Author Topic: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)  (Read 5194 times)

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Offline jfrancesconi

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Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« on: December 18, 2007, 02:48:17 PM »
Hey guys,

I've had some very successful results with NY style pizza lately using the lehman dough calculator.  My basic format has been KASL flour, hand kneading, and around a 650 degree oven.  I have settled on a basic formula that makes me happy, and now I'm interested in toying with it a little further to maybe get a bit more flavor and texture out of it. 

I understand that a starter of some kind may help me accomplish this.  In the future, I am more than happy to purchase something such as the starter from sourdo.com.  However, I'm looking for more of a quick fix here, because I will be making pizzas on Sunday evening.  That gives me a little more than 4 days to prepare something.  I can create a starter tonight and let it preferment. 

My problem, however, is that I am not sure what would be the best application here.  I've just spent the last hour on this forum reading about poolish, biga's, and other starers, wild yeast, etc etc, and now I feel even more confused. 

My question is: given the time, my desired results, and my current methods, what would be the best options here?  I don't have access to any fresh yeast, but I do have SAF Instant Red IDY.  I'm planning on making 4 or 5 dough balls weighing around 11oz each (for approx 12" pie).

Thanks for any help. 

Justin


Online Pete-zza

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2007, 03:31:48 PM »
Justin,

It takes a long time to learn about and use starters and preferments. I spend a lot of time reading about this stuff and I still consider myself a novice. The subject is highly technical and it's easy to become confused and to become paralyzed from taking any action, especially when you venture into the natural starter/preferment area. What I would like to suggest to you as a possible next step is to convert the Lehmann NY style dough formulation you have been using to a sponge version. That is a fairly simple thing to do and you may even be able to make a test dough over the next day or so to see if it meets your needs. To show you how to make a sponge version, you should read the Lehmann Q&A on the sponge process at http://www.pmq.com/mag/2004july_august/lehmann.php.

If you decide to proceed with a sponge version and feel that you need help in doing the conversion, let me know. It's really more of a math exercise than anything else. If you would rather take a stab at doing it yourself and want me (or anyone else) to review what you have done, that is fine also. Essentially all that I would need is the dough formulation from the Lehmann dough calculator.

Peter

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2007, 04:24:52 PM »
Pete-zza,

Thank you for the info.  You are always incredibly helpful. 

I am going to try my best to formulate it on my own, but I'd love to see what you come up with as well.

Flour (KASL) (100%): 6.79 oz
Water (66%): 4.48 oz
IDY (.31%): 0.2 tsp
Salt (Kosher) (1%): 0.57 tsp
Oil (1%): 0.43 tsp
Total (168.31%): 11.42 oz | TF = 0.101
(Mix salt/water/yeast, add flour)

This is the recipe I used.  I compared it against a recipe with slightly lower yeast levels (down to .23), and lower hydration (down to 61%), and this recipe proved to be the most successful.  I also mixed the yeast into the salt/water mixture as opposed to the yeast with the flour.  I don't know what effect that played on it, but all in all this was my favorite formulation, so I'd like to stick with it. 

Thanks again for the assistance!

edit: that recipe also accounts for 2% bowl residue

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2007, 04:31:18 PM »
Side question:

If I'm reading this article correctly, it's saying to let 60% of your ingredients ferment for 4-5 hours at room temp, then add the remainder of the ingredients, then place in cooler for the remainder of the period.

The approach I was planning to take and seems it may still work was to create the sponge, let it ferment in the cooler until Saturday morning, then create the final "dough", and let the final dough ferment until Sunday evening, in the cooler.  Would this not be advisable? 

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2007, 04:37:02 PM »
SPONGE
4.07oz KASL
1.63oz Water
.2 tsp IDY

REMAINDER
2.72oz KASL
2.85oz water
.57 tsp salt
.43 tsp oil

Let ferment in cold enviornment (or on the counter at about 65 degrees room temp) until Saturday morning.  Combine sponge with the remainder of the ingredients and form final dough ball, and then allow this to ferment in the cooler until Sunday evening (about 36 hours later). 

What do you think?

Sorry to bombard you with posts :)

-Justin

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2007, 05:20:46 PM »
Justin,

You handled the math beautifully. BTW, you don't have to use a 60/40 sponge. You can use, say, 70/30 or some other ratio if you'd like. However, the 60/40 ratio is a good place to start. Also, the sponge conversion method can be used with many other dough recipes.

As for your proposal to hold the sponge for several days, I wouldn't do that. During the period that the sponge is fermenting, the yeast consumes the sugars released from the flour by enzymatic performance. Over a period of several days, it is unlikely that there will be enough natural sugar released to keep the yeast going, and the most likely result is an over-mature and very stinky, acidic concoction with little or no leavening power left. Also, unless the sponge is kept in a sealed container, the water in the sponge will evaporate and leave you with a dry, crusty, highly acidic and stinky concoction with little or no leavening power. You might be able to add it to the rest of the ingredients in order to get more flavor in the finished crust but you would have to add more IDY as part of the final mix. Also, the high level of acids can affect the strength of the dough, making it overly elastic, and other acids formed in the process can create flavors in the finished crust that you may not like. The usual practice with sponges is as described in the article I referenced.

Usually, the way you can tell when the sponge is ready to be used is to watch the surface of the sponge. When the sponge becomes bubbly and cracks start to form and the sponge peaks volumetrically and starts to collapse, the sponge is ready to use. It is possible to extend the fermentation period of the sponge in your case, but you would have to use much lower amounts of yeast. And you would have to time everything such that you are there when the sponge is ready to be used. You are playing with chemistry here and, once made, the sponge and Mother Nature, not you, will control the process.

Peter
« Last Edit: December 18, 2007, 05:26:25 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2007, 05:38:10 PM »
Great info, thank you.

I will stick with making the sponge shortly before incorporating it into the final dough. 

Thank you for the insight, it is greatly appreciated.

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2007, 05:39:19 PM »
Justin,

I just reread your posts and saw your reference to cold fermenting the sponge. What I said in my last post was with respect to a room-temperature fermentation of the sponge. However, the same principles will apply to a cold fermentation but at a slower rate. What I can't tell you is what you will end up with after several days of cold fermentation. Some preferments can be refrigerated but usually for not more than a couple of days. So, you will have to experiment if you want to try to go beyond that time. Even then, you may have to add more yeast as part of the final mix.

Peter

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2007, 05:40:50 PM »
I will stick with making the sponge shortly before incorporating it into the final dough.

Justin,

I hope you will let us know how things turn out.

Peter

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2007, 05:52:04 PM »
Justin,

I just reread your posts and saw your reference to cold fermenting the sponge. What I said in my last post was with respect to a room-temperature fermentation of the sponge. However, the same principles will apply to a cold fermentation but at a slower rate. What I can't tell you is what you will end up with after several days of cold fermentation. Some preferments can be refrigerated but usually for not more than a couple of days. So, you will have to experiment if you want to try to go beyond that time. Even then, you may have to add more yeast as part of the final mix.

Peter

Ok, interesting. 

I don't know - for some reason, I have this notion that the longer things have to sit and do what they do, the better they will turn out.  At least in respect to the dough creating process.  Obviously there are limits, and obviously I have limited knowledge so I am likely incorrect. 

So, here is what I think I will try:
Dough Ball 1: I'll make the sponge tonight, and let it cold ferment in a covered plastic container until Saturday morning.  I'll then combine the rest of the ingredients (including around .1 tsp of additional yeast), form the final ball, and let cold ferment until Sunday evening.

Dough Ball 2: I'll make the sponge Saturday morning, add the remainder of the ingredients about 5 hours later, or when it looks ready per your notes, and then let the final ball cold ferment until Sunday evening. 

Dough Ball 3: Above noted recipe without any sponge. 

I'll make sure to get some pictures and post my results.  I also have some other pictures and info I've been meaning to get up, but haven't had a whole lot of time.

Thanks again for all the help!


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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2007, 06:19:05 PM »
Justin,

I didn't want you to become too ambitious just in case you were planning to have people over to help you eat the pizzas. I think your set of tests will be interesting and will teach you a fair amount about the sponge method.

There are a few instances where time does help with flavor development, and even crust color, texture, and aroma. One such example is the use of small quantities of a natural starter and a long room-temperature fermentation that can last for over 20-30 hours (and more in some cases). Another example, using commercial yeast (IDY), is the one described here: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.msg42160.html#msg42160 (Reply 110). The pizza described in that post is a Lehmann dough that was held in the refrigerator for 15 days, with excellent results. Other members, including MWTC, Bryan S and Glutenboy, have also described commercial yeast dough formulations that have allowed them to hold doughs over for several days. But, in most cases, you are not going to get over 3-4 days.

Peter

Offline jfrancesconi

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Re: Confused about starters (poolish/biga/old dough)
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2007, 06:58:14 PM »
There will be people, but they are family and close friends, so they will just have to deal with it if it's less than perfect.. hehe :)

I'm interested in trying everything.  This is truly a horrible addiction.  Especially when I'm coming off a 50lb weight lost, it feels like such a sin! 

I will keep you posted.  Thanks again for the help!