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Dough Fermentation and other tips

 The beautiful thing about authentic leaven is that it requires integrity of attention


When mixing dough, keep in mind that the temperature at which it leavens affects the speed. Do not add warm-from-the-mill flour, or warm water to your leaven. I once put ice cubes in my Berkey water for bread, since the kitchen (where the Berkey is) was so hot that it jump-started my fermentation much too fast!

Higher hydration dough also ferments faster.

At the end of fermentation, if the top of your dough is no longer smooth, looking "broken", you'll have a hard time handling it. Keep an eye on it to avoid slop!

If ambient temperature is between 65℉-70℉, bread dough may take about 10 hours to ferment.

At 70℉-75℉, it will be fully fermented around 8 hours later.

Above 75℉, the yeasts tend to get a little wild and destroy the gluten structure. If you stop it close to 5 hours, you may be able to handle the dough, but the end product is not going to be as well-developed.

I was able to make dough during the day in the summer (for Blackstone griddle pizza!), but most of the time the dough was difficult to work with even after a short fermentation!

My home is not climate controlled, so I've had to learn places in which to put my leaven both in summer and in winter, to prevent hyperactivity or sluggishness.

I have a cheap FB marketplace mini refrigerator that I once aged cheese in, using an external thermostat. Since we sold our cow, I now use it as a fermentation cabinet, and I can keep it at a fairly consistent 68℉. I am excited about this for summer! Night fermentation always has worked best for me, since it is coolest.


>>If you are trying to AVOID gluten formation in your preferment, for things like muffins, banana bread, waffles, biscuits, pie crust, cake and gingerbread, you will want to use spent leaven (either from the refrigerator, or what you pour off when you go to feed). This "rendered" leaven will already have the gluten broken down so much that you won't get the stretchy strands that are unhelpful in such recipes. These recipes are not using the leaven so much for rise as for breaking down the acids of the grain, so high activity is not necessary.

>>For these same tender doughs (with the exceptions of biscuits and pie crust, since you want COLD butter cut in), another useful tip is to fully soften your butter, and beat it into the flour with a hand mixer until it's sandy. This coats the flour so that gluten strands cannot connect when the water (in the buttermilk) hits it, which makes the product chewy and tough.

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