The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

'Old dough' vs pate fermente

hullaf's picture

'Old dough' vs pate fermente

I'm curious about using 'old dough', not a premade pate fermente per se, that I make the day or two before. I'm in the process of making a straight dough and want to save some dough to refrigerate and give flavor to the next one. How much do I save and at what point in the recipe do I take out a portion -- such as after the first rise or just before it's shaped for the final proof? How long can I save it? And can I put this saved 'old piece of dough' in a different kind of bread from a recipe that uses a pate fermente?  I'll need a recipe that uses a firm pre-ferment distinctly called a pate fermente (not a biga because that would have no salt), correct?  Anet 

nbicomputers's picture

bakers have been doing this for years. 

re mixing dough is commen way to reduce wast. 

you can use between 10 and 15 % of old dough in a new batch depending if the dough is just old or realy sour.  to see how bad a dough has gotten break the skin and smell careful because a realy old dough has enough ETOH to burn your nose.  ( an unkind trick bakers would play on a new aprentice)

there are some sweet dough products that are based on "old dough" such as old fashoned crulers and a dough called frozen dough so named because it can be frozen for a long time and not lose quality.   It is used for cinn buns and other sweet products.

a forumla will be posted if you want

graz's picture


that would be great if you could post a formula I'm sure alot of us would be very interested.

Henry's picture


Didier Rosada wrote a most interesting article a few years back explaining

pretty much everything about preferments.­_apr2004.htm

and part two continues at


Happy reading

Russ's picture

Something is weird with the first link. It doesn't work, at least for me. Posting it again to simplify for anyone else trying to follow it.

Strangely, my first preview made a bad link too - there were some invisible characters that only showed up in the URL, similar to the way the link in Henry's post worked for me. This one seem to work OK, testing the previewed link.


hullaf's picture

 Thanks fellas for the info; I'll keep reading and researching. (No alcoholic vapors for me!) I was just curious about the 'old dough' category and if anyone used them anymore. Do they differ that much from the sourdough starters. I like the idea of keeping it all going for a long time.   Anet

PaddyL's picture

And I'll be using them in the next couple of days.  Amy's Bread has recipes using "old dough", and I'll post one of them tomorrow, along with what she has to say about it.  Too late tonight, and am on my way to bed.

PaddyL's picture

From Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree, I quote:  "Using an old dough starter is similar to using a sponge, but instead of making a flour and water batter, you simply incorporate a piece of mature dough into a new batch of dough.  Because your piece of old dough is already mature, it contains lively yeast and the flavor of wheat from the flour has had some time to develop.  The old dough method produces a full-flavored loaf with a lighter, open-textured crumb than a straight yeast dough and an extended shelf life."  They give a recipe for an Old Dough Starter, but you can save some of any bread dough you're using.  Keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, or you can freeze it until you think you'll be needing it.  14-1/2 oz. is the amount used in a Cinnamon Raisin Bread that I made from this book, and it turned out beautifully.  There are a few other recipes using "old dough", and if you like I could post one or two.  I also have a recipe for Lavash from another book, which uses 8 oz. of old dough, and I'd be glad to share that with you, if you'd like.

ehanner's picture

Professor Raymond Calvel said that using prefermented dough is the best way to arrive at a full flavor with a good after taste. He suggested using 45% and up to 170% of the total flour weight of prefermented dough. The dough mix can be aged 3-4 hours and used as prefermented and up to 12 hours at room temp. or refrigerated for up to 36 hours before use.

In one video I saw of him using this process, he removed roughly 30% of a batch he had just mixed and set it aside for the next batch's pat fermente. I was surprised at the large amount but if you are making the same bread day after day it really is just a planning consideration. 30% of the current batch was made from 30% of the previous days batch. He is shown cutting it into small 1 Lb pieces while adding it into a 80 qt mixer.

Remember the amount of salt that will be in the preferment so you don't mistakenly end up with too much.  Hope this helps. I use this method all the time and I get great results.


hullaf's picture

Yes, please and thank you, could you post a couple of recipes with "old dough"? I'm wanting to find a recipe that I can use consistently for the summertime. At present I bake twice a week and have been experimenting with various recipes, but spring is coming; gardening jobs and other general duties will get more priority. I want a routine plan and down-pat technique to make my 'daily loaf -- for the week. I tend toward whole wheat and/or multigrain breads and the cinnamon raisin bread sounds good.      
Eric -- thanks for your info, too.  The input about salt is noted.  Anet

hokietoner's picture

I'm pretty sure that pate fermente means old dough. At least that's what I've read; when the recipe says pate fermente they're talking about a portion of dough from the previous time that recipe was made.

Henry's picture



It’s not a recipe you want, but technique.

The most flexible or user friendly piece of “old dough” is baguette dough.

Flour, water, salt and yeast because you can add it to most any bread

as opposed to, for example, whole wheat preferment which you would only then

use in whole wheat or grain breads.

Next time you make multigrain bread with your recipe, increase the dough yield by ¼ to 1/3.

After you finish kneading, cut off a piece of the dough, cover and let sit out for an hour, then refrigerate.(Actually, depending on dough temperature, you might refrigerate right away)

Next day when you’re making bread, add the old dough in chunks toward the end of mixing, since the old dough has already been mixed.

I find it’s best to use it up within two days in the fridge, otherwise it becomes too acidic.

That’s where pate ferment comes in.

If you’re not going to bake for three or four days again, the old dough might be too “old”, so three to six hours before, at room temperature, or the night before at refrigerator temperature,  you make a pate ferment to add to your bread recipe and the simplest one to make would be baguette.

Hope this is of help.


hullaf's picture

PaddyL, I found in Hamelman's bread book some recipes for using "old dough" so thanks anyway but no need to put up some recipes. I did try one today, the plain "Whole Wheat Bread" and . . . I'm not sure. The first taste was disappointing, not real full of wheat flavor.  But I did cut it before it was completely cool (and wheat breads taste better cool) and I do have a cold (virus going around) and I over proofed it a bit and, and, and. One of those days where little goofs make up to be more than the sum of the parts. But I will try again. I do so like Hamelman's recipes. They turn out feeling right and usually tasting great 

Henry -- your addition helps too, thank you. Technique is important.   Anet
PaddyL's picture

I completely forgot to post the recipes! My bad, as my young nephew says.  I even forgot about the two pieces of dough I'd saved, finding them in the fridge the other day, and tossing them into the freezer for future use.  I too have a cold and my head is more than normally stuffed with cotton wool, or whatever, and I'm not thinking clearly at all.  Another time, perhaps, and I will post the recipe for a very tasty raisin bread using old dough.

Sweetcakes's picture

I'm new to this site, so I hope I'm not repeating something.....but does anyone have a recipe for starting a pate fermente?  I have recipes calling for a P. fermente' but don't have the old dough to start with.  Thanks!

Paddyscake's picture

This is from Peter Reinhart's BBA and makes 16-17 oz :

1 1/8 cups or   5oz unbleached AP flour
1 1/8 cups or   5oz unbleached bread flour
3/4 t                   salt
1/2 t                   instant yeast 
3/4 c to 3/4 c  or  6-7 oz room temp water
+ 2T

Stir dry ingredients. Add 3/4 c water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 min with paddle attachment). Adjust flour and water, according to need, so the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. It's better to error on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It's harder to add water once the dough firms up.

Sprinkle flour onto counter and transfer dough. Knead for 4-6 min (or mix on med speed with dough hook for 4 min) or until dough is soft and plaible, tacky but not sticky.

Lighly oil bowl and transfer dough, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, ferment 1 hour at room temp or until 1 1/2 its original size.

Remove dough from bowl, knead slighly to degas. Place back in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place bowl in refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the fridge for 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months 

Hope this helps







patman23's picture

I have a starter dough that I was originally going to use for a braided Scali bread recipe.  I never got around to using it but I Have had the starter sitting on my counter for like a week or so.  It's quite sour and I'd imagine that it'd mage a great sour dough starter.  I just don't wana use it if it's too old.  Any advice would be great... 

Oh, my ingredients for hte starter were:

1 c Bread Flour

1tsp Active Yeast

1/2 c water

It's been sitting for about a week on my counter, covered with plactic wrap in a glass measuring cup.


Thanks for your help!



CobblestoneBaker's picture

I use a very similar technique but I remove my cut for the next batch before the autolyse. I find it allows the yeast to develop more flavour when you are on a regular baking schedule. Obviously old dough that has salt will ferment more slowly allowing you to take more time between bakes, but I find that if refridgerated the unsalted version can be used within 7 days without issue. Just let it come to room temp before mixing into your next batch.

Treat it like a sourdough culture and you won't be too far off. If you decide not to bake in the next few days simply incorporate a feeding schedule (once about every 48hours seems to work for me.) and allow at least 24hours after feeding before mixing into a new dough to allow your starter to act at full strength.