The breadmaking techniques I use have changed and evolved over time, and my opinions towards certain techniques have changed as well.
There are many ways to ferment bread dough in order to achieve a certain result. I have covered pretty much all of the main fermentation methods on this channel. From regular straight-through dough made at room temperature and only fermented for a few hours to various types of pre-ferments to slow room temperature bulk fermentation, cold bulk fermentation and recently cold final proofing.
Every one of those methods can be used to make great bread. When I say that a certain method is best it is only my opinion based on my experience, personal taste, and my current baking style. Your favourite methods may be totally different and for different reasons. As long as we understand the methods and their purpose we can judge and decide which suits us best.
One thing is for certain – the longer a dough is fermented the more intense and complex the flavour of the final bread will be. I like my bread to have a great depth of flavour. Cold fermentation is the best way of achieving this. Fermenting at very low temperatures allows us to keep the dough for much longer before it is baked.
Cold bulk fermentation has been my go-to method in the past few months. It is extremely simple and fail-proof. Mix the dough, pop it in the fridge, give it a fold or two, and forget about it until you’re ready to continue. It is a superb method for busy weekday bakes as you can quickly mix up a batch late in the evening and have freshly baked bread the next evening after work. Coupled with the no-knead method, it is surely one of the most convenient ways to make bread and to get a superior product at the same time.
Lately I have been playing around with the cold proofing method. This is the opposite of cold bulk fermentation. The bulk fermentation stage is done at room temperature. The dough is then divided, shaped, placed in a tin or on a tray, etc., and then left in the fridge for the final rise. This allows you to bake the bread right from the fridge which is by far the best method for breakfast baking.
Both methods are so easy and convenient, and the resulting bread is so tasty and far superior to breads made with other methods, that I personally think they are the best two methods one can use for producing commercial yeast fermented dough. It is extremely simple to convert regular recipes to be made with these methods as I have showed in previous videos.
I do have to add that cold proofing is slightly riskier as the dough can over proof if the temperature control and fermentation times are not exact. But if all is prepared and planned well, then the risk is minimal.
This is not a comparison video in which I try to find out which is the better one. I believe that both methods are the best. It is just about practicality.
If you want to bake early in the morning and you have time to ferment and shape the bread on the previous evening, then cold proofing is the way to go. If you are busy in the evening, but have plenty of time the next day, then cold bulk fermentation is the method to use.
Saying that, the cold bulk fermentation method allows for longer fermentation times and more complex and intense flavours. So, if you are going for maximum taste, the cold bulk fermentation is the method to use as you can leave the dough in the fridge for much longer.
Even though I was not trying to find the winner here I still wanted to compare the taste and texture. I also wanted to see how they compare to a regular quick-fermented bread. So, three loaves were made. All with the same ingredients and the same amounts of those ingredients. All were made using the no-knead method. The cold bulk fermented, and cold proofed doughs took exactly the same amount of time to produce.
It took around 16 hours from mixing to baking.
180g (6.3oz) white bread flour
20g (0.7oz) whole wheat bread flour
4g (0.14oz) salt
2g (0.07oz) instant dry yeast
130g (4.6oz) water
The quick loaf was mixed and left at room temperature for 1.5 hours bulk fermentation and 40 minutes final proof. All were baked at 210C (410F) fan off for 30 minutes.
I could not tell a difference in taste between the two cold fermented loaves. They spent the same amount of time fermenting, so I guess that makes sense.
The cold proofed one had a more open crumb structure. The crust of the cold bulk fermented one browned more evenly.
Predictably, the quick loaf was less flavourful than the other two.
Watch the video here