The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Cold Bulk vs Cold Proof

windycityloafster's picture

Cold Bulk vs Cold Proof

Hi all, I am looking for some advice. I have access to a commercial kitchen space during nighttime off hours, and I am looking to start a small scale baking operation in little batches of ~20-40 loaves each. The only problem I have is the limited timeframe; there is not enough time in one night to crank out bread. With my schedule, I basically have the options of a cold bulk with a warm proof, warm bulk with a cold proof, or keeping the dough cold for the entire process, a very long 24-26 hour ferment from start to finish. At home, I generally do a cool (65 F) or room temp (72-74 F) bulk from anywhere between 6-8 hours, followed by a 14 hour proof. This yields really great results. I've also done loaves that are cold from start to finish, with an extended 12-14 hour bulk and 12-14 hour proof. I feel like loaves with this method tend to struggle with volume, but if executed properly they come out fine as well. I do have some experience with cold bulking and warm proofing, but it's not nearly as surefire as the prior two. I feel as though the dough is too slack, suffers from an inferior spring, and is generally less forgiving to handle. It's also frustrating, as the limited oven space I have access too means the last loaves will be going in about an hour after the first ones did, which if proofing at room temperature, is enough time to significantly affect the product- not nearly as important if everything is on a speedrack in a walk-in. Cold final proofing is an option as I mentioned earlier, but is kind of a struggle as It means I would have to stick for the bulk ferment very late at night to shape the bread- something like 4am. Does anyone have any advice on this? Also, does anyone have experience with high inoculation percentages? Perhaps I could inoculate at say, 35% for a short warm bulk, and then retard for 10-12 hours. That seems prone to overfermenting too, but I honestly don't know.

I know this is kind of a rambly post but if anyone has input it would be appreciated. Sorry for the disorganization, I have worked in kitchens at scale but not with bread, and my first bake is approaching, so I have lots of ideas and questions floating around in my head.

idaveindy's picture

How about mix at home in bus tubs, ambient bulk ferment at home, transport the tubs to the commercial kitchen for the shaping and cold final proof, then make a 2nd trip back to bake?


Btw, instead of shipping flour from Utah to Windy City (Chicago?), have you tried Sher brand durum flour from Indian grocery stores such as Patel Brothers? see:

It's true flour, not gritty.

$.60/pound for refined.  $.65/pound for whole grain. 20 pound bags.

windycityloafster's picture

 I have given some thought to that and actually done a similar method for small scale test batches working out the nuances of the oven and whatnot, this is difficult for a few reasons. One is that although I do have a ridiculous amount of flour for an average home, I do not have enough to mix the batches I am going for in a sustainable way. Even with small, 500 gram loaves, 20 loaves comes out to some 10 kilos of flour- couple that with the fact that I am working with fairly wet country dough, about eighty percent hydration, the weight starts to be a problem. With the 2 kilos of starter I need for a batch that big, and that's about 20 kilos- or approximately 44 pounds of dough that I have to lug around. I use a drill with an "egg beater" style paint mixer on the end of it in lieu of an actual stand mixer, but this will not work for such a large quantity of dough. It is absolutely possible to mix that much dough by hand, in fact I remember reading a forum post about it a few weeks ago- some guy doing higher volume than I'm planning on doing did the whole process by hand for a farmer's market without mixers at any point, but it's a real pain. The other problem with that is while yes, it is feasible for say, a 20 loaf batch during a pilot phase of a very small operation, it's not feasible in the long run. So if demand increases, I'm really caught out in the rain. Thirdly, I think it's technically illegal. We have pretty stringent food handling laws here in Chicago and I do not think that it would be legal for me to potentially sell a product to the public that was at least partially prepared in an unlicensed home kitchen with non- NSF equipment.

As a side note I ship my durum flour from central milling because the commercial kitchen I work with orders from them in bulk,; to develop recipes to scale I have been shipping small bags of the same flours  from central as well as buying them from the kitchen. Because I already have large orders from central for spelt, whole wheat, whole white wheat, kamut etc, I throw the durum in as well. Probably not the most cost effective thing in the world but eh, I'm lazy.

Also, just to clarify, I am baking in a commercial oven. So only one trip to the kitchen is necessary. It's just that the oven is in use during the day.