The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lesson Five, Number 5: Slow Rise

Lesson Five, Number 5: Slow Rise

To really invoke the best flavors from your grains, it takes time. LOTS of time. The more you slow the process down, the better your loaf is likely to taste.

There are exceptions to this rule: breads with a lot of sugars in them, for example. Sugars are yeast's junk food. If you try to stretch out the fermentation of something with a lot of sugar in it, you are likely to get something that tastes more like beer than bread.

But French Bread benefits if you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe and increase the time you allow the dough to ferment. Reduce the yeast, too, while you are at it. That alone will slow things down significantly.

The lower limit on the amount of yeast you need to add is quite low: I've seen recipes using a pound or two of flour include less than a teaspoon of instant yeast. I typically include 1 teaspoon of instant yeast for each pound of flour I use. Then, depending on my baking schedule, I try to strech the fermentation out as long as I can. Sometimes that means I leave the bowl of dough in the refrigerator overnight. Sometimes I do primary fermentation on the counter then refrigerate the shaped loaves until I want to bake them. Sometimes I just let them rise in a cold room so that it takes 3 hours instead of 45 minutes for them to double in size.

I don't think there is a magic temperature or amount of time that it takes that'll guarantee you great bread every time. So I'll just say "take your time." The flavor of your bread will improve if you do.

On to Number 4: Scoring.


newtobreadbaking's picture

I have a bunch of packets of organic active dry yeast. There are about 2 – 3 tsp of yeast in each packet. Is active dry yeast different from instant yeast? If they are interchangeable and I wanted to do the sponge and slow ferment thing how much of the active dry yeast would I use for about a 2 pound loaf of rustic bread using organic KA AP flour and organic KA white whole wheat? I also have some Bob's Red Mill whole rye flour if you think I should add some of that.


Just to fill you in on my bread baking history a little, I bought an organic sourdough rye from a company called Bread Alone in my local food co-op and it was very good, only it was $7.00 for the bread, way more than I can afford to spend again for one loaf of bread. It was kind of round shaped with a crackly delicious crust. I'm trying to get something that tastes like that. I'm brand new to bread baking. My first two tries so far were not very good. I ended up with puny little loaves of whole wheat for my first try and rye for my second try that hardly had any rise to them. I followed the instructions that came with my bread machine, (for the rye I only used the dough cycle and let it attempt to rise some more out of the machine and I baked it in the oven, not the machine) for a 2 pound loaf but the finished breads came in at only a little over a pound even though I used 4 cups of flour for each bread. I really want to learn to do this.


I think I'm going to send my bread machine to an early retirement and start kneading by hand and letting the bread rise on my counter. I have a slight weakness in my hands so I'm just a little worried if I can do 10 minutes of kneading but I want to at least give it a try.


Btw, thanks for the lessons you posted on this site. They are just what I was looking for. You presented them in a wonderful way that even a totally inexperienced bread baker like me can understand.

ejm's picture

Active dry is slightly different from instant yeast. Ideally, active dry should be rehydrated before being added to the dough. Instant yeast can be added to the dry ingredients. As for equivalents, slightly less instant than active dry gives the same rising power.

In Artisan Baking Across America, Maggie Glezer says:

for every cup of flour in the recipe, use either of

3 grams compressed fresh yeast
2 grams active dry yeast
1 gram instant active dry yeast

But I use active dry yeast measure for measure for recipes that have called for instant yeast. (I always rehydrate the yeast.) Using "less" yeast hasn't seemed to affect the final loaves.


newtobreadbaking's picture

Thank you so much Elizabeth. I really appreciate the info. As a newbie to bread baking it sometimes seems overwhelming. I'm glad that I can still use the packets of active dry yeast that I have instead having to buy the instant.


I think maybe a big problem and why my breads didn't really rise was that I didn't rehydrate the yeast first. The recipe I followed was from the book that came with my bread machine and they said over and over that the yeast must not touch the water and it all had to be put in the machine at once before the process started. I was afraid that if I let the yeast touch the water the whole thing would explode or something. They also said the water had to be between 80 and 90 degrees. From everything I've been reading that is too cold for the yeast to rise. My machine is the Cuisinart convection bread machine and I think whoever wrote the recipes for the book that comes with it should have checked out this site before they wrote it, lol.

ejm's picture

I should have made it clear that I'm not at all familiar with baking bread in a bread machine! From what I gather, you must use "instant" yeast in the bread machine and you must follow the instructions for the machine.

You might be better off using the active dry yeast you have outside of the machine. Mix the bread in a bowl and bake it in your oven.

Oh yes, and check the expiry dates on those packets of yeast you have. Yeast does get old and die. You can check its viability by mixing the amount you'll be using for the bread with a few grains of sugar and warm water; it should start bubbling after about ten minutes. If it doesn't, your yeast may have died.

As for the temperature of the water for rehydration, it is only too high temperatures that you have to guard against. Yeast is killed if the temperature of the water is over 120F. Generally, when I rehydrate our active dry yeast, I use lukewarm water. I'm guessing it's around 100F or a little under - it's baby bottle temperature. I check it against my wrist. But in the summer when our kitchen is around 25C, I rehydrate yeast with cold tap water. The bread still rises.

Again, I'm just guessing here, but it's possible that you might be able to use active dry yeast in a bread machine by hand mixing the yeast with about a quarter cup of lukewarm OR under lukewarm water called for in the recipe and then adding that liquid at the time that you're supposed to add liquid to the machine.

It's also possible that the electric mixing that goes on in the bread machine brings the temperature of the dough up. But I really have no idea.

All the bread dough mixing that I do is with a wooden spoon or my hands.

Maybe someone who is familiar with baking bread in a bread machine could jump in here to offer advice.


Paddyscake's picture

check out Mike Avery's site . He has a great video on stretch and folds that will be invaluable to you. Go to Tips & Techniques and under techniques, stretch and folds. He's a active contributor and will give you loads of help if you need it.


ivyb's picture

fantastic!  He has a book out, Bread Alone that I have been referring to for years.  Howwever, a cautionary: it could have used better editing (IMHO), so you may want to read through some of the recipes carefully before baking. How has your breadbaking come along? You may want to check out the book for the recipe of that bread you enjoyed.... :-)



Paddyscake's picture

you said :

"But French Bread benefits if you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe and increase the time you allow the dough to ferment. Reduce the yeast, too, while you are at it."

I can't figure what else you were saying to reduce?

tananaBrian's picture

Generally if you want to use a longer ferment, you reduce both the yeast and temperature of the dough (and maintain reasonable humidity around the dough so the skin won't dry out.)  I'm betting he meant also to reduce the temperature.  I bought a little apartment fridge (used but like new) to use for this purpose and am going to give it heat (light bulb) and cooling (the built in refrigeration) capability, and use a heating/air conditioning type of digital thermostat as the controller.  You know, the bulb will come on if it's too cool (115 VAC relay from Radio Shack) and cooling will work by setting it at its coldest temperature setting and another relay will switch power on/off to the refridgerator itself.  (Home) beer brewers who ferment at controlled temperatures do this exact thing for controlling the temperature of their ferment, although it usually only involves cooling (no heating) and usually uses an off-the-shelf controller from Williams Brewing.  I'm an electrical engineer however and would enjoy designing my own as a project.