Revisiting Bulk vs Balls

Hey all,

I am working on an artisan style dough that is cooked just shy of Neapolitan temperatures. The crust characteristics are crisp, chewy, but tender, airy, and the crumb has “spiderweb” like texture in the cornicione similar to Mozza or Gjelina. The cornicione also gets so micro blisters that I really like, and great color variation (as its well fermented, it is less evenly brown and more spotted and artisan looking.)

I notice this comes with a VERY well fermented dough. I was going straight from mixer to short rest to balls, then into cooler which worked well. On day 3 I was getting the crust I wanted, but the dough balls were becoming very slack and difficult to work with.

I tried the same dough with a preferment, and surprisingly, when balled those lasted 5 to 6 days without getting too slack to use, but still exhibited my desire able crust characteristics.

Because the preferment was difficult to work with (my last one was so overripe that my final dough was a soupy, pancaked mess,) I tried a bulk ferment overnight in the fridge. Half of that bulk was left to increase in volume at room temp before being stored in the walkin (half left increased, half punched down) and the other half went straight into the walkin.

I pulled out the dough to ball this morning, and aside from having some undesirable moisture and condensation (despite leaving lid off to cool softly) the dough balls did not ball up silky smooth like the straight-from-mixer dough. This was the case for all variations of the bulk. They look rough, wonky, and the bottoms never really sealed properly. Definitely not silky and tough to work with. The dough was balled from cold.

Does anyone have any idea why this happened or what’s going on?

I want my straight-from-mixer smooth, balled dough with a longer shelf life…or at least a dough that isn’t so slack. The preferment helped me get there once but is, otherwise, unpredictable. The bulk dough feels like sh*t. I don’t know what to try next

Some dough recipes work better with bulk and some work better as balls. In my experience, if you do bulk, you need to adjust your hydration. I do a room temp bulk ferment with my cracker crust dough and it’s incredibly low hydration. Looks super dry when coming from the mixer but once it’s in the tub with a lid on for 4-6 hours it starts to look more normal. Longer it ferments, the more yeast scent/flavor and the bottom crisps up real nice in the conveyor.