What is Detmolder Three Phase Sourdough Method and Why Should I Use it to Bake Bread?
Detmolder Three Phase Sourdough Method is a method of making rye sourdough bread using a series of "builds." Each build or phase is modified to select for a different characteristic of the bread, the first phase enhances the yeast, the second builds acetic acid, which makes the bread taste sour, and the third favors lactic acid formation, which mellows the tang of the bread and makes the crumb soft.
The "Bundesanstalt für Getreide-, Kartoffel- und Fettforschung in Detmold, known today as the "Max Rubner-Institut, Bundesforschungsinstitut für Ernährung und Lebensmittel (MRI)," took a classic, three-phase sourdough method for rye bread and developed a method which eliminates the night work often necessary in baking sourdoughs, but retains all the positive qualities of the bread. The bread takes 24 to 30 hours to make.
Details about Detmolder Three-Phase Sourdough Fermentation
There are several ways to create or "build" a sourdough bread. By controlling temperature and how stiff the dough is, you can favor the development of certain acids over others and thus control how sour the bread becomes as well as other flavors commonly found in bread.
When a single fermentation phase is used, as in Rye Sourdough Rolls or Deli Rye Bread, the sourdough culture, usually stored in the refrigerator, is first fed until significant activity is seen, then a portion is used for an overnight leaven, or sponge. It is often a wet dough and favors lactic acid formation and/or yeast development.
Sometimes starter is used directly from the refrigerator, as in this Bauernbrot recipe or Honey Quinoa Bread recipe. It has a slight impact on the flavor of the bread but is sometimes used when sourdough is freshened or fed, so as to minimize waste.
Three phase methods emphasize the different microorganisms in the culture and create three different stages which favor each one, individually.
The "Detmolder Dreistufenführung" is now a classic bakers' method of making sourdough rye bread that has been optimized for a long, overnight fermentation. This allows the baker to plan when the sourdough will be ready to bake. It also allows for acetic and lactic acids to be developed in quantities pleasing to the senses.
- First phase: A very small amount of mature starter* is mixed with rye flour and water and allowed to ferment for 5 to 6 hours at 76 to 79°F (25 - 26°C). This develops the yeast in the sourdough culture.
- Second phase: The first phase is mixed with water and rye flour to form a stiff dough and fermented at a wider temperature, 73 - 82°F (23 - 28°C) for 15 to 24 hours. This develops the acetic acid.
- Third phase: The second phase is mixed with water and rye flour to form a looser paste and ripened at 85 - 89°F (25 - 32°C) for 3 to 4 hours. This favors lactic acid formation (similar to warmer temperatures which make yogurt sour).
- Bread Dough: the third phase (a small portion can be removed to inoculate a fresh, first phase) is mixed with the final dough ingredients, including salt and optional baker's yeast (to make sure it rises well) and allowed to sit for 10 minutes before forming into loaves. The final loaf rise is about an hour at 80°F (24°C), followed by about an hour in a hot oven with steam.
- Total time until bread is out of the oven and cooling: 24 to 30 hours.
Use of the Detmolder Method at Home
The most difficult part of this schematic for the home baker is to find appropriate incubating temperatures around the house. A baker can use proofing boxes, but at home we have no specialized equipment. One way to work around this is to use naturally warm or cool spots in the house or yard. You can check these spots with a thermometer and plan out your fermentation schedule.
In some houses, the microwave that hangs over the stove can be a naturally warm spot, especially if the small light bulb used to light the range is on. It can be as warm as 85°F. The back of the stove is often warmer if you have been cooking or baking. The oven with the light on might work. Try the back or behind the TV or other units which are always on. For cooler temperatures, check the shady areas in the yard or set the sourdough as far away from heat sources as you can. The cellar is a good option.
And remember that although optimal temperatures are important for retail bakeries which need a consistent product over time, the home baker can tolerate some variation. You can go around the problem by using longer fermentation times if your temperature is on the low end of optimal or shorter times if it is on the higher end.
Other Detmolder Methods
Detmolder Two Phase and Single Phase sourdough methods have also been developed and optimized for robust lactobacillic growth and fermentation. These sourdoughs need commercial yeast to help them rise, since yeast growth is diminished during the fermentation. The single phase sourdough sometimes makes use of a falling temperature gradient during the 15 to 24 hour ripening phase.
*A mature starter has been fed the previous day and allowed to bubble up and become very active. It can also be a small sample from the ripe, third phase of the bread baked the day before.