The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Why should one Bulkferment?

hajonnes's picture

Why should one Bulkferment?

I wonder why one should bulk ferment.
If I would have a good mixer and the dough created enough gluten so I did not need to fold during fermentation, what is the point of bulk fermentation?

I.e. Can I not just shape the loafs and if I want more flavor I just retard them?

GaryBishop's picture

I suggest you try it. I remember Dan writing about it on this site back during COVID. He kneaded the dough, shaped it and put it in a pullman pan to rise. 

Try it with and without retarding. 

Rule number 1: "There are no rules".



Davey1's picture

If a mixer is used - there is no reason to build gluten. All that's needed is sour - which can be had with adjustments and timing. Enjoy! 

tpassin's picture

Yes, you can do this.  My take on bulk ferment is that to get a long enough fermentation time for good flavor, the dough will rise quite a lot.  Dough can rise only so far before the structure gets over-stretched: the cell walls get thinned out until they only contain water (so I have read), the elastic strands can get overstretched, and so on.  Degassing the dough stops this process.  Then when you shape a loaf you can get a well-risen loaf without over-stretching.

IOW, using a bulk ferment stage gets you more fermentation time.  Note that the over-rising can happen even in a refrigerator depending on how long you leave the dough in there.

So yes, more time retarded will get you more flavor.  Bulk + retardation will get you more.


trailrunner's picture

I make this at least once a month in my 13” Pullman. As noted above  there was some discussion at the time about this dough . It definitely goes directly from one bowl , like a cake batter, into the WELL BUTTERED Pullman. It rises and then you either retard overnight or bake immediately depending on how much time you have and what flavor profile and grains you’ve used. 

I’ve modified a number of things and every single loaf still comes out perfect with edges as sharp as a knife 😊. 

I make 2 levains from my stored starter. One always has rye the other is white. I now make these levains with water and use200 ml of  the AYW as part of the  total ml of the total water . Mix everything in a large bowl with a spatula. Scrape immediately into the WELL BUTTERED Pullman . Smooth top with a wet spatula. Cover with see- through plastic and let rise til you see the FIRST pinhole bubble and the dough should be about 2-3 ridges from the top. Put on WELL BUTTERED lid and retard or preheat oven and bake. 
DONOT ignore the butter . It’s integral to the flavor and getting this bread out with a gorgeous crumb. Don’t substitute something else…. make another formula. 

The dough consistency will vary depending on the grains you use. I mill everything myself. MockMill on a fine setting, I never sift and no need to autolyse this dough. The loaf yesterday had the two levains , rye and white BF Arrowhead Mills. The main flour Rouge de Bordeaux, Big Country ( a hard white Winter Wheat ) and Spelt evenly split. It was quite soft dough. Softer than last week that had more heavy grains. No matter just WATCH for the first bubbles.

hajonnes's picture

Hi all, and thanks for the answers and examples!

@tpassin,The thing about that bulkferment is actually just to get more flavor was really interesting.

I.e. if I have a little yeast (~0.05% dry) and ferment a long time at the same temperature as more yeast (~0.5% dry).
When the two loafs are baked should the taste not be similar? The small amount of yeast are less yeast cells that can produce the taste so they will need more time to produce the same taste and also leaven the bread?

If the LAB's (lactobacillus) have a big impact, then the LAB's in the bread will be the same for both breads leavened with commercial yeast. So the bread with less yeast will let the LAB's produce more taste because the longer fermentation time. Are the LAB's in the dough important for good bread taste?

Or is my reasoning totally off?



tpassin's picture

Are the LAB's in the dough important for good bread taste?

I have two data points that bear on this question. First, I have made bread with only a small amount of yeast, e.g., 1/4 tsp in about 400g of flour.  With this amount the dough ferments on a schedule similar to many sourdough breads.  The flavor was between ordinary yeasted breads and sourdough.  When I added about an ounce of liquid drained from live culture yogurt, the flavor got closer to a mild sourdough but it was still lacking something. Note that most of my sourdough breads are not really sour.

Second, as an experiment I once added 6% salt each time I refreshed a starter.  Over a period of time the bread made with this starter rose much as usual but the flavor slowly became more and more bland.  Eventually the bread became uninteresting to eat.  From this I inferred that the high salt content caused the LAB to grow so slowly that eventually they virtually disappeared from the starter.  The yeast apparently tolerated the salt much better.

So I would say yes, the LABs are very important. My two experiments seem to confirm it.

Something that seems to improve flavor, for reasons I'm not sure of, is simply time while the flour is hydrated. This is probably what is going on when you use just a small amount of yeast. For example, if you take half the flour in a recipe, mix it with its proportional amount of water (but no leavening), and let that sit overnight or even for a day before combining it with the rest of the recipe, the bread will have a richer taste than if you just mix everything as usual. If you use the same time for creating a levain, and mix the two together, you can get really rich, complex, somewhat mellow tasting results.

The main reason I don't do this all the time is laziness - I don't enjoy mixing doughs with established gluten together, and the bread I make without the extra aging step seems very good already.  But try it some time!