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How to Ferment Dough in Winter without a Fermenter

When winter arrives, there is no escape from cold temperatures around every corner.

Before considering how to create a warm fermentation environment, don’t forget to observe the 23 to 26°C exit temperature.

The night before making the bread, you can take out the flour, eggs, water and milk in advance and put them in a warm place.

Use warm water or warm milk at around 30°C to beat the dough when making.

It’s important to maintain the right temperature out of the vat in both spring, summer and autumn.

Primary fermentation at 20 to 28°C and secondary fermentation at approximately 26 to 36°C.
The temperature should be accurate and attention should also be paid to a uniform and constant temperature.

  • Oven Fermentation

Many ovens now have a fermentation function and if you can set the temperature at 30°C to 40°C you can create a warm environment for the dough to ferment.

When the air is dry, you can also put a bowl of warm water in the oven or use a spray can to spray some water on the oven door, checking from time to time during the process to make sure the dough is not too dry.

When using the oven fermentation function, it is a good idea to put a thermometer in to test that the temperature is accurate.

Also, some ovens rely on the bottom tube to heat the fermentation function, so consider placing the dough in the middle and using a container with a certain thickness to avoid overheating the dough partially.

  • Oven or Microwave without Fermentation Function

Even if some ovens do not have a fermentation function, being a small confined space, they are suitable for fermenting the dough as long as a heat source is provided.

Just put hot water in the oven with the dough and measure with a thermometer so that the temperature is around 30°C.

By the same token, the microwave oven can be operated in the same way. As the temperature of the water will gradually decrease, it is best to use this method in conjunction with a thermometer and check it from time to time, changing the hot water again when the temperature drops.

To provide even heat, it is a good idea to be able to place a cup of hot water in each corner of the oven or microwave or, if there is not enough space, remember to turn the dough in the right direction at regular intervals to prevent uneven heating.

  • Insulated Bags

Many people have insulated bags at home, which can also be used to create a warm space by putting the dough and warm water inside.

As the insulated bag is not very stable and has less space inside, it is more suitable for primary fermentation or secondary fermentation with a toast box.

When fermenting, it is also important to place it in a stable place where it cannot be easily touched to avoid shaking and damaging the dough.

  • Electric Blankets

Place the dough, thermometer and a cup of hot water on the baking tray and place it in a large plastic bag.

Place the bagged baking tray on the electric blanket and start it up.

Different electric blankets have different heating levels, so when using this method for the first time, start with a medium heat setting, check the temperature with a thermometer and turn it up or down as appropriate.

  • Water Bath

The water bath method is suitable for primary fermentation by using a large container with warm water at 30°C and then placing the container containing the dough inside.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth or cling film to moisturise it and start the fermentation process.

Don’t forget to change the hot water regularly as the water temperature will drop.

  • Frozen Fermentation

Frozen fermentation is also increasingly used in commercial production
The advantages are the flexibility of handling time and the good fermentation flavour.
It does have the disadvantage of a slightly dry crust and weak expansion, but this is negligible for home baking.

Frozen fermentation is more often used for primary fermentation.

On the first day the dough is punched and fermented in a warm place for 1 to 4 hours (depending on the temperature) until it has expanded to 1.5 to 2 times its size, then covered and chilled in the fridge overnight before proceeding the next day.

The dough can also be refrigerated after shaping for a second rise.

Smaller loaves can be chilled after shaping
Larger loaves can be left at room temperature for about 1 hour before refrigerating for about 12 to 16 hours.

It’s best to remove the bread before baking and allow it to warm up for a while before baking, or turn on the oven when you remove the dough and use the preheating time to warm it up.

The frozen second fermentation is recommended for large toast breads.

To make bread in winter, remember to maintain the right temperature, extend the fermentation time and keep the dough moisturised in the dry winter.

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