The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Wanted to share an experiment changing fermenting schedule and build proportions

rideold's picture

Wanted to share an experiment changing fermenting schedule and build proportions

Just wanted to share an experiment that turned out pretty nicely.  I normally make my weekly whole wheat loaves in two builds with 3/4 of the water in the first build and half of the flour.  After reading about Crumb Bum's Miche after the Fresh Loafer Meetup I started also to think about how I make my bread.  My routine is to take active starter out of the fridge, mix about 6 oz into 16oz ww stone ground (Wheatland Farms) and 15oz water, let it ripen over night, add another 16 oz ww flour (KA traditional WW) .5 oz salt and 5 oz of water and ferment/proof etc from there.  What I tried this time was to take 2 oz of starter and treat it like a refresh at 1:2:2 mix and let that sit all day.  That evening I mixed the rest of the ingredients up and kneaded for 10 min (didn't fold like I normally do because it was 9:00 pm and I was really ready to just go to bed).  I let that ferment on the counter over night and at 6 the next morning I shaped my loaves and beked them at 9:30 and wow.  They turned out to be some of the lighter ww loaves I have made.  The flavor was better than normal as well.  Anyway, it was an interesting experiment that I'll continue to refine.  The schedule was better for me as well.  I was worried that the dough would over proof but its a stiff dough and it seemed to be better for the long ferment rather than broken down.

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey Rideold

Glad to hear your experiment worked.  The idea of making great bread by using quite a bit less starter and more of the magic ingred. (Time) is very attractive.  Being able to schedule around work and family adds to the already great flavor as well.

I have been having to tweek my starter amount to compensate for the cooler weather.  2% does not seem to get the job done.  3.5% to 4% is too fast so I am experimenting using cool or even cold water.  I love manipulating the variables and noting the differences.  The thing that seems to remain the same though is the great flavor and aroma.  Take a whiff of the dough after a few hours and it does not smell like much.  After 10 or 12 hours the aroma is heavenly.  Good luck in your future application of this method and keep us up to date.

Da Crumb Bum 

rideold's picture

Thanks for the encouragement.  My original intent with my testing was to find a formula that will allow me to get long ferments, not use the fridge to delay fermentation and make it all fit in my day.  I'm not particularly against using the fridge to delay fermentation but it seems that there isn't normally room for the big bowl anywhere.   This new schedule is great because I work at home most mornings so I can shape/proof when I get up and have fresh bread by the time I head into the office.  The old schedule had me baking at the end of the day so we never had fresh bread for dinner.  I need to get the changes I made all written up in formula before long.  I'll post them.  For the record it was about 70 in the kitchen when I left the dough to ferment and probably went down by 3-4 degrees by 6 the next morning (and I'm at 5400 feet) and the water was right out of the tap.  I should have checked the dough temp after kneading.  Have to remember that next time since that's more useful to know.  Don't know if that helps much in your percentage adjustments for weather.

KipperCat's picture

My problem with retarding in the fridge is that it takes 4+ hours for the dough to warm back up the next day.  This looks like a nice approach for me as well. You mentioned that the flavor was better.  Was it any more sour?

JMonkey's picture

I've tried this myself with 100% whole wheat breads, and haven't had much luck. So, if you don't mind a few questions ...

  • What does the final formula for the bread look like?
  • How much of the total flour was in the starter?
  • Does it get fairly cool in your house overnight, say, in the low 60s?
  • How did you shape the final dough?
Thanks! I'd like to try this myself ....
rideold's picture

I was going to post this over the weekend but it got a bit busy.  The numbers are as follows:

  • 33 oz WW Flour
  • 21 oz Water
  • 0.5 oz Salt

The formula is:

  • 32 oz WW Flour (1/2 stone ground - Wheatland Farms, 1/2 KA Traditional WW)
  • 2 oz Starter
  • 20 oz Water
  • 0.5 oz Salt

The recipe is:

  • First thing in the morning mix 2 oz starter with 4 oz flour and 4 oz water and let sit until the evening (I let it go until about 8:30 or 9:00)
  • In the late evening mix the starter with 28 oz flour, 16 oz water and 0.5 oz salt and knead or fold as fits your preference and schedule.  Allow to ferment on the counter over night (around 65-70 degree room).
  • First thing in the morning divide, shape and proof the loaves and bake on a stone at 500 for 10 minutes with steam and then at 425 for another 20-30 minutes.

I found this to produce a bit milder of a loaf than my old 1/2 and 1/2 build system.  You'll have to adjust your starter % to accomidate your room temp and altitude.  This last batch I made into batards but I usually make one boule and one batard.  I proof the loaves free standing on a board with a damp cloth and plastic over them.  This comes out to be more of about a 63-4% hydration loaf (unless my math is off...which is usually the case so feel free to correct) which I think makes it easier to shape and proof free standing.


Hope that helps clarify some. 



bwraith's picture

This is what I would do to make a WW SD loaf if I had mornings and late evening available. This assumes it is about 70F overnight and about 73F for final proof and during the day.

At around 9:00 AM of first day:

Mix and possibly refrigerate soaker:

  • 850g organic whole wheat flour
  • 750g water
  • 20g malt syrup
  • 1 tsp diastatic malted barley powder

Mix and allow levain to rise at room temperature:

  • 2g 100% hydration starter
  • 50 g organic whole wheat flour
  • 50 g water

At around 9PM of the first day:

Mix and knead dough by hand or mixer and allow to rise overnight:

  • levain from above
  • soaker from above
  • 50g water
  • 50g whole rye flour
  • 50g organic whole wheat flour
  • 20g olive oil, butter, etc.,
  • 15g malt syrup, honey, etc.
  • 18g salt

At around 6AM the second day:

Stretch and fold once.

At around 7AM:

Shape loaves and go to final proof.

At around 9AM the second day:


This is all fine, but the problem is that temperatures vary at least seasonally and maybe for other reasons, and this formula would change a lot if temperatures are only a little different.  For example, if the temperatures are at 76F, as they still are even today here in NJ in spite of it being a little cooler finally, then the levain would be ripe and ready to mix at about 7PM, not 9PM. That is not such a big deal. However, if mixed at 9PM, the dough would be ready to bake at 6AM the next morning - much earlier at the higher temperatures. Also, it should have been folded at about 3AM and shaped at 4AM. That part of the schedule wouldn't work well at all.

I handle changes in temperature routinely with a rise time model and recipe spreadsheet I use to predict the likely bulk fermentation and proof times given the recipe and temperatures. I've had fairly good results figuring out how to anticipate temperatures and then adjust my recipes so that the rise times fit my schedule.


KipperCat's picture

Good to see how you would approach this, Bill.  I've a few questions.

Is 2 g starter a typo?

Would the use of icewater and a chilled soaker in the final dough slow the rise down enough to allow a decent night's sleep?  I'll do a lot for good bread, but I WON'T be getting up 3AM to work the dough!


bwraith's picture

Hi KipperCat,

No, I do mean 2g of starter (fully healthy, refreshed, active starter) in this recipe.

I'd like to use a levain of a predictable strength, and for me that means letting the levain double and perhaps a few hours more, when the organisms will be at their peak concentrations.

This levain is intended to double in around 10 hours at 73F, so if you mix it at 9AM, it will have doubled and then ripened a bit by 9PM, when you mix the final dough.

As far as the 3AM part, that's exactly my point. The recipe schedule works great if your overnight temperatures are around 70F. However, if your temperatures are up around 76F, like in my kitchen right now this evening, then this recipe is murder on your sleep.

I would change the recipe or manage temperatures, as you are suggesting with the ice water. However, ice water might not really work because it's hard to keep the temperature down for long enough to matter, given that you'll raise it during kneading, and then leave a not so large dough sitting there at 76F.

Basically what I'm saying is that it's easier to take your environmental temperatures as given and change the inoculations in your recipe than it is to try to manage temperatures. I think Crumb Bum said he was changing his inoculations due to changing temperatures, for example. 

I'm sure there are tinkerers who will take issue with that and tell you it's easy to build a thermostatically controlled environment with washing machine parts, a device from your neighbor's aquarium, and some hanger wire. Others may suggest buying a wine chiller, which will put the temperature somewhere around 55F plus or minus, which may certainly help as long as your focaccia and baguettes fit in it. All good tools in some situations, but it still helps a lot to figure out the schedule for your recipe given the temperatures that prevail either because of the environment or because of whatever temperature management you are able to do. Then, adjust the recipe to fit your schedule from there.

If you want, tell me what temperatures you have in your kitchen during the day and at night, and I should be able to change the recipe I mentioned so the schedule will be reasonable at those temperatures. Maybe that would be interesting just for discussion if nothing else.


crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey Bill

That was a nice break down and spread sheet you did some time back on the one step method.  I forgot to thank you for it.  As for controlling temp or innoculation I being the ultimate tinkerer have messed with both.  I tried 20g or 2% starter and made it with cold and ice water.  The cold water did not seem to keep the fermentation stalled as long as I thought.  The ice water seemed to stall it to much.  I then decided to go with more starter 3-4% mix and put it on the deck overnight if the temp is 50 or so.  I then bring it in the house at 6am give it a quick fold and let it set until I get home at 4:30.  My kitchen is 65 or 70.  This has worked well.  I should be more scientific about the whole thing and write it all down like you but I think I like the thrill of the unknown?  I have not had too many failures making this.  I have wanted to go to bed and baked bread that was quite a bit under proofed. It sort of split at the seems in the oven though. The flavor of this bread even if it is under proofed is quite good as it has set on the counter so long.  When the outside temp gets to low I am thinking about going back to ice water or even putting my flour in the fridge the night before to cool it?  Thanks

Da Crumb Bum 

bwraith's picture

Hi Crumb Bum,

I think I have a good feel for what you are trying to do with the miche rise times. You're right that if you do the bread often, then you can adjust over time as your conditions change and with some creativity with ice water, outdoor temperatures, and whatever else, manage to keep the schedule the same with few actual bread disasters.

What I've been trying to do is avoid temperature management approaches that have a lot of uncertainty. So, I'm reluctant to use outdoor temperatures, for example. I could do a better job of figuring out the final dough temperature as a function of the temperature of the ingredients and the kneading process, which I know is done routinely by many. However, I'm making the argument that the easiest thing of all is to take the indoor temperatures as a given, even if they fluctuate somewhat based on outdoor temperatures, and then adjust the recipe each time to fit the desired schedule. As a result, I've put a fair amount of effort into measuring rise times under various conditions, as well as taking information from a few scientific papers on the sensitivities of sourdough organisms to various conditions, and putting together a recipe and rise time model that predicts the schedule so you can change it to your liking.



rideold's picture

I've found that the ice water is helpful for keeping the internal temp of the dough down during kneading so when retarding the fermentation in the fridge you don't have to cool the loaf down from the heat generated during kneading to fridge temp.  I've never found it useful for long ferments on the counter.  It would seem to me that the % of starter is a more powerful control for this than is ice water or chilling the flour etc.  Maybe with folding the ice water can help.  One could determing the effect of the ice water by putting a glass of it on the ocunter and checking the temp every hour until it reaches room temp (or if you're fancy calculate it from the specific heat).