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I found a good balance between leavening and maturation while using my favourite flour, my oven and my sourdough starter, the only problem is that the whole process, from mixing the ingredients and producing a baked dough/focaccia requires more than 24h, about 1 day and a half.

I know at least 2 ways of "cheating" on the leavening, with some fructose/easy to digest sugar or a warmer temperature, but maturation is harder, it looks like there is no real answer or shortcut to that.

My main problem here is to shorten the amount of time required while getting the same or a really similar result.

  • Time does wonderful things! :) As sourd'oh says below, and you note, there are various tradeoffs, but they are, indeed, tradeoffs. Is there a particular reason that you're trying to shorten the time? This might inform (or rule out) other alternatives... – hoc_age Nov 12 '14 at 22:16
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The easiest method, and most common in a commercial setting, would be to add a small amount of yeast in addition to the sourdough starter. You will probably have to reformulate a bit, as the dough will mature faster leaving the starter less time to develop flavor. This is usually overcome by also increasing the proportion of starter (and adjusting the final dough's hydration based on the hydration of your starter).

For instance, if your original recipe included 30% starter (in baker's math), the faster version might have 40% starter and .5% yeast. If you use a liquid starter, you may then cut the water by 5% or so, and if you use a solid starter no further adjustment may be needed.

  • but the result is as easy to digest as the "longer" version ? what are the properties that can/may vary ? – user2485710 Nov 12 '14 at 20:54
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    There will be a trade-off no matter what. The yeast will produce a faster rise at the expense of producing fewer flavor compounds and digesting the starches in the flour differently than the starter would have. You could just use more starter, but that could make the finished product "too flavorful". The actual speed can be controlled by how much yeast you add, from bumping it up a bit to halving the time. – SourDoh Nov 12 '14 at 21:03
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    @user2485710 "easy to digest" is not something we can help you with. We can only answer about culinary properties, not nutritional ones. Sourd'oh is correct that the end result will be different in taste and texture, you'll just get a similar amount of rise. You have to see for yourself if it fulfills your other criteria. – rumtscho Nov 13 '14 at 14:03
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You didn't specified the preparation steps of your recipe, so I don't know if you already doing what I'm going to suggest. It's from Max Berstein's post on Serious Eats and I don't know if this tip will work with sourdough starter:

Mix first only flour and water, nothing more, until all flour is incorporated and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Them you add the yeast and salt, knead until all ingredients are incorporated.

From my (small) experience, I found this to make the dough rising more efficient, in only a few hours the dough doubled the size. If you didn't do this already, give it a try.

The reasons for not adding salt and yeast at the beginning:

Although salt strengthens our gluten network overall, it's also very water-hungry. If we added salt to our autolyse, it would compete with our proteins and starches for water, causing them to take longer to hydrate. While this wouldn't be a disaster, we've already committed ourselves to a five-hour project here, so why make it harder on ourselves?

And as for the yeast, its job is to ferment our flour, causing the bread to rise and develop flavor. But on a chemical level, mixing—and autolysing, in particular—isn't about flavor. It's about structure. Were we to put our yeast in during our autolyse, it would start belching out gas. When we begin our kneading steps later, we would just end up pounding this gas back out. In short, the yeast just doesn't have a job to do during the autolyse.

  • You seem to be mixing things up here. The OP is using a sourdough starter and is talking about a very long rise. It has nothing to do with the sponge preparation you are describing. – rumtscho Nov 13 '14 at 14:06
  • @rumtscho maybe I am. I never used sourdough starter, I thought it was used the same way one use active yeast. At least, when I was following the mentioned recipe the dough rose faster. Maybe I misunderstood "maturation" term since English isn't my native language. – Johnny Nov 13 '14 at 17:12
  • With yeast, you can (but don't have to) make a preferment. With sourdough, the whole sourdough stands in as a preferment. The advice you point to tells us to not use salt in the preferment. This makes no sense in a soudough bread, as there is no preferment there. – rumtscho Nov 13 '14 at 17:25
  • I got your point. But I'm not talking about a preferment. My suggestion it to mix flour and water first, let it form gluten before, and after 30 minutes add the yeast (or sourdough starter) and salt. This way, the yeast/sourdough will find an already formed gluten, which should be easier to ferment. – Johnny Nov 14 '14 at 12:22
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    the formation of gluten does not affect the speed of fermentation. If the sourdough needs 30 hours to produce enough gas for the dough to be risen, starting with 30 minutes of autolysis in the remaining dough won't do anything to change that. – rumtscho Nov 14 '14 at 13:38

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