The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lesson Five, Number 5: Slow Rise

To really invoke the best flavors from your grains, it takes time. LOTS of time. The more you slow the process down, the better your loaf is likely to taste.

There are exceptions to this rule: breads with a lot of sugars in them, for example. Sugars are yeast's junk food. If you try to stretch out the fermentation of something with a lot of sugar in it, you are likely to get something that tastes more like beer than bread.

But French Bread benefits if you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe and increase the time you allow the dough to ferment. Reduce the yeast, too, while you are at it. That alone will slow things down significantly.

The lower limit on the amount of yeast you need to add is quite low: I've seen recipes using a pound or two of flour include less than a teaspoon of instant yeast. I typically include 1 teaspoon of instant yeast for each pound of flour I use. Then, depending on my baking schedule, I try to strech the fermentation out as long as I can. Sometimes that means I leave the bowl of dough in the refrigerator overnight. Sometimes I do primary fermentation on the counter then refrigerate the shaped loaves until I want to bake them. Sometimes I just let them rise in a cold room so that it takes 3 hours instead of 45 minutes for them to double in size.

I don't think there is a magic temperature or amount of time that it takes that'll guarantee you great bread every time. So I'll just say "take your time." The flavor of your bread will improve if you do.

On to Number 4: Scoring.

Lesson Five, Number 5: Slow Rise


Paddyscake's picture

you said :

"But French Bread benefits if you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe and increase the time you allow the dough to ferment. Reduce the yeast, too, while you are at it."

I can't figure what else you were saying to reduce?

tananaBrian's picture

Generally if you want to use a longer ferment, you reduce both the yeast and temperature of the dough (and maintain reasonable humidity around the dough so the skin won't dry out.)  I'm betting he meant also to reduce the temperature.  I bought a little apartment fridge (used but like new) to use for this purpose and am going to give it heat (light bulb) and cooling (the built in refrigeration) capability, and use a heating/air conditioning type of digital thermostat as the controller.  You know, the bulb will come on if it's too cool (115 VAC relay from Radio Shack) and cooling will work by setting it at its coldest temperature setting and another relay will switch power on/off to the refridgerator itself.  (Home) beer brewers who ferment at controlled temperatures do this exact thing for controlling the temperature of their ferment, although it usually only involves cooling (no heating) and usually uses an off-the-shelf controller from Williams Brewing.  I'm an electrical engineer however and would enjoy designing my own as a project.


wheeledgoat's picture

I'm guessing sugar but would love to know for sure.

wheeledgoat's picture

really enjoying all your tips, especially the numbers and ranges and conditions in paragraph 4 of Step 5 here...  and starting ratios of water/flour/yeast.  super helpful to wrap my mind around the big picture, thanks!!