When you allow fermentation to take place in dough, you give the gluten adequate hydration and relaxation. In addition, it gives time for enzymes and yeast to work, which results in amazing taste, texture, volume, color and aroma.
What makes these changes more relevant today? These things happen naturally, taking the place of dough conditioners and such, helping make your bread clean label.
How long should you let fermentation happen?
That depends. Commercially, fermentation happens in a few stages:
- Bulk fermentation: the period in which the dough is maturing just after the dough has been mixed, and where most of the work is done. Time can vary from 0-15 minutes (a no-time dough) to 4-5 hours (traditional baguettes or sourdough).
- Intermediate proof: the period between dough division and loaf shaping. This is usually 15-30 minutes.
- Final proof: the period after shaping in which the loaves are able to double in size before they are placed in the oven, which is about 45-90 minutes. However, the final proof could be 3-5 hours for some artisan-style bread or sourdough varieties.
- Oven spring: the first 5-10 minutes of baking before the yeast dies from the loaf temperature.
What temperature is best?
35 °C is the recommended temperature for commercial production of bread dough. Some studies have suggested to ferment the dough at a low temperature (5°C) with high concentration of yeast (60 g/kg flour) in order to develop bread with a relatively short production time combined with a high concentration of esters (characterized as having a fruity and pleasant aroma) and a low concentration of hexanal and heptanal (characterized as off-flavors).