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Cold Retard - Sourdough Deflates

dd77's picture

Cold Retard - Sourdough Deflates



I have been baking sourdough for three and a half years (since Covid lockdown). All this time, my oven rise is fine (3-4 inches at its height) but not great. I have rarely been able to get the bread to that super light air bubbly state after bulk fermentation. Yesterday, I was thrilled because after bulk fermentation, my bread looked ideal. It felt light and airy, shaped into a taut ball, had several air bubbles at surface, etc. I put it at the back of the fridge for a cold retard (about 15 hours), and this morning it had deflated and felt cold and thicker. The oven rise was fine, not great. I think it over-proofed in the fridge. My question is this: I can't seem to hit the right balance for bulk fermentation. If I wait long enough to get my bread to the light and airy state that one sees in the online pictures as ideal for ending bulk fermentation, I then overproof in the fridge. If I stop short of that airy state for bulk and then retard 12-15 hours, then my bread looks and tastes under-proofed. Any advice? Should I try a 2-5 hour, shorter cold retard? 

If it helps, here was more of my process from yesterday: 530 gram flour (300 King Arthur bread flour, 230 Locke's Mill Durum), 390 gram water, 10 gram salt, two-hour autolyse at 66-68 degrees (I tried this to develop extensibility), about 10-20 slap and folds, three sets of gentle coil folds spaced 50 minutes apart during first three hours of bulk fermentation, total of about 6 hours bulk fermentation at 68-70 degrees, half hour preheating dutch oven at 485, baked 20 minutes at 445 degrees with lid on, 22 minutes lid off. 





pmccool's picture

but I don't see how much of the flour was prefermented, either as starter or as a levain.  Nor did I notice a mention of the condition of the starter or the levain when it was used.  That's a fairly important datum for understanding how fast the dough may ferment after mixing is completed.


dd77's picture

Hi Paul, 


Thanks so much for your response. Yes, you are correct -- I forgot to add information about my levain! I used a 100% hydration levain (half whole wheat, half King Arthur bread flour), at 20% of total flour (108 grams). The levain was just at its peak -- it had risen about 3.5-4X its original size in five hours at 70 degrees). 

I have a relatively new starter because my old one died. It is about a month old, but it seems very active. 

tpassin's picture

I put it at the back of the fridge for a cold retard (about 15 hours), and this morning it had deflated 

This is not that unusual.  It's like a balloon - as it chills down the volume of gas will decrease.  If the yeast doesn't produce enough gas to counteract this you will see some deflation.

You should consider putting the dough or shaped loaf into the refrigerator *before* it has gotten to that desired fermentation point.  I plan on an hour before.  That's because the fermentation will continue as the dough cools down, going slower and slower until it nearly (but not completely) stops.

The fact that you noticed deflation suggests that the dough was very nearly fermented as far is it could go before being chilled.  Otherwise it would have generated enough additional gas during the cooldown to counteract all or most of the deflation.

dd77's picture

Thanks, Tpassin! 

It's helpful to consider the reduction in volume as the gas cools. Nonetheless, I agree that the bread was over-fermented. I will aim to put the bread in the fridge about an hour before that very light and airy stage, as you suggest.