Feel free to ask away. I wish there had been someone for me to ask 13 years ago! Bulk fermentation is easy only after you know some basic facts. However, it took me years to learn them. It’s all in the math for the Total Hydration needed for the various kinds of flour as well as using a 100% hydration sourdough starter.
The type of flour determines the level of Total Hydration (TH). Refined flour needs only about 50%-60% TH. Low extraction flour requires 60%-70% TH. High Extraction (or a blend of low extraction/refined flour with whole grain) requires 70%-80% TH. Finally, whole grain flour requires 80%-90% TH. The secret is in knowing HOW to determine TH within the range needed for the type of flour you are using.
To determine TH, first determine how much flour you need. I use Baker’s Percentage. To explain this principle, I use 1000grams.) If I have whole grain wheat flour (kind does not matter), my TH must be 80%-90%. The kind of flour determines the actual hydration in this range. (The level of TH that suits your needs comes from experimentation). Kamut requires MORE hydration which is absorbed quickly. Therefore, the TH of Kamut will be closer to 90%. Einkorn requires LESS TH but more time to absorb it. Therefore, Einkorn will need only about 80% TH. [My greatest shock came in learning that whole grain rye performed best with a TH of 108%!!!]
The shortest fermentation time MUST be 4-5 hours for complete fermentation. (It can be less if you don’t want complete fermentation). This time begins when the starter is added to the water and flour. I use a specific formula. It is all in the math. Once I figured this out, I have never had a failure. To explain the formula, I will use 1000g flour. (The flour is always 100%.)
1000 grams Einkorn Flour at 81% TH = 1000 x .81 = 810 grams of liquid.
This hydration % will be the same regardless of whether I do a short or long fermentation when I use whole grain Einkorn flour. The TH drops to 72% (720 gr) when I use Einkorn AP (high extraction) flour.
For complete fermentation in the shortest time (4-6 hrs), divide the TH (810 gr) by 3. (It would take too long in this post to explain the ‘3’. Simply trust me for now. This will give me 270 grams. Now comes the potentially confusing part. If you always keep your starter at 100% hydration, it is easy. 1/2 of my starter is always water. The other 1/2 is flour. In this formula, 1/3 of the TH (810 grams) or 270 grams…MUST COME from my starter. Therefore my starter must be 270 x 2 or 540 grams. (Remember, 1/2 of my starter is water. The other 1/2 is flour.) That is a lot of starter but it is what is needed! I then subtract my starter hydration (270 gr) from the total (810 - 270 = 540) and the remaining 540 grams is added water. Let me put this into a Baker’s % formula…
100% Flour: Einkorn: 1000 grams @ 81% TH = 810 grams Hydration (810/3= 270 gr starter hydration)
54% Starter: 540 grams ripe starter (270 x 2) [The 54% is 540/1000 = 54%]
54% Liquid: 540 grams (810 total - 270 starter hydration = 540 g)
1% Salt: 10 grams (1% of 1000)…I use less salt with Einkorn since it is resistant to stretch
If I had used AP Einkorn, my TH would have been only 72%.
100% Flour; 1000g @ 72% TH = 720 grams 720/3 = 240gr
48% Starter: 480 gr. (240 x 2+ 480 gr starter)
48% Liquid: 480 gr. (720 TH - 240 starter hydration = 480)
1% salt: 10 gr
Once you have mixed all the ingredients, don’t bother stretching and folding as this is Einkorn. Once all ingredients are fully incorporated, cover and let dough ferment for about 1 hour then fold (in bowl) to insure all flour is well hydrated. (The actual degree of stickiness will be determined by the % of TH used. I suggest 81% to start.) Allow to ferment for another 2 hours. Remove from bowl and shape only sufficiently to put in container in which the dough will be baked. The container should be well greased. For cast iron, I have found that palm shortening seems to work the best. However, whatever container you use, it must be well greased. You can also put the ‘shaped’ dough on parchment paper and then put the parchment paper in the container. For a boule, I use a 4 qt dutch oven (for 1000 grams).
This next part is CRITICAL. You must allow the dough time to finish fermenting. This will take approximately 1.5 hours. You will know it is completely fermented when you see open holes on the top of the loaf. When you see about 10 open holes on the top, put in a pre-heated 500 degree F oven. Reduce heat to 450 degrees and heat for ~ 45 minutes. If you want an ‘oven spring’, you must put the loaf in the oven as soon as you see only 1-2 holes in the top. This would be about 45 min. From the time you see the first hole until you see 10-15 is only about 10 minutes! The C02 will break through very rapidly once fermentation is ending. Therefore, you must watch this last stage very closely till you have done several loaves. Once fully fermented, Einkorn ‘drops’ and becomes a gluten glob very quickly! Remember, its L/P is 1.05…This means it resists stretching! It is like a thick rubber band. There is a limit to how much you can stretch it and, once released (exit all C02), the band snaps back quickly. The goal is to bake the dough just before the C02 escapes!
Once the bread is baked, cook for at least 6 hours before slicing. I prefer to wait 12 hours.
If you want a long fermentation (more than 6 hours), you will need to decrease inoculation. At 10% inoculation (100 grams starter for 1000g flour), complete fermentation takes about 9 hours. The TH, however remains the same…80% - 90%. A long fermentation will be written as follows:
100%: Flour: 1000 gr @ 81% = 810 gr TH (Do Not divide by 3 for long fermentation.)
10%: Starter: 100 grams (1/2 of starter = 50 grams…starter hydration)
76%: Liquid: 760 grams (810 TH - 50 grams starter Hydration)
1%: Salt: 10 grams
PLEASE NOTICE: In the short fermentation, added liquid is only 54% but in the long fermentation, the added liquid is 76% !!! If one does not take into consideration the amount of liquid in the starter, the amount of hydration will either be too low or too high. Very few sourdough recipes tell you whether or not the hydration of the starter has been taken into account. If the one writing the recipe does not state whether or not the hydration of the starter was included in the TH, you can end up adding too much or too little liquid. That is why I stopped using recipes!
If you have any questions, please ask as it took me time to master this. I never deviate from this formula as the results are always spectacular. If I experiment, it is only with the hydration (within the given range).