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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 2)


weinoo
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...so if you want sour give the pre-ferment and extended fermentation (eg 24 hours at 28C)

I am trying to get the most sour results I can with a San Francisco culture. I have a pre-ferment at 28C and I have been baking samples from it every 24-hours since Sunday.

I am using your EGCI recipe, so I began with one-cup of cold starter then added one-cup of AP flour and one-cup of water. My first sample was baked after 4 hours. Then every 24-hours I take a cup of starter to bake my sample and then refresh the culture with another cup of water and a cup of flour.

So far the results don't show much increase in sourness. I am still getting a healthy rise out of the yeast and good bread, but it seems the bacteria are not producing appreciably more acidity.

Should I increase the temperature of the culture? Should I try a less-hydrated pre-ferment (or more hydrated)? Should I be looking at the flour? Or is there some other factor I should be considering?

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There are many factors that affect the "sourness" of the taste.

1. Temperature.

gallery_7620_135_8605.jpg

graph1.jpg

(derived from research by Michael Ganzle)

You can increase bacterial activity with regard to the yeast either by fermenting hot (90F) or cool (40F) - typically the pe-ferment phase where you are not concerned with optimising the rise.

However lacto bacteria strains tend to produce more lactic acid when fermented hot (homofermentative strains) and more acetic acid when cold (heterofermentative strains). Acetic acid tastes tangier.

One way is to ferment the preferment cool for a long time - retard the preferment or the dough in the fridge for 24hours.

28C/82F is not quite hot enough to favour the bacteria. 90F/33C would be better.

2) Use a stiffer peferment - 50% hydration.

Stiffer preferments favour heterofermentive species. The flavour profile change is subtle but definite. However stiffer preferments are harder to mix into the dough evenly by hand, especially if you use the stretch and fold or minimal kneading technique - break them up with the water that you will make the dough with, then mix that into the dough.

c) Use a low ash flour.

The ash content is a reflection of the mineral content of the flour and that tends to be alkaline, so reduces the acid tang. However US flours rarely quote the ash content, where as french flour classification is based on it.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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I had some level of success with the last loaf... high hydration (didn’t use scales, but it was too wet to knead), no kneading, no folding. 1/2 white flour, 1/3 rye, 1/6 whole wheat. Prefermented with 66% of the total flour for 12 hours, then mixed in the rest, poured into a circular baking tin, and let rise overnight. In the morning I had to clean it up a bit since it had overflowed, but it came out well despite making a horribly messy job of the whole thing: thin, crisp and savoury crust, delicate crumb and open-ish texture, nice balance between caraway flavour and the subtle sourness of the rye.

3220201776_28f3d8f259.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...

Today's loaf: I used very strong (14%) flour, and the hydration was a little low, which resulted in a fairly uniform crumb. But at least it's soft and fluffy rather than dense.

Also a good excuse to try out a new lens I bought the other day.

3288224362_b149e10a1d.jpg

3287406947_43d11db2d2.jpg

Edited by MikeJ (log)
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Try no kneading at all and only folding. I gave up kneading altogether a few years ago.  Great pics.

I tried the no-knead-only-fold method this evening and the boule is in the fridge for the night... I'll post the results tomorrow. I'm kind of hoping it won't work, because the kneading is actually one of my favourite parts.

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Try no kneading at all and only folding. I gave up kneading altogether a few years ago.  Great pics.

I tried the no-knead-only-fold method this evening and the boule is in the fridge for the night... I'll post the results tomorrow. I'm kind of hoping it won't work, because the kneading is actually one of my favourite parts.

:biggrin: I get that. For me, when I'm looking at three 20 pound buckets of dough to work in rapid succession, kneading loses its charm.

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To knead or not to knead, that's the question!

Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with buckets of dough, but, as an active home baker, my experience is that both techniques work. The final loaves will likely turn out different, so it boils down to your particular recipe, and what you find most attractive in the loaf.

There's a brilliant discussion about mixing in Suas' "Advanced Bread and Pastry". If you don't have the book, a condensed version can be found here: SFBI Newsletter

A very short knead, followed by a long bulk fermentation and several folds, will typically result in an irregular crumb structure and a slightly lower bread profile. The dough is often a bit wet, and the extensibility of the dough is favored over strength. A well-kneaded dough will have a much more developed gluten network, more strength, a rounder bread profile and a more regular crumb, with many small pockets.

I like to do a "short mix" for your average Italian-style doughs (wet ciabattas etc.), while I prefer better mixed doughs for just about anything else. I'm usually aiming for a sort of windowpane, not a perfect one, but still signs of a well-developed dough, and then often a single (or no) fold(s) midway during bulk fermentation.

But, as I said, it's down to what you prefer!

Edited by hansjoakim (log)
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The dough was definitely much slacker this time around. Tough to work with (for me, anyways), which is why the loaf came out sort of lumpy.

The flour was about half 14% protein flour, and half 12%, plus a handful of wholegrain rye.

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c) Use a low ash flour.

The ash content is a reflection of the mineral content of the flour and that tends to be alkaline, so reduces the acid tang. However US flours rarely quote the ash content, where as french flour classification is based on it.

I just noticed this. My understanding has been that this works in exactly the opposite way. The ash content in the flour works as a buffer and forestalls lowering of the dough's pH into the range at which the lactobacilli are inhibited. This results in greater total titratable acidity in the dough compared to a lower ash dough fermented to a similar pH. In the case of bread, it is the total acidity rather than just pH that produces the sour and other desirable flavors we like in sourdough breads.

A good way to test this is to use your normal method, but use whole wheat flour instead of white flour. The bread will be noticably more sour than usual. This is because of the greater ash content of the whole wheat flour. Whenever I have taken measures to increase ash content, I have ended up with more sourness.

--

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I have a question: is it necessary to have a proof stage AND a shape stage if you're only making one loaf? I can see the logic if you're making multiple loaves from the same dough, but otherwise I'm not sure I understand the point. Is there a reason you'd want to let the dough rise as an amorphous blob, shape it, and then let it rise some more, rather than just shaping it from the beginning and then letting it rise fully?

Today's crumb:

3295113760_374d1a53b7.jpg

Incidentally, I apologize for flooding this thread with my pics - I just don't know too many people in real life who are remotely interested in bread, aside from eating it.

Edited by MikeJ (log)
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Each stage of fermentation, proofing, etc. develops flavor.

Try an experiment where you do a shape, rise and bake vs. a primary ferment, shape, proof and bake and see which one you like better.

One of the things I'm getting out of baking a fair amount of bread, is that there's really not any one way of doing it. Lately, I've been adding a tiny bit of commercial yeast to my "sourdough" breads, boosting them, if you will. It's a technique a fair amount of professional bakeries use, and I like the finished product...though it's heresy to say so in the company of certain sourdough purists :wink: .

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Each stage of fermentation, proofing, etc. develops flavor.

Try an experiment where you do a shape, rise and bake vs. a primary ferment, shape, proof and bake and see which one you like better.

One of the things I'm getting out of baking a fair amount of bread, is that there's really not any one way of doing it.  Lately, I've been adding a tiny bit of commercial yeast to my "sourdough" breads, boosting them, if you will.  It's a technique a fair amount of professional bakeries use, and I like the finished product...though it's heresy to say so in the company of certain sourdough purists  :wink: .

In France, bakers can add fresh yeast up to 0.3% of the flour weight of their final dough, and still sell the product as a sourdough product. That's regulated by law :smile:

There's been some research on this, and the results indicate that the final products are not noticeably altered by including small amounts of yeast. Just a little blob of 0.3% can reduce bulk fermentation lengths by 1-1.5 hours, and you still end up with great sourdough bread. I wouldn't call it heresy... it's just being practical, isn't it?

I've also read that sourdough breads only make up about 3% of the total bread consumption in France. That was way lower than what I had expected... I believe the figures are from 2003, so it seems sourdough is pretty much a small niche still.

Edited by hansjoakim (log)
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I wouldn't call it heresy... it's just being practical, isn't it?

Ahhh, hansjoakim, it is. But obviously you haven't seen this topic.

And welcome to the forums, hansjoakim...keep on baking.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'd like to experiment with hybrid loaves as well.  Some may call it heresy, but people like that have stood in the way of progress for all of recorded history.

No offense, but it's exactly that sort of comment that turns these conversations into mine fields and makes folks like me reluctant to even bother engaging in them.

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Heresy?! My mom's been making hybrid loaves for many many years now, but I guess the bread Pope hasn't discovered her and hauled her off to the inquisition yet.

I don't use commercial yeast in my weekly breads, preferring a nice long preferment. That doesn't make my mom's bread worse than mine, though it is different for more reasons than one. It's one technique among many--there's no set in stone way of making bread and that's a good thing.

nunc est bibendum...

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I'd like to experiment with hybrid loaves as well.  Some may call it heresy, but people like that have stood in the way of progress for all of recorded history.

No offense, but it's exactly that sort of comment that turns these conversations into mine fields and makes folks like me reluctant to even bother engaging in them.

I meant it to be tongue in cheek - I really can't imagine anyone getting genuinely worked up over something like that.

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I'd like to experiment with hybrid loaves as well.  Some may call it heresy, but people like that have stood in the way of progress for all of recorded history.

No offense, but it's exactly that sort of comment that turns these conversations into mine fields and makes folks like me reluctant to even bother engaging in them.

I meant it to be tongue in cheek - I really can't imagine anyone getting genuinely worked up over something like that.

And yet, the thread referenced above would suggest otherwise. But thanks for the clarification.

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Recently I tried a very warm rise, followed by a 2-day spell in the fridge. This had the desired effect, and made for a pleasingly tangy loaf... unfortunately the loaf was a bit of a brick, as I suppose you might expect given the long retard. Tricky stuff, this breadmaking.

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