The Fresh Loaf

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Hi from Paris... and help with possible overproofing?

iyia's picture
iyia

Hi from Paris... and help with possible overproofing?

Hi all,

As many others, I decided to tackle sourdough baking during these two months of lockdown. These forums have been of great help as I always ended up reading the discussion on these forums when I was looking up some information or trying to clear up a doubt.

My first sourdough loaf was glorious--picture on the left and upper right. I of course hailed myself as the sourdough whisperer and spammed all my friends and family with photos of my baby.

The second one was almost as good as the first one.

And then the bread gods might have got wind of my insolence and since then every loaf has been a slightly larger disappointment than the previous one: my oven spring is gone. Look at the sad loaf that I baked this morning, lower right picture.

Although the taste is great, I am going crazy with the lack of volume and I'm here begging for help.

After some research I would say that my sourdough is overproofed. If that's the case, should I decrease my bulk, room temperature fermentation or my retarded proofing in the fridge?

I'm going to describe my method below but the only difference between the first two loaves and the rest has been the introduction of french kneading (slap and fold). The only difference that I'm aware or that I'm introducing consciously.

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The method.

I'm basically using the famous country bread tartine method (or other similar recipes). I actually started with the beginners sourdough of the perfect loaf.

- I use an already mixed farine de campagne, which contains a ~10% of rye flour and a percentage of whole wheat flour too.

- ~75% of water

- 15% of active starter (100% hydration, with 50% wheat flour and 50% rye flour). (I have also tried 10% and 20%)

- 2% salt

I autolyse flour and water for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Add starter at peak of activity. Let it rest for 20 minutes. 5 minutes of slap and fold (not for the first two loaves). Bulk fermentation with folds every 1/2 except for the last hour. Total bulk fermentation, ~3 hours. I check that it's increased in size and has bubbles on the side. Then, lightly pre-shape into a ball, let it uncover on the counter for 20 minutes. Final shaping, down to the banneton and to the fridge for retarded fermentation for ~12 hours (at ~8 C).

For baking, I use the dutch oven method. Pre-heat oven at 260 for 1 hour. Score, place in dutch oven, spray with water, close lid. 15 minutes at 235 C with closed lid and 20 or more minutes at 220 after removing the lid.

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If my sourdough is indeed overproofed, should I rather reduce the bulk fermentation or the retarded proofing?

I'm also confused about the timing around the fridge step. Is it better to let the dough sit in the banneton for 15 minutes before putting it in the fridge? Is it better to remove the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before baking, or to place it in the oven straight from the fridge? I have the feeling that this might be an overlooked critical step.

By the way, when I look at my dough before putting it in the oven, it looks right to me. It's kind of puffy, it reacts well to the poke method... I guess I don't know how to recognize an overproofed dough.

Please, help!

By the way, I've learned a lot watching some superb video tutorials from a Fench bakery school. I would share them with you but I'm not sure links are allowed here.

PS: And I'm really sorry for this block of text. I had written this post as my introduction but it's probably too long. I'm therefore posting it to the Sourdough subforum.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

This is my guess:  Your starter has matured and become stronger since the first loaf. Even though it will rise bread at, perhaps, the 7 to 10 day mark, it still becomes more balanced, mature, and strong over the next 3 weeks.

So, if your dough is now over-proofed, what changed?  If it was not the flour, water, time, and temperature, then it was likely the starter "growing up."  It usually takes 4 weeks, maybe 6, for this to happen.

Also, when a starter is fed with whole grain (your WW and rye), it becomes very strong, and "super charged" and will ferment dough very quickly. WW and rye is good to get a starter going, but now that it is going, feeding just plain white flour is sufficient.

So, all the normal things for over-fermenting/proofing come into play:  lower temp, less time, and... less starter/levain, or a starter fed/maintained with just white flour.

Bon chance, et bon appétit.

iyia's picture
iyia

Thanks, idaveindy for your thoughtful post. I would have never thought about that!

I have a question, though. I didn't build my starter, it was given to me by a bakery. Do you think that what you describe can also be true with an old starter? Change of environment, type of flour, etc.

I will follow your advice and reduce or remove completely the rye from my feeds.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

"Do you think that what you describe can also be true with an old starter? Change of environment, type of flour, etc."

Yes. After a few weeks of feeding it your whole grain flours, especially if you fed it at greater than 1:1:1 ratio, it would eventually be dominated by the bacteria and yeast strains from the flour that is being fed to it.  

That is in addition to the "strength" from the enzymes (that turn starch to sugar) supplied by the whole grain flour.

Your starter is fine. No need to get any new starter.  You could still feed it whole grains, and just use less of it. But it may be less expensive to feed it white flour.  And it will not need feeding as often, when fed white flour. so you can save the WW and rye flour for the actual recipe.

Aartnoot's picture
Aartnoot

In addition to what idaveindy said, the temperature might play a role as well. 

In the Netherlands, where I'm at, we have had a few pretty warm weeks. Could it be that the temperature that your bread is bulking at higher temperature, which might have sped everything up a bit? 

iyia's picture
iyia

Yes, temperature has definitely gone up during the last weeks...

I try to bulk ferment inside the oven and keep it at 25 C but I'm definitely not very strict with this step and temperature might have played a role.

I'm feeding now my starter with white flour as idaveindy suggested (well, 90% white and 10% rye). For my next bake I will keep a closer eye to temperature and try to avoid a too long bulk fermentation.

iyia's picture
iyia

I baked a new loaf and while it's better than the last, it's still lacking volume. The crumb is quite dense but the crust is better.

Do you think that it's still overproofed? I used the same method as described above, with 10% starter (90%W and 10%R), and  3h of bulk fermentation and only 2 hours of proofing (no retardation). The temperature in the kitchen was ~23C. Do you think that at this temperature it's still too long? Could it be degassing during shaping otherwise?

Thanks for your input!

albacore's picture
albacore

Your crumb shot is rather small, so it's difficult to see properly, but to me it almost looks underfermented. BTW if you are setting your own image size, aim for something like 500-550 pixels wide.

A few thought: Are you definitely getting a good rise during bulk? 40-50% volume increase? Is your starter nice and active? Is the dough strong - have you developed the gluten sufficiently?

Also, and separately, you say your fridge temperature is 8C. This seems very warm for a fridge. Have you checked by leaving a cup of water in the fridge and taking its temperature after several hours?

Lance

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

It looks under fermented. The fine details were difficult to see but the overall look says to me it needs more time. Maybe starter was too mature or too acidic from all the whole grain. 
Try to get to le pointage before shaping. 

iyia's picture
iyia

I'm uploading at the bottom of this post a higher resolution version of the crumb photos.

If you think the last loaf (which I'm going to call #3) is underfermented, do you think it's also the case for the one I posted in my first message (which I'll call #2)? If one is under and the other over, the holy grail is just somewhere in between??

To answer some questions, the starter is nice and strong, and incorporated at peak of activity; there's a good rise during bulk fermentation; on the other hand, I don't know if the gluten has developed enough...

Also, I'd like to mention that I proofed loaf #3 at RT because I wanted to check its progress. I was not planning to bake it only after  2h of proofing but the poke method seemed to tell me it was ready. As a disclaimer, it's the first time I use it and everything I have for reference is people's description and videos, but the dough was springing back slowly and leaving a small indent.

(I like to keep my fridge not too cold, and place the loafs at the warmer side of the fridge, the 8C are measured with a thermometer in the fridge)

MTloaf, is pointage a pre-shaping? If so, I do pre-shape lightly into a boule and let it rest for 20 minutes before shaping and proofing.

By looking again at all my pictures, I've realized that the first load of my first post (loaf #1, with proper volume) might have a different type of flour, with less content of whole grains. In that case I should reduce the fermentation as I tried with loaf #3, right? Or am I missing something?

I described the method in the first post, but the vitals are the following:

Loaf #3
75% hydration, 10% leaven (100% hydration, 90% white wheat flour, 10% rye flour), 2% salt
3h bulk fermentation at ~23C, 2h proofing at ~23C

Loaf #2
75% hydration, 15% leaven (100% hydration, 50% white wheat flour, 50% rye flour), 2% salt
3h bulk fermentation at RT, 12h retarded proofing in the fridge

Loaf #1
75% hydration, 15% leaven (100% hydration, 90% white wheat flour, 10% rye flour), 2% salt. (Maybe a flour with less whole grain content)
3h bulk fermentation at at RT, 12h retarded proofing in the fridge

 

Loaf #3

 

Loaf #2

 

Loaf #1

albacore's picture
albacore

So you "think" loaf 1 might have used different flour? But you don't know what? (Keep notes!).

Your next bake should perhaps be with different flour. I'd suggest 70% bread flour and 30% of your p de c blend.

As regards bread flour in France, perhaps go for some roller milled T65.

Lance

iyia's picture
iyia

So you "think" loaf 1 might have used different flour? But you don't know what? (Keep notes!).

The first loaf was baked the first or second week of the lockdown here, when you couldn't find flour anywhere in the supermarket. I had to buy that flour from the bakery without much information. It was a farine de boulanger, somewhere around T65 I reckon. I had forgotten about this.

I will try your suggestion and stick to higher percentage of plain bread flour until I find my marks.

What about the under- over- proofing? What do people think of loaf #2 compared to #3? (Same flour.)

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

The signs I look for to determine le pointage is an increase in volume, bubbles on top and the edge of the dough. It should be domed on the edges and a little jiggly like jello. If you take it out of the bowl to early you can double the resting time. Try to do the preshaping and shaping while the dough is on the move like when the starter is rising before it peaks.

Loaf #2 would ferment faster and have a lower profile because of the amount of whole grain. Loaf #3 is slightly under proofed. You should try to push the fermentation to the limits to see what the limits are. Five hours of RT bulk fermentation is typical for me. Be patient. If you shaped too early let it rise some more before putting it in the fridge.

The poke test, I find is more reliable for yeasted dough. My recommendation is to keep using the same recipe and take notice of how much it rises in the bowl and basket to judge it's readiness.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Loaf #2 = over fermented.

Loaf #3 = under fermented.

I think you over-compensated by reducing the fermentation for #3.  But, do not despair.  This is what we call "dialing it in."

By takeful careful notes, you can "split the difference" by going in the direction you need to go.  Then observe the results, and determine which way you need to go now, then "split the difference" between this bake and whatever was the last bake bake in the direction you need to go.

So for bake #4, "split the difference" in ferment times between #2 and number #3.  

Look at baked loaf number #4, determine if it needs more or less fermentation.  If it needs less, then for # 5, split the difference between #4 and #3.  if loaf #4 need more fermentation, then for #5, split the difference between #4 and #2.

By taking pictures (use date or "loaf#" to label), or real good text notes, you can accelerate the "approach" by learning what to look for, and don't have to exactly "halve" the distance between two time points.

Patience.  it's a learning experience.

--

Everyone's flour is different.  Everyone's starter is different. Everyone's ambient temp is different.  So it is not an exact science.  It is science+ art. Almost a "French thing".  N'est-ce pas?

iyia's picture
iyia

Thanks for your input, MTloaf, idaveindy, Lance, and the rest...

If you guys tell me that #2 is probably over fermented and #3 is under fermented that's actually reassuring. Both crumbs do indeed look and feel different and learning to find the sweet spot is very interesting. I will also pay more attention to the pointage and try to better determine when to end the first fermentation.

Although I labeled these loaves #1, #2, and #3 there have been some others in between...

It seems that I'm going to need to be more methodological but that should not be too difficult as I'm actually a scientist. I've taken a lot of notes before my first load but I became lazy with the success of my first two, I though I had everything under control.

Everyone's flour is different.  Everyone's starter is different. Everyone's ambient temp is different.  So it is not an exact science.  It is science+ art. Almost a "French thing".  N'est-ce pas?

I agree with the first part but less with the second. There's a lot of "art" and "craft" hidden in the "science". Experimental science is not very different to baking bread to be honest :)
And although I'm not French, bread is indeed a serious matter here.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Aside from speaking French with correct grammar and a good accent, (and maybe knowing the words to La Marseillaise), nothing will endear you to the French people as much as making good bread.

albacore's picture
albacore

Underfermented is characterised by a tight crumb with small alveoli, but interspersed with random much larger holes - the so-called "Fools Crumb".

By this definition, I would agree that #3 is underfermented. As for #2, not sure! Perhaps a lack of levain vitality, or insufficient final proof?

We await #4! The perfect loaf?

Lance

iyia's picture
iyia

I was hoping to come back with a triumphant #4. It's not bad but not quite there yet...

(I'm posting pics at the end of the post, let me know if you'd like to see a larger version of one of the photos and I can upload a higher resolution copy.)

My goal is now learning to identify when is the right moment to bake, therefore I did all the fermentation at room temperature, no retarded fermentation in the fridge.

I used the same method as described before, this is the summary:

- 460 g of flour. 75% white wheat flour T65 plus 25% of my premixed farine de campagne.
- 350 g H2O (76%)
- 70 g active starter (15%)
- 10g salt
· 1 h autolyse / 3.5 h bulk fermentation / 2h20min proofing. Everything at 25 C, it was quite hot yesterday...

I'd appreciate any input but I would say that this loaf is slightly overproofed. What do you think?

In the "process" montage, you can see the dough--from left to right and top bottom-- 1) right after mixing and 5 minutes of kneading, 2) at the end of the bulk fermentation, 3) at the beginning of proofing, and 4) right before baking.

Do you think that I should have baked it before? Maybe a total of 2 hours proofing instead of 2h20?

Any expert eye that would like to weigh in and let me know what they see in the crumb will be more than welcome!

Loaf #5

 

albacore's picture
albacore

A lot better, but not perfect, as you say. We all have room for improvement!

The crumb looks OK if a bit uneven - make sure you preshape and get plenty of tension in your boule when you shape.

Regarding your S&Fs, I'd get your gluten developed early and leave the dough undisturbed for the last 2 hours of bulk. Have you ever checked the windowpane?

Bulk - I'd try and quantify your % volume increase to know when to finish; as I said before, aim for about 40%. Notoriously difficult to gauge in bulk dough, especially in a dished bowl. Consider a gauge tube, sometimes called a pluviometer - a clear straight plastic tube about 4cm diameter. Calibrate with a marker. When doing bulk, oil the tube and put a dob of dough in. Keep the tube next to your bulk, or even sit it in your bulk. Record dough level after it's settled for 30mins and then monitor for 40% increase.

Kristen/fullproofbaking has more info on this technique on her YT/IG pages.

As for FP, I don't know of anything better than the poke test, I'm afraid.

#5..........

Lance

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

Nice color on your bake. The crumb looks good. Not sure what created the flying ear on the crust. The bottom crust should be darker. You could  try lowering  the oven rack or a longer preheat. The profile is slightly flat which could be the proofing basket or a shaping issue. You will get more oven spring if you retard the shaped loaf in the fridge. That is my critical eye speaking, overall your loaf would please most of us home bakers. 

iyia's picture
iyia

@Lance, I think have a lot of room for improvement in the preshaping and shaping stages. I preshape using a spatula method I saw in one of the YT videos of the SF Baking Institute, using the scraper as spatula.
When I shape I try to add tension  in a similar way, helping me with the scraper, but everything is a bit messy. One adds tension with the scraper and a circling movement but I find it a bit hard to avoid the dough to stick to the other hand when you use it to hold the dough in place at the end of the movement, when you need to separate the scraper from the dough for the next repetition of the movement.

I've never tried to windowpane test. I S&F for the first part of the bulk fermentation, leaving it undisturbed for the last hour. Do you have a link to the tutorial on the gauge meter you mention? I get the idea but I can't find it in their youtube channel.

I have however watched Kristen's full proof baking video of her basic open crumb sourdough and I find the technique very interesting. I want to introduce some of the techniques shown in her video with the general method that I'm loosely following from Maurizio's perfect loaf.

I couldn't help notice that her bulk fermentation is super long, and on top of that the dough spends ~12 hours in the fridge. Should I just assume that the temperature of the fridge is almost completely stopping the culture activity? In a warmer fridge, should I adjust the times and shorten the bulk fermentation? I also find it interesting that she doesn't preshape, why is in general preshaping necessary?

@MTloaf, thanks for your comments. The bottom could indeed be darker, it's probably realted to the use of parchment paper because I preheat for one hour, maybe it needed just a little bit more time.
And I agree that it's flat! It does indeed need a better timing for baking and probably a better shaping, which I'm not very good at yet.

Thanks again! I have some questions about white vs whole flour but I rather move one step at a time.

albacore's picture
albacore

as Kristen calls it, can be found on this page: https://linktr.ee/fullproofbaking at bulk fermentation part 3

Yes, her fermentations seem rather long to me as well, but I guess everyone's vary.

BTW, make life easier for yourself and try a loaf at 72% hydration - NB: take levain hydration into account as well. French flour is not particularly absorbent anyway and it will help with shaping.

Lance

 

iyia's picture
iyia

By the way, does anyone know the size of the oval banneton Kristen uses in her videos?

I have a round banneton and an oval dutch oven with tall walls, and sometimes the dough folds on itself on the narrow side of the DO when I load it in. However the oval bannetons I find online are not really oval but more oblong than oval.

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

I think there is a link on her Instagram page for all the products she recommends. Her loaves are rather small, less than 400 grams total flour. I use these and I think they are the same as the ones she is recommending.

I use the same scraper and technique as SFBI for rounding the dough into the pre-shape but I use wet hands and water on the bench instead of flour. Kristen's pre-shape happens in the bowl as she is making a single loaf so there is no dividing or a need for a pre-shape. Her dough is proofed to a point that it is somewhat delicate to handle but her deft touch and angelic hands are the key to her sucess. I still haven't figured out how that ever present large diamond ring doesn't interfere with her work.

iyia's picture
iyia

By the way, does anyone know the size of the oval banneton Kristen uses in her videos?

I have a round banneton and an oval dutch oven with tall walls, and sometimes the dough folds on itself on the narrow side of the DO when I load it in. However the oval bannetons I find online are not really oval but more oblong than oval.