Playing with Proofing
Proofing for me has boiled down to only one purpose: to inflate the dough. The most important variable for me right now is desired proof time. At the end of my proofing time, I would like for the dough to have inflated fully to however much my dough strength can handle, or however much inflation I would like. Some of the variables you can play with are the level of activity of your starter, the percentage of the dough your starter is, your hydration level, your flour gluten levels, and temperature.
I have normally proofed my loafs at room temperature (about 65F), and over the course of several hours. But then I realized that professional bakers had proofing boxes for a reason. I have tried to proof my loafs outside on hot days, but the skin has always dried out. So what I am now trying is to spray a cloth with water, and drape it over my proofing loaves. I am briefly turning my oven on to get it close to (80F). I imagine if you can control temperatures exactly, you can speed up proofing dramatically.
Anyone have any experience with this?
Danny - Sour Flour
I have tried this before, the problems I have are: 1. over proofing and 2. when I use a moist towel the top of the dough it becomes to sticky and is hard to slash. I have found though that if you proof it in the oven with some really hot water in a pan at the bottem it will warm the oven and raise the humidity too.
That being said.....I no longer try and force the dough to proof. Proofing is just that....proof. Proof the the yeast is active and ready for the bake. It can't be forced. Every book I have read, and every baker I have talked to say that the bread will tell you when it is ready, it's alive and you need to work with it. If you force the dough, it will fight you and not live up to it's full potential.
I just wonder why you want to rush things. To me part of sourdough and using natural leaveners is taking the time to allow flavors to develop that you would not get with packaged yeast. As has been said the dough "will tell you when it is ready" if you really need to rush that process there are plenty of quick recipes to be made with packaged yeast.
I guess rather than just purely wanting to rush, I am more interested in the possibilities of the experiments. I also would love to develop formulas that proof over exactly 8 hours, or a full day.
Also, I am not talking about creating the bread in as fast a time as possible, just that one stage. If you were to develop your fermentation for 16 hours or more, couldn't you achieve the same flavors and compounds? Proofing just seems to me exactly like fermentation, except that it also raises the dough; I'm just proposing moving more of that time into the fermentation step.
As for over proofing, I agree that you run a greater risk when things are moving faster. But it seems that if you were to monitor carefully, and control your experiments, you could get to just the proper amount that you want.
I like the idea of using the pan with water in the oven to keep the moisure up. I will have to play around with that. Do you cover your loaves in any way? I try to keep the towel above them, but I could see how it might possibly stick.
Danny - Sour Flour
So are you trying to mass produe brea on a large scale??. It seemss to me that natural lavenrs havebeen used to make bread since Egyptian times or even earlier. In this time lng fermentation has become the standard method and now you want a new way.