The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Impact of accelerating fermentation/proofing?

soupcxan's picture

Impact of accelerating fermentation/proofing?

I'm relatively new to baking and I wonder what the conventional wisdom is on acceerating fermentation or proofing by using a warmed space (usually an oven that has been briefly warmed or an oven with a pot of steaming water beneath the fermentation vessel). Now, there is no doubt that this speeds up the rise, but I wonder what am I really losing by speeding this process up? So far, my bread recipies have used instant yeast and a fermentation time of 2-3 hours (no poolish or overnight refridgerator rising, I don't have the patience) - by adding some hot water to my oven, I can cut that down to about an hour. Most of the articles I've found so far state that a longer rise will result in more flavorful bread - but could accelerated rising cause other problems as well? Such as the texture, crumb, or ovenspring? Whether I speed up the fermentation/proofing or not, my biggest problem is getting enough ovenspring so that the loaf comes out light and fluffy. I don't get bricks, but the results are sometimes more dense than I think sandwich bread shoud be.

I'm still learning how all this works so I appreciate your comments. Here's a basic recipe that I've been using for a sandwich loaf, courtesy of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". Usually after combining the ingredients, kneading, there's a 2-3 hour rise, then a punch down, 15 minute rest, then another 1-2 hour rise, then baking at 350 for 45 minutes.

16 oz. bread flour

2 tbsp butter, room temperature

2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 1/3 c. 2% milk, room temperature

1 tbsp honey


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Yor recipe strikes me as low in yeast.  Try adding another teaspoon.  If you're at sea level add one and a half.   Mini Oven

sourdough-guy's picture

 I think the quickest way is to go to the supermarket. : -) 

Seriously, you wouldn't want to speed it up. Slow is best. Slow means your bread will last longer, and taste better. But the quickest way to get some home-baked bread on the table is to bake soda bread. 


But looking at your recipe, lose the butter, butter slows down the yeast, you have enough fat in your milk but I'd lose that too and the honey for that matter, but that's just me, keep it simple, keep it lean, it's better for you hips too. : -) 


soupcxan's picture

But if you cut out both the butter and the milk, you've got no fat, and won't that keep the loaf from lasting more than a few days? I need a loaf that can get me through the week. Also, I thought the honey is food for the yeast (speeding the rise), and it does add a nice bit of sweetness to the resut.

bwraith's picture

Some fat helps with shelf life and may add a flavor component. Long fermented bread keeps longer, too. Sourdough keep really well. Even my very lean sourdough breads keep for at least several days.

Sourdough-guy makes a good point above. Basically, fats and sweets will compete with the natural grain flavors and fast rise times will not allow production during fermentation of the organic acids that add complexity to the flavor.

It seems like everyone finds out what they want and go through stages in bread making. I remember wanting it to all happen quickly at some point early on when I was making straight yeast breads for the first time, but now it seems worth the wait and a few additional steps (not much more actual work time, though - probably less for no-knead) to get more complex flavors.

junglis's picture

yeast breads don't require as much development as naturally leavened breads in my opinion.  with breads specifically for a white baguette, total fermentation is suggested to be 3 1/2-4 hours.  however, that's more for an exploded, asymetrical crumb that is indicative of such a bread.

other, simpler white breads tend to not need the benefit of a longer bulk fermentation and you can adjust the timing of bulk fermentation by chaging a few of variables;  temperature of the dough, ambient temperature in the area of bulk fermentation, and amount of leavening agent.

changing amount of yeast can often create problems or issues with what the formula you were initially trying produces.  if you're really in a pinch, try having your bulk dough at around 75-80 degrees and see what happens.

in the end, slow is best.  the more time you give it, the better the results.

chiaoapple's picture

When I first began baking bread, I was anxious to have the bread rise faster. I would put the dough in unnaturally warm places, and the result was -- a very unpleasant, yeasty tasting bread, as well as some other problems (but for me, taste will always be the greatest measure of bread).

Patience pays!

bwraith's picture

Autolyse, kneading technique and stretching/folding technique during the bulk fermentation are important to gluten development. Focusing on these might help.

I doubt there is much other than the above related to waiting, other than acid levels rising from fermentation, that would affect gluten development, which in turn would affect the crumb texture you are getting. So, maybe you could try adding some ascorbic acid to your dough to speed up the gluten development, if all you want is quick results.

However, it seems to me that even with simple white yeast breads, there is a lot to be said for retarding and longer fermentations for flavor development. A simple white bread can vary in flavor a great deal from 3 hour yeast risen, to multiple stage preferments, to no-knead, to sourdough. If you want to include both flavor and convenience in your objectives, you might want to consider no-knead, pain a l'ancienne, retarding in the refrigerator or other techniques that allow you to lengthen the fermentation. If you get into a routine with a "daily bread", you can have convenience and good flavor at the same time, i.e. the total time invested can be very small, and you can have bread every day, but the time from the first to the last step might be more like 24 hours.

soupcxan's picture

Thanks for everyone's advice; I made some changes:

  • Yeast increased to 2.5 tsp
  • Eliminated the food processor, mixed by hand
  • Pre-mixed wet and dry ingredients separately, then combine (muffin method?)
  • Rise time cut down to an hour for fermentation and proofing

My shaping was a little sloppy and you can see this in the top of the loaf, the crumb is a little inconsistent, but I'm still developing the "iron fist in the velvet glove".

Sandwich bread