The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

old dough

Kentucky Jim's picture

What if Pate Fermentee is more than 3 days old?

March 19, 2013 - 10:10am -- Kentucky Jim

I have read that 1 to 3 days is the right time for a pate fermentee.  I have a chunk in the refrigerator that is a week old.  Is it still good, but not optimal, or will it make foul bread? What happens after three days that makes it unfit? (Sourdoughs seem to keep longer and be okay)

dabrownman's picture

After seeing David's  post earlier this week  about his experiment with using old dough vs a levain to make bread here "Old Dough" vs. Natural Levain ....... my apprentice just knew she hat to put her 4 cents in and replicate the experiment to see if we came out with would match David's bake.  Plus it was going to be fun because we haven’t used old dough to make bread for a very long time and had forgotten how good a no fuss job it could do.


Old dough is the way commercial bakers, as opposed to home bakers that baked smaller quantities and used levain, made all of their breads before 1870 or so when the Fleischmann brothers perfected their first commercial yeasts.


We didn’t have any old dough after bulk ferment to use so we decided to make a 125 g old dough from scratch.  We first did a formula that we would use for the levain dough and then scaled everything back from the larger dough weight to the little, what would become, old dough.  Spreadsheets really helped in this regard. 


Once we had everything together using the exact same ingredients that would be in the levain bread, we developed the little dough ball just like we would the larger one later.  We did an autolyse of 3 hours, added the tiny whole grain starter, salt, other flours and water and did 3 finger one hand tied behind the back French slap and folds until the gluten was well developed and the dough satin smooth.


After a 15 minute rest we did (3) S & F’s on 15 minute intervals and then let it ferment on the counter for 1 hour before refrigerating for 12 hours where it rose very well by doubling.  The next morning, while the old dough and the 125 g of the same levain were coming up to room temperature, we autolysed the dough with the salt, flour and water for the levain bread exactly as we had done the little old dough the previous day. 


Then before the levain went in we cut off half the autolyse for the old dough.  After that each dough was treated the same, together at the same times, yet separate .  The same - yet separate would make a good book title for a story about twins separated at birth.  Back to baking.


After the 10 minutes of French Slap and folds and the 15 minutes rest, the (3) sets of French slap and folds were done between  15 minute rest increments.  The Janet inspired bulgar and flax seed scalded mash was incorporated on the 2nd fold and fully distributed by the 3rd fold.


Each dough was allowed to ferment on the counter for an hour before being bulk retarded in a 38 F fridge for 18 hours.  After removing them from the cold, the dough balls had doubled in the fridge, they were allowed to come to room temperature for 1 ½ hours on a heating pad set to low.  Each was then formed into a boule and placed in like sized baskets even though one was more of an oval shape.


The baskets were placed in a nearly new trash can liner and placed back on the heating pad for a 78 F proofing.  After 2 hours, Old Betsy was fired up to 450 F with two DO inside, one a CI Martha Stewart and one was the Magnalite MagnaWare Turkey roaster.  Since the turkey roaster has a trivet insert that allows extra water to be put in for steam, we used the bottom of our spring form pan to raise up the bread off the bottom so extra water could be placed in it too.


Once the baking temperature was reached we un-molded each from the basket, slashed them and placed them into the hot DO’s with a parchment sling.  These smallish 525 g breads were baked 18 minutes with steam then the lids were removed and the temperature turned down to 425 F, convection this time.


The bread was baked another 5 minutes before being removed from the DO’s and rotated 180 degrees on the stone now.  The darker bread was done in 5 more minutes at 205 F on the inside and it was removed to a cooling rack,  The lighter colored bread was baked another 3 minutes before it too hit 205 F and we left this one on the stone with the oven off and door ajar for 5 minutes.

The darker colored boule spread more the lighter oval one.  The lighter oval rose and sprang higher and had a slightly softer and less open crumb but they were very close crumb wise.  The darker bread had more and bigger blisters.  The one in the WagnerWare turkey roaster was the lighter bread and we do not know why because nothing has been able to put crust on bread better than it does – except this time.


There is no question that one had a better more complex and deeper sour flavor just like David's bake and it was the one that used old dough too!  The difference in taste was definitely there and easy to decipher.   I’m would be using  this old dough technique  on bread from now on…… except that I forgot to hold back from this bake - darn…..typical the apprentice didn’t bark out a word of warning either!

So which one is old dough?  It’s the one that tastes the best and they both are great breads - some of the best we have made to date.   Let’s see who can guess the taste winner by looking.


Old Dough VS Levain Multigrain SD With Bulgar and Flax Seed Scald











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Dark Rye





Whole Wheat





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Dough Hydration










Total Flour





Total Water





T. Dough Hydration





Whole Grain %










Hydration w/ Adds





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Red Rye Malt





White Rye Malt










VW Gluten




















Flax Seed










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davidg618's picture


Natural Levain loaves

"Old Dough" leavened loaves.

As promised on this thread:

I baked four small loaves (1 lb each) of the formula I bake weekly. Two I made in the usual manner leavened with fresh natural levain I'd built over the previous 24 hours. I made enough extra dough to reserve 140g for "Old dough". The next day I made two more loaves of the same formula leavened with the "Old Dough". Since the reserved dough was at 68% hydration, and the natural levain at 100% hydration I adjusted the two levain's weights such that the same amount of flour was pre-fermented in all four loaves. Otherwise the ingredients were identical.

I suspected the "Old Dough" had a smaller yeast population. Consequently, The mixed dough remained at room temperature for the first two hours of fermantation. The dough mixed with natural levain was mixed with ice water, and chilled immediately. The "Old Dough" mix was subsequently retarded at chiller temperature for 13 hours; the natural levain dough was retarded also for 15 hours.

The "Old Dough" dough's volume increase was approximately one-third less than the natural levain's volume increase, so I rested the "Old Dough"s" bulk at 82° for one hour before dividing and preshaping. Subsequently both dough's were handled, shaped and proofed identically.  The natural levain loaves proofed in 2.25 hours. The "Old Dough" loaves proofed in 2.75 hours.

Baking and cooling were identical.

Natural Levain Crumb

Old Dough Crumb

Visually, the four loaves appear the same. Flavor-wise, the "Old Dough" loaf seems to have a distinct acidic tang, muted in the Natural Levain loaf, all other flavors are indestinguishable between the loaves--I tasted two slices of each loaf, one each with butter. Wouldn't turn either of these loaves down:-)

The only surprise was the mouthfeel. I cut into both loaves immediately after they cooled. The crumb in the Natural Levain loaf exhibited its expected softness, which changes to a firmer chewiness overnight. The crumb in the "Old Dough" loaf was instantly chewy, more mature yet no less moist. It's beyond me what accounts for the difference.

Since I only bake Sourdough once a week, and then only two to four loaves, I'll continue to just use fresh natural levain. Building it only takes a few minutes of active work, and twenty-four hours of waiting. However, if I find myself baking twenty or more loaves in one week--a rare but not impossible happening--I think I'll try the "Old Dough" approach. It would be easier than keeping a levain fed counter top.


littlelisa's picture

Using old dough

April 2, 2012 - 4:34am -- littlelisa

Yesterday I made my usual 'artisanal' bread. My formula is 100% flour, 85% water, 0.01 instant yeast% and 0.015 salt. I made a poolish the night before, using half the flour and water with a tiny bit of yeast. Then mixed up the remainder of the dough in the morning, did my usual folds and rests and baked. I held back 800g worth of dough to use as 'old dough' for my next batch, which I would like to bake tomorrow.

Here's my question: How should I use my old dough? I'm thinking I have several options:

varda's picture

I wasn't planning to make baguettes in my seven day bread making challenge to myself, but this morning I realized that my refrigerator was being taken over by bread byproducts.   In addition to my whole wheat sour dough starter and rye sour, I had the leftover levain from the pain de compagne I made the other day, as well as the bread equivalent of a chain letter - a white flour starter for Amish Friendship Bread that a friend dropped off the other day.   I had no intention of making the friendship bread.   It has most likely never been cooked in an Amish kitchen, since it calls for a box of instant vanilla pudding in the batter.    But the starter looked fine and healthy and I've been feeding it for a couple of days.   So I decided to mix the levain and the "Amish" starter together, add some salt and make a couple of baguettes.   The thing that has been holding me back from making baguettes is I don't have a couche or a baguette pan, and I am hesitant to run out and buy them until I get a better sense of what type of bread I want to make on a regular basis.   So I just set these baguettes out on a board, and let them flatten out as they would while rising.    So these don't look like much, and I'm sure whole wheat baguettes would be considered an abomination by some, but they are actually quite flavorful, and I'm hoping that I will be able to figure out how to make these (or something like them) again.


Now I'd better take a break for a day or two to give my family a chance to catch up on all the bread!

jennyloh's picture

Every end of the week,  I'm so looking forward to my baking.  I think it has become an obsession.
Baguette on Friday night, with my old dough from the 5 minutes fresh baked bread.  I forgot to add yeast and salt to the dough, but it worked as well, as I had put aside for slow retard rise.  
I think at least I got the scoring right this time.  Better than most other times. Click here for details.

Ciabatta on Saturday morning.
Woke up this morning, thinking about my Ciabatta dough waiting for me.  I was excited to see how it turns out.  Lovely crumbs,  soft on the inside,  crispy on the outside.  Click here to see details.

Well,  I'm going to make chicken sandwich for lunch this afternoon.

jennyloh's picture

I have a question on the use of old dough.  I read somewhere that we can freeze old dough,  which I did to mine, probably about 14 days old. Now I'm taking out to use to try out on my Polaine de Champagne again. 

I took out from my freezer and refridgerator to defrost, not counter top. It looks like the yeast is still active.  Am I doing this right? should I have just defrost it within a short period and use it?  The colour and smell still stays good.

I saw a discussion on refreshing the old dough.  Can I just use it as it is,  throw and mix into my dough or I should at least refresh it first?

carrtje's picture

My three-day, rotational, Country White dough...and first attempt at blogging.

I bake this bread every third day or so, and it pretty much always turns out the same.  The original recipe is the basic white dough from Richard Bertinet's "Dough", which I absolutely love.  I stumbled upon this process one day by accident.  

I woke up early one Saturday and decided it was a good day for some fresh bread.  After mixing up the dough, and putting it in the oven to rise (I usually use the oven with the light on trick), my wife reminded me that we had to get ready to leave for the day...oops.  I slid the dough into an oiled plastic bag, and popped it into the refrigerator.  

Well, as we all know, life happens fast.  I kept remembering that dough ball in the fridge, but didn't seem to have time to bake it.  Finally, a few days later I had the crazy idea to use it like a starter.  I have since read that this isn't a crazy idea, but a pretty common one.  Now it's become my bread of choice.  Every few days I take the bag of dough out of the fridge, chop it into thirds, and make three batches of the original recipe, adding a third of the old dough to each.  I've even gone as far as a week and a half between baking, which makes a deliciously sour loaf!

A few days early, mix up this dough and stash it in an oiled bag in the refrigerator:

18 oz white bread flour

12.5 oz water

2 tsp kosher salt

1.5 tsp instant yeast


When you're ready to bake, here's what I do.

First, take your dough out of the refrigerator, and divide it by weight into three equal portions.  Take one portion, and cut it up into little strips or balls about an 1x1 inches.  The smaller it is, the easier it is to mix into the dough.  Measure out your water.  If the dough is really cold, I use pretty warm water.  Plop your old dough into the water and let it hang out while you measure out your other ingredients.  You end up making the recipe three times, so I like to get all the old dough in separate water portions, with three bowls of dry ingredients ready, too.

Old dough in water

I pour the first batch of water / old dough into the Kitchenaid bowl with the paddle attachment, and mix on low for a few minutes until it's pretty well homogeneous.

I mix the flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl by swirling it with the dough hook by hand.

Next, I pour the dry mixture on top, replace attachments with the dough hook, and turn the machine on to level 2 for two minutes.  If it doesn't seem to be picking up the flour as well as I like, sometimes I stop the machine, and scrape the bowl with the hook a few times.

After two minutes, I turn the machine up to level four for seven minutes.  Notice it's a nice, wet dough.

I turn the dough straight out onto a floured surface, and tri-fold it into a ball.  I put this in a floured bowl, and place in the oven until risen double.

After the first rise, I gently pull it into a square, and tri fold it again.  I put it back in the bowl, and rise it in the oven for a second time.

After this rise, I square it, and form the final loaf.  I put it on a floured tea-towel.  I put a 12 inch dutch oven, with lid in the oven and preheat it to 525F

Pretty much by the time the oven is pre-heated, I take the dutch oven out and set it on a cutting board.  I flop the dough into it, put the lid on, and put it back in the oven for 20 minutes.  

After 20 minutes, I remove the lid and bake for 15 more minutes, or until it's nice and golden brown.

Now, just do it again.  The third batch I bag up and save in the refrigerator for next time.

This bread makes really yummy, crispy toast.  We ate it just this afternoon as chicken salad sandwiches.  It's our all-purpose bread.


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