The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

% of SD Bulk Fermentation

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

% of SD Bulk Fermentation

Just watched Zune’s (Food Geek) latest YouTube video. In the video he mentioned that for that particular dough a 25% rise was an indicator to terminate the BF. That statement got me to thinking...

Should we consider our SD BF in a similar way that our starters and levains has a “lag stage”?

It is much easier to see growth and evaluate the percentage of rise in a jar with a starter than a mixing bowl and a bread dough. But anyone that has watched their starter or levain knows that there is a lag phase (a time of sluggish or apparent inactivity) before the culture starts to show signs of growth.

It may help to think about our bulk fermentation in a similar manner. Soon after the microbes start to get active (past the lag phase), the BF is complete or nearing completion. This type of thought may help some of us (me for sure) to not over ferment the BF. I have a saying, a mantra if you will, “have faith in the oven spring”. “The magic happens in the oven”. Now, if only I will follow my own advice :D

 

Once the microbes start to show signs of activity the rate of growth is exponential. The microbes are in gear and ready to take off. Most of us retard after shaping. The microbes are still active, but the cool temps do not facilitate expansion of the CO2, so we don’t get to visualize the growth. When the dough heats up in the oven, the magic appears...

 

Of course, this is completely dependent upon a starter that is mature and highly active. This is not a starter that doubles at maturity. A minimum of tripling at maturity is probably required to consider this approach.

What do you think, yea or nay?

Dan

 

Dave Cee's picture
Dave Cee

"Most of us retard after shaping."

I have wondered about the variations in time delay between final shaping and retardation. I have always been concerned about over-proofing and so my banneton(s) go into the fridge immediately after final shaping.

But I have read here that some bakers leave the shaped dough on the counter for awhile before putting the dough-in-breadform to sleep.

I am sticking with immediate retardation.

Or did I misunderstand the question?

Best wishes. Dave

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I’m with you, Dave. Most of the time shaped dough is placed n the bannetons and then immediately refrigerated.

Thermal data indicates that it takes approximately 5 hours for the refrigerated dough to normalize to the temperature of the fridge. During this 5 hours of cooling the microbes are still percolating. As time goes on and the dough gets cooler activity is gradually reduced, but at no time during retardation does the activity completely stop.

The image below was taken as a screen shot from a Thermal Data log that I ran a couple of years ago. The jagged line shows the starting and stopping of the retarder’s compressor. The falling top line shows the temp of the dough from initial entry and running approximately 8 hours.

tamwr's picture
tamwr

lol dave!! after i watched his video, i have searched about bulk fermentation in so many topics and i was scared by your post hahaha 

i let my doughs rise 50% in bulk fermentation and sometimes gets overproofed in the cold retard (maybe 3-4 hours after the loaves that where good). hmmm, maybe i have to expect a 40% rise dunno

StephanieB's picture
StephanieB

Levains, final doughs, cultures in a lab...whatever, all exhibit log growth in my experience. And yes, that means the beginning will start off more sluggish, but growth will accelerate the more time passes (until the dreaded over proof). If you do your BF in a clear container like those clear rectangular tubs, you can see this same as a levain. For me the first couple hours of BF look like nothing is happening. This is not a good time to base the rest of your timing off of; just because your dough is starting off slow on a warm day doesn't mean it's a good time to run errands for the next few hours. Not that I've ever done such a thing! 

Dan I followed your advice for cutting off bulk before 50% for whole grain breads, and 30-40% rise worked way better than 50% for me. Haven't tried 25%, but if 30% works I imagine 25% would work fine too, esp if you want a long cold retard. Trying a white SD bread today for the first time in at least a year (have made some white enriched breads more recently) and I'm trying Trevor Wilson's guidelines, which usually advise 50% rise during bulk so we'll see. My starter doesn't go much farther than doubling so I don't think I'll test out this 25% BF today. Do WW starters have the same rise limitations as WW breads? I've always kept a 50/50 WW/bread flour starter, and even though it was able to support puffy loaves when I did white bread, it never goes much beyond doubling. It does feel like a leap of faith to stop the BF so soon though! It's reassuring to see lots of bubbles in the BF.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Stehanie, not sure about WW starters other than than ferment faster.

I think it is worth your time and effort to build up your starter’s activity. IMO (I could be wrong), doubling is a bare minimum. 

Keep in mind, there are many variables that affect the rise height of a starter. And only one of them is starter activity. Temperature, hydration, flour/grains, and most importantly gluten strength have a huge affect on rise.

If you want to see your starter climb, mix it @ 60% hydration and knead it thoroughly. Make sure to observe it before it falls, but it will maintain it’s height much longer than a wet starter.

You mentioned rise height. The temperature of you refrigerator makes a difference. 37-38F dough will rise very little if at all. But just 3 degrees higher (~41F) and slow rise is expected. When determining BF increase this should be taken into consideration. Also, for me, it is difficult to discern the difference bewteen 30 and 50% rise. It’s a guess for me. I’d like to see a comparison of 6 experienced bakers comparing the same dough and have them estimate the rise.

I estimate the rise height, but also take into consideration the dome of the dough, slight airiness. Also like to give it a jiggle. Give it my best guess...

StephanieB's picture
StephanieB

Oh yeah my starter is at 100% hydration. When I've used my starter to make firmer levains, those grew much more. Maybe I misunderstood, but I was thinking about BF at room temp, where I can more easily keep track of growth. Once a dough is in the fridge I can't tell what % it's risen. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Stephanie, dough rise in the fridge is determined by temperature. If your fridge is 37-38F expect no visible rise. If the fridge is higher than 40F the dough will probably rise. But in both cases the fermentation is still taking place. The gas produced in these cold environments tend to become absorbed by the dough. Hot gas expands, cold contracts.

Judging the starter rise is done at room temps or warmer.

Copernicus21's picture
Copernicus21

1. the fact that Chad Robertson advocates ending bulk early, at 25-30% volume rise. I think it was something along the lines of maximizing irregularity in crumb structure.

2. Trevor Wilson's instagram post on a loaf that was shaped at 20% volume: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrF9BItH6wt/?igshid=1x5xeog03au5y. I come back to this post from time to time to refresh my understanding on BF. To paraphrase the points in his post: 20% in the context of that particular dough and those particular hands does not equal underfermentation. Why?

  • That dough had just started to gain momentum at that point (goes to DanAyo's point above about revving up, exiting the lag phase so to speak). 
  • His hands had the skill to develop the requisite surface tension for the loaf to hold its structure despite not having accumulated as much gas.
albacore's picture
albacore

Also worth checking out this Youtube video by The Regular Chef. He aims for 20-30% bulk rise. But maybe we have a bit of a dilemma here? Does more bulk rise give you more open crumb if that's what you are looking for, but at the expense of loaf height/oven spring?

Lance

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Lance,  I have been experimenting of late, though using only 100% home milled white wheat.  I bulk ferment in a straight sided container, so it is pretty easy to judge volume.  I normally BF in a proofer over night -  when I completely mess up the temp and timing,  I see increase in volume of 200 to 300%.   The dough feels very loose in shaping, and not much oven rise, but definitely an open crumb.  On the times I got to it earlier, and had a 30 to 40% increase during BF ,  I found I got a decent oven rise, but the loaf had a lower volume and the crumb was denser.  Of course, final proofing comes into play,  but I have not found the 20 to 30% increase in BF to work for me so far.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

It seems the we bakers are comfortable with absolutes. I know I am.

Percentage of rise is the very best way to explain to another baker when the BF is complete. But you can be sure that very experienced bakers use other criteria. They are not bending down to get eye level with the container to evaluate the percentage of rise. They know their dough. The dome, the airiness, the bubbles and the size of those bubbles, etc.. They have become intuitive.

I am all for percentage of rise, but we do well to observe the dough closely once we think it has reached that degree of rise. What do ya’ think?

The way we think about things matter. Example - When shaping long baguettes, I now think about stretching them out instead of rolling them out. For me, the results have instantly and dramatically changed for the better. Rolling out  signifies to me downward pressure with my hands. Similar to using a rolling pin. Stretching implies outward motion with my hands with the goal of elongating and stretching out the dough. The first thought communicates to me “over come resistance”. The later motivates me to work with the dough. When I shape a long baguette, stretching is on my mind. I am not implying that this is the mindset all bakers, but the way we choose to look at something matters. Our minds will affect our hands. Consider thoughts that work for you.

The original post was published with that idea. I reasoned that the BF must get past the lag stage so that the microbes awake and start percolating. How far into that percolating stage is what we need to learn. But I know for sure it isn’t very far in. Many doughs would rise 300% or more if allowed. Thus we often read “30-50% rise”.

 

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

I've only been regularly baking for the last few years, so I guess that makes me somewhat of a newbie, and I'm not sure how much wisdom I can add to the discussion.   But, I have been following this and a couple of the other discussions here the last few weeks on shortening the BF, which I've tried to implement with varying levels of success.  

 

I agree that one of the biggest pitfalls people can run into is relying too heavily on a recipe and then being perplexed with a different result than what they see in a cookbook or online.  There are just too many variables on any given day that can impact any recipe, even one that is tried and true. So, the only way to start getting 'successful' bakes is to keep baking, over and over again, and learn as you go.  The best thing I ever did was pick one recipe, get some bakes I was happy with, then start tweaking that recipe and baking it repeatedly.  The recipe might say BF for 6 hours, but that might be way too long for your kitchen, your dough, your water, etc.

 

Along those lines, one of the biggest factors I've noticed for me is dough temp during this time (which I hope isn't too much of an obvious comment to make).  If my dough is on the warmer side (~80F), I can cut the BF off a little sooner, but still looking for around 30% rise.  If my dough runs a little cooler (our AC's been cranked up), then I have to let it run longer.  I always BF in my oven with the light on as I don't have a proofing box (yet), which seems to help.  Conversely, if I need more time due to scheduling conflicts, I can set it on the counter and stretch that out a bit as well.  So, along with looking for a certain amount of rise, temp also plays an important role.  Previously, I would have never thought to check the temp of my dough.  Now I do it for every bake as it helps weigh in on my decision on when to stop the BF.  I've learned to watch a lot and wait.  I've had the best bakes recently with stopping the BF around 30-50%, but then I have to make a decision on room temp proof for an hour or so before going in the fridge, or just popping it straight in immediately after shaping, based again on dough temp and feel of the dough activity during shaping.

I'm probably stating the obvious for most of the more experienced bakers on this thread, but I thought I might add some thoughts for some of the newer folks that might be following along.  

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Forgot to add that I am also now doing a 'windowpane' check at the beginning of what I think will be my last S&F or coil folds, to see if I think the dough is strong enough from a gluten standpoint.  One of the recipes I was using suggested 5 S&Fs then straight to shape and cold proof--for me, this turned into 7-8, which extended the BF another couple of hours, but with good final results.  So, again to my point, so many variables on any given day!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

There is another variable that few consider. The characteristics and activity of each starter.

When it comes to sourdough baking the starter of another baker is always an unknown. How can one baker compare their starter with another baker that is 3000 miles away? Starters ramp up the “art form”. More intuition required.

Commercial bakers have their formulas dialed in. All variables are closely controlled. They bake the same breads day after day. Not so with most of us. Many home bakers like variety and the corresponding challenges that they bring. The more we bake (if we are observant), the more intuitive we become.

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

That is very, very true, on all counts!  

Copernicus21's picture
Copernicus21

and I wonder how many of us are actually confirming and checking their starter strength? I know I don't always do it, for example, even if it's tripled, it may have been over a longer period (10 hours versus 6 hours). If one isn't sure, it can be nerve wrecking, at least for me, to end the bulk soon after that lag phase (say at 25% increase in volume). You could have an old stable starter that may not have been maintained as well as you thought, or a starter that you switched up flours with recently and decided to act up. 

Cold retardation can be such a mystery to the average home baker using the family fridge. I haven't quite figured out what works best, and it's supremely hard to keep all factors constant. I go through periods where I feel compelled to let the loaf sit out at RT for an hour prior to setting it in the fridge. Often this is after a bout of slightly underproofed loaves. And there are those loaves that go in not quite voluminous, leave the fridge flattish, and then spring up like crazy. I find that it helps to at least isolate the temperature variable by ensuring the fridge isn't too full / opened frequently so that the loaf goes into a 37-38F environment, where you can estimate between 4-6 hours of continued gentle proofing.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Copernicus, retarding for me is so easy, it sometimes feels like I’m cheating. LOL

Snce my fridge is cold (38-39F) the dough doesn’t rise much if at all. A good way to check your fridge temp is to place a glass of water n the same location  you plan to retard the dough. Leave it there at least 6 hr or overnight and check the temp of the water with an accurate thermometer.

My starter is active because it is used often. Don’t remember the last time I fermented the shaped loaves on the counter before retarding.

But, I’ve been around long enough to know what works for one baker may not for another. IMO, baking is more of an art form that science, especially when it comes to sourdough.

albacore's picture
albacore

Yes Danny, I think your ambient stored starter, fed twice a day, is going to be a lot more active than fridge stored starters.

I did try it for a while, but only baking once or twice a week, I found it too much of a faff.

Lance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Lance, about 6 months ago the starter is stored in the fridge. It is fed a minimum of weekly. Since bread is baked often it is generally refreshed more often. Whenever a levain is made, it is made larger than required. The access is used to perpetuate the starter and is stored in the fridge.

Guess what? The starter can be used in the levain straight out of the fridge using a single build. That was great to learn. No need to jump start the starter with extra feeds before using.

A thought -
Build your levain in a single build. That way the flour will be less degraded when it is added to the dough. Also build it warm and quick to preserve the quality of the gluten. The longer the flour is hydrated, the more subject it is to degradation (I think). This is especially important when the Percentage of Pre-Fermented Flour is high. 
just a thought

albacore's picture
albacore

"A thought - Build your levain in a single build"

I'm not sure about that; what about pannetone where to get the most active levain possibe, the builds are 1:1?

Lance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I have no experience with that. But I do know the levain is super active in a single build straight out of the fridge.

 The weights of the ingredients were 30 starter + 100 water + 100 flour.

albacore's picture
albacore

So your starter lives in the fridge now, Danny?

Also I thought you were on 80% starter hydration these days - or is you lev. hydration different to your starter hydration?

Lance

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Starter does live in the fridge now. Hydration fluctuates at will. Generally 100%, but sometimes 60%. 

when it comes to my starter I am very flexible. It is normally AP flour but if I want Rye it is converted in a single feeding. Same with hydration. Changes are always made in a single step. I often build levains straight from the fridge.

One starter does it all...