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Longest dough prep ever and a few experimental trials!

Danni3ll3's picture

Longest dough prep ever and a few experimental trials!

Since I got a few bread books as Christmas presents, (“Baking by Hand” and “Simply Bread”), I got a few more ideas for add-ins. As well, reading several of the posts (Leslie, Marianna, et al) on there in addition to Trevor’s book, I got inspired to try a few new things. 


One was the management of my starter. I fed it 1:2:2 for 3 feeds after removing a portion from my NFNM starter and then the last feed was a 1:4:5 to give me an 80% hydration starter which I prefer to use because the consistency seems to be easier for me to mix into my dough. Well the 1:2:2 feeds worked well by doubling after 7-8 hours. But the 1:4:5 feed also took 7 hours to barely double. Time was marching on so I used it even though it really didn’t feel very fluffy, nor had huge bubbles in it. If I redo this, I will make the starter the night before and give it a full 12 hours to come to peak. So far, I don’t see an advantage on changing my method of making my levain, but this new method might just need some tweaking (like lowering my expectations on how long it will take to double whenI feed it 1:4:5).


So the two breads that got inspired from “Baking by Hand” were a Cranberry Walnut and a Seeded Multigrain. Each batch makes 3 loaves.


Cranberry Walnut


215 g toasted walnuts

75 g ground walnuts

160 g cranberries



750 g unbleached flour

202 g multigrain flour

50 g ground flax seeds

700 g filtered water

32 g plain yogurt

266 g 80% levain

22 g sea salt


Seeded Multigrain

Seed Mix:

115 g sunflower seeds

115 g sesame seeds

115 g millet

60 g brown flax seeds

60 g rye flakes



550 g unbleached flour

202 g multigrain flour

220 g Arva mills wholewheat flour

50 g ground flax

700 g filtered water

32 g plain yogurt

266 g 80% levain

22 g salt


I used the same method for both loaves.


8 am Fed the starter 1:4:5 (30 g starter, 120 g filtered water, 30 g whole wheat/90 g unbleached flour) I doubled this since I was making a double batch of dough. I expected this to double within 4 hours as per my usual method but it was moving very, very slowly. Giving it a big feed really slows it down.

8:15 am Made up the seed mix and toasted it in a dry frying pan. I divided the seed mix into 350 g and 100 g portions and then set aside.

8:30 am Ground the walnuts for the Cranberry walnut loaves. Realized that I didn’t have enough walnuts so I added pecans. Chopped the pecans up with a knife and dumped the pecan/walnut combo into a dry frying pan to toast. Well of course the finer bits burned so I ended up picking out the larger nicely toasted pieces and threw out probably 30 g or so of burned crumbs. 

10 am Checked the levain, didn’t seem to be doing anything.

11 am Mixed flours, ground flax and water so no dry flour was evident and left to autolyse at room temperature of 73 F. Kept watching starter move at the speed of molasses in January. 

12 pm. Checked the levain, it had risen a smidgen or maybe it was my imagination.

3 pm Time was marching on and the levain finally barely doubled so I added the yogurt and Levain. Once well mixed in, I did 100 stretches and folds. The extended autolyse gave me a nice window pane even before the 100 folds. Kept dough on counter as I knew we needed to go out and I didn’t see the point of having it move too fast and then slow it down in the fridge.

3:40 pm Did another 100 folds.

4:15 pm Put the add-ins and salt through stretches and folds and once mixed in,  and did the last set of a 100 folds. 

4:45 pm Since we needed to go out (sis in law’s birthday), the dough was put into the fridge.

8 pm We got back at 8 pm and pulled the dough out of the fridge and into a warm spot which is the oven with the lights on. The dough felt really stiff and unworkable at this point. 

9 pm The dough was still cold and I did 4 very gentle folds to avoid tearing the dough. This was more to let the warmth reach the interior. 

10 pm Did another 4 gentle folds as the dough was still quite firm.

11 pm By this time, the dough was much more supple and I sort of followed the method outlined in “Baking by Hand” to strengthen the dough. I wet the counter as per Alan (Alfanso) and then folded the dough in 3 letter folds from side to side and then from top to bottom. Then, I put the dough back into its bucket and back into its warm spot.

11:30 Did another set of letter folds on the wet counter. The doughs felt really heavy because of the amount of add-ins. The book recommends doing these every half hour so I followed suit.

12 am Another set of letter folds on a wet counter.

12:30 am Last set of letter folds on wet counter. I then figured that I had manhandled this dough enough by now with the 100 folds, the letter folds, the killing it in the fridge and so on, that I would just leave it alone until it was ready to divide. At 1 am, I thought it was ready because I saw some bubbles on the edge of the tub but when I turned it out, it felt like a brick and not airy at all, so I put it back into the tub and back in the warm spot.

1:30 am Finally, at 1:30 am, it looked and felt much better. Funny what a half hour will do. I divided the doughs and gave them a preshape on a floured counter. Once shaped, they were left to rest about 20-25 minutes.

2 am By this time, I had just about enough of this dough, so it gave it a final shape. The bannetons were sprinkled with a rice/AP flour mix and on top of that, I used the remaining seeds mix in the 3 bannetons that were going to hold the Seeded Multigrain. I put the dough into the bannetons seam side down and popped them into the fridge for 10-12 hours. Then I put the Golden? in his crate and went to bed. The Golden was quite disturbed that I woke him up to move to his crate. The Sheltie is always loose so he just did his own normal thing which is to find a cool spot to sleep. ;)


Baking Trials

Since I had 6 loaves on the go and none were for sale this weekend, this was the ideal opportunity for a few trials in baking methods. I had done the cold dutch oven/cold oven method as well as the hot dutch oven/hot oven method, but I hadn’t tried the cold dutch oven/hot oven. With 6 loaves, I could do all three and see what happens. I always put a round of parchment paper down first before placing the loaves in the pots to prevent sticking.


  1. Cold oven/Cold Dutch oven

Put one loaf of each kind in cold oven and cold Dutch ovens. Heat oven to 475 F. When oven reaches temperature, bake 20 more minutes. Then remove lids and drop temp to 425 F for another 22 minutes.


  1. Hot oven/Cold Dutch oven

Heat up the oven to 475F but keep the Dutch ovens on the counter. Once the oven reaches temperature, place the loaves in the cold Dutch ovens and load into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes at 450 F covered, and then bake 22 minutes at 425 F uncovered.


  1. Hot oven/Hot Dutch oven

Heat up both the oven and Dutch ovens to 475 F. Place the dough carefully into the hot pots and bake covered for 25 minutes at 450F and then bake a further 22 minutes uncovered at 425 F.


Final thoughts:


Loaves are from left to right: # 1 baking method to #3. Seeded multigrain are in the back while the Cranberry Walnut (aka Pecan) are in the front. 



I don’t see many differences between the two cold Dutch oven bakes whether started in a cold oven or in a hot oven. The loaves don’t have a lot of rise and are more squat or of a larger diameter. They also don’t have much of the characteristic tears that I have come to expect from my breads. The ones baked in the cold Dutch oven and hot oven have practically none.



On the other hand, the preheated Dutch oven and oven produced loaves that had more oven spring and do have that characteristic tearing at the top. They are smaller in diameter and just look more attractive to me overall. This replicates the results I got from doing method #1 and #3 in a previous bake. So in terms of what I prefer, the preheated method wins hands down and I will continue with it. 


I will try to get crumb shots when we cut into the loaves.


trailrunner's picture

Isn't  it so funny that your results were the exact opposite of mine ! I love the variety of experiences. I have levains on the radiator so will definitely be trying this whole cold/hot thing again. Your temps and times were different from mine and from Peter's. I had the oven at 475 ( for the bake I liked the best) and just left it there for the whole 40 min with lid on and removed the lid only for 5 min just till I got the browning I wanted. I checked internal temp and it was 212. We ate some of  that loaf yesterday and it was amazing. We shared the loaf that was baked in a cold pot at 450 today. It was also wonderful and the crumb was beautiful but the loaf wasn't as dark as I like. The loaves I  make are I think a lot bigger than the ones you are baking....about750- 850 or so raw weight. I am upping their weight and reworked my formula so I will have 2 loaves at 950 g each. Ian does his that big. I have two big cast iron pots and this will get me two big loaves with cold pots and then I am done. Will post back. Your breads are beautiful and I love your addins !! c


ps...I think the reason your dough moved quickly in that last half hour was you moved the little yeasty beasties around. I had read that it was a good idea to gently remove the dough from the bucket to help the rise and I have tried it twice now and it really sped up the movement.  

alfanso's picture

More gumption than me, that's for sure.  I've also occasionally tried slightly different levains, but not from differing ratios.  Just different flours concurrently, so I'm impressed that you and others do these experiments.

With these 3 bakes under different D.O. conditions, I'm curious as to whether you'll be able to ascertain a difference in taste, once they cool down and you cut into them.  Or will it just be the rise and dimensions?  Looking forward to a follow-up report.

As for the boules themselves, they look lovely and are way more involved, ingredients-wise, than anything I've done.

Hope you have plenty of jam and butter on hand ;-)


Danni3ll3's picture

 especially when I am sort of back on the wagon to drop these 15 lbs I gained in the last year or so. 

To be honest, my palate isn’t discerning enough to tell if there are differences between the loaves. I just know if it tastes good to me or not. I had a couple of small slices of the hot/hot method cranberry and it doesn’t need a thing on it. Pretty darn delicious!

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Thanks for this comparison of cold/cold, cold/hot and hot/hot bakes, Danni! I always use the latter method but have wondered from time to time how the other two would turn out. I don't think I'll bother, as I have no trouble with the pre-heated pots.

I'm so impressed with your determination to get your dough to the state you want it. If my dough isn't 'ready' by the time I want to go to bed, it's either going in the basement or the fridge, depending on the weather and the state of the dough. There is no way I would be staying up that late to watch bread dough! But I probably miss some of the learning that comes from watching and feeling your dough develop, so I'll just learn from you. :)

Bread1965's picture

Danni.. you're hilarious!

Who does that? Starts at 8am and keeps on truck'n until 2am.. wow.. i love your kind of messed up!!  You're like a force of nature that just doesn't know when to stop.. or as i like to say "my kind of broken"

I'm surprised by the results given what I've read.. but intuitively it make sense.. yes, crumb shots please..

But one question.. 100 folds?! Wow.. that's the most I think I've read about..

Well done.. i hope you hear the TFL applause..

It's one of these moments: 

Danni3ll3's picture

Loved that video! I actually burst out laughing!

The stubbornness is genetic! We either do it right or we don’t do it at all. It also helps that I am a night owl and I am no stranger to going to bed at 2, 3 or even 4 am. I do sleep in till ridiculously late hours too. Something about my normal sleep patterns being 2 am to 10 am. (I had originally put pm here ?)

As to the folds, I realized I probably do that many when I first mix in the yogurt, salt and Levain as per my normal practice. Doing 100 more in subsequent sets was new and actually not too onerous. It actually helped mix in the add-ins which I usually include in the autolyse. The timing of the salt addition was also different for me. 

Writing this out, I think I need to do a further side by side test; take a recipe and make it up the way I usually do and then with another batch of the same ingredients, follow the above method and see what happens. Hum....


pul's picture

Congratulations on the results, all the loaves look amazing. Your result is indeed better using both hot oven/pot. When I did the cold oven/pot combination was actually to overcome an issue that I always have when I bake straight from the fridge. I never got any decent oven spring using my small oven, so the cold oven/pot combination worked best for my situation. However, ovens in North America are quite large, got much more power and heat capability. So yes, the results from you and Caroline are different. It is good to know so that when I get a chance to bake in a large oven such as those in North America, I know where to start.


Danni3ll3's picture

in my post that everything was baked right out of the fridge. I can't stand dealing with floppy dough after proofing and I am always afraid of burning myself on those hot pots. Right out the fridge, the dough is nice and firm and it doesn't collapse when I pick it up with my fingertips and place it in the pots.

I never thought about the differences in oven types. I, wrongly, assume that everyone aside from Minioven and Pal bake in regular North American type of home sized ovens. Of course that would definitively affect results!

Danni3ll3's picture

So I struggled to figure out how the heck I was going to get crumb shots of all of these and decided what the hell, let's cut them all in half and then figure out what to do with them. ?

So here are the crumb shots of all the loaves, once again #1 to #3 from left to right (cold/cold, cold/hot, hot/hot).

Cranberry Walnut

Seeded Multigrain

Looking carefully, there is a bit of a difference between the first 2 who were both done in a cold pot and the last one done in a hot pot. The hot pot has much more of a push upwards in the middle which accounts for the better oven spring.

pul's picture

They look all exceptional! 


Danni3ll3's picture

but it isn't too bad considering the amount of add-ins I have in there.

PalwithnoovenP's picture

I really enjoyed this post; like you're in the laboratory. The chaud/chaud method really wins. Thank you for taking the time to experiment, useful for future bakes; this is going straight to my bookmarks. I would just like to clarify, those 100 folds are similar to a gentler kneading technique done right in the bowl?

Moi, je suis aussi une chouette (un hibou ?). 2-10 am is also my ideal sleep time but have no problems if I need to wake up early. Useful for breads with unpredictable rising times. :)

Danni3ll3's picture

to pull one side of the dough over to the other as best as I could. The dough seemed to tighten up and then loosen a bit near the end. Not quite sure why that happened. 


leslieruf's picture

great side by side baking.  I don’t think I will try it as I got such better results when I started baking with DOs that I will stick with it.


Benito's picture

Great experiment Danni.  I will continue to heat my Dutch oven in the oven based on your experiment that does confirm that method gives the best oven spring.