The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bulk fermentation

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Bulk fermentation

Been wondering, should all types of dough double in size during bulk fermentation before shaping and final proof? Even highly enriched sweet doughs?

The reason I ask, some recipes I have used have given a specific bulk fermentation time, and the dough hasnt anywhere near doubled in this time....

Many thanks

Matt

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Do your recipes also give specific temps for bulk fermenting and dough temps?  A specific time will only work if the dough starts out at the right temp and if the dough is proofed at the right temp.

My experience with brioche-type doughs is that they are generally quite lively and need plenty of de-gassing to keep them from exploding out of their containers. 

Kneading and fermenting work together to properly develop the structure of the dough, so if you aren't doubling it with fermenting, then maybe the recipe requires extensive mixing?  This sacrifices flavor, partly from over-oxidizing of the dough and partly from short-changing bulk fermenting and its ability to create flavor in the dough.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Matt,

For BFP you need to address all the factors involved here, and time and temperature are only 2 of these.   You also have to look at yeast levels as well.   A wetter dough will expand more rapidly.   Wholemeal and brown doughs will break down quicker due to greater enzymatic activity.   If you have any pre-ferment in the formula that will mean less bulk time is required, as the pre-ferment catalyses all the reactions taking place in BFP.   A large mass of dough will generate heat at its core which will spread and maintain dough temperatuires which encourage rapid fermentation, whereas small amounts of dough will lose more heat from the surface area than is generated by heat at the middle from fermentation [compare 50-60kg of dough coming off your in-store spiral with an 800g ball of dough mixed by hand in your home kitchen!]   Once a dough becomes heavily endowed with CO2, the rate of gas generation slows down as yeast thrives with oxygen, but not carbon dioxide.   Hence knocking back the dough is a means to restart and reinvigorate CO2 production.

Interesting that you bring enriched doughs into the question, and here you really need to think about the role of those enriching materials in the dough.   By nature they act to improve the dough, so that should mean, by implication, that less bulk time is needed [eg. fat creates extensibility and sugar causes flow].   BUT, the practical difficulty for highly enriched dough such as brioche and laminated doughs is incorporating high levels of fat into a developed dough.   For brioche, this is where you look to establish the necessary dough rheology BEFORE you incorporate the butter.   Firstly you can use a pre-ferment in the inital dough.   Next thing you can do is use a shortened bulk ferment, and then retard the dough thus making it really cold.   The yeasts will obviously work slowly, and the enzyme reactions are slowed, but rheology will still be taking place, just to a lesser extent.   The important factor is that you can then incorpoate the fat into a cold dough, which is much more effective than creating a melting gloupy mass.   Same with laminated doughs, where the fat is built up in layers with a sequence of folds and turns.   The process is most effective when it is done over time.

I think, perhaps contraversially, that the flavour aspect of the use of pre-ferments &/or extended bulk fermentation in the highly enriched dough is overdone.   Even the Panettone and other rich Italian breads traditionally made with levain, or, biga naturale.   These pre-ferments might be derived from wild yeasts, but the process depends on them being made very tight, and frequently refreshed.   So, from a flavour point of view, they are not designed to bring noted acidity to the dough.   Frankly, if your dough is full of egg, fat, sugar and maybe spice and dried fruit, if it is not flavoursome enogh then there is either something wrong with the recipe, the materials used, or the tastebuds of the eater!   To me the pre-ferment impacts more in terms of rheology than it does flavour.   Using a natural levain to make enriched dough is highly skilled, but I'm not so sure how much it necessarily impacts on the flavour of the finished enriched products, except in the subtlest of ways, differentiating say a really nice product from one which is really a bit special.   The character is a whole other matter.

Understanding how much time to give a dough in bulk can be quite difficult to grasp.   Try to look at the big picture and think about all the factors involved, as discussed here.

Best wishes

Andy

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Thanks alot Andy.... some very good points to think about.

I think Im not giving my bulk fermentation enough time, would this cause poor oven spring?

In your hot x recipe, your bulk fermentation states 30 minutes? My double hardly moves in that 30 minutes!

Cheers

Matt

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Matt

How much dough are you making?

How warm is your kitchen?

What is your DDT?

What type of yeast are you using?

This dough is best mixed in a machine!!!

I hope this will lead you further into thinking about how you can anticipate how your dough will perform.

Best wishes

Andy

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Well I tried it last night, but to make a fruit loaf.... so say around about 500g in a small farmhouse tin

my kitchen is around 22/23

I always use fresh yeast from work

What sort of DDT should be aiming for in this recipe?

If I drop the hydration, surely i can still get a good dough with hand kneading?

I'm confused about how far you let your dough go to determine sufficent bulk fermentation? Is doubling in size the best guidline?

Cheers

Matt

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Matt,

Your kitchen is too cold.   Think about what I said about the volume of your tiny piece of dough relative to surface area.   Heat loss across the surface area is massive; heat gain at the core from fermentation is minimal.

The recipe is based on using high quality flour and fully developing the dough; it should be soft.

There are some things I cannot teach on the end of a pc.   Judging proof for bulk and final is something that comes from lots of experience and use of your senses.   I've pointed up all the things you need to give thought to, and I'm not sure I can go much further than that.

Best wishes

Andy

Matt Edy's picture
Matt Edy

Ok Andy... I appreciate all the help and advice you have given me!

Thankyou

Matt

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I am coming late to this topic but Andy mentioned something that is vitally important and that is learning to judge when dough is properly proofed whether it be in bulk or in the final proof.  Mastering this skill will answer almost all of the questions leading up to this point in the bread making process.  Patience is one of the most important attributes to bring with you when judging for proper proofing.  I think it is a great temptation to decide a dough is fully proofed prematurely for fear of over proving.  Pay close attention to every single bake and the feel of the dough as it approaches properly proofed.  As a learning tool, let one batch go the point that you think is over proofed, bake it and see what happens.  Again the key here is to pay close attention to all of the details at this point.  A notebook can be a great help here to remind you of previous bakings.  Only experience will teach you all need to know about proper proofing and bringing all five senses to the task will also be a big help.

Happy Baking,

Jeff