top of page

Fitting Bread Baking into your Schedule and Fast Baking Techniques

Updated: Jan 18

Bread Dough is incredibly flexible.

This article covers some of the ways we can make bread baking fit into our day and ways to bake fast when we need bread on the table.




Some important guidelines to keep in mind


Temperature

When fermenting the dough we need to keep the dough within its ideal fermentation window. Dough ferments best between 24C / 75F and 28C / 83F . Yeast activity is slower at 24C / 75F and it is faster at 28C / 83F A lot of bread flavour comes from complex reactions between the acids produced during fermentation the enzymes in the flour and other complex chemicals in the dough. This process is slow. So we need to slow down the yeast fermentation to give this tertiary process time. The secondary process is Lactobacilli fermentation if present.

Yeast and Lactobacilli are inactive when the dough is below 5C / 41F. We do get some fermentation when a dough is placed in the fridge, but that is as the dough cools down. The tertiary processes mentioned do continue at these temperatures, but they are slowed down. This is why placing the dough in the fridge for either bulk fermentation or proofing develops more flavourful breads.

Gluten Development

Full gluten development is essential for any good bread. This is illustrated very well by looking at breads using baking powder or baking soda as the leaven. Their crumb is cake like and after even a few hours it can have a dry mouth feel.

The gliadin and glutenin form into gluten in the dough These gluten molecules bond to each other forming a network. These molecular networks are tightly coiled. Coil folding or any other of the ‘kneading’ methods, break these weak bonds and allow stronger gluten to gluten bonds to form. They also stretch the gluten network out into gas trapping sheets and fold them over forming gas trapping layered sheets. Underdeveloped gluten molecules is effectively making like holes in these gas trapping sheets.

So whatever we do when fitting bread baking into our schedule we must ensure that there has been sufficient activity and time for the gluten to develop.

Time

The gluten bonds develop over time anyway. As long as there is sufficient kneading, or coil folding to break the weak bonds and stretch out the gluten network then we will get a decent loaf. This is the principle behind ‘No Knead’ recipes. Recently I have seen people putting out recipes with no coil or stretch and folding at all. These will give inferior results as the gluten is only stretched out by the dough expanding as it ferments. This is not enough to get a good folded network and the breads will be heavier and have a poor crumb.

Controlling when the Dough will be Ready to Bake


Using the Fridge

This is more properly called Retarding the Dough. The method was first developed by Artisan Bakers who wanted to cut down on night working hours and thus costs. They used two techniques. Cold Bulk Fermentation and Cold Proofing.

There is a clock that starts ticking when we are making dough. Call it the Protease Gluten Degradation Clock if you will. Protease literally cuts up the gluten network by dissolving the bonds. Using refrigeration does not stop the Protease enzymes from doing this. Depending on how enzymatically active the dough is 12-16 hours in the fridge is the limit. Longer than this can cause too much gluten degradation to get a good loaf volume and crumb. The exception are the flatter breads such as Pita and Pizza. This is especially so when Rye flour, or Freshly milled Whole Meal, or Whole Grain, are used. These are much higher in enzymes so some experimentation is needed with your own flours to see what their limits are.

Cold Bulk Fermentation involved Artisans making the dough during the previous days shift and then chilling it in bulk in cabinets where the temperature was carefully controlled to allow just enough fermentation that the dough would complete overnight. These cabinets were much warmer than our fridges. All sorts of odd things happen with large quantities of dough. At about 20kg and above the yeast activity produces a lot of heat. The fermentation also naturally proceeds at a faster rate. These are called the Mass Effect. So their temperatures are of little use to Home Bakers. However we can use a different technique. See ‘Lowering the Amount of Leaven’.

The second technique Artisan Bakers developed was Cold Proofing. Here the dough is shaped and placed into tin / pans or proving baskets which were chilled enough that the dough could be baked at will in the following 12 - 16 hours. This enabled bakers to produce fresh bread throughout the day as required.

Like the Artisans we can use the fridge to delay the baking to a time that is convenient for us. Making a dough in the evening, cold proofing it and baking it before going to work the next day is just one application.

Lowering the Amount of Leaven

Another technique is to lower the amount of leaven in our dough. Again this needs a little experimentation to find out what works best in your kitchen and climate. The amount of leaven used will vary from Winter to Summer in Temperate climes. And, whether the dough will be left during the day, or overnight on the worktop.


By using less leaven, be it a natural leaven or yeast, we can slow the fermentation process down just as we can by using the fridge. The difference is that the yeast population continues to grow so that fermentation is accelerating over time. Whereas once the dough has cooled in the fridge the yeast activity is pretty much zero.

This method is also used to slow fermentation in hot Summers and Hot Climates.

Those using Natural Leavens a.k.a. Sourdough Preferments for some, can reduce the leaven to 10% measuring by the weight of flour in the pre-ferment as a percentage of all of the flour in the recipe.

Those using yeast can reduce the amount of yeast to a half, or even a quarter. That would be 0.33 - 0.17 grams multiplied by the weight of flour in the recipe.

These amounts are merely guidelines, starting points to experiment with until you find out what works best in your kitchen.

The Bulk fermentation can then be left covered on the work top for 12 to 16 hours, or overnight and the bread baking continued then.

Interrupting the Fermentation

We can simply put the bread making on ice, literally. We can interrupt the fermentation whenever we choose using the fridge.

This is useful when something comes up in the middle of the bake and we have to stop at short notice.

Just place the dough in the fridge and come back to it later. This might be at the end of first mixing, or in the middle of bulk fermentation. Dough is very robust and no harm will come to it.

The only time this becomes a little tricky is when the dough is in the middle of the proofing stage. It is quite possible that the dough will over prove in the fridge. If this happens you can rescue it by giving it a good re-shaping and degassing it a little and then proof it again. This second proofing will be shorter than your usual proofing, so keep an eye on it.

Accelerating the Dough - Fast Baking.

This is not my favourite approach. Shorter fermentation means less flavour, but if your favourite Aunt announces she will be at your house in a few hours it's one way to go.

With Natural Leavens that aren’t at their peak just put whatever leaven you have in the dough and add instant yeast. The natural leaven will add some flavour at least.

With Instant yeast double the amount. This could be 0.1 - 0.2 grams, times the weight of flour in your recipe.


If you're baking with a Natural Leaven and you have sufficient ripe and ready to use add it to the dough at 40% of the weight of flour in it against the total weight of flour in the recipe. That total flour weight includes the amount of flour in the leaven. This sounds high, but I have used 50% in the past and it made a good bread. Remember to adjust the amount of water to add to the dough.


Temperature: Keeping the dough up at 28C, 83F - 30C, 86F will accelerate the fermentation and shorten the bulk and proofing time considerably. Keep a close eye on your dough with these temperatures and the extra yeast, the dough will develop faster than you might expect. Do not exceed 30C, 86F the yeast activity falls off rapidly above that.


Adding a small amount of sugar, honey, or malt to the dough will greatly speed up fermentation. If you don't like sweet tasing bread keep the amounts low. Diastatic malt has amylase enzymes in it too. These will break down more starches into sugars for the yeast making for a much faster fermentation. Be careful though diastatic malt will give you a gummy crumb if you use too much. Diastatic Malt is the ingredient of choice here.

Use:

3% - 5% Cane sugar

3% - 4% Honey

3% Non Diastatic Dried Malt

5% Non Diastatic Liquid Malt

0.5% Diastatic Malt. It's powerful stuff. More than 1% is liable to move the bread into gummy crumb territory.


Next consider not using any fat in the dough. Fats slow down the fermentation. If adding fat add it after the first hour of bulk fermentation by squidging it in with your fingers. Surgical gloves may be worn if that’s your preference. Squidging dough like this is one of the most ancient kneading techniques. Another is pushing clenched fists into the dough.


Yeast is fairly salt tolerant so use what you would normally use.


If you have a mixer you can develop the gluten more, or even fully, at the beginning like many commercial bakers do. Mix on the slowest setting and check for a window pane. (See window pane test). It should take about five to ten minutes. If using weak flours you will not get a window pane, use your judgement. Using a mixer this way will let you drop your stretch and folds / coil folds down to one after the first hour of bulk ferment. It may enable you to drop that one stretch and fold completely if you can get a good window pane. As soon as the dough has doubled in size move on to shaping and don’t forget to start pre-heating your oven.


If you don’t have a mixer just give the dough your best with slap and folds, or stretch and folds for five minutes. I prefer slap and folds the slap breaks those initial weak gluten links like nothing else. Don’t believe me? Try it, it’s magic. Then revisit your dough during bulk ferment and do at least one thorough set of stretch and fold. Do two if you have the time. Remember your bulk ferment ideally needs one hour after your last coil folding, or stretch and folds. When it has doubled move on to shaping.

Lastly, use a bread machine on the Rapid recipe setting, dough only. Most bread machines do an excellent job when it comes to speed. Sometimes this setting is called Pizza Dough. There is no long delay at the beginning.

A word about Stretch and Fold, or Coil Folding regimen

We do not need to make ourselves slaves to particular stretch and fold timings.

I like to do the first one after an hour so that the fermentation is already well under way. I like to leave the dough to bulk ferment for an hour after the last coil fold, or whatever method I’m using on the day. This last hour gets the best out of the dough expansion which is stretching out those gluten sheets for me. The coil folds, or whatever method you are using, take the stretched gluten and forms it into overlapping gas trapping sheets.

That aside I will sometimes do the first coil folding after thirty minutes and just fit two or three more in at my convenience.

If all else fails...

Using these methods can get a good dough into the oven in two hours. If you want bread faster you are back to Bannocks, Scofa, or Soda breads made with baking powder. They can be on the table in thirty minutes. It’s handy to have those recipes in your back pocket. They are great warm from the oven with charcuterie, cheese and soups.

164 views10 comments

Recent Posts

See All

10 Comments


Unknown member
Oct 30, 2023

Once again, thanks, Kevin! My aunt's schedule is super fragmented almost every day of the week, with many demands on her time, so your words really resonate with her.


She's made Charlie's Easiest Bread Ever her go-to bake even though we've realized by now that the loaf will be a bit dense. But it takes her only 30 min to get it into the fridge, then she's free to do something else.


Thanks to you and Charlie, she's been able to get it to work for her, and it gives her a sturdy loaf with excellent flavour that toasts up quite nicely.


We tried other so-called No Knead recipes before, but none of those factored in the high temperatures we…


Like
Unknown member
Oct 30, 2023
Replying to

Thank you. You and your Aunt are welcome.

I do hope you will keep sharing your learning with regard to baking in Hot Climates. So little has been written about it in English.

I have baled in the Tropics, but, I was doing simple direct baking and not trying to get slow fermentation. Essentially fermentation went very fast and the only issue was to have the oven pre-heated soon enough.

What you two are doing is a big step up on that.

Like

Unknown member
Oct 28, 2023

We all know, fewer fails leads to more confidence which leads to more successes and ......... MORE BREAD! 😍

Like
Unknown member
Oct 30, 2023
Replying to

Oh yes, too many fails and no answers from anyone can derail even the most stubborn of us 😞. My aunt was almost ready to call it a day till we found Charlie's channel and this site. The generous support from all of you and Kevin's pointers have made so much difference and got us on the right track at last, though we're still stumbling about a bit haha.

Like

Unknown member
Oct 28, 2023

Another great article, Kevin!

Like
Unknown member
Oct 30, 2023
Replying to

My aunt and I certainly appreciate your efforts to ease our way to the world of baking, and we're sure other would-be bakers do too!

Like
bottom of page