The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

increasing fermentation but still underproofed

gabev50's picture

increasing fermentation but still underproofed

thank you all for taking the time to read this lengthy post and any feedback is very much appreciated.

  • i have been baking a ton of bread the last 4-6 months and i have learned a lot, but am still struggling to execute really good fermentation. 
    • this last bake (naturally leavened) i pushed fermentation to the max (for me, at least): 40% inoculation, 10 hrs of total fermentation. the first 3 hours the dough temp was 85, then i let it coast for 6 more hours at room temp (RT 68). it was nearly tripled in volume so, thinking it was overproofed, i gently shaped it and only let it proof an hour before i baked it in a hot oven with steam.
    • the final crumb of this loaf was the same as all other previous loaves. open crumb near the very edge, but tight everywhere else. not great oven spring, a little heavy for its size, but great color. i feel like ill know overproofed when i see it. this still feels very characteristic of underproofed.


  • lastly, i’ve been working on some cinnamon raisin bread but still underproofing. bulk was great at 6hrs but the final proof was 3hrs (thinking it was ready!) at RT (68-69). bread came out lacking good oven spring, it felt heavy, and the crumb is very tight and weirdly dry on the inside. really showing how slow fermentation can be when the bread is enriched with egg, butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
  • sorry for no pictures, i dont know how to condense the photos from my phone so they can fit on the blog post.
  • my two questions after these two bakes are:
    • am i overlooking the affect of room temperature on fermentation time  (68 is pretty chilly)
    • is my starter just naturally sluggish and, is there a way to train it to work faster or, do i now need to develop the recipes/schedule based on how the starter performs 


tpassin's picture

I have often gotten very good loaves after the dough tripled in bulk.  With a less-fermented bulk, you are more likely to get vigorous proofing and oven rise, but it's not always so.

Whether that was too long a bulk fermentation depends on whether most of the yeast nutrition got used up, leaving not enough for later.  That depends on the flour and recipe more than anything else. With a very hot start, and 40% inoculation, I would have expected a much shorter bulk fermentation time, even given the lowish 68 deg later on.  And yes, the cooler temperature will have a real effect on the fermentation.  Even 68 vs 72 would be noticeable. 

You haven't said what led you to bake after an hour's time. Given how long the bulk took, and the 68 deg F temperature, I would have expected it to need much more time to proof.  OTOH, if most of the yeast nutrition had been used up, a long proof might have fizzled out.  You will have to think back and remember what the loaf was like at that 1-hour point.

You didn't say if the dough seemed very extensible, very tight and springy, or what.  That can make a difference in the crumb.  The shaping technique can also have a real influence, both for uniformity of the crumb and for the tightness of the loaf.


Sabina's picture

I'm not that experienced, but from my own experience, you can basically ignore the clock. Watch your dough, and move to the next stage whenever it's ready, no matter how long it takes. Dough tripling in size during the bulk ferment is not likely to be a problem for a plain white bread. If you are still able to easily shape the dough afterwards, and it's not falling apart, it's fine. It still needs to rise during it's final proof. I don't think an hour final proof at your temperature is long enough. At your temperature, I don't think your rising times were long enough for your raisin bread, either. Raisins and spices can indeed make bread take longer to rise. When I make hot cross buns with fruit and spice in the dough, I do the final rise in my dehydrator at 95F (!) and it still takes like 8 hours, and that's after bulk rising overnight or longer at room temperature.

I'm sure there is a way to make your starter work faster, but only to a certain extent, and I'm pretty lax with my own, so I can't help there. After you make the same recipe a few times, you will have a better idea how long things take. I find most recipes vastly understate both the amount of kneading time the dough needs (if it's a kneaded dough) and the amount of rising time it needs. If you would really prefer to get things done faster, I find the best way is to increase the temperature around the dough.