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Author Topic: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results  (Read 2059 times)

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Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Hi--Hoping Tom can help me understand where this dough went so wrong. What's tricky is that a very similar dough I made recently turned out great.

Starting with some levain from Ken Forkish book  *(most of the levain was used for bread, the pizza was made with some that was extra)

50 gms active (it was) starter--appx 100 percent hydration
200 gms AP flour
50 gms whole wheat flour
200 ml water at 85degrees F

Levain left on countertop overnight and was nicely active (or was it active enough??? It appeared fine and bread made from it was excellent, though that recipe contained a small amount of IDY)

Final pizza dough

250 gms bread flour    100%
175 ml  cold water at 42 F   70%
60 gms levain   24%
3.75 gms salt    1.5%


This was mixed, autolyzed , 4 stretch/folds, then left at room temp (mainly 68 degrees though went up to 73 last few hours)  for bulk ferment until approximately doubled ..This took 24 hours. Then balled and cold ferment in refrigerator for 5 days.

When time to open and stretch..disaster. Because I could see the balls were very hydrated, I opened them straight from fridge. They almost immediately tore into pieces. No strength

Here's what puzzles me..A couple of weeks ago, I made the same recipe with minor differences (though I guess something wasn't minor, because that dough worked great) Same mix, same proportions, but after stretch and folds, I balled and put the dough directly into fridge. On Day 4, I took the dough balls out of fridge for room temp rise at 74 degrees F. One ball for 10 hrs, the other for 8.5 hours, then both went back to fridge until time to bake. They both had excellent crumb and flavor and were easy to stretch.

So I'm trying to understand what i did wrong. I know the problem was lack of proper gluten formation and was related to time and/or temperature but don't know the relation. In looking at TX Craig's chart, it seemed that if 10 hours was the right time at 74 degrees, then 16 or so would be good at 68 degrees..but at 16 hours, the dough wasn't nearly doubled.

About the only good thing is that there were two other dough balls from a different recipe ready to go last night, so we didn't go hungry.

Any thoughts ?

Many thanks!

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2014, 01:22:09 PM »
JPB;
It's really hard to say what might have gone wrong when working natural ferments as you are. But the lack of extensibility would tend to indicate that there was a lack of fermentation, or possibly too much acid formation in the in the preferment. The excess acid content would greatly weaken the gluten structure allowing it to rip and tear easily during the shaping process. A lack of fermentation would create a dough that had limited extensibility and any attempt to open it much beyond 1/4-inch in thickness would cause it to tear.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Offline mitchjg

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2014, 04:35:27 PM »
I cannot tell you "why" but I can tell you that it was doomed from the beginning.  There is no way a dough with 24% levain should need to bulk ferment for 24 hours.   The total fermentation for a 24% dough (both bulk and proof) would be something like 8 hours at room temperature.  Put another way, for a 24 hour dough (including both bulk and proof), the amount of levain needed is in the vicinity of 5%, not 24%.

So, the fact that it took 24 hours at room temperature says that the problem was there at the onset.  Probably something wrong with the starter.

Craig's chart was for the full fermentation.   Yours, excluding the cold refrigerations was the 24 hours bulk + the warmup hours.

I would recommend you go back to the starter and feed it.  Start with, say, 50 grams of starter and add 25 grams water and 25 grams flour (or 100, 50, 50, etc.).  It should double in somewhere around 4 hours +/- at room temperature.  Feed it again.  Feed it again.   If it is regularly doubling in the 4 hours or so, then it is healthy and you can try to make a dough again.

- Mitch
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Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2014, 06:05:20 PM »
Thanks Tom and Mitch--That makes a lot of sense.  Will do some remedial levain work!

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2014, 01:32:14 PM »
Went back to the drawing board and made a couple of more pies, this time not using the leftover levain from bread, but rather my starter directly. As Mitch noted, my starter wasn't starting very well, so I did several feedings and got it up to speed.    One  version, but my notes got messed up..that one used 18.4% starter..so the notes weren't the only mistake..this was a sloppy, wet mess after bulk)   

Better though, I tried a dough with 6.4% JPB (me)  Starter..To be specific

250 gms bread flour  100%
175 ml water 51 F    70%
5 gms   salt   2%
16 gms well-fed active JPB  6.4%

Mixed, kneaded for a few minutes, rested, kneaded again, Then to bulk...to get significant doubling, it took 32 hours at a room temperature between 66-68F. Then balled and to cold ferment.  Made two balls. Baked first this morning about about 2 1/2 days in fridge. Not incredibly wet, but a little and even with bench flour and semolina I did have a sticking issue on the peel, enhanced by my thickness factor of about .06-.07..  While the final size shrunk a bit from my on-peel manuevers, I baked it at 550..actually about 570 steel temp in home oven, partially on broil. It was absolutely delicious..very complex flavor, not quite sour but a definite tang. One of my more flavorful.

I know 32 hours is a very long time..and this seemed to be  a very active starter..But my quantity of 6.4% is still about four times more than what's being used by members here with the Ischia starter (haven't tried it yet) So, is the Ischia starter just an remarkably powerful and strong starter??  I'd be concerned that my stuff was weak, but using that same feed, I made a levain that mostly (recipe included a touch of IDY) leavened a whole wheat/rye/white Forkish bread, and used the leftover levain as a a base for a made-up mini-loaf..just took the levain I had left, tossed in equal parts bread flour, whole wheat flour, some salt, no other yeast , and water as seemed appropriate , let it bulk, cold-proofed overnight, and baked it the next morning..really excellent sourdough flavor.  When Craig says pizza isn't bread, he's right..bread is a lot easier ;)

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Offline mitchjg

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2014, 02:42:39 PM »
Really happy to hear that you got a great pie to eat!  That is the goal.  ;D

Not at all surprised you had some stickiness issues.  70% is a lot of hydration for pizza.  Some folks here go that high but it requires a lot of expertise, the right kneading, etc.  You may have much better handling, with no loss of pizza quality if you go lower.  In fact the pizza quality can go through the roof if you eliminate 'fails.'

I am not sure I am catching everything you wrote.  But, you said 6.4% was 4 X the amount being used by other members.  Well, sort of.  Lots of people, TXCraig1 most notably, uses about 1.4% (I think 2.0 lately) in dough.  But, that is in the context of a 48 hour dough.  If yours went for 32, then you would need more.  And, 6.4 does not sound out of line.  (the fridge does very little in terms of rise with sourdough).

So, I think you may be doing just fine.  You may want to think about ditching the cold ferment unless you are trying to schedule.

Finally, you can "benchmark" your starter.  Feed it with exactly 1/2 new food.  So, for example, 4 ounces starter, 2 ounces water, 2 ounces flour.  Mark off the level in your measuring cup or container.  Leave it out at room temperature.  Watch how long it takes to double.  Do it again so you know it is really fresh..  If that is somewhere in the vicinity of 4 hours, your starter is fine.  10 hours, not so good at all.

Then you can eliminate starter health as an issue and focus on the rest.

- Mitch


« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 02:47:27 PM by mitchjg »
Mitch

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Offline David Esq.

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2014, 02:54:34 PM »
Really happy to hear that you got a great pie to eat!  That is the goal.  ;D

Not at all surprised you had some stickiness issues.  70% is a lot of hydration for pizza.  Some folks here go that high but it requires a lot of expertise, the right kneading, etc.  You may have much better handling, with no loss of pizza quality if you go lower.  In fact the pizza quality can go through the roof if you eliminate 'fails.'

I am not sure I am catching everything you wrote.  But, you said 6.4% was 4 X the amount being used by other members.  Well, sort of.  Lots of people, TXCraig1 most notably, uses about 1.4% (I think 2.0 lately) in dough.  But, that is in the context of a 48 hour dough.  If yours went for 32, then you would need more.  And, 6.4 does not sound out of line.  (the fridge does very little in terms of rise with sourdough).

So, I think you may be doing just fine.  You may want to think about ditching the cold ferment unless you are trying to schedule.

Finally, you can "benchmark" your starter.  Feed it with exactly 1/2 new food.  So, for example, 4 ounces starter, 2 ounces water, 2 ounces flour.  Mark off the level in your measuring cup or container.  Leave it out at room temperature.  Watch how long it takes to double.  Do it again so you know it is really fresh..  If that is somewhere in the vicinity of 4 hours, your starter is fine.  10 hours, not so good at all.

Then you can eliminate starter health as an issue and focus on the rest.

- Mitch
The ZaCalc app for 70 degrees and 29 hour ferment suggest 1.7% preferment -- and while I did that, I found it to be too much. The dough looked ready at about 17 hours.

Offline mitchjg

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2014, 03:05:39 PM »
He was at 66-68 degrees.  Not 70.  And there was some cold ferment in there. 
Mitch

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Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2014, 03:28:32 PM »
Great, thanks Mitch--you've definitely changed my starter routine.

 As to the cold-ferment, this is my first good outcome with starter, but when using IDY in either straight doughs or with poolish, I really prefer the flavor of the long-fermented doughs. Three days is good, five is excellent and the one time so far that baked at 7.5 days, I thought the taste to be outstanding.   (scheduling isn't an issue..I can do whatever I need to do) And I still get plenty of oven spring and decent handling (usually) even with 70 percent doughs. I would definitely like fewer sticking adventures, but would going down a few percentage points in hydration not adversely affect my oven spring and airiness of the crust?   For me it's taste first, looks second, handling third...So I guess I'd rather have the occasional fail if it means keeping the flavor where I want it to be. Am I misunderstanding some of how this works?

Offline mitchjg

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2014, 03:33:45 PM »
As a generality, a higher hydration dough will lead to more "holes", etc.  But, there are lots of really nice/beautiful open crumbs in pizzas at a lower level.  It also has to do with other things such as kneading/stretching and folding, fermentation and probably many things I do not understand.

If your priorities are in the order you described, ok with me.  Maybe just start moving down slowly, maybe 66-68% hydration, and see what happens.  If you get the same result and it is less sticky, then it is a happy thing.  It also depends on your flour.  Some flours can more readily absorb water than others.

Sounds like you are on a good path!

- Mitch
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Offline David Esq.

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2014, 03:52:19 PM »
He was at 66-68 degrees.  Not 70.  And there was some cold ferment in there.
I was only pointing out that a much lower % of starter don't seem unusual, and even a small amount proved to be too much for me.

Offline mitchjg

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2014, 04:08:57 PM »
I understand.  I did not want to create confusion but no problemo.   

JPB has corrected the huge issues he had and is now going to tuning.  I find my starters (the amount needed, etc.) to be very different from one starter to the next, different depending on the stage of fermentation they are at when used, final dough temperature, and it only takes one or two degrees to create very different results since the growth is exponential and the fermentation times are long.

This is why I have been encouraging JPB to benchmark his starter when it is in a consistent and healthy stage.  That will go a long way.  His starter amounts may differ from yours or mine - lots of variables.  Craig's model is terrific - and it is an excellent starting point for each of us to tune to our own circumstances.

- Mitch
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Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: (re-post from wrong category) Extreme Inconsistent Levain Results
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2014, 05:47:21 PM »
Thank you so much ..That's really great information! It'll improve my rye and wholewheat starters too, though for  now, no plans to use those for pizza. 

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