The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Aliquot Jar to determine bulk fermentation rise

Benito's picture
Benito

Aliquot Jar to determine bulk fermentation rise

Can I share a recent trick that I have been using to fine tune my sourdough baking?  I am now using an aliquot jar to gauge bulk fermentation.  A small piece of dough, about 30 g, removed from the dough after the first set of stretch and folds and placed into a small jar with straight sides.  Make sure you pressure the dough firmly into the bottom of the jar trying to eliminate any air pockets.  I got this idea originally from an IG post of Kristen’s (Full Proof Baking). This dough will ferment at the same rate as the larger dough mass assuming you keep it in the same conditions as the larger dough.  You will mark the starting point and can very accurately measure the volume rise of the large dough by the dough in the aliquot jar.

I’ve always had a very hard time measuring rise because I bulk ferment in a Pyrex 8” x 8” square dish and make one loaf at a time.  So when the dough starts out it isn’t even touching the sides of the dish.  I’ve started using the aliquot jar in the past 3-4 bakes and now I can really measure the rise so if the end result of the crumb is a bit too tight I can next time let bulk go further with confidence by using the aliquot jar and get a more fully fermented loaf.  Or vice versa of course if over fermented I can dial back on the fermentation next time.

I hope someone finds this as helpful as I have.  Using this I can learn to judge the visual and tactile features of my dough in a way that I haven’t been able to before.

Benny

dbazuin's picture
dbazuin

I use a thin marker to set a start line.

So far I was missing a real straigth small glass but I just found a local store where the have them for 0,95 euro cent. 

It is also intressting to see what happens if you leave the small sample for ours more. 

Benito's picture
Benito

I use a specimen container that I have at work (clinic) that patients use to collect urine samples.  I have two at home that I use for aliquot jars and they are ideal because they are see through, not too wide and not too deep.  I started out using a small drinking glass, but they were too deep for my fingers to get the dough out of when I wanted to clean them.  I’m sure your doctor would give you a clean one if you asked.

dbazuin's picture
dbazuin

The glass I found is 5 cm hoog en 4 cm width. I guess it works fine. 
Cleaning is easy enough just put it in to water for a few minutes. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you know the ones!  Work great!   More under site search: dough gauge or dough rising gauge or proofing gauge. 

:)

Benito's picture
Benito

I hadn’t seen those posts before so thought that others might find this useful. Thanks Mini. 

Mr Immortal's picture
Mr Immortal

I imagine an old prescription bottle would work...

foodforthought's picture
foodforthought

Benny,

Thought I’d try out this technique on a 2300 g batch of San Joaquin Sourdough I’m building today. Since I generally make 3-4 loaf batches, I wonder if the smallish aliquot sample (50 g this time around) won’t be more sensitive to ambient environmental factors than the larger mass. Even at 50 g the sample only fills ~2 mm of my 2.5 cm diameter jar, so in theory I’m watching for a 1 mm (50%) rise. Should be discernible but I’m not sure this level of resolution will remove that much ambiguity. Might have to look for a skinnier jar or sideline a larger sample??? Will let you know how this experiment goes.

Thanks for sharing your method,

Phil

Benito's picture
Benito

You might want, as you suggest, a narrower jar and pull a much larger portion of dough off.  I have generally pulled enough off that I would be looking for at least 5 mm rise.  The greater the amount of dough the easier it is to be able to gauge rise.

You are correct, the smaller dough will be more sensitive to temperature changes, cooling and heating more quickly.  I try to hit the target bulk fermentation temperature by warming or cooling the water used to mix, that way, I don’t have to warm or cool the dough mass after mixing too much, keeping the aliquot jar dough and the larger dough about the same temperature much of the time.

Benny

Copernicus21's picture
Copernicus21

I believe Kirsten has a new tutorial on a 100% WW loaf where she demonstrates using the aliquot in a spice jar and nestling the jar in the bulking dish, so as to ensure greater uniformity in the two environments. She also makes the point that the jar doesn't quite work at the cold proof stage because the sudden drop in temperature would be much faster for the tiny piece of dough.

I've tried doing this using a small milk bottle (the kind that we use for infants). The gradations are perfect. 

I've also sadly learnt that if you don't mix well, this would be an imperfect test as the baby dough may not be the same make-up as its parent.

Another good tip is not to waste the dough! After BF, toss it back into the parent dough and preshape.

Benito's picture
Benito

Good tips thanks for sharing.  I typically use a proofing box but the tip of putting the aliquot jar in with the dough will keep it more uniformly at the same temperature at the dough.

Yes of course if not mixed well then the baby dough may not ferment at the same rate as the dough and would be imperfect for sure. 

Add the aliquot dough back to the main dough at final shaping could also work I suppose, however, I’ve been using the aliquot jar to gauge fermentation past final shaping while the shaped dough in on the counter at room temperature before putting it into the fridge.  After the starting cold retard I would then toss the dough or add it to my discard jar.

albacore's picture
albacore

Last time I put the trial jar dough in a greased dariole mould and retarded it with the rest of the loaves. Squeeze it into the oven with the other loaves to make a micro loaf!

BTW, as Benny states, the trial jar useful for determining ambient proof prior to retard, not just for bulk rise. Credit goes to baker @_littlevillage_ for this one.

I am currently working on 30% bulk and 20% ambient proof with decent results.

Lance

Benito's picture
Benito

Hey Lance, here I thought I was thinking outside the jar by using the aliquot jar to gauge proof past final shaping 😛.  Who is this @_littlevillage_ I will have to check her/him out on IG.

The reason I wanted to try to use the aliquot jar out to gauge proof past final shaping is that I find that final shaping is easier on les proofed dough, so I wondered if I shaped earlier and then watch proofing with the jar if I could still get a well fermented dough and good loaf.  Are you finding that to be the case?

Interesting idea about baking a mini bun, I should use a larger amount of dough for my aliquot jar and bake it out.

Benny

albacore's picture
albacore

Sorry Benny - not much new under the sun! Or "great minds think alike"!

Kat (the expert on breadmaking Instagram) put me on to littlevillage; a Kiwi in Northern Ireland! Could be a similar climate, I guess, if he's from South Island (=rain ;-)).

That ambient pre-retard proof makes good sense to me; if your starter is a slow burner, for example, and you whack the loaves straight in the fridge, they could surely end up underproofed.

Still plenty variables - eg fridge temp, rate of cooling.

Lance

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

I love this site. I don't come here all the time as I'm a person with many passions that flit back and for through the seasons, but I always make bread. I just keep making the same ones over and over and over again to get it right. But it's from here that I learned about so many useful tools and techniques. Like just now, I learned about an aliquot jar. And that led me to googling which led me to FullProofBaking's site which I have used before and she is EXCELLENT. I made sure I subscribed now. And from that I learned about cool proofing as I was just thinking on this the other day that I need something that can COOL, but not make REALLY cold and there it was... And now I'm back to here to look up cool proofing.

Basically, I just want to say thanks to all you curious, talented folks!

Benito's picture
Benito

I’m using the aliquot jar again today as I have a dough in bulk fermentation now after the first stretch and fold.  I’ve taken a good chunk of dough and pressed it into the bottom of the little jar I use, then used painter’s tape to mark the meniscus (upper edge of dough) and then marked what 50, 60 and 70% rise would be.  For today’s dough I’m thinking of pushing bulk to 60-70% keeping in mind although the formula says 50% rise the main dough at 50% rise has been degassed each time you do coil folds/stretch and folds and lamination so the aliquot jar will overestimate the rise a bit so you have to go further.  Depending on how this bake goes, I can adjust up or down next time to get whatever improvement in the crumb I’m aiming for.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Benny, if you have two of the same bottles you can get ultimate accuracy. It may not interest you, but if it does here’s the scoop. 

level off the test dough in one of your jars. Place it next to the empty jar and mark the level on it. Take the empty jar and tare it out on your scale. Then fill the empty jar with water up to the level line. For a dead on accurate 30% rise multiply the water weight by 1.3, the fill the jar with that much total weight in water and mark.

This is especially useful when using a vessel with sloping sides, like a drinking glass.

This is the kind of things that an obsessed person (like me) might do.

 

Benito's picture
Benito

OK that is more OCD than me, but ingenious.  I have two of the same jars at home and dozens more at the clinic.  That is super smart Dan, I may have to use your trick, thank you!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Benny, your consistent results and Danny boys also, speak for themselves. There is no dispute that bread making, unlike cooking in general, is very much a science. That being said, for me personally, I very much enjoy the fly by the seat of my pants approach.  Maybe because, I am just not the scientific type. I hope I did not come off to critical and harsh. I probably should not post late at night, when I should be resting not thinking!  

Benito's picture
Benito

No no Will no disrespect taken whatsoever.  I think a lot of people can bake by feel better than I can it seems.  I have yet to learn those intuitions, but I am slowly learning them.  The bread I am baking now I have pushed bulk fermentation too far, but without doing so, I wouldn’t have known what the dough looks like when over proofed.  So now I have learned.  For this formula pushing to 60% aliquot jar rise and a further bench rest of 20 mins went too far.  While I was looking at the dough and jiggling it, I was thinking when it had hit 50% rise in the aliquot jar that it was ready, but I wanted to see what 60% would be like and given the flat profile of the loaf it was too far.  So the scientific data is informing me and teaching me what to look for in the dough so hopefully eventually I may not need the aliquot jar.  However, I think for hearth loaves since they need to proof further than baguettes they may not be needed in the further, but I’m not sure how long it will take for me to learn what a 30-40% aliquot rise will look and feel like so for baguettes where not going too far or under is so critical to later steps I will probably be using it for quite some time.

Anyhow, no disrespect taken, just wanted to explain further the whys of my using this and hoping that it might help some of the newer bakers here.  I wish I had been using this over the whole of the past 1.25 years I may have learned faster to read the dough.  I’m a slow learner I guess.  😀

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Hello, friends. 

I am very much on board with bread baking being science. However, at a certain point something is lost, when we become to clinical in our approach. Think about the tactical feel of hands in raw undeveloped dough, as a proficient fourth generation craftsman slowly and skillfully builds the gluten chains. Think about the smell of a perfectly ripe levian. Imagine for a moment, the look, smell and elasticity of a well fermented dough, ready for the next step. My latest endeavor of exploring ancient Mediterranean breads, baked in wood fired ovens, some in caves, drives home the importance of the human element. Bread baking was/is so very important to life itself in these simple communities. Making the weekly bread, became almost a religious experience. The matriarch mixes the dough, and watches the development with a keen eye. The patriarch, then skillfully shapes the loaves and slashes the signature three cuts, "The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit" Next the family mark is embossed onto the bread, before the matriarch walks the finish product over to the town oven. Even the cutting of the bread was/is a ritual. I have heard tell that young boys are not considered ready to marry, until they can cut a perfect slice of bread. Wow that was long winded and I think suitable for my blog post! Smile...

Benito's picture
Benito

Another thing using the aliquot jar is helping me is learning more about how the dough feels and looks at various stages of rise.  That is a difficult thing to learn early on and is something I am still trying to get a handle on.  Perhaps others learn more quickly than I do, but this gives me another objective measure to help with figuring out when to end bulk.  As I stated earlier in this thread, it has been the one issue I still have even after more than 1.25 yrs of baking sourdough bread is when the heck should I end bulk.  I am now seeing what dough looks like at 50% rise, it is much puffier, much more bubbly and much more jiggly than I thought before.

I was definitely being tongue in cheek when I said Dan was OCD.  His attention to detail is outstanding and he does come up with a lot of pearls of wisdom that he has shared with me over the past year not limited to this idea of using water to very easily mark a percent rise in the aliquot jar.  I doubt I would have thought of it.

I do love the science of bread making and I’m finding using the science is helping me learn the art of bread making.

albacore's picture
albacore

That old breadmaking chestnut: science vs craft vs art. Plenty of room for all three I reckon. We are not plant bakers, where bread and dough may well be untouched by human hand.

Amateurs and artisan bakers will always have plenty of contact with their produce. No harm with some carefully applied science to help things on their way.

Lance

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I concur.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hold that thought!  Love the aromas and smells and baking!  Glorious!

 But what if you had Covid 19 and one of the unfortunates that just lost, temporary or not, the sense of taste and smell?  This would certainly help, i.e. being a bit scientific about it.  So don't forget to write about the aromas in your notes or the comparison to rise levels as you enjoy aromas should you be caught off guard with side effects from this nasty virus. 

Pretty soon the topic will come up so I look forward to seeing a posting from someone struggling with trying to bake well without the tools of smell and taste.  The problems and how to judge various stages of the baking process.  

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I have an appointment at 9:50 to get tested. My employer (NYU) is requiring a negative test result by August the 15. How is this for unscientific, I started my biga build without having the required amount of extra fancy semolina. I will head out to pick some up after the test. Smile...

alfanso's picture
alfanso

an insider of the top tier of pharmacology experts...

Subject: Covid testing.

All,

I know many in the Gang have questions about the value of the diagnostic test for Covid, and the false negative rate. I came across a very interesting analysis of this recently, in a highly respected peer review journal. The paper has some heavy duty statistics in it, so if you will forgive me if I just summarize the findings. 

Typically, symptoms appear 5 days after infection. 

On the day you are infected, you are 100% certain to get a negative test. By day 5, the first day you show symptoms, the test is likely to be positive 62% of the time - 38% of the time you will return a false negative. 3 days after symptoms appear, the test is at its most reliable. 80% of the time you will get a true positive, 20% of the time you will get a false negative. After that, the performance of the test declines, meaning the number of false negatives goes up, until at day 21 after infection, it shows a false negative 66% of the time. 

Remember, these are averages, not absolute numbers.

 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Like most everything NYU & the management co. do, is not to benefit the rank and file essential works, on the contrary, they do what they do to cover there own rears. What I am more concerned about, is false positives . Are false positives a thing? I ask because then they would be messing with my rice and beans! 

Benito's picture
Benito

The specificity of the test is quite good so that if SARS-CoV-2 RNA is found then the person has had or has the virus. However, the RNA PCR cannot differentiate between live and actively infectious virus and inactive/“dead” viral particles. So early on in this pandemic we were doing “test of cures” swabbing people and waiting until two consecutive  swabs were negative to say they were no longer infectious. Now generally speaking that is no longer done because of the false positives as the person is still passing “dead” Virus particles for some time. Instead we say 14 days after onset of symptoms or if asymptomatic 14 days from PCR positive they are no longer infectious based on studies that showed that a majority of patients no longer had infectious virus after 10 days even if their symptoms went on much longer. 
So false positives can happen but mostly if you are doing testing after a known diagnosis of COVID-19 when using the test as a test of cure. If you are trying to diagnose COVID-19 then false positives aren’t at all common using RNA PCR via swab. 
I hope that helps. 
Benny

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Thanks! 

Benito's picture
Benito

Yes those figures fit with my understanding of the literature at the moment. of course this varies by the test kit’s sensitivity and specificity as well as each test kit will have their own properties that affect the results. But for current RNA PCR those are the current data.