The Wood-Fired Blog

Dough and Refrigeration

Longer fermentation times release more flavors from the grains we use and gives the yeast and enzymes in our dough more time to break down the carohydrates that are present. I recently read that a well developed dough can have up to 300 different flavor molecules. My guess is that we all pretty understand this at some level, but in general we might be too busy or rushed to actually do something about it. I know that all too often I simply decide to make bread and compress the entire mixing, kneading, stretching, folding, fermenting, shaping, proofing and scoring process down into a matter of hours.

But good bread needs more time. They keep telling us, and I am trying to listen. So recently, I have been starting to take the time to plan ahead and refrigerate my dough. Once I can internalize the processes and make them natural — and make sure that I do more planning ahead — I think this will be a big step forward in improving my bread.

Thinking for a minute, there seem to be a number of different places in the break making process where you can retard fermentation and slow things down. Off the top of my head, you can use ice water to mix your dough, you can mix your dough and drop it straight into the refrigerator, you can bulk ferment  your dough (and stretch and fold it), and then put it in the refrigerator, and you can shape your loaves and put them in the refrigerator. I’m sure there are other methods that I haven’t thought of.

The other day, I was behind in firing my oven and knew that waiting for my pizza oven to cool down into bread baking temperatures could take a long time and that my loaves would over-proof. So I put them in the refrigerator and only pulled them out right before I loaded them into the oven. It might not have been pre-planned or even the right way to plan things, but it worked out really well. I think it’s a new tool in my bread baking kit.

One thing I need to think about is how to best protect my dough from the air and things going on in the refrigerator. The loaves above were stored for 4 hours after they were shaped, and I covered them with a towel. You can see that they developed a pretty thick skill top. Though in this case, the “top” was the bottom, as I flipped the loaves onto a peel, and scored them. I think I need to think about a system with plastic covers. Well, maybe.

Of course there are lots of hobbyists and professionals who always ferment their pizza dough overnight, and sometimes longer. The extra time your dough matures gives it great flavors, and it improves how well your pizza “chars”.

So tonight, I just mixed a 1Kg batch of whole wheat oat and oat bran batch and it’s going to sleep overnight in the refrigerator. Tomorrow I will let it warm up, and stretch and fold my way into what I hope are a couple of nice loaves.

Deeper Bake Whole Wheat Boule

This is promising. I’ve been planning on letting my oven temperature fall further before loading my bread, and had the chance to try it today. To pretty good effect. The bread’s crust is thicker and denser, without becoming overwhelming.

After firing my pizza oven and cleaning out the coals, I allowed the oven to fall to roughly 500F. I will do some research on baking temperature and crumb development and blog about that a little later. For steam, I gave the oven three 10 second shots in the first couple of minutes of baking. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.

These are two 80% hydration whole wheat oatmeal boules. The dough that killed my KitchenAid Pro 600 mixer. :-)

800 grams whole wheat
100 grams white whole wheat
100 grams general purpose flour
40 grams molasses
40 grams honey
20 grams olive oil
20 grams salt
20 grams yeast
100 grams old fashioned oats
250 grams of boing water (to soak the oats)
550 grams of water