Hi from Doug
Just stumbled into this website, searching for the why of the bulk fermentation phase and finding a nice long thread discussing exactly that.
I love a good forum, and they were fabulous in their heyday. Everything is YouTube now, and conversations rarely develop out of that. It's the development of the conversation that usually leads to the lightbulb moments.
At any rate, my name is Doug and I ferment.
For a couple of years, I was pretty seriously into cheesemaking, won a national gold for one of them here in New Zealand.
The link was discovering that the moulds that power France's legendary Roquefort cheese are produced by loaves of rye bread left in the caves, and the realization that cave temperatures (14C), yeasts, moulds and microbes lead to so many of the good things we cherish.
Around that time, I tried my hand at German-style sourdoughs. Fermentation is fermentation, no? My wife LOVES a German sourdough, and it's hard to find good German bread here, so I had powerful motivation. I got very mixed results, and gave up.
Fast forward to the pandemic, and everyone's making sourdough because everyone's at home. Including Rosie, a German friend who claimed to be making very consistent, perfect German breads. At the risk of looking like a pandemic fashion victim, I took it up, actually way later than everyone else.
I got good results pretty much right away, and within a month, I was able to make a German loaf that sent my wife into paroxysms of pleasure. The clincher, of course, was the mix of coriander/fennel/caraway/aniseed, but solid sourdough baking is a prerequisite.
So now my search is for ways of making sense of my rye-laden loaves, what the right mix of rye to other grains is, how much shaping and strengthening is useful, how much to just leave it alone because rye doesn't behave like white or even whole-other-grain flours.
This looks like a good place to start, even if it is old and a little less-traveled. I look for intriguing back streets when I travel, too, which I'm hoping to do again before long!