The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Timing The Build

Mako's picture

Timing The Build

 A recent post got me interested in what other people do to get bread ready for a specific time


This is really the only part of the process that gives me any apprehension, I'm never sure if I will get bread ready for when I want it

Start by feeding my starter... or not

The next day or not make the sponge and wait 2-24 hrs -- I'm always inspired here

Make dough wait 2-4 hrs.. Here I'm making the dough after work on a friday but I can only really start after Ive gotten dinner on the table, and some cleaning is done  --sometimes I'm kinda iffy here on starting

Make loaves wait 1 hr  Here its normally much to late to do anything and I end up rushing through this step and ruining everything, I'm sloppy on my forming, I leave the finished bread to cool all night turning it into a brick etc.  (I store the bread in a paper grocery sack to sit out all night)








redcatgoddess's picture

This is what I normally do...and I hope this will help you plan

    if I know I am about to have a long day and still want bread for dinner for the next day, I will start my polish tonight so I can plan about 3 hours of working/cooling time before dinner. 

    Or if that is not an option, you can make your bread tonight, shape, retard in the fridge, then bake the following day 1 hr before dinner. 

     I also use a steamy shower to replicate the 80% humity for yeast to raise quickly which helps the dough to double a lot quicker than just sitting on the counter.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Mako.

Some of us old timers, like me and (Ahem!) Peter Reinhart, first learned to bake European-style bread from Julia Child's "From Julia Child's Kitchen," published in 1975. In her chapter on "French Bread," she repeatedly encouraged the home baker to "be the boss of that dough" (See pg. 461) and slow down the process to fit your schedule by refrigerating the dough during the first or second rising (bulk fermentation).

Since then, cold fermentation has been prescribed as a way of improving flavor. This applies to both yeast breads (with or without a pre-ferment) and sourdoughs.

You can slow down the process to fit your time constraints after your starter has ripened, during or after bulk fermentation, right after forming the loaves or after they are partly proofed.

You will find recipes that prescribe each of these. Some prescribe more than one. You can also adapt recipes by introducing cold retardation at the point it makes most sense to you. Your changes will yield a different result which you might or might not end up preferring.

I am always looking for methods that let me bake bread to be fresh for a particular meal. Assuming the dough or loaves are in the refrigerator, my interest is in how much time I need between getting home from the office to slicing the baked (and cooled) loaf. Once I have decided on a recipe, I work backwards to figure out when to start the process. This is typically 3 days before I want to eat the bread.

How about some examples?

Nury's Rustic Light Rye (from Leader's "Local Breads):
This takes 3 days.

On the evening of day 1, refresh a firm sourdough starter. Let it ferment while I sleep.

The morning of day 2, refrigerate the starter. Go to work. In the evening, mix the dough. Ferment it. Refrigerate it.

The dough stays in the refrigerator during the 3rd day until I get home from the office. When I get home, I turn on the oven, then wash up, change out of my doctor costume and start fixing dinner. 45 minutes after getting home, take the dough out of the refrigerator, divide and shape the loaves and bake them. (This bread has no proofing!) They bake in about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I'm continuing to make dinner. The loaves cool for an hour before slicing.

So, the bread could be ready to eat, fresh baked, in about 2-1/2 hours after I get home.

San Francisco Style Sourdough: This also takes 3 days. One can stretch it to 4 days by letting a firm starter stay in the refrigerator an extra day. This may yield more sour bread, which is generally fine with me.

The difference is that I usually ferment the formed loaves before they are fully proofed. They may need up to 4 hours proofing after taking them out of the refrigerator before they are ready to bake. I usually make loaves of this bread that bake for 25-35 minutes and really take 2 hours to cool. So, they won't be ready for dinner unless I take the afternoon off. (This is a very hypothetical scenario!)

Now, if I were to more fully proof the loaves before refrigerating them overnight, I could bake them right out of the frige. So, 1 hour to heat the oven. 1/2 hour to bake. 2 hours to cool. They would be ready to eat 3-1/2 hours after I get home. 9 pm is a quite typical dinner time in several countries in which I don't happen to live, but I hope you see how I think about your question.


LindyD's picture

While taste is my top reason for loving Hamelman's "Vermont" sourdough, I will admit that the timing on this bake is pretty admirable as well.

On Tuesday I pulled out my starter from the refrigerator and refreshed it.  This morning (Wednesday) I refreshed it again before leaving for work.  When I came home I mixed the dough, let it autolyse, finished kneading it and have done the first fold (after 50 minutes).  I have 30 minutes to go before the second fold and after that, 50 more minutes of proofing before I shape the loaves and then retard them overnight.

Tomorrow when I arrive home from work, I'll pull the loaves out of the fridge, preheat the oven, then bake.  I normally don't eat dinner until around 8 pm, so I could have freshly baked bread with my meal - but I prefer to wait until the next day before cutting into the bread because sourdough tastes better to me if its allowed to mellow and develop its flavor.

I have to note that since I started paying attention to the rule of 240 (thanks guys and gals for posting that) and making sure my dough temperature is 76F, I've gotten tremendous oven spring and not a single loaf has split.  And yes, they go into the oven within 30 minutes of being removed from the fridge.