The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Just stepped into the beauty of pate fermentee

sallam's picture

Just stepped into the beauty of pate fermentee


I've just started using pate fermentee/old dough method, and the results are already promising.

Here is what I do: I keep aside 25% of my pizza dough (which was originally made with a sourdough starter), put in the fridge 2 hours after mixing. Next week, I take it out, wait until it peaks then fall (24 hrs) then mix it with the new dough ingredients, then after 2 hours in RT I take back the excess 25% of the new dough and keep in the fridge to be used as a pate fermentee for next week's dough, and so on. No starter, no yeast, nothing. My dough consists of only water (70% hydration), flour, salt (2.5%), and sometimes traditional buttermilk (3.75%) is added (accounted for in total hydration percentage).

The thought that I no longer have to maintain and regularly feed a starter is a plus for lazy guys like myself. I've also read that this method gives uniform consistent results without fluctuations.

But what really I'm excited about is that french bakers say that the more pate fermentee is repeated, bake after bake, the more the taste develops and gets richer. Is that true? I would love to hear from experienced users of old dough method.

JustJoel's picture

thanks! This the clearest how-to for pâté fermented that I’ve ever seen! Clear and concise with no room for error. I’ve havent tried using the pâté method, I’m still on bigas and poolishes. But I’ve got the biga for a pizza dough fermenting now, and tomorrow I’m gonna slice off a bit and toss it in the fridge. I make pizza dough once or twice a week, and it’ll be nice not to have to plan for the biga!

I‘m not really comfortable with not adding any yeast though, probably because I’m a new baker.  Is there really enough in the pâté to get the dough to rise?

Rats, I had another question for you, but I forgot it. 

sallam's picture

No need to add any yeast in the new dough. The pate fermentee, once peaked will be more than enough to get you a strong dough. Even if you leave it until it completely falls down, like I do, it still has enough power for your dough. I let it fall down to give me more flavor.

Remember to add 25% more ingredients when mixing your dough tomorrow, so that when you take the same quantity to store in the fridge, you end up with your usual dough quantity. Take exactly what you added, from the total final dough weight, not from the biga. Store it right after kneading instead of waiting 2 hours, unless your fridge is too cold. Mine is around 2c/35f

mutantspace's picture

like @justJoel i tend to use poolishes, levains and bigas but i must give pate fermentee a go...going to make a traditional barm this week and see how it goes

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Is using a starter. That is one way of keeping and using a starter. Keeping a piece of dough to use the next time. Whether you you keep a starter, maintain it and use some in a dough or use a starter to inoculate a dough but then keep a piece of that dough for the next time are just two of many ways. 

A starter can be liquid or dough even if not used pate fermentee style. It's just two methods of keeping some back to use the next time. 

Just be careful not to forget to keep some dough back. And if kept too long before using then it might need some refreshing. 

sallam's picture

Yes, you're right. But its more convenient, specially for those baking on a regular basis. There is perhaps one other advantage over starters: they seem to stay good for longer, since PF has salt, which keeps bad bacteria from contaminating it. Besides, cycling dough, according to French bakers, seems to enrich the flavor over time. That point, in particular, is what I'm hoping someone could confirm..

"Just be careful not to forget to keep some dough back."

Thanks for the advice. I do keep a backup sample of both my starter and PF in the freezer just in case.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Bulk ferment and keep some of the new dough back that'll be like maintaining a starter. A starter is a dough which is "recycled" and kept going. Feeding it is like putting old dough into new dough and keeping some back is like the continuation of old dough. One is done outside the main dough and the other in the main dough. Well that's my understanding. I'm not sure if the flavour will be effected anymore then a sourdough starter. The only thing which might change the flavour is different flour and timing but that can be done with a sourdough too. But I agree it is a handy way of doing things if baking regularly.

Breizh's picture

Here is a video that compares the Pate Fermente (PF), the Levain Pateux, known as Biga and the Levain Liquide also known as Poolish (Click with caution, it is in French)

AMac's picture

I would like to make some bread with only old dough as you have done here. Does the old dough need to be in a certain state development/ activity? Or can it be in any state (assuming it has been bulked and is relatively fresh)?

How long do you feel comfortable keeping it in the fridge?

Could you provide some details as to how you go about using the frozen dough?

Thank you in advance for your reply.




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