Monday 12 November 2012

Cold & Slow Bread

Julia gave me a thermometer, designed to not only show the temperature, but give advice on the effects of temperature on humans. For instance my house is now below 16 (actually it's around 10 degrees C) at this temperature I read "There is a risk of heart attack or a stroke or even hypothermia if exposure is prolonged". My bigger concern is whether or not my dough was going to rise. For me, well it's just a case of putting on more layers.

The bread, which finally came out of the oven late last night, had a lovely appearance, good oven spring, and a glorious colour, the flavour this morning is equally good, fuller rather than more sour, delicious. I can't recommend living in the cold, but somehow if you find a way to slow down the fermentation of dough by reducing the temperature, the result is very worthwhile.

I used:
for the ferment,
100g of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200g of water.

for the main dough,
all of the ferment
1,000g of strong white flour
700g of water
20g of salt.

I began by mixing the starter with the ferment ingredients and leaving it all at room temperature, in this case around 10 degrees for 14 hours. I then added the flour and water from the main dough ingredient list, omitting the salt. I mixed until thoroughly combined into a very soft dough. I went to bed. The following morning, expecting the dough to have risen overnight to the rim of the bowl, I found it sluggish and only half way up. I added the salt and mixed thoroughly before placing the dough in a clear plastic box to rise over the next few hours. I stretched and folded the dough within the box once every couple of hours, for the next 8 hours. Finally it showed signs of growth, good gluten development and signs of large bubbles. I formed the dough into three loaves and placed them in my moulds having floured them well with rice flour. I left them for at least another 6 hours before finally baking in a hot oven, 220 degrees C, for 30 minutes.

Notes: Better bakers than I will know a lot about how temperature produces different flavours based on enzymes etc. but at this point I am reminded how strong an organism yeast is, I just need to remember that I always need to keep an eye on what's happening to the dough, temperature is a guide as to what to expect, but nothing beats observation.
My daughter Hedd ( a Welsh name, pronounced Hathe to rhyme with bathe) is coming home tomorrow so the heating will be on!


  1. I get the feeling that the longer I linger around this site the more desperately in love with food I get! This bread looks more than inviting and makes me actually happy that our spring isn't all that at the moment here in Tasmania. I am going to have to work some at making my bread look like this...I feel like I am tutoring under a master :)

  2. That bread looks like a dream to me. Congratulations. I have a question though: what is the 'starter'. As you can see , I am completely new at this ... :)

    1. Hello Gabi, good to hear from you and of course a reminder that I pitch my recipes (wrongly I think) to people who already have some experience. When I list "starter" in the ingredients I refer to a mix of flour and water that is home to a complex colony of wild yeast and bacteria. This gets used, replenished over time with flour and water in order to provide the baker with a constant source of yeast to use in baking. I keep mine in the fridge in order to slow down the growth. Commercial yeast is simply a cultivated form of yeast which has been developed to produce rapid and consistent results in baking, it comes dried and ready to use, whereas the wild form is one that bakers grow from scratch, tend and treasure. There is an excellent recipe with instruction on Susan's Wild Yeast site ( ) where you can begin one of your own, or since most bakers are generous you may be able to have a little from a baker in your neighbourhood who is happy to start you off. Beginning to use a wild yeast starter in the creation of bread can sometimes feel daunting but the results are well worth it; you have to expect to have bread take longer to produce but time is one of the baker's finest allies. Good luck and do get back to me if you have any further questions, Tôbi


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