The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Delayed Fermentation Schedule

Cycling Baker's picture
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.