The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

keeping dough structure for long proofs

Jabugue's picture

keeping dough structure for long proofs

Hi I'd be grateful for some advice. I have been baking for about a year, and mostly variations on a single recipe:

250g levain (whole wheat flour, original starter just rye)

1000g wheat flour (30-40% whole grain)

700-750g water. (dry enough that even when just mixed, it doesn't completely flatten out)

17 g salt.

After mixing the ingreidients, I do 4-5 stretch and folds over the next few hours and shape after 4-6 hours (depending on toom temperature), then final proofing of 8-12 hours (again, depending on room temperature).  

Don't get me wrong, I like my bread, quite a lot in fact.But over the last few months I have noticed some small changes:

1) My dough really turns into mush by the time it is ready to bake. It has not only started to deflate, but when I pop it in the dutch oven, it collapses and there isn't much rise at all. Scores don't open up at all sometimes.

2) For all that proofing, the sourdough flavor is not quite as strong as it was some months ago, and it seems to me a bit more one sided (more acetic, less lactic acid perhaps?).

I'd like to be able to achieve the right flavor without my dough deteriorating to quite the degree that it does. I have tried doing a more vigorous knead just before shaping, didn't help. Wondering if anyone has any suggestions. 


PS I am in Germany, using whole grain and "550" flour.

Rhody_Rye's picture

How long do you let your levain develop? Are you letting the levain develop overnight, then mixing and bulk fermenting for 4-6 hours at room temp, and then proofing at room temp for 8-12 hours? 8-12 hours of proofing is far too long, unless it's in the refrigerator.

Even the 4-6 hour bulk ferment might be too long given the amount of levain you use and the ambient temperature. I just made a one-kilo loaf w/50% whole grains using 95 g of a levain that had developed on the counter overnight. Total bulk ferment (with stretch and folding, plus a rest after mixing and after preshaping), was 5 hours. I then proofed on the counter for 45 mins, then in the fridge for another 5.5-6 hours cold proof. Turned out great.





Jabugue's picture

Yes, overnight. I realize this is a lot of proofing, but I do like a very developed flavor. So maybe I should be asking why I am not getting much sourdough flavor with a shorter proof. I should say that now and then I try to proof less (for example, I cook when the dough is peaking in size) but don't get the developed flavor I like. 

Perhaps I should say that when I shape, the dough has about doubled in size, and I have the feeling that if I were to wait another hour or two it would be quite difficult to shape (it would break and stick everywhere - I'm defiinitely not a master shaper!). And temp in the kitchen is usually 60-68 F, (about 18-21 C), but can be much warmer in the summer, though I avoid baking on hot days or use the fridge a lot.

Thanks so much for your help!

ifs201's picture

As you said, longer proof increases the sourness of the dough. You can still do a long proof, just do the final proof in the fridge instead of room temp and this should help with flavor. Also your ferments could go longer if you used a smaller levain percentage. So instead of using 20%+, you could cut the amount of levain you are using in half and this would allow you to have a longer proof time. Another idea, but I am less sure about this one - I find that if I do a multi-stage levain build then I get a more sour flavor. 

Rhody_Rye's picture

A longer proof won't help the flavor if the yeast have used up all the starches/sugars in the dough. It will most likely lack flavor, taste "flat." I suggest you try proofing in the refrigerator.

julie99nl's picture

Have you tried a cold retard in the banneton? You can also retard your levain and see if that will improve your flavours.