Slow rise breadmaking

I learned about slow rise bread making though a book my grandma had called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Technique

This technique can be used on many yeasted bread recipes. All it takes to make a regular recipe into a slow rise version is delaying the second rise. I’ve never worked with a recipe with a single rise, so I’m not sure how or if it could work for that style. However, for bread with two rises, the only thing this method does is delay the second rise by up to 14 days. Below is the basic layout of how to make this technique work.

1. Mix ingredients as normal

If you are using a recipe that you’ve had success with, simply follow the recipe as it is written. There is no change that needs to be made to the ingredients involved in the slow rise process.

2. Allow bread to rest

This is a step that is important for hydrating the flour. In my early breadmaking days, I would mistakenly think that the dough was too wet at first. This was because I would mix all the ingredients and immediately start to knead. The dough would stick to the table, and I would continue to add more flour until I had a dough I could work with. However, letting the bread rest just 7-10 minutes, up to 30 minutes, allows the flour to hydrate enough so it’s not so sticky.

3. Slightly knead dough

A lot of recipes for bread call for 8-10 minutes of kneading after allowing the bread to rest. According to the technique in the book, this kneading is unnecessary, since it sits so long in the fridge. However, this book is written for free-form artisan loaves. To make sandwich loaves in a bread pan, I like to knead for 1/3 to 1/2 the time the recipe calls for. I find that this is enough to make a well risen dough with less effort.

4. Complete initial rise

Allow the bread to rise until doubled in size, it has flattened on the top, and it doesn’t spring back when poked with a finger. This can vary in time, depending on a number of factors. I typically check it every 30 minutes, then 10-15 minute intervals afterward depending on how much longer it looks like it has left to go.

4. Put bread in fridge

Once the dough has risen, put it into the fridge. This is the entire point of slow rise breadmaking. The goal here is to cover the bread dough so it doesn’t dry out, while at the same time allowing gas to escape the container. In my experience, I like to lightly coat the dough in oil, in order to provide a barrier against the air. I also like to put the dough in a plastic container that either has an opening at the top that I can leave open, or I just don’t push down on all the corners of the lid in order to prevent an airtight seal. According to the book, dough can be left in the fridge for up to 14 days.

5. Shape and complete second rise

Once it is time to bake the bread, take the dough out of the fridge. This is the time that any shaping will be done before the second rise. For example, if you are making cinnamon rolls, take the bread out, shape it into cinnamon rolls, put them in a greased pan, and let them rise from there. For sandwich bread, roll it into a rectangle, shape into a log, and allow to rise in a greased bread pan. This is where the second and final rise will take place before baking.

6. Bake

Once the bread has completed its second rise, it is time to bake. The dough is now back to where it would’ve been if it had not gone through the slow rise process, so it should bake as the recipe directs. However, it is probably best practice to keep an eye on it while in the oven, especially if this is the first time trying the slow rise technique.

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