The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

P. Reinhart's ABED dough handling technique

Skibum's picture

P. Reinhart's ABED dough handling technique

Since I received my copy of Artisan Brreads Every Day a couple of months ago, I have used the dough handling technique Peter describes at the beginning for lean dough:  mix 2 minutes, rest for 5, mix for another 2, rest 10 then stretch and fold with 10 minutes rests x4 . . .

I have added a couple of twists to this and have enjoyed well developed doughs which have baked into excellent breads, both lean and enriched.  Peter has clearly been influenced by the likes of Jim Lahey and his 'no-knead' bread as well as the Artisan in 5 minutes a day folks.  As always, PR's recipes work very well as stated, making the necessary adjustments, but as a thinking man, I believe he had been perhaps overly influenced by the 5 minute/ no knead, life is simple school and after all the man has cookbooksto sell. I figured a little extra dough handling would probably not hurt the result and on the contrary my results have been stunning!  

I have added a few twists:  First, I Autolyse for 20 minutes, then add the yeast and salt and begin as above.  After the 4th stretch and fold, I give the dough a bulk rise of 1 hour and the dough usually at least doubles.  One more stretch and fold, then into an oiled bowl, covered and into the fridge for at least overnight and up to 3 days.  After an hour out of the fridge, I divide the dough and either proof and bake or bag and freeze.  This technique has worked well with older recipes such as Transitional WW, Transitional Rye and Struan 3 of my fav's from PR's Multi Grain Bread.  Peter has updated his recipe for Struan, but not the transitionals.  My thoughts are, rather than using the "epoxy" technique, why not mix all of the ingredients except yeats and salt and autolyse overnight or longer in the fridge, then mix in the yeast and salt and work the dough as above?  I have an 'epoxy' batch proofing right now.  Next time I will try the overnight autolyse and see how it works.

Any thoughts or comments?

Regards, Brian

isand66's picture


I to have used Peter's methods for the majority of my baking.  I have also changed some of his techniques to include an autolyze with the flour and liquids before adding the salt and levain or yeast.  I do additional S & F's only if working with a very wet dough otherwise I don't feel it is necessary, but as you said, it probably can't hurt.

I always let the dough retard in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before baking.

I have also started to hold back a small amount of the water from the first mix and add it when I add the salt and levain and other additions.

All in all I have had terrific success with these methods.  It fits into my schedule and produces excellent doughs.

I have stopped using the yeast with my sourdoughs and prefer to wait the additional time rather than use the yeast.  I find this produces a better crumb.

Feel free to check out my posts here or on my other blog at for a bunch of my recipes using Peter's basic techniques.

Good luck.


Grenage's picture

I think you're right, there's an awful lot of room to maneuver; I don't use any set techniques, I just alter my process to fit in with the day's activities.  For the record, I also hold back a small amount of water in which to dissolve the salt - I think that it's far more elegant.

For example, latest bake:

1400: Fed starter and went back to work.
1800: Mixed flour, starter, water (71%).
2000: Add salt, and knead for ~10 minutes; it's done when it feel done.
2330: Refrigerate.

1430: Remove from refrigerator.
1800: Stretch and fold.
1900: Stretch and fold.
2000: Preshape.
2010: Shape and refrigerate.

1330: Remove from refrigerator.
1800: Preheat oven.
1900: Bake.

That's likely to be a very different itinerary from my next loaf, but with varying starter hydration, and using the fridge, you can end up with the same results just fine.  I've never bothered with mix/break/mix/break/etc - it always seemed like far more effort to me.

hanseata's picture

I use either pre-doughs or the ABED stretch and fold method. I cannot find any difference whether I add the salt with all the other ingredients or later. (Probably another baking dogma, same as the myth of the dastardly grains or nuts cutting vulnerable gluten strands to the detriment of the dough development - these dramas must take place in other people's kitchens, they never happened in mine. I wonder whether anybody ever made a side by side test).

The only tweaks I do is soaking coarser grinds or seeds, especially flax seeds, for several hours before adding them to the dough, and taking care that the dough at the end of the mix is still more sticky than tacky.

I also don't like shaping cold doughs, except for rolls or small pieces, where it really doesn't matter, and let them de-chill for 2 hours before shaping. Cold shaping of larger loaves doesn't save you much time, since the proofing takes longer.

Karin's picture

Hey Brian,

One downside that I can imagine, theoretically at least (insufficient baking experience yet to confirm), with your proposed mod to PR's epoxy method is that you're depriving the dough of the overnight low (fridge) temp yeast treatment of a biga.  Even though @ fridge temps, the yeast are metabolising more than they're proliferating, that chemistry presumably contributes flavor.  If you hold back the yeast until the next day, you deprive your dough, and ultimately your taste buds, of that benefit.

Only thing to do is the A/B comparison and please share your results here!



isand66's picture

Peter's method does not hold back the yeast until the next day.

The yeast is added the day of the mix and the bulk ferment is done in the refrigerator.

If you are not using yeast and are using a levain, the dough is left to sit out at room temperature for 2 hours after doing several Stretch and folds in about 30 to 45 minutes.  The dough develops its flavor with the long slow bulk ferment in the refrigerator.  On baking day you let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1.5 to 2 hours before shaping and then let it rise for another 1.5 to 2 hours until ready to bake in the oven.

hanseata's picture

 - why fix something that is not broken?

I applaud unbiased curiosity, and not always blindly following authorities' instructions to the tee, but Peter Reinhart's arguments for this method are convincing, and reflect his long baking and teaching experience.

This method works so well and delivers such good results with relatively little effort (I bake several loaves every week for sale) that it seems rather unnecessary to complicate something easy and simple by introducing extra steps that don't improve the result.

Karin's picture

One place to experiment with PR's epoxy method might be to explore variations on his fairly consistent (if I recall correctly) equal flour contributions to biga and soaker in his WGB book formulae.  Last I checked, there haven't been any divine decrees dictating biga and soaker must each have half the formula's flour.  I've wondered what departures from that 1.0 ratio might produce.  Have to steal some yeast from the final dough for a larger biga.  Smaller bigas (say 20-33% of total flour) otoh, would begin to look like SD final builds, and might be femented at room temp, or at least warmer than a fridge.

Then there's always that idea that got some bandwidth here last week (or before?) about adding some SD starter to a CY biga.  Actually the idea last week was the opposite -- adding CY to the final dough of SD formula. 

Lotsa possiblities.
And so little time.


Skibum's picture

. . . and miss seeing the forest for the trees.  In Peters BBA, his Struan recipe calls for an overnight soaker, then a final dough build.  In WGB, the Struan features both a soaker, biga and final build.  In ABED, the Struan is mixed in a single batch and fridge retarded.  The mix contains both sugar and honey and overfermentation apparently not an issue with this recipe and which was my fear in doing a single dough build with the transitional recipes.

In PR's spirit of eliminating unnecassayr steps, next time I make a the transitional whole wheat from WGB, I will try and mix as a single batch and cold ferment as is done in the new Struan recipe.  The 'epoxy' technique produces wonderful breads, but I find getting the pieces of epoxy quite a bit of work.  There sure are more possibilities than there is time!

Regards, Brian

Skibum's picture

I did P. Reinharts Transitional Whole Wheat bread from WGB, but mixed using the technique described for 
Struan in ABED.  This was WAY easier than the epoxy method.  Though the epoxy method produced wonderful bread, I found it a lot of work getting the biga and pre-soak properly combined.  I combined all of the wet ingredients along with the yeast and an addition of cooking oil, to help improve shelf life and to make the honey slide off of the spoon easier.

So as per ABED, combine wet and dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes, rest for 5 then mix for 2, knead for 2 minutes and rest for 10.  Four stretch and folds followed at 10 minute intervals, followed by a one hour bulk proof at room temperature, a final S&F and then into the fridge to retard for about 40 hours or 2 overnights.

The resulting loaf was indistinguishable from epoxy made loaves in crust crumb and flavour.  This latest loaf is passing the 'toast test' for the second day with flying colours.  Great bread with less effort, what is not to like?  


235 g buttermilk

168 g water

1 Tbs cooking oil

2 Tbs honey

227 g whole wheat flour

227 g unbleached bread flour

11/2 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

A Great fresh loaf!