The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Connection between bulk ferment and oven spring?

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

Connection between bulk ferment and oven spring?

We add in a bulk ferment for crumb, texture and flavour. Instead of kneading, shaping and proofing the bulk ferment is added in as an "extra" stage as a bread improver.

I have seen recipes with the same amount of starter/levain percentage but with different requirements as to how far the bulk ferment is taken. As long as the dough is in the oven before time runs out and the final proofing is done well the bulk ferment seems to be more about freedom of expression rather than a make or break for a successful loaf.

I've recently done a loaf where the bulk ferment is seemingly too short, in comparison to other recipes, but resulted in a big oven spring and lovely crust. The end result was surprising as initially I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Some recipes require doubling for the bulk ferment, others 50%, and even 30% etc.

My question is that while a bulk ferment gives good texture and flavour, and stretching it out to it's max is what we all aim for, will we be compromising the oven spring at all? Does increasing the bulk ferment "tire" the dough out?

pmccool's picture

the answer is "It depends".  I've seen recipes with two bulk rises instead of one or that call for a trebling or quadrupling of dough volume instead of doubling.  You can probably surmise that those weren't doughs with a 50% or more rye flour content.  There's obviously a lot of different things at play.

From what I've seen, oven spring is driven less by the bulk fermentation conditions (although that is a factor) and more by things like dough strength, shaping, extent of final proofing, oven conditions, etc. Another benefit of a bulk ferment is that it provides time for the yeast population to increase, leading to well-risen dough..

Yes, the bulk ferment can run too long, producing what bakers call "rotten" dough.  (The term speaks more to the dough's ability to perform than to spoilage.)  It is important that any dough be monitored periodically during bulk fermentation so that we maximize the benefits and curtail the undesirable effects. 


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Good explanation. So while a bread doesn't necessarily need a bulk ferment giving it time to do so helps with yeast population and an all round improved bread from crumb to oven spring.

It is confusing when different recipes have the same amount of levain but call for different timings/risen amount.