Dough over fermenting

I’ve been baking with the same starter for years, with pretty good results. But since the weather got hot, my dough is over-fermenting and I can’t figure out how to adjust for that. The basic recipe I use is from - long autolyse, long rest and fold, long ferment in the fridge. But even if I keep the dough in the coolest part of the house, it’s getting very sticky very early in the process, and it keeps rising, even in the fridge. Yesterday’s attempt fell to pieces when I tried to get it out of the banneton.

I’m sure this is largely an issue of timing and would be grateful for any advice about how to adjust - or pointers to recipes that will work well in hot, humid weather.

Thanks so much!

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Do you use cold water when mixing? That is one way to deal with warmer weather. You can also adjust for fast fermentation by reducing your levain by half and adjusting your mix to compensate for the reduced flour and water from the levain. So increase your flour and water in the mix so the final dough still has the same flour and water.

I use cold tap water. Reducing the levain - and maybe the amount of starer? - makes sense. I do think that several hours sitting in this weather is just too much, though.

Another way would be to increase the levain but do the bulk ferment in the fridge. So you’re compensating for the cold bulk ferment instead of the very warm bulk ferment.

Do you mean let it rest in the fridge between stretching and folding?

Yes. Or develop the gluten fully by kneading, or if too wet then slap and folds, then refrigerate till the bulk ferment is done.

Ok. Clearly this is going to take some experimentation.

Or… Hope this isn’t making you confused. Go for a medium amount of levain, develop the gluten over a couple of ours with stretch and folds then refrigerate till the next day. So you don’t do the whole bulk ferment at room temperature but it gets a good start and you have time to do the stretch and folds. The next day take it out, shape, final proof and bake.

The best of both worlds.

That makes sense. I just think that in this heat even a couple of hours is too long, unless I let it rest in the fridge between stretches.

What’s the recipe? When I click on the link it doesn’t work. And how warm is it at the moment?

The recipe is here

I’m not sure about the temperature, but it’s in the 80s/90s outside and super humid. Not much better inside - no AC.


For the leaven:

For the dough:

  • 525 grams water (2 1/2 cups), divided
  • salt 1 tablespoon
  • 700 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour (5 1/2 cups)

So this makes two loaves.
At 150g (ish) levain to 700g flour that is about 21%
Recommended bulk ferment is 3-4 hours but that is not including the autolyse which has the levain!

So what you can do is autolyse without the levain for 30 minutes using cold water. This is to get the benefit of the autolyse but delay the ferment. By the way how long do you normally let the autolyse go for? Recipe advises it can go on for a few hours but it already has the levain! Then mix in the salt and levain till fully combined. Now the bulk ferment starts. You can get in a few sets of stretch and folds 20-30 minutes apart before it goes into the fridge. If you get the first set in straight away after combining the levain and salt. Then do 3 more sets 30 minutes apart the whole thing will take 1.5 hours. Then refrigerate till the next day after which take it out, shape, final proof etc.

The first experiment. See how that works and if it needs tweaking then we can try altering the levain.

You mean mix the water and flour without the levain or salt and let it sit?

I usually let it go 30 min to an hour, then add the salt.

Yes! A true autolyse is without the levain or salt. Once the levain goes in the ferment starts. So putting the levain in with the autolyse will shorten your bulk ferment time.

Ok, that sounds like a good way to start. Thank you!!

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Let us know how it goes.

Will do.

Another question: should I let the levain sit overnight? Or maybe just start it when I start the autolyse?

I think best overnight. It needs to be fully mature and active when going into the dough. You can mix it with chilled water if it’s very warm so it should be ready when starting the main dough.

Ok. Time to feed the starter!