Why bulk fermenting plus final prooving for sourdough bread?


My question in short: would just one rising period work for sourdough bread?

I have been baking spelt/kamut/rye sourdough bread for about 10 months now and following the advice from this forum , as well as from sourdough baking books. Everyone seems to agree on the need of bulk fermentation, followed by final prooving, although methods  and times vary. I have gotten into the habit of bulk fermenting in a big bowl; when its doubled I shape the dough. This is followed by  the final prooving in a glass pan where the loaf then remains until it has almost doubled again; I then transfer the pan into the oven for the baking period.The resulting bread is quite good.

My fiance who has been baking wonderful yeasted whole wheat bread ( not sourdough) for many years( taught by his mother) is now asking me why the fuss with basically two fermentation periods for my sourdough? He would knead his whole wheat dough, shape it, then place it in the glass pan right away to rise. When doubled, he would stick the whole thing in the oven while the oven was heating up, and get some nice oven spring to boot. The results were always wonderful, no denying this!

So here I am, struggling with getting the right timing for the bulk fermentation and the prooving periods for my spelt/kamut/ rye sourdough bread, depending on the varying temperatures throughout the year.  

He suggests that  I am exhausing my dough by allowing it to double twice, first during bulk fermentation, then for the final prooving.  And this may be the reason for my not getting oven spring. 

Has anyone tried to let the sourdough rise just once? What was the outcome? Off course I could try this myself, but I hate to wast my dough, in case this method does not work. 

There is probably a scientific answert to all this, I am curious to find out...



312 users have voted.


George De Pasquale 2011 October 17

 The answer to this is very complicated, so I'll try to be simple.  The added fermentation allows more flavors to develop over a longer period of time.,  You can certainly shape your loaf, let it rise, and then bake it.  In fact some breads like ciabatta are done exactly this way, as well as commercial buns etc.  We call them no-time doughs.  The flavors are simple and mild.  By adding a long slow fermentation in the first stage, degassing slightly as you shape the bread and then allowing it to rise again, you are extending the microbial development amongst other things and therfore developing more flavor, as well as other characteristics.  

slepax 2011 October 18

... and I'm very happy with the result. I also do the same as your fiance by sticking the bread into the oven when the oven is still cold, and then let the dough rise while the oven heats up.


Saying that the added fermentation allows for more flavours to develop is true for both sourdough and non-sourdough bread. To compensate for the "lack" of flavour I sometimes prove my dough in the fridge over 2-3 days period.

Alexander 2011 October 18

My sourdough rises just once (about 8-10 hours, but I've got good results with up to 17 hours) and only in the fridge. I usually do 3 S&F in 1 1/2h and put it straight into the fridge and left overnight. I bake it straight from the fridge. I don't think it'll suit most of people, bacause I'm in Brazil and our conditions might be drastically different from yours. Our flour is around 7% protein and the weather (in my province) is too hot.




annel 2011 October 19

I have given up the second proof because it is so time consuming and my life was starting to revolve around my bread making too much. I simply mix thoroughly about 200g starter (100% hydration, which I have made from a teaspoon or so of starter that I have fed with 30g rye flour, 70g white flour and 100g water, grown and then kept in the fridge until I'm ready to make bread) with about 500g flour (whatever sort I fancy at the time and often a mixture), approximately 300-320mls water and two teaspoons of salt. This makes a very sticky mixture, which I then cover with plastic wrap to keep out the air (otherwise it forms a skin over the top of the dough) and leave at room temperature for 10-12 hours - longer if it is particularly cold. I live in Sydney so in the summer if it is very hot, I need to retard this in the fridge. After the proof, I then scrape it onto a well floured surface and handling the dough as little as possible, quickly form it into a round. This is done if possible in three or four quick folds from the outside of the dough to the centre and turning it upside down to ensure the bottom is well floured. Drop it into a preheated dutch oven (cast iron) and cook with the lid on for 20 minutes then lid off for 20 minutes both at 230 - 240 degrees Celcius. No stretching and folding. No kneading. No fuss. Some sour dough puritans would probably disapprove but it makes perfectly good bread with a sour taste and a good crumb and crust. It might not be as good as you are making currently but you should try it and see for yourself - it certainly will be extremely edible. My husband is German and very fussy with his bread and he loves it, especially when I make it with rye (usually 50% rye/ 50% wheat).


When I make the dough, I also feed the teaspoon of starter left when I use the 200g and leave it to grow whilst the dough prooves. When it has doubled, I stick it in the fridge and it is ready for next time. This has saved me a lot of time and forward planning.


My husband and I do a lot of camping and when we are away, I even make our bread this way but having no oven in our camper, do it in a saucepan on our two burner gas stove. I have a saucepan with no handle that I put the formed dough in. This sits on top of a short rack that sits on top of a stone my husband cut to size, which in turn is inside a larger saucepan with a glass lid (so I can get an idea of when it is cooked). I then cook it on a low to medium flame. It takes longer to cook (about 50 minutes and doesn't develop as good a crust or crumb but is better than anything else you can usually buy when you are on the road.


We travelled all of last year around Australia and made our bread as we went - it's hard to find sourdough in the Kimberley and whilst other campers thought they were lucky because they were making damper, we had real sour dough!! We don't have a camp oven but they would be even better - made in the coals of a fire.

Anonymous 2015 December 5

hi Anne, when you retrieve the starter from the fridge to use for the 200g starter, do you let it sit in the room temperature before feeding it?

dorisw 2011 October 24

thanks for sharing all your different experiences! Goes to show, there are as many ways to bake bread as there are ways to get to Rome.

It seems that several of you do only one bulk ferment or prooving process, and some of you also stick the dough right into the oven whilst the oven is heating up. Good to know!

annel, if your German husband loves your bread the way you make it, I am sure I will too, as I am Austrian! I also add rye in varying amounts, and Brotgewürz ( for this I grind fennel, anise, caraway, and coriander seeds) for flavor and better digestion.

My partner is an avid sailer. He used to regularly bake bread ( not sourdough) on the stove top on his sail boat. Once we chartered a large sail boat together with friends for a trip around the British Virgin Islands. A fancy boat, but the oven quit working after two days, so he baked for us wonderful stove top bread,  everyone loved it. 




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