what is the bulk fermentation for?

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Gadzik's picture
Joined: 2015-03-19 23:23
what is the bulk fermentation for?


I usually start my bulk fermentation with 5-6 stretch and folds every 30 minutes as soon as the autolyse is done, and wait about 2h more untill the dough rises 1,5 times by volume. Jeffrey Hamelman says that the process of bulk fermentation is for building flavour mostly, and the proofing part is to produce gas. After 1,5- 2h of room temp proofing my dough Is springing back slowly when poked and is ready to bake.  I had no questions till I switched to cold proofing (I found it much more convenient for me and I am going to cold proof every single bread I make).

My questions are: Do I have to do a full bulk fermentation if my 12h cold proofing builds flavour anyway? Is it ok to shape my loaf after last stretch and fold not waiting until the dough rises 1,5 times by volume? Does a bulk fermentation have to result in rising? How can I know it is time to stop a bulk fermentation and shape a loaf?

I have listened to the bread oriented stella podcasts and Didn't find the answer why does the bread have to rise twice (once during bulk and second during proofing). I do it, it works but I want to know why. .


jacob burton's picture
jacob burton
Joined: 2015-05-25 20:37

Hey Gadzik,

Besides flavor, the bulk fermentation allows the yeast to break down the complex starches in the flour, which they then later use for food. Then, when you punch down the dough, it redistributes the yeast, sugars, and evens out the dough's temperature. This leads to a better over-all proof.

When you initially mix your dough, it's not guaranteed that your yeast in the small amount you added is evenly distributed throughout your dough. As the yeast continues to re-produce, the bulk fermentation and punching down allows you to redistribute the yeast more evenly throughout the dough.

You should do some side by side tests though and see how much of a difference it gives you're final loaf. I'd love to hear your results.

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