One problem handled - another arises


Greetings all you wonderful people. 

A couple of weeks ago I sought help here with an issue of mine; my wet dough collapsed upon transfer from the banneton to the dutch oven, and I would end up with a very flat bread with not much texture, but a very crispy crust though. I was suggested by Loaf for Life that I might be overproving my dough. So I went back to the drawing board and thought of ways to incorporate a wet dough into my day cycle, as I simply cant make a dough and bake within ~8 hours on the same day during the week. I had also found previously that proving the wet loaves for more than about 12 hours in the fridge would result in the same, flat bake. 

However! I now declare an initial victory over this challenge. I mix my dough, let it rest for 40 mins and then work in the salt by hand for around 10. Now I slap it in a plastic box and right into the fridge! Here it had fun for a good 18 hours, during which it received only a few turns (I was asleep, and then at work). This resulted in barely any rising, but a starting smell of that nice, ripe sourness coming from the dough. I placed it in an oven with a small pot of boiled water, then left for archery practise. In those 2 hours it almost doubled in volume. I was afraid I had ruined it all, but scraping it out onto a floured table it turned out it was all right. I think maybe in future it will simply receive this final bulk fermentation on regular room temperature! 

Anyways, I divided in two, gave it a stretch and fold, and another one after 10 mins, then shaped it and tossed them into bannetons. I have read and watched different methods of avoiding sticking, and I gotta say I just accept the very minor loss of hydration by constantly flouring my hands. The loaves where now proved for 2 hours at room temperature, following 1 hour in the fridge (I figured that a cold loaf is easier to handle), then baked right on a baking plate with the bottom of my dutch oven placed on top of it. (Also found out how to easily transfer the loaf - put it on a piece of baking paper on top of my bread shovel, easy peasy! Small victories ;) 

I gotta say I am very satisfied with the result. The crust is crunchy and the crumb soft, spongy and chewy. The oven spring was not as impressive as I have seen, but I think this may be the result of the "slightly hot" end to the bulk fermentation. Instead, next time I may try to do this same thing but on the shaped loaves and then just for an hour followed by the fridge (unless I have time to spare, then I wont have to)... 

Anyways a few followup questions: How do you guys most efficiently keep your bread fresh? I find if I bag them, the crust becomes soft-ish rather quick, whereas if I keep them out in free air it becomes hard as rock. I like to bake two loaves at once as this gives me breakfast + the occasional snack slice for about a weeks time, but the last 3-4 days the loaves become rather boring... I would bake twice a week if I only had the time! (Who am I kidding. I would bake all the time if I only had the time). 


324 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 August 10

Hi Thraundil,

The only method I have found that works is to eat it quickly.  The French, Italians etc buy bread at least once a day (sometimes more often) because they know that beyond that you are going to have exactly the 'problems' you describe - softening crust, hardening crumb and so forth.

If a loaf is going to last a week, then I think you will just have to resign yourself to the fact that you won't be enjoying it as much as you did the first day - I know I do.

Good luck with your projects.


SlackerJohn 2012 August 10

I bake once a week, one large loaf and one small.  I slice and freeze the large one for toast and the odd sandwich.  The small one is wrapped in a tea towel and eaten with cheese and wine pre-dinner.  It lasts about 4 days and the last couple of inches get a bit hard, but good exercise for the teeth!




davo 2012 August 15

If you would rather bake twice a week, why don;t you just bake two equal loaves, and freeze the non-used one. When you wnat that second loaf, take it out, let it defrost a bit (say an hour or two, although really you can skip this period if you don; have time), and then re-bake the frozen loaf. I often do this, and it is pretty much identical to a just-baked-fresh loaf. In fact, you could do three or four smaller loaves and just re-bake each as you need as the week goes on. Re-baking takes about 20 mins for a largish loaf; I often smear a bit of water over any dark areas of crust, to slow them down a little.

For loaves that I know are going to be re-baked, I don't leave them in for a longer period at cooler temp, which I might do for a loaf that I want to have a hard(ish) crust.

RobCollier 2012 October 1

Yep, Day 1 is table/eating/sandwich bread. Day 2 is toasting/cooking/tartine bread. Day 3 it goes into breadcrumbs/croutons/soup

RobCollier 2012 October 1

Unwrapped, kept in a crock/bread bin seems to work best though. Once it's completely cooled. I've just been away for 10 days and forgot a SD was left in my cassorole dish, covered. It was perfectly good still for some impromptu garlic soup.

HelenF 2012 October 1

I agree with RobCollier above.  Part of the joy of eating artisan bread is having an awareness that the moment will pass-the bread will stale-so you appreciate it that little bit more! Saying that, stale artisan bread is also a thing of beauty for the purposes already mentioned.

Robear 2012 October 1

Yeah I reckon RobColier is spot on too.

I too freeze some of my loaves just in case I have a "low bread situation" unexpectedly occur.

To get one of these frozen loaves up for immediate eating I've even given them a minute or two in the microwave. For toast its fine but the rebake method described above gives a better loaf.

Merrid 2012 October 5

I eat one over a couple of days - by the end, I'm using it for toast. The other loaf I keep loosely wrapped, and when it's time to crack it open (usually day 3 or 4) I spritz it all over with my water mister and toss it in a hot oven for about 15 mins (depending on the shape and size). Refreshes the loaf very well and re-crispens the crust - comes out almost like new, and with the advantage that this time you can eat it hot out of the oven!

zarniwhoop 2012 October 5

As always, I seem to do things differently from most people here - wrap the loaves in plastic bags, then either keep in the fridge, or freeze until required. It probably makes a difference that most of my breads are wholemeal-based so the crumb is never especially soft..  Yes, the crust starts to soften in a day or two (most of mine have thick crusts), but the flavour in the crust remains and the bread is good for at least a week..

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