Delayed-Fermentation Technique for Yeasted Dough

Surprisingly enough, I’m not going to provide a recipe here but talk purely about a technique I’ve been using to bake the last few batches of my baguettes. The technique has totally changed my approach to baking baguettes, let alone baking straight dough with yeast. Based on the Pain a l’Ancienne technique of using ice water at mixing time to inhibit yeast activity, the technique employs temperature to affect the dough, providing yet another means to develop flavor.

Those who bake sourdough are familiar with retarding fermentation for flavor development. But that typically occurs during final fermentation after the yeast has mostly finished its job of expanding the dough. Contrast this with the Pain a l’Ancienne technique where the yeast doesn’t get a chance to metabolize all that much from the get-go, allowing the amylase enzymes to break down the starches into sugars and letting the bacteria do their thing in producing organic acids and other by-products.

With the delayed fermentation technique, we mix with ice water; that’s right. Ice water.

The end result is that lots of sugars are released into the dough – more than the yeast can metabolize – and the result is a relatively darker crust due to the sugars caramelizing and a much more rich flavor from the organic acids released by the bacteria! So here’s the technique…

I highly recommend using a mixer for this technique. This will serve two purposes:

  1. It will take a lot less time than mixing by hand and doesn’t give the dough a chance to warm up significantly.
  2. It allows you to get some good gluten development before you put the dough into the fridge.
  • First off, mix all the dry ingredients together with the paddle attachment.
  • Make ice water and make sure you make enough that will meet your recipe’s requirements.
  • Attach the dough hook, then add all the ice water needed for your recipe to the bowl.
  • Starting with the slowest speed, start bringing all the ingredients together. Once the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing until there are no dry ingredients. In some cases, you may have to scrape the bottom of the bowl and flip the dough to make sure you get everything.
  • Turn the mixer up another notch to work the dough. Let it run for at least two minutes or until the dough starts climbing up the hook. That should give you plenty of gluten development to start with.
  • Transfer the dough to a sealable container. I put my dough in a glass mixing bowl that I then place in a jumbo Ziploc bag.
  • Put the dough in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours. It will probably rise just a tiny bit, but nothing significant.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to almost double. This can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
  • Divide and preshape. Bench rest for 20-30 minutes until the dough has relaxed enough to be shaped.
  • Shape the dough into your desired shape and final ferment. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on the hydration and your ambient temp. My baguettes this morning took only 45 minutes for final fermentation. Poke test the dough for readiness.
  • Bake as normal.

Though I listed a bunch of steps, the process isn’t all that complicated. But the results are astonishing. This process is a keeper!

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