The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Over or underproofed?

newbaker09's picture

Over or underproofed?

Hi all, hoping someone with more experience could shed some light on my baking results. I started making Tartine-style country sourdough loaves a few months ago. I was getting pretty consistent results for months (like pics 1&2, sorry don’t know how to rotate pics) up until this weekend. Didn’t change anything (flour, water, times, equipment) but last loaf was dense and didn’t get as much spring in the oven. Also I noticed that my starter was smelling a little different lately (less vinegary, more fruity) though it’s been significantly warmer this past week.



Think the first loaf this weekend was overproofed (pics 3&4) so adjusted times for the next loaf (pics 5&6) but can’t tell if this one is under or overproofed? Eek, what went wrong this weekend? Thanks!





BaniJP's picture

They seem slightly underproofed (dense crumb with big holes is usually an indicator).

I can imagine it's your starter. Nothing really wrong with it, but it might be that due to higher temperatures the microorganism ratios have changed and now are maybe producing more flavor and less gas, so it takes longer to proof. It's just a theory, but I'm having the same issue (underproofing despite same recipe and process, starter seems a little slower).

Different bacteria have different optimal temperatures. I believe AAB thrive most at 30-32°C and LAB more around 23-27°C. I think wild yeast is around room temp (20-23°C). So the starter might have shifted towards more aromatic and less gassy microbes, but that should change in the end of summer.

For now, longer fermentation periods are probably the best. Maybe increase bulk ferment by 20-30% and see where that leads you.

calneto's picture

I also think that they are underproofed. Here in Brazil, it is almost always warm. Right now, during our winter, temperature is around 23C. When it gets hotter (it gets as high as 40C), I feed my starter more often, up to 3 times a day. If your starter is not very active and you bulked for the same time as before, I'd expect the loaf to be under fermented. Try feeding the starter at least twice a day and maybe even increasing bulking time.

Lottiecapon's picture

It is hard to tell what is wrong after the bread is out. Try the poke test before the bread goes in the oven. Poke a dent with your finger and 

1- if it springs back immediately = underproofed 

2- if it doesn’t spring back = overproofed 

3- if it slowly springs back and leaves a slight dent = perfect 

newbaker09's picture

Hi all, thanks for taking the time to answer! Must be the shift in bacteria as it was definitely more aromatic!

Luckily, I had frozen a bit of my starter when I first got it and managed to wake it up and get it active again after a few days. Comparing the two showed a dramatic difference: the 'original', defrosted starter was much more active (doubling in about 4 hours) and smelled comfortingly familiar. The starter that went through the heatwave was doubling over about 6-7 hours. I've switched back to the 'original' as the timings work better for my schedule and I get reliable results.

Side topic: I know some people don't recommend freezing a starter because it may suffer freezer burn and destroy all the lovely microbes. Have you had any experience drying a starter?

Thanks again!