Please help me with proving times!

Mr_Punchy's picture
Hello everyone.  Must say, similarly to most who post on this forum for the first time, I am VERY excited to have found this site.  And the breads look amazing that people are doing.  I've baked a few loaves, and my issue is that my bread seems to take AGES to prove.  For example, I set up a dough last night at 12am, and this morning at 7am it looks like it's proved quite well, but that's 7 hours.  This is pretty similar timing to when I do my proving during the day.I live in windy Warrnambool on the south coast of Victoria, and it's not the warmest place in the world this time of year.  My questions to you more experienced "loafers" are, what's the best way to measure how long to prove a loaf?  Is it waiting til it's 'double' in size or so?  Also, is it best to prove it once or more then knock it down before shaping it?   And if so, does anyone know why this is so?
Thanks guys.
Jim :)
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Maedi's picture
Maedi 2009 September 20
Hi Jim, welcome to Sourdough Companion! Just private message me if you need help using the website.

Maedi - admin
jem 2009 September 22

I've certainly found the site very useful from time to time, and am just reaching a stage where I can give something back.

As far as I know the easiest factor to control with proving times is how much starter you add to begin with.

Now you might start with only a few grams of starter and build it into a sponge before you start. No doubt there is a technical word for what I am trying to say, but basically, how much active culture are you adding when you form your dough?

Maybe you could give us some idea of your formula so we can problem solve a bit?


Mr_Punchy's picture
Mr_Punchy 2009 September 22
So, i'm basically running off a friends formula that she did in a soudough bread course.  I'm using 500g organic unbleached white flour, 375ml warm water, 7g salt and 100g starter (which has been active overnight with fresh filtered water and more flour).  I'm mixing it in my mixer, letting it sit for 15 mins then giving it a good knead in my Kenwood.  Then giving it a first prove which is where I come stuck as it seems to take about 5-7 hours to double in size.  Then I fold it down and let it rise again (again for 3 or sometimes 5-7 hours).  The starter is quite a wet mix, kinda like a thick pancake batter.  When i put it in, it looks very active with large bubbles (much like the one on the homepage of the sourdough site).  I'm wondering if it is just that the temperature is so cold down here.  For instance, right now (11am) it's only 15 degrees celcius.  I've set up a wooden box with a 15watt globe in it that I'm going to try.  The ambient temp in there seems to sit at 25 degrees celcius, so I hope that works better.  If you do have any tips, please do let me know!
THanks again.jim.

rbd 2009 September 22
You're on the right track making a proofing box!

If sourdough doubles itself in 6 hours @ 30C

theoratically it will double itself in 12 hours @ 20C

at 15C it will be a VERY slow process.

Try to control as many varying factors as you can - temperature being the main one - to produce consistent loaves in between bakes.

happy baking

jem 2009 September 23
15 C is very slow.
most chemical reactions (including ones catalysed by microbes) about double their rate with every 10 C rise in temperature, like Roland mentioned.
If you can increase the temperature, well and good. A proving box would be great. Otherwise, perhaps you could double the amount of starter to compensate.
My only other thought is, does it matter? Low slow proving times can be great for flavour!
Mr_Punchy's picture
Mr_Punchy 2009 September 23
Indeed, i guess you're right. I had read about the long proving times and how that can improve flavour as the sugars break down.  guess it doesn't matter all that much.  The proving box has proved to prove my dough with much improvement though.  Only 3 hours.  The box has a 15w globe in it, and the temp stays at a balmy 25C.  Very exciting.  
Thanks everyone for your help.
rbd 2009 September 23
3 hours doubling @ 25C for a true sourdough sounds a little too quick.

for a proper fermentation and to get all those goodies and tastes developed, I reckon you need a bit more than that!

So either reduce the amount of sponge you add to your final dough - or if your sponge is too fast [too much yeast activity] - add [very] little salt when working it up [REALLY!]

Happy baking


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