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).