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Thoughts on two potential sourdough schedules:

I'm trying to fit a baking schedule into my already packed week.

My goals:
1. Minimize the risk of overproofing as best as possible while I'm at work
2. Bake in the evenings or before work
3. Yield a bread that has a huge oven spring and a mild, complex, slightly sour flavor.

Might be too good to be true.
So far, my attempts have consistently been either underproofed or overproofed because I'm not able to tend to it during work, except some days during my lunch break.

Here are two slightly different options. I'm wondering if the bread experts here can help predict what kind of bread this will produce, and what changes I should make.

Day 1: Around 8pm (normal feeding schedule of my starter), mix the leaven. (Using a tartine starter-- 50/50 WW and AP, 100% hydration). Also, mix the dough sans salt and bit of water for extended autolyse at room temperature.

Day 2: Around 6am (making it 10 hours after initial mixing), test the leaven. If it passes, mix it, the salt and water into the autolysed dough. Start for the bulk rise, turning ever half and hour until 8am. Set in the fridge.

Day 2: Around 5:30pm, either:
a) shape, bench rest and bake
b) shape, set for final rise of 2-4 hours. Bake.

Note: I can tend to the bread at lunch time basically every day. The only caveat with that is that the time can be anywhere from 11:30 am to 1:00pm, so there's not a lot of room for consistency.

Note: I'm still trying to figure out what the point of the final rest is. If anyone has a quick answer for me, I might be able to time things out better.

Thanks, bread experts!

asked by Kate Chambers 8 months ago
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Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

added 8 months ago

I'm sorry you haven't received an answer to this yet Kate, I'm hoping bumping it back up to the top gets more eyes on it!

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

It's worth giving this a try; I'd start with option (b) on Day 2. You need that second rise to build up the air pockets.

I would not add the salt + water until the second turn, as you need to give the yeast in the leaven a chance to work its magic on the flour a bit before adding the salt.

Also, I recommend making sure that (i) all of the water used is fairly cool; and (ii) your 6AM to 8AM day 2 environment is also cool. Once the yeast starts working, it will continue at a good pace, even in the fridge. Believe me, I know. I've been playing with different schedules myself and found myself baking between 10:20 PM and midnight recently when I realized at about 9:30 that the dough I'd tucked into the fridge for an overnight rest had risen far more than I expected. I would have dreadfully over-proofed those boules had I not fired up the oven and stayed up later than usual, to bake them.
Let us know what happens! ;o)

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dinner at ten

dinner at ten is a trusted home cook.

added 8 months ago

I've adjusted the Tartine bread recipes to several different schedules, and mostly agree with Antonia James -- the combined room temp and refrigerator time in the bulk rise could be too long, and the second rise IS important for the final structure and loft of your bread. It is best to add the salt as the recipe stipulates, though, after the autolyse; yeast like growing in an environment as salty as bread just fine. I would try your schedule (b) as written. If your dough overproofs, it will still make decent bread, and next time you try adding a smaller proportion of the leaven.

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

Thank you, dinner at ten! Had not thought to use less leaven, adjusting of course to keep the ratios intact. Great idea.

I'm intensely interested in the other answers to this, as I too make the Tartine breads, but have been searching for more flexible timetables. ;o)

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added 8 months ago

Okay, I've never considered the effect of using different amounts of leaven. Can someone deconstruct that for me?

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added 8 months ago

My other question is this: if I do the turns from 6am to 8am and then stick it in the fridge until 5:30, will I have developed enough gluten structure? I know the original recipe says you do the turns basically throughout the entire bulk rise. Will only doing 3-4 turns do the trick?

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

3-4 turns should be fine. ;o)

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

Also, make sure when you are shaping not to skimp on the pulling down of the sides to the bottom of the boule, to create tension in the surface of the boule. Actually, I think I handle the dough at that point (gently) as much as possible, to warm it up with my hands a bit. Coming out of my fridge overnight, it would be very cold. The dough needs a bit of warmth to let the yeast continue to multiply. You run the risk of under-proofing if the dough is cold and kept in a cold place for the second rise. At the same time, you don't want it to be too warm . . . .

Finally, when refrigerating, make sure the container holding the dough is tightly covered. A lot of air blows around inside the fridge, which can dry out the surface of the dough, which in turn could affect the internal structure of the dough. ;o)

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

Okay, Kate, I'm so intrigued -- and optimistic -- about this that I'm going to try it, starting the leaven this evening. Will be making Tartine country rye, I think. Stay tuned . . . . . ;o)

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added 8 months ago

I'm excited to hear how it turns out! Also, your shaping technique is intriguing to me. I typically see that I'm supposed to handle it as little as possible using quick, "decisive" movements. What you're saying about warmth makes sense to me though, especially since it's coming out of the refrigerator.

New thought-- I have a dough right now that's in a bulk ferment in the fridge, and I'm a work. I plan to go home at lunch to shape it and set it for the final rise. It's a very high-hydration dough (mostly because I accidentally added slightly too much water). Can I do the final rise in the fridge too? I plan on taking lunch from about 12:30 to 1:30, and I want to bake (ideally) around 5:45. I don't want to over-proof it, and I'm worried that a 4 hour fermentation might get dangerously close to over-proofing. But I'm not sure. Would the fridge work, or would that require a lot more time?

(I hope that makes sense)

(Also thank you for being my unofficial bread mentor-- you've answered a few of my food52 hotline questions!)

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

I'm still trying to figure this all out, too! But, as they say, "In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king."

I didn't mean that I would handle the dough or manipulate it much; I just plan to touch it gently, leaving my hands on the dough for a bit longer than I otherwise would, to try to warm it up just a bit.
I've got my dough in the fridge for the first rise right now. The flour and water only dough following the overnight autolyse was so stretchy, when I added the leaven early this morning!

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

To answer your question, I wouldn't worry about over-proofing at room temperature during the afternoon, especially if it's been in the fridge all morning. I'd just make sure it's in as cool a spot as possible. Also, if it looks like it's risen a lot, pop it back in the fridge while you're heating the oven.
I heard recently about one popular bread book author whose gospel includes baking proofed dough straight from the fridge. There are so many ways, it seems, to do it! ;o)

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added 8 months ago

ugh, before coffee I am full of typos. Apologies!

A43dee65 01b1 40a6 994d 068c78eb3eee  9f7dd561 a480 4e1b 8c8f d5da7ab5167c
dinner at ten

dinner at ten is a trusted home cook.

added 8 months ago

Hi Kate, sorry I didn't see your question about adding less leaven until now. Just replace whatever portion of leaven you're leaving out by an identical mixture of flour/water as is in the leaven, to keep the dough contents (other than the microbial population in the leaven) the same. Because you're starting with fewer of the microbes from your leaven, they will have to replicate themselves more times to reach the same concentration and the same flavor of fermentation in the dough as if you'd started with more.
I haven't tested this carefully, but it seemed to work fine with moderate variations in leaven amount (i.e. 2/3 of original, or 1.25x to speed it up). I've done it mostly to compensate for leaven that seemed a little overgrown or undergrown to me.

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

To report on how your suggested schedule worked, using Tartine country rye bread ingredients, folding method, etc.:

The boules turned out well, but I've made better. I didn’t get as much oven spring as I like, but then that sometimes happen when I follow the instructions as drafted, without refrigerating.

When I took the dough out of the refrigerator shortly after 5 PM yesterday, it had not risen much, although some small pockets of trapped gasses were visible. Concerned that the dough was so cold, I let it sit for 30 minutes while I went out for a walk, before dividing and shaping the dough. In retrospect, I'm wondering if I should have divided it right then and there, which would have warmed it up a bit sooner. The dough also seemed wetter then usual. It felt rather slack, which suggests that the internal structure was a bit weak.

I noticed that again, when I turn the shaped dough balls into the Lodge Combo top. My lame did not cut smoothly through the surface, dragging and catching as I tried to slash the boules, which may also have contributed to the lack of oven spring. I often have that problem, despite using fresh blades in the fancy lame I bought via the Food52 e-commerce platform. Still trying to troubleshoot that . . . .

;o)

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41e59980 ea5d 487b b647 fab1f1ed416d  fb avatar
added 8 months ago

Well, despite it being not a *great* loaf, it sure is beautiful. Bravo. Do those flour rings come from a banneton?

I guess we can conclude that 8 hours bulk rise with only a few turns isn't enough time or turns to thoroughly develop structure and rise.

I baked a loaf yesterday that ended up sort of well, and I wonder if there's a correlation because they look really similar (oven spring looks the same). I mixed the leaven in the morning and it passed the float test at 11:30pm (*whew*). I let it autolyse for 15 minutes and then set it for a bulk rise in the fridge until I woke up at 6:30. I did a few turns while I was getting ready for work, and at 8 I left. I got back home at 11:30 for lunch, and I did the cutting, bench rest and shaping, and then by 12:30 it started its final rise in room temperature. I only had time to bake one loaf when I got home at 5:30, and it was nice, but the one I baked at 10:00pm that night was so much better (higher oven spring). That's partly because I did a better job scoring it, but I think that longer fermentation time contributed. I wish I knew more about the science of it so I could figure out how it all works together!

So I guess from my experience and from yours, my initial plan really didn't give it enough time to develop.

My question about it all is-- how does doing the stretch-and-folds contribute to the oven spring? Could the fact that I'm not able to do all the stretch and folds the recipe calls for be the reason I'm getting good, but not great, oven spring?

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B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

Kate, I think you should ask that last question as a new question to the Hotline. I've been told that 4 turn/folds are sufficient. I wonder if the warmth from rising at room temperature helps with the structure. All those little pockets that cause the dough to rise help with the structure, don't they? You see, I really don't know much about this.

And yes, those rings are from the banneton. ;o) P.S. My bread has deep, complex flavor!