The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can time between Bulk Fermentation and Proofing be exchanged

  • Pin It
varda's picture
varda

Can time between Bulk Fermentation and Proofing be exchanged

I frequently get into situations where I have dough on the counter and I will be out of the house at the time to do a step, and this makes me wonder if you can substitute time for final proofing with time for bulk fermentation and vice versa.   For instance, if I will be gone when it is time to end bulk ferment and shape into loaves, and so leave the bulk ferment to go long, can I make up for this by cutting short the proofing.   In practice I have done this several times, and sometimes my bread comes out badly but many variables other than this in particular may account for that.   I am talking about naturally leavened bread that might have a combined bulk ferment, rest, proof period of say six hours.   I know this must be wrong, wrong, wrong (if sometimes unavoidable) but I would like to understand the theory.  Thanks.  -Varda

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

Lets say that at a given temperature, and a given amount of yeast that bulk fermentation takes 2 hours.  Final proofing takes roughly another hour after shaping.  If you were to switch the times your dough would over proof and fall, so thats out of the question. 


I think the best answer for you is to control the bulk fermentation either through more/less yeast, and lower/higher temperature.  In your example above you could use ice cold water to slow down the fermentation so that it takes 2x or 3x as long, giving you the necessary time to do your errands.


I believe there are some spreadsheets on TFL that help you determine final dough temperature and the time necessary for fermentation.  In the end I would just experiment and find out what works best for you.

varda's picture
varda

I guess I'm not really sure I understand this.   If at a given temp you would generally do bulk ferment for 2.5 hours, and say another 2 hours for proofing, well then all that time is spent fermenting the dough.   So why not exchange those two times?    Or just look at the constant as 4.5 hours with the dividing line between the two stages fairly fungible?   -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

We must have been typing at the same time.


Yes, total time remains the same.  It is what you DO with the dough that makes the difference.


After a bulk ferment and prior to proofing you 'punch down' the dough and then shape for proofing.


If the bulk ferment has lasted too long - your gluten is shot because the loaf has risen too far thus pushing the gluten beyond it's limits.  


Think of a balloon.  If you blow it up beyond it's stretching point - get ready for a loud bang and a bunch of rubber that can't be put back together again.


If it is 'just' right then the gluten is intact and can be punched down and shaped into a loaf and left to rise again.  Gluten intact because it hasn't been pushed past it's limits.  


Balloon again.  You blow up a balloon but not to the point of bursting.  You decide to let it deflate.  It can still be inflated again....no damage to the rubber. In fact, the second time you blow it up it will be a bit easier to inflate..


Proofing times are generally shorter than bulk ferment times too.  But a dough can be over proofed too so both fermenting times do have to be watched/timed in order to protect the gluten.


Hope this helps.


 

varda's picture
varda

Ok.   This makes a lot of sense.    Very nice analogy.   Thanks.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Your welcome. :-)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook


If you were to switch the times your dough would over proof



I agree with this statement.  The reason over proofing makes your bread fall is that the gluten strands are stretched to the point of breaking and can't be repaired.  


When I have let this happen the result is that within 10-20 minutes of baking my beautifully risen loaf will collapse and turn into a flat topped loaf....kinda like a pullman loaf without having to use a lid.


The beautiful domed top prior to baking is being held up my the yeasties hard work but once they are killed off in the oven the gluten structure isn't there to keep the dome in place....


My kids think I am nuts because I have several thermometers around our house so I know where my hot 'spots' are and my cold 'spots' are on any given day. If I am going to be out....the dough gets moved to a cooler location.


I have found that I need the new location to be substantially cooler because it takes a bit of time for the yeast to figure out their environment has been changed on them.  ie the dough maintains the warmer temp for a period of time before moving downwards. 





yy's picture
yy

I think Janetcook sort of pointed out something very true - that the bulk fermentation and proofing times can be variable, as long as you adjust the temperature environment accordingly so as not to overproof.


In my experience, however, there are certain breads for which bulk fermentation and proofing times cannot be flip flopped. For instance, the basic Tartine country loaf seems to need a sufficient bulk fermentation period before the dough gathers the right strength and consistency to shape and proof. If you try to bulk ferment shorter and go for a longer proof, the dough remains too slack and you don't get quite as nice of a profile after the bake. I don't think this is as big a deal in a sandwich loaf as in higher hydration sourdoughs.

varda's picture
varda

All right.   I get what you all are saying.   My thinking has been adjusted.   I will no longer make the excuse that it's all just fermentation when I have to run out of the house at just the wrong moment.   I'll just suck it up and admit I don't always have the necessary time and attention for bread baking even when I'm in the middle of it.   -Varda

intelplatoon's picture
intelplatoon

the refrigerator can be your best friend in a situation like yours, it can slow down your dough just enough to get a few other things done. 


it really depends on where you are in the process of bread making, and how long you will need to leave it. it may take a few bakes to figure out how much the temp of your fridge will slow down the dough. In my case, the first time i put dough in the fridge at my house, it basically stopped the yeast activity completely, and i went back to it a few hours later and it hadn't moved much at all. 


theres a thread here where i asked about this sort of thing that had some good replies (thanks cranbo) about temperature and yeast.


If you search for the words "fridge too cold" it should come up


good luck!

varda's picture
varda

I'll take a look at the thread. -Varda

varda's picture
varda

In thinking about this some more I realized this also comes up in other situations than general rushiing about during bread-baking.   I have been struggling with trying to made a multi-grain bread which had an alarming tendency to liquify after shaping and I decided to try cutting back the bulk ferment a lot to see if that would help.   So I cut it - keeping temperature roughly the same - from 3 hours to 1.5 hours.    Then the proof took a long time (3 hours instead of 2).   But it seemed to work - the dough did not liquify.   So in thinking about the comments above I'm not sure how to fit this in.