The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Time Challenges

cfraenkel's picture

Time Challenges

I started on this bread baking journey during my summer break (I'm a teacher) which gave me lots of time to watch dough, fold dough, shape and get the idea. Now I am back to work.  I bake for two reasons, the first is that I have a corn allergy, and regular commercial bakeries often don't know enough about their ingredients to make me bread that I don't react to.  The second is I love bread, and missed it so much. Now the dilemna. Timing.  Surely some of you have real jobs that keep you out of the house all day.  How do you find time to bake? Any insight into the timing would be appreciated.

Windischgirl's picture

because that's when I feed my starter or prep the biga or poolish for the next day's bakes.  I usually make two different types of bread and about 4-5 lbs of each dough.  I also measure out all my ingredients and put the dry goods in the proofing container, wet ingredients in a plastic container with a lid.  Salt and yeast (if called for and not added in with the flours) go in snack size plastic containers and I drop those in the flour container.  Everything gets labeled with the recipe name, i bookmark the recipe, and the book goes on the flour container. I decide which recipe goes first based on the rising time. Saturday morning I plug in the DLX and get to work, and since everything is prepped it comes together quickly.

Whatever we don't eat on the weekend or give away goes in the freezer and I pull it out as I need it.  It's not a perfect system but it works for us.  Use good ingredients and a starter, and the bread will be flavorful!

cfraenkel's picture

Oh well - I might be able to pull off something simple tomorrow.  Good idea with the freezer.  Thanks for your input, I like the idea of getting everything ready ahead of time. 

IceDemeter's picture

If you prefer to prep / bake during the week, then it can be done with planning, using the right amount of leaven, controlling the temperatures, and remembering that the fridge is your friend.

Are you using commercial yeast or a sourdough starter?  If sourdough, are you keeping it in the fridge or maintaining it at room temperature? 

If you're using sourdough, kept in the fridge, then doing week-day bakes might go something like this:

- Monday right after work (6:00 pm), pull out 10g of starter, and feed with 20g flour and 20g water.  Place it in a proofer at 90 deg F or so (or put a 2-cup pyrex measure full of water in the microwave and heat it on high for 1-1/2 minutes, then put your fed levain in beside it).  This is also when you would prepare any adders for the recipe, such as soaks or scalds or cooked porridge - which can be put in to the fridge until you are ready for them.  Just before bed (not before 10:00 pm), give feed the levain again with 50g flour and 50g water, and put it back in the proofer at 80 deg F, or back in the microwave after re-heating the water.

- Tuesday morning, before leaving for work (6:00 am), the levain should have peaked and be falling, so feed it again with 75g flour and 75g water (for a total of 150g flour / 150g water = 300g starter).  Tuck it back in to the microwave after reheating the water (or in to the proofer at about 80 deg).  If you are using a recipe with a lot of whole grain flour in it, then get your flour soaking with most of the recipe water and the salt (to slow enzyme action) and leave it in a relatively cool place.  Any soaks or scalds would be included at the point, and a cooked porridge or fruits or nuts could also be included or can be added later during the stretch-and-folds.

- Tuesday evening, right after work (6:00 pm), you can add the levain to the soaking flour / water / salt / adders.  Knead up to medium window-pane in a one or two-stage process (let it rest for a while if the gluten starts fighting back), and then place in to fermenting container.  Plan on doing stretch-and-folds either in the container or on the bench at either 30 or 60 minute intervals (depending on how the dough feels), and let the dough ferment at around 70 deg F for no more than 2-1/2 hours from the time that the levain hit the flour.  Cover and place the fermenting container in to the fridge.

- Wednesday evening, right after work (6:00 pm), pull the dough out of the fridge and pre-shape immediately.  Cover and let bench-rest for 30 minutes, then shape and place in proofing banneton, cover, and get in to proofer (or microwave with steaming water, or in to oven with the lights on and the door ajar) and allow to proof at about 80 deg F or slightly more.  Keep an eye on the dough, and get the oven pre-heated and ready for when the dough is fully proofed (should be around 8:00 or 9:00 pm).  Bake, and leave loaf on cooling rack to cool overnight.

- Thursday morning - slice and enjoy!

This is based on using about 15% prefermented flour (so 150g in the levain going in to 850g flour for a total of 1000g flour in the dough), and on the temps listed.  Timing can be sped up by using more prefermented flour, or higher temps, or adding some commercial yeast in to the mix.

The main thing to remember is that you can use the fridge to keep a prepared levain for when it is convenient to use, and / or use the fridge to retard the bulk ferment, and / or use the fridge to retard the proof (it's generally recommended to either retard the bulk OR the proof, since the yeast do need some time at warm temps to work). 

You can also use this sort of schedule with a commercial yeast dough, by making up a poolish on Monday evening with an extremely tiny amount of yeast, and then treating it the same as a sourdough levain.  Alternatively, you can add in some more yeast when you add the poolish, and speed things up enough that you could get in a bake on Tuesday evening (although, it would be quite late) or even ferment it at room temp on Tuesday evening, then retard the proof in the fridge, and bake straight from the fridge at some point on Wednesday.

Happy baking!

cfraenkel's picture

I come back to this post every few months (especially during report card season, when I can't remember my own name let alone starter/flour percentages) I just wanted you to know that this has made a huge difference in my bread baking journey, and wanted you to know how much I appreciate your help. - Carolann

cfraenkel's picture

Thank you so much for your detailed answer!  I love the microwave trick! - I do use a starter. I am experimenting right now with proofing in the fridge since I got a late start yesterday and realized I was going to run out of bread before the week was out. This was great, and I learned a new trick too.

clazar123's picture

Simply-everything ready. One Christmas (while working 3/4 time) I baked 24 loaves of French bread as gifts in a week. I measured and bagged all the dry ingredients for my weeks bake. These were yeasted doughs-not sourdough.

6AM-Mix dough with warm water and into refrigerator. It rose while I was at work.

5:30PM Dough taken out and allowed to complete rising IN A PROOFER. The temp was important or it took too long! It was winter in Wisconsin and my kitchen was too cold.

10PM All baking done.

Repeat next day.

It went remarkably smoothly but I was working with a recipe that was simple and tested. Also, I had a KitchenAid mixer that was a champ. Can be done!

Timing is the hardest thing to get down. I have now developed many of my recipes to use a preferment-perhaps mixed the evening before so I can bake the following morning or even mixed early am and bake that evening. I often use instant yeast along with my sourdough to hasten the process. I thought being retired would help but I seem to be busier than before. I still need to plan my bakes or they just don't happen.