The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sigh 😞bulk fermentation, again

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Sigh 😞bulk fermentation, again

Hi all! 

If you know what a properly fermented dough looks like  ( you know, bubbly, jiggly, not dense, I've experienced it before with yeast no knead breads and sourdough  spiked with a bit of yeast ) and it hasn't reached that point yet, do you just trust that it will eventually reach that point or is there a possibility that something isn't right with the starter this time around  and it will never reach that point and then waiting will just result in over fermentation? Because those jiggly , bubbly doughs i've seen have only happened when there is yeast involved.  Is a properly bulk fermented sourdough less bubbly, jiggly etc??

AlaninLA's picture
AlaninLA

My bulk ferment usually takes 3-4 hours longer than what tables say for my percentage of starter and the ambient temperature.

Sourdough typically takes longer than commercial yeast. To be able to answer your question, more information is needed.

How healthy is your starter? How have you been feeding it?

What is the percentage of starter to total flour in your recipe?

What is the temperature where you are doing your bulk fermentation

As an example, I feed my starter 1-2-2 every 12 hours for three cycles before baking (temp is 66 degrees F.)

My inoculation is 5% starter to total flour.

I find that for me, the bulk ferment takes 13 hours to rise 75% for that particular recipe, which is five hours more than what the author of the recipe observed. Judging by their location, the ambient temperature would be around 74 degrees F.  This is after 4 different baking cycles where I kept underproofing the loaves until I gave up on the clock, and just started watching the dough.

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Hello, thank you for replying first of all.  Well, it's complicated.  I was planning on fermenting at 21c for 8 hrs (recipe says 21 c 8-10) but for about an hour or so my dough was at 28c because the oven got turn on and the heat from the vent raised the temp surrounding the bowl . The plastic covering had condensation on it.  So i moved the bowl to a cooler spot (22c). It's been about 10 hrs now. recipe was 50g starter, 70% hydration.  I'm still having problems judging when my starter peaked but now i'm suspecting it hadn't quite peaked.  and ive had the starter for over 2 months now.  I fed it 1:1:1 for this bake.  twice.  do you think i should just go ahead and shape it now?  is it a bad sign if a bubble that was present on the surface earlier has disappeared.  is it a sign that it's over fermented?  I guess my real worry is, if it's overfermented.

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

"Is a properly bulk fermented sourdough less bubbly, jiggly etc??"

No, ripe dough is ripe dough, but please don't be discouraged. You've taken a big step forward in your bread skills because you have learned to "watch the dough, not the clock!"

Because you have that experience under your belt, you know what that dough should look like and you won't make the mistake of baking an underprooved, unripe dough.

My advice is to put the dough somewhere nice and warm and just check on it every half hour or so. Wait until it's ready, then proceed.

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Oh thank you.  I'll do that right now.  I was hesitant to keep changing its temperature.  

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Any time you're not happy with the fermentation (too slow, too fast) you can manipulate the temperature of the dough to speed it up or slow it down. If I have an especially pokey dough and I'm in a hurry I will put it in a big flat plastic box and set it in a warm place so the whole dough mass can warm up quickly. Similarly if the dough is moving too fast you can put it in a wide container, set it in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then the fridge. Don't be afraid to manipulate temperature: it's one of the most useful tools in your kit. You don't want it so hot it kills the yeast and you don't want it to freeze, but there's a nice wide window in between you can mess around with. 

loaflove's picture
loaflove

👍 good to know! I’m glad I took your advice and waited.  I still haven’t shaped my dough yet and it’s getting more jiggly but not a lot of bubbles.   It’s been 11hrs . I’m gonna wait for more bubbles then I think it should be ready.  The way the dough behaves almost is parallel to how the starter behaves isn’t it?  You want to ferment it to it’s peak and if you go too far beyond it will fall  and becomes soupy. 

drainaps's picture
drainaps

@ SeasideJess

Thanks for your post. Then, should I expect (different recipes, one commercial yeast, one sourdough) similar volume increases and similar dough texture / touch / feeling for a sourdough recipe and a yeast recipe at the end of Bulk Fermentation? 

Curiously enough I use a commercial yeast recipe from the forum for baguettes that delivers great open crumb regularly, much better than anything I get with a natural starter recipe, and I'm coming to the conclusion that all my sourdough is systematically under fermented during Bulk Fermentation?

Needless to say that at the end of Bulk, the commercial yeast dough is noticeably puffier and way more jiggly than my sourdough doughs usually are. 

Thanks in advance for your help. 

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

In general, all other things being equal (hydration, flour type, dough handling) your properly fermented sourdough will look and feel like your properly fermented yeast dough. It might take longer but if your starter is mature and vigorous it will have a high enough concentration of yeast that the dough proofs fully.

One thing that can go wrong with sourdough is if there's not enough yeast in the starter, in which case during the long wait for the dough to rise, the lactic acid bacteria work faster than the yeast, causing the dough become too acidic and the gluten to break down before the dough ever rises properly. That's the 'getting soupy' thing you're talking about. Once that happens the dough is only good for turning into pancake batter.

drainaps's picture
drainaps

@ SeasideJess

It helps a lot, especially the part about bacteria taking the upper hand when there is not enough yeast available.  I had not thought about that.  Mind you, I regularly have great sourdough bakes (one of them for Pumpkin Sourdough kindly featured by Floyd a few weeks back), but not all of them.  I had long suspected I was under proofing during BF but just making a commercial yeast recipe to great success a couple of times this week helped me start to connect the dots.

I love this forum ;-) 

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Is nice to get that exposure to consistent successful bakes and to properly fermented doughs if for no other reason than we know what we're aiming for in our sourdoughs!

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Thanks seasidejess for your guidance.  The loaf turned out decent.  It was small and compact though because I only did 2 sets of S and Fs then had to go out.  I was wondering why some sourdough recipes don’t ask for S and Fs.  For example, in my recipe Everyday Sourdough from Emilie Raffa’s book it’s optional to do them.  She mentions it in a separate section of her book but only as an extra step if you have time.  To me that’s the most fun part of making bread , handling  the dough so I love doing them.  And I think with S and F the bread rises better and you get a bigger loaf probably because it’s less dense due to better oven spring which is due to a stronger gluten structure.  I noticed my dough being slacker after BF and was worried I overfermented.  It was a little harder to shape as well And less voluminous.  .  But I think it was all due to not doing enough s and Fs.  
another question I have is, if you dough starts to sweat during BF and forms a skin  is it a bad sign? 

dbazuin's picture
dbazuin

One thing you need to realize with sourdough it that the amount of yeast varies.
Thats why commercial yeast is much more predictable.

Less taste an less fun do. 

drainaps's picture
drainaps

I had been baking sourdough-only recipes for a few months, and just tried a yeasted recipe from the Forum for « Baguettes à  l’ancienne » kindly posted by Don long time ago.  As you mention, it was like driving an automatic car vs. a manual stick car.  I guess all my hard-earned sourdough skills helped make this recipe a systematic success, but it also helped me question how I was proofing my sourdough until now.  Thanks again.

dbazuin's picture
dbazuin

Just the other day I baked a bread with dried fruit using instant yeast it is so easy and predictable. 

I have a pizza dough with supposed to be ready about 18:00.
So it has more or less 8 ours to go.  If it is not promissing enough at 16:00 I start a instant yeast version that for sure is ready at 18:00. 

loaflove's picture
loaflove

And commercial yeast always wows! i look at the rise and it's like wow!!! When my starter wasn't ready to be used I was baking yeast loaves to practice handling dough and shaping etc.  I used a sourdough recipe but substituted the 50g  of starter with half a teaspoon of yeast.  I followed the recipe exactly as if it was SD.. The BF was 8-10 hrs so the flavour was not bad.  Not as good as SD but still I'd be willing to settle for that.  The loaf was just beautiful.  You can even see the direction of the oven spring because  the holes in the bread were slanting upwards.   i hope i can achieve that with a starter one day. Thank you guys for the guidance.  i only hope i can help others one day on this forum

sadexpunk's picture
sadexpunk

just jumping in here (sorry), and because the OP already knows how to judge fermentation (read the dough, not the time), but im only starting out making bread/sourdough, and dont know how to read it yet.

are there any good pictures/videos of dough to show what to look for in fermentation, to know when its just right and not over/under, and ready to pre-shape?

thank you.

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Is a great idea to do your bulk ferment in something you can see through. When it has developed bubbles from bottom to top, you will notice it is jiggly /quivery/puffy and expanded. That's it. Bulk is done.

I usually proof with bottom heat and I can see the bubbles developing at the bottom first and moving upward. Sometimes I gently flip my container over (careful, the dough will try to pry the lid off and escape!) just to move the bulk ferment along /get the top half to catch up.

If you can't use a clear bowl or transparent plastic tub, put a decent hunk of the dough in a glass jar with a barely-tightened lid and set it next to your dough bowl. The dough in the jar will ferment at about the same rate as your dough in the bowl, giving you a window into the fermentation. Once bulk is done, add them back together.

loaflove's picture
loaflove

Good idea about the glass jar.  I was going to get a glass bowl.  Meanwhile when i tease the dough out of the bowl and see that it's still not stringy throughout, can i just put it back in the bowl? ii guess that's ok since you mentioned flipping the container.