To bathe or not to bathe?


Hi there,


I've just found this website and it's great! I'm a keen amateur baker from the UK. I often use a bathe (cold water) when making SD breads, but I don't know why I do it - other than I've picked up the habit. My typical white SD recipe would be:

500g bakers flour (100%)

50g rye (10%)

130g starter at 100% hydration (26%)

290ml water at 5degC (58%)

90ml bathe (iced water) (18%)

10g sea salt (2%)

I add the bathe at the end of the initial kneading, just as the dough starts to come together. Can anyone explain what the bathe does?







83 users have voted.


mlucas 2010 June 12

The water temperature affects the final dough temperature, which affects the rate of fermentation.
Usually you want the final dough temperature around 72-76F, so using such cold water (5 deg C and 0 deg C) would only be necessary if you're generating a lot of heat during mixing, or have a very warm house. Or I suppose if you are trying to "retard" the dough at the beginning of its fermentation (though usually the retarding instructions I've seen say to let it ferment normally for a portion of fermentation time, then throw it in the fridge).

I mix by hand, so I tend to just use water straight from my filter tap (undersink filter unit) which is around 70F (21C). Sometimes I warm up the water to ~80F (26C) if I'm trying to counteract something else cold in the recipe, like if my starter just came out of the fridge. Machine mixing can generate a lot more heat though.

Here's a really good overview of water & final dough temperatures:
(although even better is the source material: Hamelman's book "Bread")

Maybe try using uncooled water for your next batch and see how it turns out? I'd expect the fermentation to go a lot faster...


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