The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Water Temperature

CountryBoy's picture

Water Temperature

I am a novice and so have no context for facts.  Specifically, it is my understanding that the whole concept behind artisan bread making is that the retardation adds taste. Yes? I put the starter after an hour in the fridge and let the yeast sleep.  Then the next day I mix in my flour mix and let it rise twice and then put it in the fridge again so the yeast can sleep and let the bacteria go to work.  That at least is my concept. In R L Barenbaum's bread bible she makes baguettes with water at the temp of 75-90 degrees....But on the KA flour package in front of me  their  French baguettes require cool water for the Starter. 

And again with Peter Rinehart and his very much loved Pain à l'Ancienne in his Bread Baker’s Apprentice lists the following recipe for baguettes with ice cold (40°F) water:
Days to Make: 2
Day 1: 10 to 15 minutes mixing
Day 2: 2 to 3 hours fermentation, shaping, and panning; 15 to 30 minutes baking
Makes 6 small baguettes, 6 to 8 pizzas, or one 17 by 12-inch focaccia
6 cups (27 ounces) unbleached bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (.56 ounce) salt
1 3/4 teaspoons (.19 ounce) instant yeast
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons to 3 cups (19 to 24 ounces) water ice cold (40°F)

With that as preface I ask a simple question, why do so many recipes for regular bread call for warm water rather than ice cold water, if what we want is in fact taste and we can only get that with slow retardation and that to get that we know we must go to cold temps.

Can anyone understand my question? I sense that everyone else in the room knows the answer but me...gulp.  Thanks, CB

tattooedtonka's picture

I dont know the answer.  But I got a guess, does that count?  From what I have found in my own kitchen is that my Instant Yeast loves warm.  Not hot, but warm.  With warm, feeding speeds up, and gas production really gets going.  So warm does make some nice rise. 

Cold on the other hand, slows the little buggers down, and they take their time feeding.  They still feed, this is evident in a rise, but it is at a much slower rate. 

With that said, the slower the rise, the more time for the sugars to be broken down so we can taste them.  The better end result I get with flavor.

Warm does make it fast, but though the looks may be good, not enough sugars have been broken down to give me a real nice flavor.  Good flavor sure, but not AS good, as I get with cold.

Again, I may be all wet in this. But it is working for me. 


JIP's picture

Well I am not an expert but as far as I know you need warm water to "wake up" the yeast after that as the previous poster said the cold temperatures slow down the rate of feeding to add more flavor.

CountryBoy's picture

in its recipe on the flour package. JIP, I hear you and I always start with warm water but I am wondering:

  1.  If I start with cold water
  2.  If I have lots of patience and
  3.  If I keep it within a 3 day time frame

That the yeast will still be alive and do its stuff. 

I wonder if any Pros out there have experience with cold water.......

 thanks, countryboy

browndog's picture

Tod, if you're just going to pop the dough in the refrigerator in the interest of flavor development, is water temp still so crucial, as long as the yeast wakes up? Wouldn't mixing the dough with say, ice water give you a jumpstart on retardation?

ehanner's picture

Not to put words in Tod's mouth but I think what he is saying and what I have come to believe is that you need to mix a dough at a temp that the yeast will grow in, say 76F. After a couple hours the activity has spread to a large percentage of the dough mass and cooling at that point will be slowing down a much larger number of yeasties than if you had just used an ice cold water from the start.

I just started a batch using only 16 grams of starter which is about 1 Tablespoon, in a 1100 g total weight dough. It will be slow to rise and take a while to grow the bacteria to full strength, all the while developing full flavor.


browndog's picture

I've been wondering for a long while why  doughs get coddled only to get chilled in the end. Thanks, Eric.

CountryBoy's picture

Possiby the retardation can be lengthened via cutting back on the amount of yeast.  Of course one has to be very careful but by putting a pinch of yeast in the starter; allowing it to go for 1 hour and then refridgerating, and then the next day putting in 'just under' the usual recommended yeast amount is it possible to lengthen the process that way.  I wonder.

Of course the whole process can not last so long as to kill the yeast, but possibly control of yeast quantities is an option.  If Peter Rienhart can do his baguette thing at 40 degrees then maybe combining the two options is a possibility.


KipperCat's picture

The NYT bread uses a tiny amount of yeast to slow down the fermentation process.  I don't know - is it technically a retardation when done at room temperature?

 One thing I've realized about bread - there are a zillion ways to make good bread.  Some may produce better bread than others, but there are few ways to make a really bad bread.  So, why don't you give your ideas a try?  Ingredients are cheap, and even if  you don't get A+ results, I doubt anyone will complain about eating it. :D