Slowing Down the Process



And thanks for creating such a great site. The videos in particular are great.

I started making sourdough at home a couple of months ago and have been getting results I'm pretty happy with. But there's a couple of things I'm having trouble with, maybe someone can help??

I'm finding it hard to make my starter and dough proofing slow enough. It's warm here in Sydney at this time of the year, and the coolest part of the house is a fairly consistant 23-25 degrees C. When I feed my starter I'm adding about 150g of flour and 180g of water to 250g of mother starter. At the above temps this seems to result in my starter peaking after about 4 hours. This is frustratingly fast, I'd really rather it took about 8 hours so it can proof while I'm in bed or at work. I've tried using cold water from the fridge and also reducing the amount of mother starter down to 150g. Neither of these made a significant difference. I have a similar problem actually proofing my mixed dough - again being able to control it so it takes a convenient approximate length of time would be handy. In winter when ambient temperatures are lower it will probably be easier to achieve suitable temperatures. Does anyone have any techniques for controlling proofing times in summer??



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SourDom 2006 January 18


I haven't been making sourdough for long enough to have a very good feel for the different rising times between summer and winter. However I don't think that the sort of temperatures that you describe should make it too difficult to make sourdough at home (pretty similar to the temperatures in Melbourne in the last month or so).

Many writers, including Jack Lang - one of the doyens of home sourdough baking in the UK, suggest that proofing temperatures should be 30C for optimal sourdough starter rising. There is a discussion about this on Dan Lepard's forum at [url][/url]. Jack usually suggests letting your starter rise for 12 hours at 30C. [Actually I think Jack doth protest too much, and plenty of bakers have been using temperatures lower than this for centuries].
Proofing at lower temperatures than this you need to use longer rise times, and (I think) use smaller amounts of starter inoculum. [I wonder if you would get better results if you start with smaller amounts of starter rather than a cup?]

I have been trying a couple of different schedules to fit sourdough into my life, and still be able to bake in the morning, or to bake in the evening for dinner. Here are a couple of suggestions

1. Starter refreshing
I usually follow Mick (bethesdabaker)'s suggestion and refresh twice my refridgerated starter (renewed once a week) twice over 24 hours. Therefore 24 hours before I want to start bread making I would take (for example) 15g starter (50%), 30g (100%) water, 30g flour (100%), stir and leave for 12 hours at room temperature. At the end of this time I add to the existing starter 75g flour (100%), and 75g water (100%), and leave at room temperature for 12 hours.
At the end of this time you will have ~200g of active starter (100% hydration) and can start baking

2. Schedule for Saturday morning baking (this is what I will be doing this week)
Thursday morning - get starter out of fridge - refresh as above (remember to refresh the fridge starter as well)
Thursday evening - repeat refreshment
Friday morning - mix starter , flour water salt etc, three quick kneads over 30 minutes. Put dough in the fridge during the day. Go to work.
Friday evening - Get dough out of fridge. Fold dough 3 or four times over four hours. Shape loaves. Put back in fridge. Set alarm clock for ~2am
Sat 2am - struggle to get out of bed, get dough out of fridge. Go back to bed
Sat 6am - turn on oven
Sat ~6.30 - bake
Sat ~8am - eat fresh sourdough

If it is a cold night I probably wouldn't put the shaped loaves back in the fridge.

Hope this helps


dave 2006 January 18

When I feed my starter I'm adding about 150g of flour and 180g of water to 250g of mother starter

Lower the amount of mother starter, my most radical proportions I've used (after multiple high 30C days) was 1 Tablespoon mother to 60 litres fresh ingredients, worked perfectly.

Don't be scared, experiment.

PS I want my starter ready in 14 hours, summer or winter.

John 2006 January 18

OK thanks guys, I'll try reducing the amount of mother starter down to 50g and see what happens. For the dough I gather using less activated starter and compensating with more flour & water is the go.

SourDom, I hope your fridge isn't too far from the bedroom. Not even sourdough can get me up at 2am!!

dave 2006 January 18

Hi john, welcome to the forum, please just make one change at a time, or else you won't know what's working, just less mother for now, same recipe.

SourDom 2006 January 18

There is no one answer to the proportion of starter in your dough.
As you can see from another post, some recipes use as much as 80% starter (proportion of the dry flour weight).
However most recipes that I have made use something in the order of 30-40% starter.

For example, for 500g flour you might add 200g refreshed starter.

[I confess that I am not patient enough to change one thing at a time, though it is a good idea...]


PS after a couple of small children, and many years of on call I am now adept at going back to sleep after being woken...

Anonymous 2006 January 22

I tried feeding using 50g of mother with 150g flour and 200g water and it worked much better. I let it go overnight and after about 9 hours it seemed to be peaking. Bread turned out great. Thanks for the advice guys.

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