The Fresh Loaf

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Delayed Fermentation Schedule

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Cycling Baker

Delayed Fermentation Schedule

Hello all. I'm new to The Fresh Loaf. I've been visiting the site for a while, but just joined.

I have recently started making artisan bread again after a long hiatus. I'm working on a schedule that allows me to make 20 loaves before 8:30 am (without being up all night).

My recipe is 68% hydration and is like Pain au Levain with 100% King Arthur bread flour (no rye). My recipe calls for 33% levain (made with KA whole wheat flour and 100% hydration).
Makes 10 - 14oz loaves:
One 5lb bag (2270g) KA bread flour
1400g spring water
50g sea salt
900g levain (100% hydration, made with KA whole wheat flour)

I'd been using a schedule based off Richard Bertinet's sourdough method, but I was getting inconsistent results. I had some problems with my starter, which I've resolved -- but I think part of my problem was the long bulk fermentation varied greatly due to varying temperature, humidity etc. That is to say, my work/sleep schedule didn't allow me to adjust the fermentation time to accommodate different weather.

This schedule went something like this:
Day 1, 8am: first fermentation
Day 1, 6-7pm: mix dough
Day 1, 8pm: fold dough
Day 1, 9-10pm: shape loaves
Day 2, 5am: preheat ovens
Day 2, 6-8:30am: bake loaves

The roughly 12 hour bulk fermentation seems excessive, but I got pretty good results most of the time. I live in South Florida and this time of time of the year it's cool at night. Leaving the loaves by an open window the ambient temperature was probably around 70°F.

I'm thinking about two options using delayed fermentation and wanted to see if anyone else has worked out a similar schedule or has any ideas. My oven and outsized toaster oven can hold 6 or 7 loaves between them. I can usually get the 20 loaves baked in 3 loads, which takes a bit over two hours.

Method A (I'm making a batch using this method right now):
First part is same as what I'd been doing, just doing bulk ferm in fridge overnight…
Day 1, 8am: first fermentation
Day 1, 6-7pm: mix dough
Day 1, 8pm: fold dough
Day 1, 9-10pm: shapes loaves
Day 1, 11pm: loaves to fridge after one hour proof
Day 2, 4am: loaves from fridge, preheat ovens
Day 2, 6-8:30am: bake loaves

Method B (based on John Downes' Ciabatta Integrale):
Day 1, 8am: first fermentation
Day 1, 6-7pm: mix dough (using cold water, flour), refrigerate
Day 2, 8am: fold dough, return to fridge
Day 2, 6-10pm: fold dough once an hour for a couple hours, shapes loaves
Day 2, 11pm: refrigerate shaped loaves after one hour proof
Day 2, 4am: loaves from fridge, preheat ovens
Day 2, 6-8:30am: bake loaves

I have used the double-delayed-fermentation outlined in Method B with good results. The long, cold fermentation times allow less kneading, which is nice.

My earlier method (no delayed fermentation) is attractive because I don't have to take the loaves out of the fridge at 4am. I am wondering if I could find some middle ground that involves a slightly delayed fermentation -- maybe by putting an ice pack or two in a large Cambro with the shaped loaves for the final proof. My schedule requires me to lengthen the final proof so I can deliver loaves straight from the oven on bake day. While most people want to warm dough for a faster proof, I want to slightly cool it for a longer proof. Any ideas here would be appreciated.

I will have pictures to post of both methods.

Thanks if you read this long post and I look forward to any feedback/ideas.