The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bulk/Proof times variations

Gadjowheaty's picture

Bulk/Proof times variations

Hello everyone,


I guess I feel a bit weird dropping in with a question after being gone such a long time.  I have early Parkinson's.  Explains alot of the last several years,  I'm fine.

Doing alot of baking (I'm sure I'm the only one over the last several months, lol).

One thing I've never understood is the effects and merits of bulk/proof time changes.  Just what I do, I tend to longer bulk and relatively quicker proofs.  I've seen in Calvel and others that they will mess with longer bulk/shorter proofs, and shorter bulks and longer proofs.  With levains, not outside the Family (cultured yeast, etc.).

I have no understanding of why, what the relative merits are, or the science behind it,  Anyone?

Thank you.


semolina_man's picture

Bulk ferment and proofing time combined need to ensure that the yeast don't run out of food.  This happens when bulk+proof are too long.  

Others can comment on the proportion of bulk to proof times.


Benito's picture

I haven’t figured this out yet myself, but one effect is that the closer to baking time that your shape your dough, we tend to even out the crumb.  So a shorter bulk time and longer proof time will in general have a less even crumb than a long bulk and short proof.  Another variable is dough strength.  A more fermented airier dough when shaped will have more structure than a less airy dough.  Think of it this way, if you just mixed your dough and then shaped it after 10 mins you haven’t organized the gluten and there isn’t any air in between those gluten strands in an organized fashion, that dough left to prove a long time won’t have the structure to hold that shaping you gave it.


Gadjowheaty's picture

Delayed, sorry.  I just re-read Calvel's pain au levain and yes, I think this is what started me on this, probably because I began back to baking again though Hamelman, and he has such a different approach.  Calvel's at 50 min. primary and up to 4 hrs proofing.  I was looking for some biochemical or such an explanation but yours makes good sense,.  Will play around.

idaveindy's picture

some experts explain that:

Probably the best:

You have to balance: %PFF, time, and temp.


Although the title of this next one is about sourness, it also is a good tutorial about what goes on during the bulk ferment, the final shaping, and the final proof processes.


Teresa Greenway:

She also has a youtube channel, and a series of Kindle ebooks on Amazon.


Sourdough Journey  channel at youtube:


If you are using store-bought flour, I think the popular bread cookbooks are good places to learn. Forkish and I think Reinhart have examples of long vs short proofs. Why re-invent the wheel?

If you are using home-milled flour, then you do sort of have to customize formulas on your own.


Gadjowheaty's picture

Great.  Thanks Dave.

BXMurphy's picture


I especially like The Sourdough Journey. He's new to baking SD but has done a few really good and controlled experiments about the things we all fret about.

Guess what?

We worry over a lot of nothing. Everything "just works" if we will just take the time to watch and learn how fermentation takes place in our own individual laboratories.

I think the original poster will benefit from watching The Sourdough Journey's take on "50 Eays to Kill a Starter" to get to a comfort level that shows you really can't screw this stuff up (except for mold).

I like falling asleep to his longish (hour or so) videos. I'll pick up the video the next night where I started drifting off to sleep the night before.

Anyway... just start baking something. Get experience. You can't screw this stuff up. Even if you try. Well... except for the mold part... which is bad.


idaveindy's picture

He does get wordy and stretches things out.  Otherwise, his details, info, techniques, etc. are good. He just needs to tighten up the presentation, and it would be perfect. Though the verbal repetition is good for beginners as it puts emphasis on the important parts. 

I see him somewhat as a "kindred soul" as we are both Aspies (on the autistic spectrum) and detail oriented.

phaz's picture

I think what you're missing is - there isn't any difference between the 2 (ferment and proof). Giving the 2 different names does help distinguish steps of the process which can help (or confuse, as may be the case here) some, but that's all it is - a name.

Everything that happens once everything is mixed happens till the bread is cooked and the bugs are killed off. Think in terms of %, ie start to finish is 100% (0 being first mixed, 100 being going into the oven). In that time a dough reaches whatever level of fermentation you want, sufficient gluten development to hold shapes and gases, and enough gas development to get whatever crumb you like. The ideal is getting all these things to come together when the dough goes into the oven - and all those things can be whatever you want. Enjoy!

Gadjowheaty's picture

This was generated, I think, with the many paradigms I've seen in Calvel and elsewhere, per above.  i have to expect reasoning behind it beyond production needs.  The only thing I can think of that might be analogous would be yeast and/or bacteria curves in brewing and cheesemaking.  At the end of the day it's all food and an environment designed to optimize competition for the wanted beasties - but the curves matter significantly (I made almost exclusively French alpine cheeses - tommes, Abondance).