Omid, I've noticed that you vary your bulk to balled fermentation times, although it always seems to be relatively short bulk to long balled. Have you done much experimentation and would you share how you determine your times?
Dear DannyG, I am not sure how to approach this subject or how to verbalize it without being misleading. Let me try this. . . As a general rule, the shorter is the duration of the first bulk fermentation, the slower will be the collective rate of fermentation of the dough balls that are formed after the conclusion of the first bulk fermentation. Since the fermentative micro-organisms within dough multiply exponentially
, I assume
that the sooner the dough mass is divided into dough balls, statistically the slower will be the collective fermentation rate, which in turn will be productive of less lactic acid (sourness). (I do not know how cogent my preceding rationale is, and please notice I did not account for variables such as the amount of salt, temperature, and etc.) Hence, a first bulk fermentation of short duration
seems to set up the stage for a ball fermentation of long duration
, that can result (as shown in the picture below) in a soft and delicate crust that is full of flavors—just like Tempranillo grape juice which needs time
, a long time, to slowly, but steadily, ferment and reach the state of transformation into Tempranillo wine. It is a process that should not be rushed. Although it is a protracted process, it is commercially viable.
In respect to determining the duration of the first bulk fermentation, I primarily go by feel
, which I will attempt to describe, with a bit of anthropomorphization. The quality (i.e., the fluidity, suppleness, and gracefulness) of the dough skin embodying the dough flesh is quite important to me. I want it to graciously yield to my touch without it being hesitant, but with assuring pride and confidence! I do not want the dough taste and smell lactical, other than an allusive gentle whisper bearing the glad tidings
. I want equal and uniform distribution and absorption of all moisture by the dough. In other words, I look for a degree of order
of dough texture (which is indicative of homogeneity of dough temperature) throughout the dough mass. Hence, the warmer is the ambient temperature, the shorter will probably be the first bulk fermentation. Naturally, experience and experimentation—while letting our senses of sight, smell, touch, and taste be our guides under the faculty of judgment—are great teachers in discerning and learning the subtleties of the "feel". Once they are internalized, one will reflexively identify them without much conscious attention.
You may want to compare the aforementioned description with "point of pasta", as one can interpret the aforementioned description as a prolongation of pasta point. In that sense, what I call "dough cosmogony"
—i.e., the way
water, flour, salt, and culture are mixed and kneaded as a productive cause of a mass of dough, including the type, quantity, and temperature of the the elements—has primal impact upon determining the duration of the first bulk fermentation. Fundamentally, it is all about imposition of order upon the chaos. The word "cosmogony" itself is a derivative of two ancient Greek words: Kósmos
(meaning, "order") and genesis
(meaning, "origin" or "productive cause of a thing"). I hope all these make sense.
The second picture below is our corner of the cosmos (the Andromeda galaxy, our galaxy) which was captured by the Hubble telescope some years ago. And, what is absolutely mesmerizing is that when this picture was shot, we—all of us—were in it, toward the lower left! Have a cosmic day!