The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

a newbie proofing issue

mutantspace's picture

a newbie proofing issue

Over the last number of months ive been carefully noting all my experiments in a bread diary, bookmarking all the great advice and videos out there as well as pouring over numerous books and looking at threads on this site. But nothing beats experience and ive been consistently bugged by my bread. It looks good, tastes good, the spring is fine but i never got a particularly good aeration in the crumb. The centre of the loaf always tended to be dense.

Over the last few weeks ive been using our microwave (with steaming cup of water)  as a proofer cause the weather in Ireland is very unreliable and that has helped a great deal. I have also been playing with bulk fermentation and proofing times.

I think i have it cracked so thought id post up my first crumb shot to see what people think (its a 67% hydration loaf. 90% bread flour, 10% WW, 20% levain, 2% salt).  

I was bulk fermenting for 3.5 - 4 hours before preshaping, resting for 30 minutes, shaping and then proofing for 1.5 - 2 hours.  Last night i pushed the dough. I increased bulk ferment to 6.5 hours and waited for as many bubbles as possible (i was always nervous about overproofing) and then did as normal. My final proof was 2 hours but i think i could have done it for 1.75 hours. I think it was slightly overproofed.

Anyway upshot was i had much better aeration in the bread. I also cut down time on baking. I was steaming covered in le creuset for 20 minutes @ 450F then covered for 425F and uncovered for 30 - 35 minutes @ 425F. he result was dark crusty bread but a little dry. Last night i did 20 minutes covered @ 450F and 25 minutes uncovered @ 450F. I then checked internal temperature. Much much better.

The reason i write this is that all other newbies should keep the faith and:

1. Keep a diary

2. take one recipe and keep experimenting - once you have your methodology you can riff endlessly off it

3. Push the limits of sourdough     

if anyone has advice for me id gladly take it....i am going to do an overnight retardation of the bulk fermentation and am hoping i might get a more open crumb. I will also increase hydration. I have been informed that UK flour absorbs less water than US flour so my hydration is probably equivalent to 70%+ in US.... 

debbahs's picture

I'm trying to do the same although I'm working through 3 formulas and alternating (Pain Rustique, baguette with poolish and vermont sourdough with whole wheat) because I have a family that each have their own favorites to eat.

CelesteU's picture

It looks pretty good to me.  One suggestion:  you are looking at time as the key variable,The  while not mentioning temperature.  Take the temp of your dough just before you start the bulk proofing:  write that down, see how you like the resuling bread.  Next time, if you want to shorten the bulk proof but liked last version's flavor, try mixing with lukewarm (90 degree) water and see how that impacts your rise during bulk proof.  Ambient temp of of the room will matter, too, but starting dough temp can be a bit warmer to compensate for a cold room.

Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast book addresses temperature, if you're interested in model production schedules that take temp & time into account.

mutantspace's picture

ive been spending my time trying to get a methodology right from levain, premix, autolyse, mix, stretch and fold, bulk, pre-shaps, shape, proof and bake. Theres so many different ideas out there but finally have something that suits. Got eork in an artisan bakery for 2 weeks which helped but in many ways it was easier because bakeries are very controlled environments. Living in Ireland means the temperature fluctuates so ive spent months finding ways to control temperature. Microwave is brilliant. In the meantime have been practicing dfiferent flavour combinations with commercial yeasted breads  - which i can make in 4 - 6 hours and will now start adapting them to sourdough....

id love to make some baguettes  - ill get around to it some obsession with sourdough has led me down an historical baking path so im researching old recipes for buns, pastries, is like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland....

good luck with the baking. Theres only 3 of us in the house so i can only afford to bake 3 times a week at most which means the learning curve is slow....  

mutantspace's picture

thanks CelesteU

Ive now started using the steamed (i put a hot cup of water in it) microwave wfor bulk and proofing now and am able to get much better aggregates. Im always checking temperate and if my dough is a little cold after autolyse i put my mixing bowl into a bowl of hot water to gently warm it up to 77F - 80F and then start with the final dough mix and bulk.

This experiment was all about holding my nerve. I wanted to see how long i could let the ferment go before taking it out of microwave and shaping. Wanted to see the difference a few hours made to the dough. There was a big improvement. As there was with my timing and temperature in the bake. Having said all that i will keep track of temperature the whole way through the process and see where we are. Living in ireland means the ambient air temperature fluctuates  - especially in our house as its old so ive been busy trying to find controlled environments in every nook and cranny.....

thanks for the kind words and the bread tastes yum. 

macette's picture

Northern Ireland here and have also done the cup of hot water in the microwave. I think I have had the best rise result this way with my white sandwich loaf. Another newbie worry was  how long to knead in the mixer, so I bit the bullet and mixed a little bit longer and I found the dough was better. So I will repeat this the next loaf and see what happens...It's so great when it works..,

mutantspace's picture

I guess its all about pushing boundaries - i have another spelt/rye/white sourdough in the microwave at the for mixing i use my hands and the stretch nd fold technique which is great as it gives you a tactile lesson in the development of the gluten and the strength of your dough. Although obviously only works with small amounts....good to be in touch with another person on this island who understands the vagaries of Irish weather...