)

Best wishes,
dw

treesparrow's picture
treesparrow

Hi Debra,

how great to see you're still around! Thanks for your clarification. It seems I didn't quite distinguish enough between starter and levain, maybe because of my somewhat weird starter maintenance routine where most of the time, the levain is actually part of the process (I take the starter out of the fridge, refresh it to build the levain plus a little bit, take that bit out before building the final dough and refresh it again before it goes back in the fridge so that it gets an extra feeding).

I have noticed that one of the starters I built this summer has become a lot milder since it resides in the fridge. I thought that was just because of its getting older but now I guess it's due to the more or less permanent temperature change.

There is one question about starters that I would like to ask you but I'll post that as a comment on one of your other threads so as not to take this one off topic.

tsp

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I pop in now and then :)

The same general concepts apply in terms of directionality in how the various factors affect the populations, with consideration given to the purpose and limitations of the stage (mother, pre-ferment or dough). It requires a bit of fluid, right-brain thinking, but you're clearly on the right wavelength. Your levain is part of the continuous cycle along with the mother the way you're keeping it. And it's not at all weird, it makes sense. Many professionals do it that way. I often do it that way.

But there's a bigger difference between mother/levain and dough, because mothers and levains are typically more fermented than dough, and dough is fermented with salt in it. Because dough is less fermented, and with salt, there isn't as much increase in the LAB population because it's in lag phase for a good part of it. LAB have a longer lag phase than yeast. And salt, lower temperature (or lower hydration in the dough than in the mother/levain) shift it even longer, increasing that disparity. There is still potential for metabolic activity and acid production, so this is where the vigor, size and balance of the workforce going into the dough really matter.

I have noticed that one of the starters I built this summer has become a lot milder since it resides in the fridge. I thought that was just because of its getting older but now I guess it's due to the more or less permanent temperature change. 

Yes, the evolution of a starter is sensitive to temperature and maintenance practices. You are setting up the environment in which natural selection is taking place. If it has gotten too mild, you can keep it out at room temp or warmer for a few extra feeding cycles (or longer -- it could take a week or two) until it comes back. LAB love warmth. Only put into cold storage once it's restored to your satisfaction.

It might be the weekend before I get over to the other question :)

My best,
dw

Muchohucho's picture
Muchohucho

as often as possible