The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Comparing Sourdough Fermentation Strategies

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Comparing Sourdough Fermentation Strategies

I thought it would be interesting to compare four different approaches to sourdough fermentation. I've baked four test loaves, each with 500 grams total flour (using a 50/50 blend of Heartland Mill Strong Bread Flour and Heartland Mill Golden Buffalo for a blended ash content around .85%), 72% overall hydration, and 2% salt. All loaves started with 18 grams 80% hydration white flour storage starter.

The difference in the loaves is in the fermentation method. In one loaf a direct inoculation of storage starter in the final dough (one-step method) was used. In the others a sourdough preferment was built and fermented for different amounts of time. The final loaf includes a spike of instant yeast.

Fermentation Methods Used

  1. Build final dough including 18 grams of starter, bulk ferment for 11.75 hours, final proof for 3 hours all at about 70F. (xls and html spreadsheets)
  2. Build a sourdough preferment constituting 35% of total flour and ferment until just doubled, about 8 hours at 70F. Soak remaining final dough ingredients overnight in the refrigerator. Mix preferment and soaker and bulk ferment for 3.75 hours at 70F then final proof for 4 hours at 70F. (xls and html spreadsheets)
  3. Build sourdough preferment same as in step 2 and ferment for 4 additional hours after it has doubled, about 12 hours at 70F. Proceed same as in step 2. (xls and html spreadsheets)
  4. Build sourdough preferment same as in step 3. Add 1/4 tsp yeast to soaker. Proceed same as in step 3. (xls and html spreadsheets)

The idea is to compare a long fermentation from an initial very small amount of starter to using a sourdough preferment that is immature (just doubled) or more mature (peaked). Finally, in the last one, the idea is to add in a spike of yeast to improve the rise in the case where a large, mature (35% of total flour and fermented until peaked) preferment is used.

In all cases, the final dough was shaped into a loaf when it had a little less than doubled during bulk fermentation.

Photos of the crust and the crumb from left to right:

Test Fermentations 1-4 From Left to Right - Crust

Test Fermentations 1-4 From Left to Right - Crumb

Comparison

Crust

I couldn't tell any real difference in the crusts. It's possible the first one was a touch darker than #2 even though both were baked at the same time. Maybe there was a little more enzyme action in it since the entire dough was hydrated at room temperature for about 14 hours.

Crumb

Although they are more similar than different, the crumb was slightly lighter going from 1-4.

For loaf #1, this may again be a function of the enzyme action, which may have in some way hindered the gluten development. Another explanation might be that I needed to fold #1 one or two more times earlier to improve the gluten development over the longer fermentation, as it did seem a little too relaxed at shaping time, relative to the other loaves.

For loaves 2-4, the more mature preferments did not hurt the gluten in this case. I believe the very strong flours contributed to the better results with the more mature preferments. The more mature preferments probably had a larger organism count than the preferment for loaf #2, as they weren't at the collapsing stage yet. So, with higher organism counts, higher fermentation byproducts, but very sourdough tolerant flour, the more mature preferments ended up with slightly larger loaves in the end.

The oven spring went in opposite order to the loaf volume, not surprisingly, which explains why the result after baking is not as different, but the overall loaf volume before baking was significantly larger for loaf #3 than loaves #1 or #2. In the case of loaf #4, the yeast clearly had a big effect on gas production before shaping. I did deflate it a little during shaping, of course. It again was significantly larger pre-bake than loaf #4, but after baking it was only a little bit larger. In summary, the loaf volume before baking increased significantly from loaf 1-4, but the oven spring, which was greater in 1 and much less in 4, offset much of the difference. Nonetheless loaf #4 had a noticeably lighter feeling in the mouth.

Flavor

All of the loaves were fairly mild in flavor. However, without a doubt, loaves #3 and #4 were more sour than loaves #1 and #2. Everyone who I had test the loaves was able to discern the more sour flavors in #3 and #4. There was some debate about the order of #1 versus #2 and #3 versus #4. My youngest son, William, noted a sweetness he seemed to like in loaf #1. I believe he may be detecting, once again, some effect of the enzyme action that was probably greater in that loaf, which soaked for so long at room temperature, and may have resulted in more starch broken down into sugars. My oldest son thought #2 was more sour than #1, which may be correct, given that it had a slightly longer total fermentation time. My son's girlfriend felt the order was 1,2,3,4 from least to most sour, but others had no opinion on #3 versus #4.

Comments

I believe the following are true, all other things, particularly the temperature and amount of enzyme action in the process, being equal.

The difference between #1 and #2 is minimal. You can do a one-step or two-step process timed for convenient stopping points, and the results will be nearly alike, provided that the preferment is not allowed to get very ripe. A two-step process where the preferment is allowed to ripen significantly more will have a more sour flavor.

The least sour result comes from a one-step process run from a very small initial amount of starter.

At some point, I would like to test out effect of temperature in a side by side comparison. I believe if you adjust the fermentation times so that the relative ripeness of the preferments is similar to the loaves above, that the results may not be very different from above. I suspect the slight favoring of lactobacillus versus yeast at temperatures around 65F will have a smaller effect on flavor than overall relative ripeness of preferments and final dough, but I don't know if that test will get done at my house any time soon.

Comments

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

egads.......you really should write a book on this stuff; you have done all the work.  The spread sheets are trully daunting.

When you said:

I suspect the slight favoring of lactobacillus versus yeast at temperatures around 65F will have a smaller effect on flavor than overall relative ripeness of preferments and final dough, but I don't know if that test will get done at my house any time soon

I think you hit a major point, for me at leat.  My house is hard to heat and my soughdough stays at about 65-69 degrees throughout the entire process-start to finish.  Maybe that is why I am not getting sufficient "sour." However, the sourdough acts as perfect leaven and I continue to get amazing oven pops with my whole wheat  Pointe-a-Calliere (Hamelmen) miches.

On a totally different point, I prefer the German style with no holes and smooth, so I have a tendency to make sure that I de-gass thoroughly in the folding process.  If the Germans can do it without holes I am hoping I too can get the sour without holes.

Again, congratulations to you on the wonderful job!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

CountryBoy,

Your room temperature of 65F should be an ideal temperature to get more sour out of your bread.  I'm just saying that you can boost the final amount of fermentation byproducts in your bread by doing a fairly large preferment and letting it get fairly mature, then adding that to a final dough. I'm also saying that it's the amount of fermentation byproducts you manage to get in the final dough that contributes sour flavor, so whether you do a one-step or two-step process, if you want sour, you need to get the various fermentations as long as possible without the loaf getting off flavors or collapsing because of overproofing.

I also think what weavershous said is interesting about letting your starter "weaken" in the refrigerator for a few days may help, believe it or not, though I don't do this myself. I saw her mention that in the other thread. The reason that may work is that yeast probably die off faster than lactobacillus in the refrigerator. If you make the preferment, as she mentions, from a starter that has been in the refrigerator for a few days, it may well be "unbalanced" in favor of lactobacillus. It's another interesting thought.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

CountryBoy,

Just commenting on the miche point-a-calliere, which I think you said you liked.

Hamelman specifies 12 hours at 70F for the fermentation of the levain. You could probably let it ferment for about a total of 15 hours at 67F.

If your bulk fermentation temperature is also 67F you could probably run the bulk fermentation for 5.5 to 6 hours, and a final proof of about 5-5.5 hours. I don't know how this compares with what you've actually done. If you've stuck closer to the suggested timing for the higher temperatures, that would result in a less sour bread, since everything will go much more slowly at 67 compared to his temperature of 76F for the bulk and final fermentations.

Here's a version of the same recipe with a larger levain (doubling the fermented flour percentage to 40%).

Levain:

  • 1 oz starter
  • 12 oz flour
  • 7 oz water

ferment for 16 hours at 67F.

Dough:

  • 19.25 oz flour
  • 18.5 oz water
  • 0.6 oz salt

Bulk ferment 3.75-4 hours, final proof 7-7.5 hours at 67F.

I haven't tried this variation, so I apologize if it doesn't work, but if you have strong flours that will tolerate the long rises and high acid levels, it should result in bread - how sour, hard to say. It may end up more dense than you want, depending on how ripe the levain is allowed to get and how far you push the final proof. You can take a step back if so, by reducing the fermentation times so the levain is less ripe and the final loaf less proofed. You can also try adding 1/2 tsp yeast to the final dough and see what that does for you.

Basically, it's not easy, especially if you happen to have a naturally mild starter, to make sour bread that also has good texture, since you're always going to be trading off the amount you allow the fermentation byproducts to build up to make it sour against the effects of those fermentation byproducts on the texture and rise.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can reduce the size of the levain to very small, about 2.5% fermented flour.

Final Dough:

  • 1.3 oz starter
  • 31 oz flour
  • 26 oz water
  • 0.6 oz salt

Bulk ferment at 67F for 13.5 hours, final proof for 5 hours at 67F.

For me, it seemed like the result was more sour doing the version with 40% fermented flour. Maybe you can do a longer proof on the one with 2.5% fermented flour and get a more sour result, but I don't think I could have done all that much longer of a final proof in "loaf #1" above without it just getting way overproofed.

Bill

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Bill..You are Awesome, and I am most grateful for your patient walk through of the process.

Just for record, I thought you might be interested in what other people have said on the topic:


Leader, Local Breads, p.272.
..not a stiff dough starter like the French levain.  Liquid starter become sour more quickly he replied.
======
Hamelman, Bread, p.149
..looser doughs tend to ferment better, have better volume, and better flavor.
======
Beranbaum, The Bread Bible, p.434.
I prefer a stiff starter, but this is strictly a matter of personal preference.  According to some theories, the yeast in the sourdough starter develops faster in liquid starter than in a stiff starter, but from my observation, it's neck and neck: a stiff starter rises faster and deflates more slowly.

Many bakers, including me, feel that a stiff starter produces a less sour flavor than one with a liquid consisteny, but others ...disagree, arguing that a stiff culture tends to develop more acetic acid..Some compromise by maintaining a lquid starter, converting it into a stiff starter as necessary the day before mixing the dough.
=====

However, I will continue to study your blog and answers here and see what I can do to progress.

Many thanks again.

CountryBoy

 


 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

CountryBoy,

Thanks for the sampling of quotes above. The comments show how bits and pieces of information can all be correct in context, yet each situation is so complex and there are all kinds of exceptions, caveats, and additional details to consider in each situation. I liked what MiniO said about that in the other thread.

It is true that wet doughs become sour and rise more quickly than stiff doughs for a few reasons, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be more sour tasting at the end of the fermentation or that bread made from them will be more sour. You should be able to run a longer fermentation that will build up more acid content and flavor in a stiff dough, at least some theories that sound reasonable to me suggest that's the case.

I don't think that a stiff or wet storage starter will make much more than a subtle difference most of the time, though. It's in the fermentation of the dough itself that most of the sour flavor development will occur. So, you can use a stiff or wet storage starter and still get very sour or very mild bread, depending on the strategies used to ferment the dough.

The deterioration of the gluten is more pronounced in wet doughs. If you want to run a longer fermentation without having the dough "go to rags", it helps a lot to start with a firmer dough. An interesting thing is that after a longer fermentation, the effects on the gluten will make the dough seem slack and wet, almost as if you had added water to it. If you get the timing right, you can end up with a long fermentation and a more open structure more like a shorter fermentation would have with a wetter dough.

Hamelman does seem to favor wetter doughs. "Better flavor" is a subjective assessment, though. I suspect that those who want noticeably more intense sour flavors won't get what they want following the style I've seen in most of his recipes. I do happen to favor milder breads, as I've mentioned, and I follow Hamelman's advice in many of my favorite breads.

Nonetheless, I'm going to try a couple of the strategies that are supposed to result in the extra-sour SF sourdough flavors. At the moment I'm trying a heavily fermented strategy with a very stiff dough, something like the SF sourdough bread recipe on Samartha's web site. Hopefully, it won't go to rags, and I'll have some sour bread. If so, I'll blog it.

The Berenbaum comments are interesting, too. I think you have to distinguish between starter maintenance strategies and flavors and the flavor that ends up in the bread. I guess I'm harping here again, but I strongly believe that the starter itself has much less effect on the final bread flavor than the fermentation strategy for the preferments and final dough.

Yes, it should be true that a liquid starter fed at low ratios will favor the yeast population, while a firm starter fed at higher ratios will favor the lactobacillus population. A high feeding ratio and firm consistency will raise and buffer the pH, so that the culture spends longer at pH levels where the Lactobacillus can thrive. The Lactobacillus generally grows a little faster at all but exactly 76F, but its growth is highly attenuated at lower pH levels. Later in the cycle, when the pH has dropped down around 3.8, the yeast can still grow for a while and catch up. With a wetter starter maintained at a low feeding ratio, the pH is never very high and so the Lactobacillus will tend to be attenuated for all but a short period just after the culture is fed. In fact, Ganzle suggests that a more acid tolerant Lactobacillus will take over a culture that is maintained at a very low pH for a long time.

I think this may also explain the experience weavershouse mentioned where her starter used out of the refrigerator produces more sour breads. When you store in the refrigerator, the yeast supposedly die off more quickly than the Lactobacillus, especially if the culture is stored with a higher level of acid, i.e. after it has risen for a while. If this is true, then the culture could be heavily balanced in favor of Lactobacillus when it comes out of the refrigerator. If used that way, it could produce a similar effect to using a very stiff dough at low temperatures around 65F or very high temperatures like 85F, often suggested as temperatures to increase the sour flavors because the Lactobacillus grow significantly faster than the yeast does at those temperatures.

However, assuming the maintenance strategy only changes the balance of organisms moderately, which is probably true for feeding ratios from about 1:2:2 to 1:6:10, then maybe the Lactobacillus is more favored or less favored, but overall I'm going to stick my neck out and say that the fermentation strategy is probably as big or bigger of an effect on the balance of organisms and eventual concentration of the various acids and other products of the fermentation. Therefore, whether you use a firm or liquid starter, you can still produce sour or mild breads, depending on the details of the recipe and rise times and temperatures.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

I will certainly proceed with increased attention to the fermentation part of the equation and what you have said as my signposts.  Actually I copy your emails to a Word document for further study, so, I hope you give me time to get back to you on this with followup questions.......

In the meantime a question if I might re the quality of the crumb of my miche and my attempts to make it a bit lighter.  In the Hamelman recipe it calls for 2 1/4 cups of water in the dough and what I did recently in my last iteration 2 days ago was to use 2 cups of milk instead of the water.  It did lighten it up a little but not significantly.  So, I am thinking of trying All Purpose flour instead of the small amount of Bread flour (15%) that they recommend.  Is that ok?

Or is there something out there that would be more efficient in lightening up the crumb?

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow, 

Things like milk, potato flour, and olive oil will soften the crumb or make it seem a little more moist, but they won't really make it lighter. In fact, I'd say they will make the hole structure more regular and smaller.

Probably the most effective thing to lighten the loaf would be to increase the white bread flour percentage in the formula. It's not easy to get a light 100% whole wheat crumb, although after understanding some of JMonkey's methods, particularly soaking the whole wheat flour, I get much better whole wheat results than before.

Hamelman's description of the flour is that it has a .92% ash content and has some of the bran and most of the germ removed and looks like a light whole wheat in the bag. I have a hard time reconciling that with .92% ash content, which seems to imply a significant reduction in the bran content. So, I'm admittedly confused by his suggestion to use 85% whole wheat and 15% bread flour, given he says he used a flour with 0.92% ash content.

White flour has an ash content of about .5%, and whole wheat flour has an ash content up around 1.5%. To get .92% ash content, you could do a blend around 45/55 of whole wheat/white flour. Just for fun, I would try the recipe with a 50/50 blend of white and whole wheat. You may need to reduce the water a little to get the same consistency, as whole wheat generally will absorb more water than white flour. You could probably reduce the water by about 5-10% with a 50/50 blend, compared to a mostly whole wheat blend, and still have the same dough feel.

I don't know if you've tried soaking the whole wheat flour overnight or at least for a number of hours, but that seems to always do wonders for whole wheat in my experience. To make it simple, I just mix all the remaining dough ingredients other than what is in the levain the night before and leave it in the refrigerator. It's possible for a long soak to cause problems with too much enzyme activity, but I've had no problem doing it that way. My whole wheat flour has no diastatic malt, which could cause a difference, but I think it would be OK to do it even with malted flour. You could also try only soaking the whole wheat flour, salted in the refrigerator, then autolyse the white flour and mix everything together and proceed.

If you are trying to keep the percentage of whole wheat high in your recipe, then the 50/50 blend idea may not appeal to you. In that case, I would definitely try to overnight soak of the whole wheat flour. Beyond that, maybe reading some of JMonkey's posts, particularly the one about 100% whole grain bread could be really helpful. It was after following along with his whole wheat posts that I started to have better luck with my whole wheat recipes.

I understand it's a lot easier for me to write a bunch of ideas of things to try than for you to actually carry them out. I'd be curious to hear what you try and how it goes, but I won't be offended whatsoever if it takes a long time or you just decide not to try these ideas.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Bill, I am so very grateful for your patient and comprehensive hand holding on this.  I believe it has made for a major qualitative shift in how I do All my bread baking. And it would not have been possible in a classroom to understand all the material that you so carefully explain in print.  It would have run by me way to quickly.

I will do just as you suggest with:

  1. The 50/50% whole wheat flour mix with white. 
    1. Major question:May I assume that the white is All Purpose and not Bread Flour???
  2. And then whole wheat soaker.

Then I will report back on my results.

From my studying of your directions I am beginning to think that the books (Reinhart, Hamelman, Beranbaum, Leader, Clayton) leave many very large gaps in their directions as to how to bake bread.  It is as if they tell you generally, but then you are the one who actually links it together in a meaningful progression of the baking process..........or so it seems to me.

Most gratefully,

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

You're welcome. I find these questions interesting. Every time I try to work through one, I end up learning something new.

I would use a high protein flour for both the white and whole wheat portions first. Once you have a recipe that seems to work, you could see how you like the texture with lower protein flours for either the white or the whole wheat portion. It should be easier to get an open crumb and lighter sourdough loaf with higher protein flour.

There are a lot of different AP flours. If you use Wheat Montana AP or KA AP, the protein content is high enough that it won't make all that much difference. However, a few AP flours are really low in protein, so they might not work very well for a sourdough hearth bread. The amount of water needed will be different - probably lower - with AP flour. Generally, the lower the protein the less water is needed to get the same consistency.

By the way, I did a test loaf with the following process:

Levain:

  • 37g firm starter
  • 37g white bread flour
  • 37g Golden Buffalo flour (high extraction, 1.1% ash content)
  • 37g water

ferment for 7 hours at 81F.

Dough:

  • Levain above
  • 406g white bread flour
  • 406g Golden Buffalo
  • 18g salt
  • 492g water

Bulk ferment for 7 hours at 81F, fold at the end. Form two loaves and final proof for 7.5 hours at 82F.

This produced a very sour loaf that was a little dense and didn't spring much in the oven. It was clearly "very proofed", though it didn't "go to rags" and was not hard to slash. The loaf held its shape well, since it was so stiff, only about 60% hydration, which is very stiff when you consider the Golden Buffalo flour absorbs a lot of water. the dough was about the same as bagel dough.

So, I was able to make a very sour loaf with a very stiff dough that was fermented at fairly warm temperatures for a lot longer than I normally would at that temperature. If I had used a higher hydration, I could not have let it ferment anywhere near as long and not have it turn to mush.

I don't know if this is the kind of sour flavor you want, but it's one way to get a definite sour flavor. By increasing the hydration a little and decreasing the fermentation time a little, I think this loaf would have a more moderate but very noticeable sour flavor and a more open crumb. At the moment, I'm trying a higher hydration and may shorten the proof a little.

The other thing I want to try is a stiff dough at a lower temperature. However, it will take a very long time to do that loaf. I calculated it could take 3 days to complete if I do all the fermentation at around 60F, which is the temperature I have in my garage, as long as the outside temperatures stay below about 50F around here. So far, so good.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

As mentioned before I am going to study everything you have written and then give it another go next week.

However, I have a question on a major point, that again is not clarified in The Books we all read.  When you say it is:

"easier to get an open crumb and lighter sourdough loaf with higher protein flour"

I am confused with your use of bread flour, which is what I have been using.  Bread flour is what people here have told me is used for bagels, etc and not for artisan bread. I use strictly King Arthur: AP, whole wheat, rye, and bread flour in my bread baking.  You say you are using bread flour. I have all types on my shelf at this time and am tempted to go with King Arthur AP this time around since you suggest it should have sufficient protein to do the job.  Is that ok?

I realize all these questions sound totally trivial and endless, but I am finding that it is this type of information that makes for successes and failures in my bread and yet which are not covered in The Books......

Thanks as always,

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

I still don't have the greatest sense of the exact differences among different levels of protein and "quality" of protein and so on, and I've played a lot with flour, including even making my own from various wheat berries of differing protein levels.

I suggest staying high in protein with the Point-a-Calliere recipe because you are working with a large proportion of whole wheat flour. The bran in the whole wheat will interfere with gluten development at least to some extent. With a fairly wet dough, as this is, you may find it works better. KA AP is reasonably high in protein and should work well in this recipe, too. However, my first try would be with white bread flour, if you have that available.

By fine tuning the hydration and the handling, you can get flours with different characteristics to work in the same basic recipe. For example, if you have high protein flour, you might discover the dough is a bit stiff at a certain hydration, but if you raise the hydration it becomes more extensible. You may find that AP flour creates very large holes at a certain hydration level and requires many folds to develop, but the same basic bread characteristics will result from a higher protein bread if you add water to make the dough more slack and probably fold or knead somewhat less for the same gluten development.

I feel like I'm not helping so much on this issue. I guess the main point is that there are qualitative differences in flours that are hard to describe, and some of the pat answers on the subject aren't as simple as they sound, given that small adjustments of the recipe, particularly hydration, and then small adjustments to handling, can make different flours seem more similar than they would if you strictly follow the same recipe.

My leaning toward the higher protein flour comes from the fact I think you want eventually to get a more sour bread and you are using a higher amount of whole wheat. So, you'll want to run longer fermentations, where you need flour that is more tolerant of a long sourdough rise that is going to hurt the gluten quality. However, you could surely make a very good and at least somewheat sour bread with KA AP and whole wheat using a slighlty lower hydration and a somewhat longer, cool rise.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Many thanks for your clarifications on this most appreciated.

 Will definitely report back with my results next week although I can assure you they will not be nearly as scientific as yours.

Barlow

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Are you on the Inca Trail yet?

Just to let you know how things turned out:

  1. Bottom line: I would say my results are about 5 out of 10; not so good.
  2. The sourdough that I had to start with to put in the levain was the best I have ever seen.
  3. I combined the levain and allowed it to rest for 14 hours.
  4. Also soaked the WW flour overnight as well.
  5. I made a double recipe but only got 2 quite small loaves that rose only partially.
  6. The bulk fermentation was 7:30am to 12:30pm and then a proof of 1 hour hour.  (Yes I know that is shorter than you directed but I lack confidence for longer bulk fermentations...)
  7. The crust and color are excellent; never better.

A major problem during the process was in the temperature control.  The house was cold and so I tried to mitigate same by warming the oven up and turning it off in hopes of having the fermentation go at about 75-80 degrees average.  For some reason there was relatively little rising during the whole fermentation and proofing process although the leavain was totally excellent....??? 

I am a process person, which means I focus on the process in the hopes that the product will eventually come.  The problem I have with my current process is that if one soaks the WW flour one has in effect added water to the dough that is difficult to quantify.  One is then in a difficult position of guessing how much flour to add when going with the final mix.  I know it should be loose and fluid but one doesn't want it too fluid or dry.  It is hard for me to approximate for a novice like myself.

In summary, many thanks for your magnificent patience.  Since I have a back up of so many loaves in my freezer I am going to have to start eating some before I can bake any more.

Hope all goes well with your trip, and of course

Thank you,

Barlow

 

 

 

 

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Are you on the Inca Trail yet?

Just to let you know how things turned out:

  1. Bottom line: I would say my results are about 5 out of 10; not so good.
  2. The sourdough that I had to start with to put in the levain was the best I have ever seen.
  3. I combined the levain and allowed it to rest for 14 hours.
  4. Also soaked the WW flour overnight as well.
  5. I made a double recipe but only got 2 quite small loaves that rose only partially.
  6. The bulk fermentation was 7:30am to 12:30pm and then a proof of 1 hour hour.  (Yes I know that is shorter than you directed but I lack confidence for longer bulk fermentations...)
  7. The crust and color are excellent; never better.

A major problem during the process was in the temperature control.  The house was cold and so I tried to mitigate same by warming the oven up and turning it off and letting it cool down about 3 minutes and then putting the dough in in hopes of having the fermentation go at about 75-80 degrees average.  For some reason there was relatively little rising during the whole fermentation and proofing process although the levain was totally excellent at the outset....??? 

I am a process person, which means I focus on the process in the hopes that the product will eventually come.  The problem I have with my current process is that if one soaks the WW flour one has in effect added water to the dough that is difficult to quantify.  One is then in a difficult position of guessing how much flour and water to add when going with the final mix.  I know it should be loose and fluid but one doesn't want it too fluid or dry.  It is hard for me to approximate for a novice like myself.

In summary, many thanks for your magnificent patience.  Since I have a back up of so many loaves in my freezer I am going to have to start eating some before I can bake any more.

Hope all goes well with your trip, and of course

Thank you,

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

First, a comment on soaking the WW. Any water you add to the WW counts in the total water in the dough. You should always still use the same total amount of water and flour (and salt) in the dough. Just weigh out all the ingredients and use only those amounts in total.

Thanks for the update. I'm sorry what you did wasn't a success. However, it was very far from following the recipe I described above in timing, temperature, and hydration. Although starters certainly vary, the differences aren't all that huge in most cases. You should be able to precisely follow the recipe the first time to get a feel for it, then adjust incrementally to account for individual differences in you starter, the water absorption of your flour and so on. Fairly quickly, you can develop a feel for the way the dough should be, the aromas, the amount of rise and all that, but I think it will help a lot to establish a baseline by following the recipe very closely.

If I could encourage you to try this, one of these days - if you want to try it again, try doing the recipe very mechanically "by the book" with scale and clock. If you have some variations in room temperature, I'll give you a table of rise times for the levain, bulk fermentation, and final proof for several temperatures from 60F to 80F (shown below). I'm encouraging you to precisely measure out the water, flour, and salt, exactly as specified for each step and to  just throw caution to the wind and follow the timing specified, long as it seems. It reminds me of Zolablue insisting that I precisely carry out the Thom Leonard CF recipe without any variation or susanfnp encouraging the same with the VT sourdough. It was incredibly useful to buckle down and do that, even though I have enough experience to mess with things on the fly and often can't resist. In the case of the soaker, you could literally measure out and mix together all the ingredients for the dough other than the levain when you mix the levain, and place the mixed dough ingredients in the refrigerator overnight, then remove the mixed up dough remaining ingredients a couple of hours early to allow it to warm up before mixing it with the levain.

The physical signs along the way should be as follows. The levain should rise by at least double, maybe quite a bit more than double, depending on just how dry it is. It doesn't really matter too much, though. Just let it rise for the amount of time needed at the temperature specified in the table below. The dough should rise by more than double, if it weren't folded. However, since it is being folded it will most likely be less than doubled after the bulk fermentation, depending on how much you deflate along the way while folding it. Again, it doesn't matter that much. It should be puffy and show a good amount of rise by the time specified in the table below for the bulk fermentation at the temperature it is fermenting. The final proof should show a clear rise hopefully by double or more than double. Again, if you precisely measured out KA WW and KA Bread (I know these flours) flours and water, it will be a reasonably stiff dough and shouldn't fall apart in the times specified below for the final proof, though it will be more proofed than you are used to. However, really let it rise and get good and puffy.

As far as not seeing much activity with the timing above, the problem is that sourdough cultures and yeast both grow exponentially during most of the cycle. It's only in the last couple of hours that the major activity will be seen in the bulk fermentation or the final proof, the way things normally work. Even if you managed to bring the temperature up over 75F by putting it in the warm oven, it would still take at least a few hours for the dough in this recipe to show any activity at all. The final proof is way too short at only 1 hour. There isn't enough time to generate the gas needed to get it to rise. Even if the whole thing went at 77F, the proof should run 2.5 hours at least to get a good rise. Also, it just won't get sour if you don't let it fully ferment, as described. I would encourage you not to use the oven to warm it up. Try to do this all at slowly varying temperatures of the room, so you have something easy to monitor, whether very cool or very warm. More sour should happen at cool temperatures anyway, even if it takes a lot longer.

How cold was the house, by the way? Just curious what variation of temperatures you're dealing with.

Here's a list of rise times vs. temperature you could use as a guideline to adjust your timing in the recipe I mentioned above:

  • 60F
    • levain: 30 hours
    • bulk: 21 hours
    • final proof: 16 hours
  •  65F
    • levain: 19 hours
    • bulk: 13.75 hours
    • final proof: 10.5 hours
  •  70F
    • levain: 13 hours
    • bulk: 9.5 hours
    • final proof: 7.25 hours
  •  75F
    • levain: 9.5 hours
    • bulk: 7 hours
    • final proof: 5.25 hours
  •  80F
    • levain: 8 hours
    • bulk: 5.75 hours
    • final proof: 4.25 hours

You can pick and choose from the table as your temperatures change. If you think the levain fermented overnight at 60F, use the 60F entry. If after that, it warmed up during the bulk fermention to average 70F, use the 70F entry for the bulk fermentation time, and so on. Also, you can interpolate, e.g. if the bulk fermentation averaged 72.5F, then let it rise for a time halfway between the 70F entry and the 75F entry.

I guess it's also important to note that the rise times above only apply to recipe mentioned with it's particular levain size, salt, and hydrations.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Bill, you are of course absolutely correct in your comments. However, since the house was at about 65 degrees I felt it a major obstacle.  Then on top of that I had not figured and did not know that

Any water you add to the WW counts in the total water in the dough. You should always still use the same total amount of water and flour (and salt) in the dough. Just weigh out all the ingredients and use only those amounts in total.

I think that those two problems at the outset probably were difficult. I do apologize for letting you down however I think the ignorance was a strong component in the break down of my process.

You are a fine teacher; I just have to learn faster as a student.

I do however remain most grateful and will take up my efforts once I empty out my freezer a bit.

Many thanks,

Barlow

PS: And have a wonder ful and safe Trip.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

Please don't apologize. I've learned a great deal trying out these various test recipes, thinking about all the factors, and having my family and friends taste and rank the sourness and describe the flavors in them. Your questions and our discussion about what might make bread turn out more sour focused and motivated all that. It's not at all the case you've let me down. I'm honored that you would give all this a try and be so patient with it yourself.

I see your fluctuations in room temperature may create some uncertainty for your bread recipes, but I hope the list of rise times for various temperatures may help, if your freezer begins to run out and you don't mind risking another attempt at this bread recipe. I'll understand if you've had enough of this experimentation for a very long time, though.

One other useful and interesting thing would be to measure the rising speed of your starter. If you have a chance and don't mind someday if you get the inclination, I'd be interested if you could run the following test.

Take 20 grams of active starter, mix with 80 grams of water and 100 grams of white bread flour. Stir into a paste and note the time it takes to double in volume. Ideally, use a cylindrical jar, so it is clear when it has just doubled in volume. Measure and note the temperature of the starter while it is rising. Also, what is the approximate hydration of your starter? Do you use a 100% hydration starter, liquid starter, or firm starter? The rise time to expect will be a little different depending on the type of starter.

I would just like to check that your starter rises at a speed that would be reasonble for the estimates I've suggested for the recipe above to work right. If your starter is exceptionally different in rising speed from mine, then I could suggest some adjustments to the timing of that recipe above to match the speed of your starter.

Bill

 

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 

Just a followup question.....  in the recipe you tried as noted below, could you tell me how many times you degassed/folded during the "ferment for 7 hours at 81F"   and then "final proof for 7.5 hours at 82F".  Hamelman / Reinhart advise that it is necessary to do so once every 1 1/4 hours.  Is that what you did?

........................

"By the way, I did a test loaf with the following process:

Levain:

  • 37g firm starter
  • 37g white bread flour
  • 37g Golden Buffalo flour (high extraction, 1.1% ash content)
  • 37g water

ferment for 7 hours at 81F.

Dough:

  • Levain above
  • 406g white bread flour
  • 406g Golden Buffalo
  • 18g salt
  • 492g water

Bulk ferment for 7 hours at 81F, fold at the end. Form two loaves and final proof for 7.5 hours at 82F.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

No, I only folded it once fairly late in the bulk fermentation. I was doing it mainly to test the flavor, so I didn't work very hard at kneading, and I only folded it once shortly before shaping. I realize that I overdid the stiffness just trying to implement an extremely stiff and long fermentation. It was so stiff that there was no extensibility, and the gas retention probably wasn't so great either, since even my gentle shaping deflated it to a tiny loaf after shaping. It made OK bread anyway. It was a little dense, but not bad. My wife seemed to actually like it, although I felt it was way too sour.

I think the version I am doing right now will be much better, unless it collapses. I used 66% hydration, which is still fairly stiff with the Golden Buffalo flour in it. However, it is rising much more vigorously. The gluten structure was very reasonable, and it loosened up and was foldable after a few hours of bulk fermentation. I folded it three times, about once every 1.5 to 2 hours, whenever it seemed to be relaxing in the rising bucket. It is almost done with the final proof, and the volume is far larger than the previous very stiff version. I'm giving it a little less final proof, maybe only 5.5 hours. It is still a far longer rise than I would normally do. With a wetter loaf, it would probably have collapsed or at least been extremely difficult to shape and handle. I probably would have been doing something more like a no-knead type of handling to make it work, rather than forming loaves and raising in a couche, as these are. I'll let you know how this one goes. If it is also a lot more sour but with better volume and texture, then maybe it is something worth trying.

I still have the very, very long three day cool version to try in my garage. I don't know when that will get done, if ever, but it's on the list.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

After that one mentioned above, I did the following:

Levain:

  • 37g firm storage starter
  • 58g Golden Buffalo flour
  • 58g white bread flour
  • 58g water

Ferment for 8 hours at 79F. The levain contributes 15% fermented flour to the dough and is very firm.

Soaker made of remaining dough ingredients:

  • 386g Golden Buffalo flour
  • 386g white bread flour
  • 524g water
  • 18g salt
  • 9g malt syrup

Mix at same time as levain and refrigerate while levain above is fermenting.

Mix soaker and levain above to make the dough. I do this by spreading the soaker out like a big pizza on the counter and break the levain into little pieces. Mash the little pieces all over the dough with your slightly wetted palms, twisting the pieces into the dough. Roll it all up and let it rest. Then spread it out and mash it and roll it up. Then knead it a little. This is all a fairly brief process - not a lot of work should have to be done.

This dough is a little more hydrated than the previous very stiff one, but it is still a fairly firm dry dough at 66% hydration with high protein flours, including Golden Buffalo, which absorbs a lot of water, about as much water as a whole wheat flour.

Ferment the dough at 81F for 8 hours. Actually, since the soaker was in the refrigerator, what really happened temperature-wise was that this dough rose from an initial temperature of 62F up to 82F, sitting in a cabinet above my my coffee machine over the course of 8 hours. The temperature was 67F after 1 hour, 72F after 2.5 hours, 77F after 4 hours, 80F after 6 hours, and 82F after 8 hours.

During the bulk ferment, I folded the dough three times - after 1 hour, 4 hours, and 6 hours. I folded when the dough when it looked kind of flat and relaxed.

I shaped the loaves, which deflated less than the first version. The loaves were very easy to form, even though the dough had become fairly puffy and had risen by well more than double. The gluten seemed much, much better with that little bit of additional water and the additional kneading and folding.

The final proof was done at about 82F above the coffee machine for 5.5 hours. I think they proofed about as long as I dared.

I baked at about 475F for 30 minutes. The loaves baked to a darker color than the previous version, probably due to a combination of the malt syrup, the shorter fermentation, and the soaking of the remaining dough ingredients.

The crumb was much lighter, softer, and more moist and the loaves more voluminous than the first version. However, it was still a touch dense compared to the loaves in this blog entry pictured above that were clearly much less fermented and had bigger volume and oven spring than this version. However, this version was still very noticeably sour, although not so much as the very sour dense one done just previously.

So, the basic difference here compared to the typical mild loaf I usually make that would have a lot of similarities to the Miche Point-a-Calliere recipe is: 1) firmer preferment with longer fermentation time, 2) stiffer dough with longer bulk fermentation and final proof. 3) some fermentation time at cool temperatures, some at fairly warm temperatures, but not much time spent at 76F (lower and higher temperatures favor Lactobacillus growth over yeast growth.

If you thought this recipe was still too sour, you could reduce the fermentation times, which should improve the volume of the loaves and darken the color, as well as make the loaves milder.

Bill

 

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 Congratulations on the great work.  It sounds as if you are really able to clinically quantify and differentiate your results.  Most impressive.

In your discription you describe:

Ferment the dough at 81F for 8 hours. Actually, since the soaker was in the refrigerator, what really happened temperature-wise was that this dough rose from an initial temperature of 62F up to 82F, sitting in a cabinet above my my coffee machine over the course of 8 hours. The temperature was 67F after 1 hour, 72F after 2.5 hours, 77F after 4 hours, 80F after 6 hours, and 82F after 8 hours.

During the bulk ferment, I folded the dough three times - after 1 hour, 4 hours, and 6 hours. I folded when the dough when it looked kind of flat and relaxed.

My problem is that as a novice of one year, at this time I don't have the confidence to go the long times on the bulk fermentation that you do.  I can do

  •  the levain for 4 hrs and then put it in the fridge overnight and then
  • mix with the dough and then go for a bulk ferment of 3-4 hours but I really lack the know how and confidence to go longer than that.  If I try longer I am sure that the dough will just stop rising or collapse or something.  I don't have the years of experience that you do.
    • Maybe I could do the levain-allow 4-5 hours at ambiant temps-69 degrees- and then frdige it over night
    • Then next day do the levain, dough, and ferment for 2 hours
    • Then put it in the fridge 3-4 hours
    • Then take it out and let it warm up for a couple of hours and bake it.
    • What do you say to that?

I happen to be a 66 yr old retiree who for some reason -yet to be determined?- got into this bread baking line of things a year ago, and for some strange reason continue to think that this should be more simple than I am finding it.  I spent many years in computers and they could get difficult but there are aspects to bread that seem to be both difficult and allusive at the same time. 

Congratulations again on the fine work.

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

I would try the recipe I posted above, but change the timing to reflect your temperature of 69F, as follows. I've made the timing more conservative, so it will be less likely to collapse, but the timing is still plenty long enough and ought to give you some sour flavor. The temperature of 69F ought to be pretty good for developing sour flavors. 

Also, you could probably just substitute whole wheat flour for the Golden Buffalo and KA bread flour for my white bread flour in the recipe. If you want it to be closer to what I did, you would keep the total flour amounts the same but use something like a 35/65 ratio of (whole wheat)/(white bread flour). The Golden Buffalo is "high extraction flour" that is similar to a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and white flour. However, the recipe should work fine with a simple subsitution of whole wheat for the Golden Buffalo flour. It'll just be a little darker and whole wheaty than mine came out.

Ferment the Levain at 69F for 14 hours. It should more than double. It's OK if it peaks. At 69F with such a firm dough, I don't think it will peak, though. It probably will just rise by something more than double and that's it. It's so stiff that it can't ferment all that quickly, especially at only 69F.

Do a bulk fermentation for 11 hours at 69F. If possible, fold it a few times, whenever it's convenient. Don't worry a lot about when you fold. If it seems really sloppy and slack, fold it more. If it seems very stiff and resists any stretching or folding, just fold in half once and put it back in the rising container.

Try a final proof of about 7 hours at 69F. I think it will be fine, as this amount of time at 69F with a fairly stiff dough should hold its shape and be kind of dry. It shouldn't have too many problems with sticking to a couche or mold. Remember to flour the loaf itself, not just the couche. It really helps to dust flour on the loaf itself and rub it over the loaf to even it out. This will keep it from sticking during the long sit in the couche. The loaf probably won't have a lot of oven spring, so a simple, fairly shallow slash should be enough.

I don't think you'll have any trouble with handling or collapsing, as long as the temperatures really are down around 69F. Things will ferment far more slowly a 69F than at 81F, as I was doing it. Remember that this recipe has way lower in hydration, which will make all the handling issues easier. The dough will get a little puffy from the long fermentations and may seem surprisingly puffy and soft at shaping time and at slashing time, given how stiff it felt when you first mixed it. However, it should be very manageable, especially at the lower temperatures.

I think the timings above should work OK and not be as aggressive as what I did. That should mean a lighter crumb and a still sour flavor but not as extreme as what I did in the first try or even the second. I have to say though, the flavor was sour but definitely reasonable on this last try. I had some of that bread this morning, and it had a strong but good flavor.

Bill

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

I am sure that you are absolutely right in what you say and your concept. My problem is in my being able to execute properly and lack of confidence.

When you say  "Try a final proof of about 7 hours at 69F."  I will try it but my sense is that the dough will be very tired after the first 2 hours. 

Your suggested ratio of..."35/65 ratio of (whole wheat)/(white bread flour)" suggests that it will increase the odds of it being able to continue to rise...... so hopefully I can pull it off.

I will start it all on Sunday with the levain and we will see....

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

Well, I hope it works. Sometimes I get myself in trouble and suggest things that don't work because of some unimagined difference in the details between my process and another's. Later, it becomes clear. I do think this should work, though. I did make this recipe yesterday myself. The temperature and the change to WW from Golden Buffalo may have some unexpected effect, but hopefully it wouldn't be that much. I'm fairly sure of the timing adjustments should work for 69F vs. 81F. I do a lot of those calculations because of the difference between summer and winter temps in my kitchen.

You should see things are OK as you do it. For example, you won't see some drastic rise in the levain and it's texture should still be fairly dough-like, although maybe soft and puffy. The same should happen with the dough during bulk fermentation. It should rise by more than double but not go completely crazy by the time you are ready to shape. The final proof is maybe a little trickier. However, when I did this yesterday, the loaves did begin to show signs of overproofing with the "poke test" at the end, but that only happened at the end. Basically, let it get fairly proofed, which you can do with the stiffer dough, but don't let it go to the stage of collapsing. The dough I did last night took slashes without any trouble, though it didn't have much oven spring, but it had a little oven spring. You shouldn't get even that far with the timing I'm suggesting.

Continuing on this whole issue of the seemingly very long timing, there really is a big difference between 69F and 81F or even 76F, and it seems surprising unless you look at the growth rate curves vs. temperature for sourdough Lactobacillus bacteria and yeast. Also, this recipe is far drier than the miche point-a-calliere. That means it needs to ferment longer even to rise properly at all, which is good, since you want a longer rise to develop the sour flavors. Even with the more conservative but still long rise I'm suggesting, it won't have the open crumb or much oven spring compared to the point-a-calliere recipe, but the texture was pleasing in its own way on this last one, and the stronger flavor was very noticeable but not as over-the-top as that first extreme version I did.

For the miche point-a-calliere at 69F, the temperatures to replicate the somewhat short fermentation times Hamelman suggests would be something like 4.75 hours bulk ferment and 3.75 hours final proof. The rise times I'm suggesting for 69F in this paragraph should result in about the same amount of fermentation as the recipe timing at 76F in Hamelman's book. The suggestions I gave you earlier for a temperature of 67F were a little longer, trying to let the recipe flavors develop a little bit longer, as well as account for 2 less degrees of temperature, but hopefully without overproofing. So, the mix-to-bake time at 69F for the miche point-a-calliere is 8.5 hours, but the corresponding mix-to-bake time to get similar levels of total fermentation at 76F is maybe only 5.5 hours. You can see that there is a dramatic difference. I know the differences are real, since I've made breads at widely different temperatures and kept notes on these timing differences.

I built a rise time table in another blog entry, if you want to check that out sometime. It tries to give and idea of rise times for various temperatures and for various "inoculation percentages", where inoculation percentage is just the ratio of fermented flour contributed by a levain to the total flour in the final dough. There are two tables, one for 2% salt, one for no salt, so you can figure out levains and doughs.

I'll be very curious to hear what happens. Remember that small variations in temperature will change the timing one way or the other. Also if the dough is way too dry because of the whole wheat, you could add 1/2 ounce of water or so. However, it should work fairly well with somewhere between 525 and 550 grams of water with KA bread flour and WW flour, at least I think so. I've used KA flours a lot in the past. They have excellent products.

One last comment to put this in perspective. For the recipe I'm suggesting, the shortest timing that might make sense at 69F would probably be about 12 hours mix-to-bake, 8 hours bulk fermentation and 4 hours proof. I think anything less would be way underproofed, given the low temperature and the drier dough. If not folded, it should only just double in something like 8 hours. It should not be at all overproofed with 4 hours of final proof at 69F.

Bill

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Thanks for answering also the question re access to blogs.  I put it up on the general board because I am embarassed by how much I have bothered you already and I was hoping someone else could answer the question without imposing on you yet again.

So, here I am with all the info you have given me and now it is up to me to do.  Lift off time is some time sunday afternoon.  Then working on it monday-day and night-and then we will see.

Thanks as always.

Barlow

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Barlow,

I'm happy to respond to your questions. Feel free to make comments or ask questions as you go. I'll be very curious to hear what you try and how it comes out. It's not like I'm overwhelmed with questions, given my mathematical and scientific approach to bread. I'm also retired, though only turned 50 recently. I've enjoyed making bread over the years and started back in the 80s, making bread off and on all along, but I've only been obsessed and into the whole sourdough side of it for a few years now.

My approach has been to try to model the fermentation rates in dough based on some reading in a few different papers on the topic and from doing a large number of test doughs. It's the sort of rough and ready practical approach engineers tend to come up with that probably drives more rigorous people to drink. I've cobbled together some spreadsheet models to be able to design my own recipes and come up with rise time estimates for them that seem to work fairly well on a practical level at home.

Anyway, it all boils down to the fact that I'm enjoying working on and discussing with you trying to make this very sour bread, just as an interesting exploration. It's not my usual style, but I have been pleasantly surprised by this most recent bread. The crumb could be lighter, but the flavor is very good, especially after a couple of days, for some reason. It's still a little too sour for me, but I'm seeing that there is a lot to be said for a stiffer dough allowed to more fully ferment. I think more tests will be done, like a slightly higher hydration and slightly less fermented version of the last bread, but my freezer is full and I'll be traveling a bit this month (Inca Trail trek, si Dios permite), so the starter will probably go in the fridge for a while.

Bill

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Ok, so tomorrow evening I will start it all off.  By which I mean the levain will be started and separately I will start a soaking of the whole wheat as you and JMonkey have suggested.

You mentioned

the flavor is very good, especially after a couple of days, for some reason.

And I totally agree that it seems to need a few days to "cure" in some way.  Glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks so.

And yes to the freezer filling up with bread; after this go around I will have to start eating the loaves in the freezer.

I am not familiar withthe Inca Trail, but hope you have good weather and it goes safely.

enjoy

barlow

proth5's picture
proth5

Bill,

Just visiting your blog to see what you've been up to.  Interesting work. 

Just having come home from the Coupe du Monde and touring Paris bakeries, I have a lot of "bread thinking" to do - and I still have that batch of "home milled" awaiting the 2 month mark...

But this is one more thing for me to wrap my mind around.  Thanks, as always for your thorough approach.

Pat

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Pat,

Nice to hear from you. I've been trying to improve my understanding of what factors affect the intensity of the acid flavors. First I just did a few test loaves varying fermentation times and strategies.

Then I got into a discussion with Barlow about how to get very sour flavors. I found that recipe posted on Samartha's site for "SF sourdough" that came from papers way back there by Prof. Sugihara et al. The idea was to make an especially sour bread, whether pleasant or not. In fact, it does result in a quite sour bread, almost unpleasantly so.

I then backed away slowly from the more extreme approach. I still have to do more experiments with fermentations in the mid-60s F to see how a "well proofed" loaf at 65F compares qualitatively to a similarly "well proofed" loaf done (obviously for a much shorter time) at 85F. I also want to do a more systematic study of how a multi-step vs. one-step build affects flavor.

The lab part I'm referring to is that I'm finally going to try to quantify the total acid in my levains and doughs, at least for a few prototypical fermentations (one-step, two-step, under-proofed, over-proofed, slack dough, very stiff dough, high ash flour low ash flour). I got some sodium hydroxide crystals and am going to see if I can do a good job of measuring "total titratable acid", so that I can measure the levels of acid and pH as time goes by at various temperatures. I've read that the total acid correlates to the intensity of flavor, so I'm curious to get some better sense of total acid levels by measuring them and trying to understand the factors better. Also, I'd like to see if the ones with higher acid levels do in fact taste more sour or at least have some kind of more intense flavor.

I was definitely able to get intense sour flavors from stiff loaves allowed to fully proof.

Bill

proth5's picture
proth5

Bill,

I'm uber-busy at this time of year - but rest assured that I am awaiting your lab results.

I'm not a fan of the really sour stuff myself and my levain and I seem to have bonded to the point where it is happy to oblige me with a mild flavor, but you know me - I love all this stuff!

Happy Testing!

Pat

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I reread your test now that I have studied Reinhart's book Crust & Crumb and so now know more about the delayed fermentation technique and all that jazz. I did some tests and am still testing. Reinhart talks about world class bread, but I've come to the conclusion that that is a VERY subjective term and my husband keeps telling me to stop all these experiments because in the meantime I'm no longer making his favorite sourdough bread which is based on a straight forward, all in a day recipe.

But I have been thinking about you and all your incredible experiments and have had questions for you but so little time to come and ask them.

One of them was about oiling the bread so it doesn't tear during poofing as Reinhart suggests. I thought it RUINED the final crust after baking! What do you think?

Another is that when following his recipe for San Fran sourdough, my dough still goes nuts in the fridge and is in no shape to be baked because it has over-proofed. Yesterday I went ahead and baked it after only 2 hrs proofing because it was going too fast (at around 70°F not more).

Your point of view would help me out!

Jane 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Janedo,

Nice to hear from you. Yes, I know what you mean about tests. The test loaves aren't the favorites, and my family starts to miss those favorites, too. I can't resist, though.

I agree with you about the oil. I don't spray the loaves with oil. I have sometimes sprayed a very small amount into my dough rising buckets, particularly when I first put the dough in, just so it's easy to pull the dough back out for folding. I usually only do that once, and then the gluten is developed enough and there is a slight dusting of flour if I fold on a lightly dusted counter, so the dough goes in and out of the bucket easily from then on without any more oil. I'm not even sure the first spraying matters. After all, so what if the dough sticks a little at first during the bulk fermentation. It will smooth out and not stick anymore after one or two folds, anyway.

I understand what you mean about the dough going nuts. It might mean your dough is a little more hydrated than is intended in the recipe. Other than reducing the water, some other solutions to that would be to proof at a cooler temperature, so they drop off in activity more rapidly in the fridge or are a little less proofed to begin with, if you let them rise rise for the same amount of time at a lower temperature. Also, smaller loaves should cool off more quickly. You could also proof them for less time before putting them into the refrigerator. That would allow you to proof them to the right level after you take them out of the refrigerator.

I'm going to be traveling starting tomorrow and out of touch until 4/28. So, I probably will not be able to respond to any posts until after that.

Good luck with that SF sourdough recipe, if you continue testing. Too bad for your husband, though, hah!

Do you find this recipe results in a more sour flavoring? We've been having quite a time discussing how to deliberately make bread more sour. For me it's an interesting topic, although I think I prefer more mild sourdough flavors. I've gone back and tasted some of my milder breads alongside the "extremely sour" loaves (not the ones in the original post above, the ones made later on in my discussions with CountryBoy), and overall I still prefer the milder ones. However, I'm also seeing that I may sometimes be making them "too mild" and missing out on some complexity and intensity of flavor.

Bill

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I knew you'd have some answers! I'm going to drop the oil. And I'll do some moooooore testing. I thought about putting it in the fridge earlier than Reinhart says, as you suggested. i'll play around with that. I did try reducing the water and I had a beautiful, compact, smooth dough... but it still spread!

As for the sourness, I noticed that the double cold fermentation definitely made the bread sour. I also noticed that over there you tend to refresh your starter with more flour/water than I do and I wonder (this is only an idea!) if my starter isn't a bit sourer because I use it when it is bubbly but it still smells quite sour. Since I don't let it ferment a super long time (no overnight time in the fridge - usually 6/7 hrs + 2/3hrs) my bread has a nice sour undertone without being too strong.

I also never put my starter in the fridge (I have been lately for the experiments) and feed it every evening leaving it liquid and I put it in my bread dough liquid as well. 

I'm going to try the double fermtation thing in the fridge and I'm going to go take a good luck at your recipes above.

Have a nice trip!

 Jane 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Jane,

Maybe the oil spray, which I now see is on the bottoms of the loaves after they are put in the couche top down (did I get that right?). Maybe he wants to protect the exposed side from drying out. However, I prefer to put my loaves in a plastic bag, couche and all. I use those Ziploc "Big Bags", which can be used over and over. I put a bowl of water in there, and that stops any drying out problems, as far as I can tell.

I don't really think it matters that much how you feed or maintain the starter, as long as it is well refreshed and fully active when you use it in the recipe. I feed mine less frequently at a higher ratio and keep it a little firmer (80% hydration or so). Of course, starters vary in the flavors that are produced, though. The maintenance strategy is certainly a factor.

For me, the sour undertone is easy to get if I let my loaves proof the right amount of time. I think that's one thing I've learned from the various tests I did. I haven't thought that much about it or carefully compared side by side loaves over a range of fermentation times until recently.

Bill

coffeemachine's picture
coffeemachine

hi bill,

 

i'm a newbie to this site as well as bread making and am currently trying to absorb as much info as i can. your posts really struck me for how well written they are -- it's almost like you could publish them in a journal paper as they are! what kind of scientist/engineer are you, might i ask?

 

i'm so glad i found your sourdough spreadsheet. i managed to make a starter (on first try =)), and am itching to make my first loaf of sourdough. but there are so many different recipes out there.... i will use your spreadsheet as a starting point and tweak variables as i go. thank you so much for putting together all this great info and sharing it!

 

violet 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Violet,

I'm so happy you found the spreadsheet useful. I've posted a few versions along with various posts over time, so I hope you found the most recent version that has some extra recipe flexibility. I've added the ability to more easily handle mash recipes, soakers, and some other small improvements, but I can't remember if I ever posted the latest version. If I get a chance, I'll post the most recent version on this thread.

The main idea behind the spreadsheet is that I like to schedule my bread to be ready for attention when I am available. It makes the whole process so much more friendly if you can adjust the timing with 1) changes in the relative proportions of the various builds in the overall formula, 2) refrigeration at certain stages, or 3) control fermentation temperature to achieve the desired timing.

By the same token, sourdough results will vary drastically with small changes in the temperature in the kitchen, and it is very often the explanation for problems people have with starters and bread recipes.

My educational background is in electrical engineering.

Bill

coffeemachine's picture
coffeemachine

hi bill,

 

i used your spreadsheet for timing and jane's 100% whole wheat sourdough recipe and baked my first loaf of sourdough. everything worked like a charm and i didn't have to get up at 4am to tend to the dough thanks to your spreadsheet. thanks again!100% whole wheat bread with wholes!!100% whole wheat bread with wholes!!

 

violet 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Violet,

Your whole wheat looks great. Nice job with that. It's not that easy to make whole wheat bread that isn't dense.

I can't tell you how pleasing it is to know that someone actually dug into my spreadsheets and posts enough to set their own timing. Are you also an engineer? There are a lot of technology related professionals on TFL.

I'm doing a bunch of sourdough pizza tomorrow, and I made up the starter last night at my leisure around 9PM, put it in the incubator at 17C calculated to be ready for dough mixing scheduled at 10:45AM this morning. Now I have the dough at 16C in the incubator calculated for a convenient shaping session this evening at around 9PM. Being good with timing is especially important to me lately. I've been firing my brick oven with wood, and it helps if the bread is ready when the oven is at the right temperature.

Right now, I'm firing my brick oven for an afternoon grilling session, and - coffeemachine (Violet) - I'm drinking some espresso. It's raining, but that hasn't stopped me. I have an "Easy Up" rain shelter that allows me to use the outdoor brick oven in any weather.

Bill

coffeemachine's picture
coffeemachine

hi bill,

 

thanks for the praise -- i kneaded the dough till the cows came home =P

 

it just so happens that i'm also thinking about making sourdough pizza within the next day or two cuz i have lots of partially started starter from making my starter over the past two weeks that i just couldn't toss out (whew, this is a very long winded sentence). i would love to have a wood burning brick oven, but that's looking very far into the future. i make do with saltillo tiles in my gas oven right now.

 

i'm still slaving away as a graduate student. mechanical engineering, but working on MEMS, so the boundary is really blurred with electrical engineering. but yeah, spread sheets, tables, and graphs especially are right up my alley =)

 

violet

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Violet, 

Well, that's funny. It's been a very long while (1979-81), and I don't remember a darn thing about them anymore, but I was an grad student in EE at Stanford, an RA. I worked under Stephen Terry and Jim Angell in a lab devoted to MEMS.

You're way ahead of me because I didn't even know I wanted a brick oven when I was a grad student. Now after 30 years, I figured it out.

Best of luck with grad  school and whatever comes next.

Bill

coffeemachine's picture
coffeemachine

we're alums! i guess with the way you do your "bread lab reports" i shouldn't really be surprised. i don't know either stephen terry or jim angell, but our group does collaborate a lot with roger howe, who's in EE and seems to know everybody...

 

violet

bwraith's picture
bwraith

That's a kick. Good luck with your studies and your future, Violet. Have a great time with your bread making, too.