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Old 10-20-2021, 12:43 PM   #1
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A Rising Mystery

I have this mystery and hope to get some help in solving it. (This is my first post, BTW.)

My wife and I live in the Chicago area and own a vacation home in Door County, Wisconsin (250 miles North). I make a loaf of bread twice a week; about every 5 days. But there is a mystery ...

The mystery:

When I make my bread at home, it always turns out approximately the same size (i.e. height) When I make the same recipe at our vacation home (250 miles north), it always turns out about 20% larger. And, after the second rise, it has many more and larger bubbles, compared to the results at home; and about 20% more volume.

The facts:

1. Identical recipe ingredients - Same Red Star Active Dry yeast, same Morton iodized salt, same King Arthurs AP flour. The exception is the water, but I have even brought water from Door County to our home, thinking "Maybe it's something about the water," as it's well water, rather than "city water" (from Lake Michigan). Nope ... same smaller loaf.
2. Recipe is prepared exactly in the same way (for several years). I weigh the flour on a digital scale; heat my water to 90 degrees F., go through exactly the same motions, and bake it at 500 deg. F for 35 minutes and then lower the heat to 465 deg. F for about 10-15 minutes.
3. The oven at home is an electric Kitchenaid. The oven at the vacation home is an electric Bosch.
4. I proof for 18 hours in an identical stainless steel bowl, covered with aluminum foil, at room temperature (72-74 F during the day and 66-68 F at night). Then I fold it and let it sit, covered, for another 2 hours. Then I fire up the oven (~20 min. before it reaches 500), place the dough into a dutch oven, cover it and put it in the oven.

The clues: I can't think of any, but one possibility: We are 3.1 miles from Lake Michigan at our home, but we're only about 100 feet feet from Lake Michigan in our Door County vacation home. It's sometimes more humid at the vacation home, but that doesn't appear to make any difference.

I simply can't fathom why the loaves don't turn out the same in both locations. Any insights are welcome and thanks for your help!

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Old 10-20-2021, 01:09 PM   #2
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I'm in wisconsin at about 900 feet elevation. Door county is about 900 feet, chicago is 600 ft. I thought maybe elevation but if you are 100 feet from the lake your elevation may be much lower in door county. If you at a higher elevation, you have less air pressure allowing the bread to rise a certain % faster.



No idea why. Sorry!
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Old 10-20-2021, 01:10 PM   #3
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Welcome to DC.

There aren't a lot of variables. It sounds like you're proofing and rising the dough based on time rather than rise. So something that effects the rise rate is the culprit. Time, temp, etc. Do you feed the yeast with sugar in both cases and let it bloom the same?

I think the humidity can have an impact. The added hydration can speed up the yeast's activity.

If you proof and rise the dough to the same size in both locations rather than by time, you should get more uniform results.
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:17 PM   #4
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Thanks for your response, blissful. Since we're right on shore, the elevation is almost the same. Actually, the elevation of our house is slightly higher than our Wisconsin house. The mystery continues ...
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:25 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Welcome to DC.

There aren't a lot of variables. It sounds like you're proofing and rising the dough based on time rather than rise. So something that effects the rise rate is the culprit. Time, temp, etc. Do you feed the yeast with sugar in both cases and let it bloom the same?

I think the humidity can have an impact. The added hydration can speed up the yeast's activity.

If you proof and rise the dough to the same size in both locations rather than by time, you should get more uniform results.
You are correct ... I have been doing it based on time. I did a test a year or so ago, giving the dough at home more time to rise, but after an additional 2 hours, it didn't rise any more.

As for humidity, perhaps that can be a factor, but I have been making this bread at least once a week for over five years and it always turns out the same (in both locations), no matter the season or the humidity. Besides, this dough is quite wet. I do not use sugar. (I tried, in the past, and it didn't make any noticeable difference.)

I a loaf in WI two weeks ago, when the humidity was 97% (outside) and made it again 4 days ago, when it was 30% less. Same result. i.e. 20% larger than when I make it at home.
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:31 PM   #6
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Experiment, if the red star yeast is from the same package, then no experiment. If it was bought in door county, then it will probably sit on the grocery shelf longer/or shorter than in chicago, maybe less effective or more effective.


Bring your yeast from home up to door county, then bring your yeast from door county to your home. Then see what happens. It is quite a mystery.
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Old 10-20-2021, 04:23 PM   #7
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everything else being the same . . .


elevation / atmospheric pressure is one issue.


water chemistry - stuff other than the pure H2O molecule can/will affect "yeast performance'


differences in packaged yeast for a market 250 miles apart . . . no. not really a thing.
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Old 10-20-2021, 05:30 PM   #8
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blissful: The yeast question came up in my mind at some point, but I didn't do anything about it, because I tried Fleischman's in both locations, with the same results. However, I did not keep track of where I bought the yeast. i.e. in IL or WI. Consequently, the next time I go up to WI, I'll make a loaf at home and them bring the same package of yeast and make another loaf at the vacation house. Unfortunately, I won't be going up there for about a month. But I will not forget . . .
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Old 10-20-2021, 06:03 PM   #9
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everything else being the same . . .

elevation / atmospheric pressure is one issue.

water chemistry - stuff other than the pure H2O molecule can/will affect "yeast performance'

differences in packaged yeast for a market 250 miles apart . . . no. not really a thing.
dcSaute: I thought about that too and determined that the elevation is very similar. At home, I'm at 613.01 and in Door County I'm at 584.11. I decided that such a minor difference wouldn't make a noticeable difference.

As for water, I agree and figured that even soap residue on the SS bowls might make a difference, but we use the same soap in both locations (thanks to Costco) and I am meticulous about rinsing after learning that even a trace of soap residue on a champagne glass could affect or eliminate the bubbles.

A NEW CLUE just popped into my head! I cover the SS bowls with aluminum foil, however, at home I leave the bowl on the kitchen island which is covered with quartz, whereas in Door County I put it on a wood countertop. I wonder if the quartz countertop dissipates the heat generated by the yeast action, through the bottom of the metal bowl, more than the wood top, causing the rise to take place at a lower temperature. So the next time I make a loaf, here at home, I will put the bowl on a wooden tables.
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Old 10-20-2021, 06:36 PM   #10
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LOL, Breeze, you are a scientist at heart. The kitchen is the lab.
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Old 10-20-2021, 07:30 PM   #11
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What about room temperature? Is it cooler at home? If none of the other things are different, is it possible that there is more natural airborne yeast in the vacation home?
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Old 10-20-2021, 07:49 PM   #12
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Hi and welcome to Discuss Cooking

A few hundred feet of elevation is not enough to make a difference like this. Temperature has a much more direct effect on how fast dough rises. A stainless steel bowl on a stone countertop can definitely inhibit the rise. I always put my dough on a towel to prevent my granite countertop from causing this problem.
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Old 10-20-2021, 11:20 PM   #13
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If you have a silicone trivet, place it under the bowl at both locations. If you want to get picky, use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the sponge.
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Old 10-21-2021, 06:56 AM   #14
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Hi Breeze and Welcome to DC. You certainly got everyone thinking!

My personal thought is you've got it! The wood counter would be a lot warmer. Make sure you try with a fairly thick board, too thin and the counter will still suck some of the heat out.

Next thing you might try both when going to the lake and at home, would be to start using a ceramic bowl for the rising. Just a suggestion, as I personally think they retain heat far longer than a metal bowl.

taxy, I believe he mentioned that the room temps were pretty simiilar.
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Old 10-21-2021, 09:51 AM   #15
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My best bread dough rise comes from heating a bowl, half filled with water, in the microwave for three minutes. I then place bowl containing the dough on top of the water bowl, covered with cling wrap.. After a half hour, it's doubled in size and ready to be punched down. For a stronger yeast flavor, I place the dough into a sealed freezer bag and let sit in the fridge overnight. Then, when ready to make the bread, I deflate the dough, and put into buttered loaf pans, and let rise to the loaf pan tops. Bake as you normally would.

Also, adding a tbs. of diastatic malt will help it rise better. I always use SAF yeast. It gives me consistent results, and is very active.

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Old 10-21-2021, 01:41 PM   #16
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I take the dough out to the greenhouse, which is usually quite a bit warmer than the house, and cover it with a clear top used for starting seeds. If it's cool, I use a plug-in mat as well.

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Old 10-21-2021, 02:43 PM   #17
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Thanks, blissful. I happen to know a lot of scientists and I am always humbled by them. In retrospect, I wish I had studied the sciences, but took a different path. Fortunately, that turned out okay.
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Old 10-21-2021, 02:53 PM   #18
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What about room temperature? Is it cooler at home? If none of the other things are different, is it possible that there is more natural airborne yeast in the vacation home?
Hi taxlady. Room temperature is similar. I doubt that airborne yeast are making a difference, as the time that the dough it exposed to the air is only about 5 minutes before I cover the bowl with aluminum foil. My current theory is that the quartz countertop vs. wood table is the culprit. That is, the dense quartz counter is dissipating the heat produced by the yeast action. I'm going to make another loaf tomorrow and will find out ...
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Old 10-21-2021, 02:55 PM   #19
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GotGarlic - I'm with you on the countertop temperature theory. I'm going to make a loaf tomorrow and have an answer on Saturday. I have my fingers crossed that a towel or cutting board over the quartz countertop will solve the mystery.
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Old 10-21-2021, 03:02 PM   #20
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Bitser and dragnlaw: Thanks for your input! I'll be making dough tomorrow, which will be ready on Saturday. I'll put my bowl on a wood table and we'll see what happens ...
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