The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


plevee's picture


Bad planning or a sluggish starter mean that I occasionally bulk retard dough overnight. This slows the starter even more & it can take many hours for the dough to warm up and finally double.

My question is, how important is the full rise during bulk fermentation? I am tempted to divide, shape,  proof and bake the cold, partly risen dough without a full bulk rise. How would this adversely affect the structure and flavour of the finished bread?


Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

a bulk ferment with my sourdough. After I mix the dough I do three of four stretch and folds over the next three hours. I shape it, cover, and put in the fridge, usually by 11pm. The next morning (6 am) I remove the shaped loaves  from the refrigerator and let them sit for an hour or two. I then bake them under a terra cotta pot for the first 10 minutes of the bake.

The flavor and texture of the bread is outstanding. The oven spring is unbelieveable.



plevee's picture

The bread that ends up being bulk retarded has generally had 3-4 hours at cool room temperature with a couple of S&F's & is just rising too slowly for a sane baking time.

It has probably had plenty of time to develop flavour. I was wondering if a full bulk rise contributes to structure.


AnnaInMD's picture

I, too, do the same as Larry. No kneading, S&F, fridge, out and into the presoaked Römertopf into a cold oven covered for 45 minutes at 500 F, 15 minutes to brown the crust, uncovered.

plevee's picture

Do you mean you never actually let the dough rise/double at any stage?? That would make things much more convenient. Patsy

davidg618's picture

I think of bulk fermentation as that period of time wherein the desired dough's final structure is developed. Having the dough doubling in volume is merely an indicator that a structure has developed.

During the bulk fermentation gluten continues to form, and the natural stretching from gas formation and dough inflation aligns some of the gulten strands in parallel, contributing to the extensibility of the the dough. The bottom line is you want a balance between extensibility (payoff: open crumb, good oven spring) and elasticity (payoff, dough strength: no bursting, no deflation).

We have choices: During bulk fermentation we can let the dough do all the work. At the end, as in the older prescribed techniques, punch it down, shape, second rise, and bake. Or we can manipulate the dough during bulk fermentation with Stretching and Folding assisting the gluten's alignment and strength development; i.e., control the balance, not leave it to chance.

We've all (well at least most of us) heard the advice "Pick a formula, and do it over, and over, until it performs the way you want it to, consistently." . If we choose to do that, we can't ignore any of the steps from Mis en place to Cooling, but, I suggest, a few of the steps are the "most equal among equals","Bulk Fermentation" being one of them, "Shaping" and "Scoring" being the others, but among those three, Bulk Fermentation is paramount. Bulk fermentation is a the major contributer to flavor developement, and the dough's gluten network's final state; it is, ultimately, the main contributor to taste, mouthfeel, and eye-appeal. If you want an example from a master read Shaio-Ping's "My Imitation of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough".

Read it carefully. Read it more than once. Notice how often she writes about the "feel of the dough", especially during bulk fermentation after her manipulations, i.e. Stretch and Folds.

My point: Don't skimp on your attention, or time during "Bulk Fermentation".

That said, here's my recommendation for your specific intent; i.e. "I am tempted to divide, shape,  proof and bake the cold, partly risen dough without a full bulk rise."

1. adjust the yeast and/or the time of retardation such that the dough rises appreciably during retarded bulk fermentation.

2. Manipulate the dough (S&F) during the early hours of retardation insuring the dough develops the desired extensibility and elasticity.

3. Remove the dough from the chill source (refrigerator, proofing cabinet). Divide and preshape immediatly. Rest until preshapes are at (or near) room temperature (Dividing the dough immediately will shorten this warming time. I do this with what I've nicknamed my "Overnight Baguettes"; my rest period is one hour.)

4.Shape, and allow to fully final proof: (poke test).

David G


plevee's picture

For such an informative reply. Suggestion #3 is exactly what I was looking for.

I will also do a trial of shaping & proofing the cold dough and see how it compares in terms of time and taste.


rayel's picture

The shaped dough would not be subject to a complete proof when placed in a soaked romertopf, + cold oven, am I correct AnnainMD ? The real question I guess is, how proofed is the loaf after 7 hrs. at refrigerator temp.?  Is the gradually warming oven where it catches up? Thanks