The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Controlling fermentation time through yeast quantity and dough temperature.

Turkish Gambit's picture
Turkish Gambit

Controlling fermentation time through yeast quantity and dough temperature.

Firstly, the author of this post is not a professional baker, rather an enthusiast. 

Professional bakers have adherent routine, knowledge, tools and experience to control the outcome of their product. Therefore, my hope some of you guys will share knowledge and experience in order for us (home bakers) to improve our schedules and final results. The questions are down below, they are about yeast quantities in dough retardation process.

I have stumbled upon the article from BBGA [link removed at the request of the BBGA] winter edition called The Retarding Process. (Page 20)  It discussed three techniques of retarding the dough. One technique seems particularly attractive: Slow final proof. The drawbacks of this technique are the least of all three; and if sourdough is used in retarding, virtually none at all. This time of the year, the temperatures in my garage fluctuate between 45-50 F stable, which seems to be a good temperature for the dough retardation process. I am hoping to create a table of values, which would show how the dough retardation could work by tweaking two values: dough temperature and the amount of yeast.

Two days ago, I've ran an experiment with a recipe from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, the Anadama bread. Not the lean bread to try, but nevertheless, some of the variables I was looking at performed as predicted. The recipe was modified to include only half the yeast instructed, with 20 minutes of bulk fermentation at ~78F. Then loaves were formed into pans, and allowed to slow proof at temperatures fluctuating between 45-50F. A thermometer was installed at the place of fermentation to take readings. Dough was water evaporation anlightly oiled on top and covered to prevent d the forming of the skin. After 11hrs of slow proofing, the loaves swelled almost to the desired size for baking. In order to bring them to the full crest above the pan, the loaves were left covered in the kitchen(room temp 72F) under a plastic bag dome, next to a hot cup of water for 1hr.(In my opinion the bread would rise fully to the right size, if the fermentation time would be longer). The rest of the recipe was abided as in the book. Two variables I was looking for came true: 1. The loaves rose despite decrease of yeast amount, and extended proofing time. 2. The crumb acquired nice shine, not excessive. Taste was wonderful. The whole process was very easy, with minimum active time: weigh ingredients, mix, develop gluten, short rest, divide and form loaves, overnight rise and bake right away in the morning.

Now, my questions to you:

1. How to calculate fermentation time by the amount of yeast, or sourdough preferment? For example, lets say its a lean dough, with the final dough temperature at 77F.

2. How is the rate of fermentation affected by the quantity of the water? 

3. Some books write on yeast rate doubling every 17F, and fermentation time doubling as a result. Therefore, I am going to determine temperature effects based on this statement. Please correct me if this is wrong.

I am going to put down the table after reading your comments, relating all these variables together and posting it back here for more corrections. This tool could help a lot of home bakers to manage time in a more relaxed way. 

Thank you for reading, and your help.


Turkish Gambit's picture
Turkish Gambit

Thank you so much, this is exactly what I was looking for!

hoopinili's picture

I also read the BBGA article, but I didn't find it very helpful. Anyway, I think the link provided by "Mini Oven" above is  helpful.