The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking

Baking bread at home certainly comes with challenges (or as my enigmatic college calculus professor used to tell me, opportunities for continuous growth). Baking bread at home with a consistent outcome has even more. But there’s a crucial facet of baking that can help us bakers increase consistency that isn’t always immediately apparent: the importance of dough temperature in baking.

Because temperature is one of the main contributors to vigorous fermentation, it’s key that we maintain a sufficiently high, and stable, dough temperature through the entire baking process. Of course, this does become more difficult when ambient temperatures begin to drop (hey, winter!) — and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening.

Often we blame the lack of vigor on our sourdough starter: it just wasn’t as lively as usual we say, or maybe we forgot to feed it last night, we confess. While sticking to a solid starter maintenance routine is important, sometimes temperature (too low or too high) is at fault and all we need to do is make sure it’s warm (or cold) enough for heightened activity. For me and my starter this is usually between 75°F (24°C) and 80°F (26°C) — read on for how I maintain these temperatures in the winter.

The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafThis post focuses on the tips, tricks, and tools I employ throughout the year to ensure my starter and dough are at my desired temperature for a formula. While there’s a lot of scientific information motivating the things I do, this post is intended to be more of a hands-on guide rather than a technical treatise on fermentation rates, strain types, etc. All of the information below is focused on trying to increase consistency 1 in our bakes at home.

Let’s take a detailed look at each part of the dough-temperature equation below: monitoring, calculating, and maintaining. First let’s look at monitoring, because, well, without the ability to monitor it’s hard to do any calculations or maintenance.

Monitoring Dough Temperature

Some bakers will say you don’t need a thermometer and you dont need to monitor dough temperature — this is true! People have been baking bread way before a thermometer was even invented. However, I find investing in a few simple tools, with corresponding processes, help me take away the guesswork and make steps towards increased consistency. A thermometer is one such tool.The Perfect Loaf Common Bread Baking CalculatorsOver time as your baking intuition builds, reliance on these tools does subside but to this day I always take a minute (if that) to measure the dough temperature right at the onset of bulk fermentation. Why? It provides me with an intuitive sense for how bulk will progress. Is my dough temperature a few degrees lower than I expected after mixing? Did I miss my desired dough temperature (DDT) target? If so, I’ll plan to either warm up my dough a little at the beginning of bulk (more on this below) or I’ll plan for bulk fermentation to likely go a little longer than planned. Conversely, if I overshot my DDT bulk will likely take less time and I better keep an eye on it near the end, cutting it short if necessary.

I keep my dough covered at all times to help retain its core temperature.

Monitoring dough temperature is a simple affair: stick your thermometer into the center of the dough mass and record the temperature. If you feel like your dough temperature might swing drastically during bulk, take its temperature every time you do a stretch and fold — this is a great time to check-in with the dough and assess dough development and progress.

While it’s incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to assign hard numbers for how long bulk fermentation should last for a particular dough, the following table is an example how bulk duration could be impacted by a range of final dough temperatures. Note that this table is for illustrative purposes only, my attempt to give a snapshot of how things could change with varying temperatures. The table assumes all other factors are equal bake-to-bake (which is hard to ensure!)2.

Final Dough Temperature (FDT) Typical Bulk Fermentation Duration
75°F (24°C) 4.25 – 4.5 hours
78°F (25°C) 4 hours
80°F (26°C) 3.25 – 3.5 hours

Desired Dough Temperature Calculations

The final dough temperature (FDT) is the temperature of the dough right after mixing all ingredients together. The desired dough temperature (DDT) is another name for this temperature but it’s more of a goal than a measured value. Naturally, each ingredient (the preferment, the flour, the water, and the ambient environment) has a temperature and while most of these are out of our control, we can adjust the water temperature. Adjusting it enables us to change the FDT of the entire dough mass to meet whatever the recipe calls for.The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafBut more than that, a consistent dough temperature helps set the stage for consistent bulk fermentation each bake. Because temperature has such a critical impact on fermentation and dough development, we cannot expect uniform results each bake if our FDT is wildly different.

The formulas you’ll find here at my site typically target a DDT between 75°F (24°C) and 82°F (28°C). For naturally leavened bread these temperatures, in my experience, are most optimal for yeast and bacteria activity3. When working with a high percentage of whole grains or fresh milled flour, I tend to lean towards a FDT of 75°F (24°C) since activity will already be heightened. With a mostly-white flour formula, anywhere from 78°F (25°C) to 82°F (28°C) is typical.

So, how do we calculate our required water temperature?

Calculating Required Water Temperature

By performing a few simple calculations (see below for a link to a live calculator) we can quickly determine how much we need to heat (or cool) our water to reach a formula’s DDT. In the following example (from my Beginner’s Sourdough recipe) we calculate what our water temperature needs to be to achieve a FDT of 78°F (25°C). Each temperature below is obtained with the same thermometer used to measure the FDT, above. Measure the levain, flour, and room temperatures and plug them into the equation below.

The friction factor temperature represents the amount the dough will heat up when it’s mixed in a mechanical mixer. As the mixing apparatus (spiral, planetary, diving arm, etc.) spins the dough in a mixing bowl heat is generated and must be accounted for. When mixing by hand I typically set the friction factor to 0°F (-18°C)4.

Ingredient Measured Temperature
Levain 75ºF (24°C)
Flour 70°F (21°C)
Room Temperature 75°F (24°C)
Friction Factor 0°F (-18°C)
Required Water Temp = (FDT x 4) - (Levain Temp + Flour Temp + Ambient Temp + Friction Factor) 5
Required Water Temp = (78 x 4) - (75 + 70 + 75 + 0)
Required Water Temp = 92°F

We need to warm our water to 92°F (33°C) so at the end of our mix our FDT will be 78°F (25°C).

Do You Have a Calculator?

Why, yes! Check out my common bread baking calculators page for a form to quickly do all these calculations plus a little extra information on dough temperatures.

Adjusting Water Temperature

So how do I personally adjust my water temperature for a bake? I use my microwave. I’ll place all the water I need for mixing in a large pitcher and pop it into the microwave for some set amount of time. I’ll keep microwaving it until it reaches the required water temperature I obtained via the calculation above.

You could also turn your tap water to hot, measure the temperature of the water in the stream, and then fill a pitcher — this is more practical if you’re doing larger bakes.

Maintaining Dough Temperature

Now that we’re able to monitor our dough temperature and hit that all-important DDT each time (right?!), how do we ensure our dough maintains sufficient temperature through bulk? This can be a challenge in the home kitchen with varying room temperatures.

Let’s go over a few options.

The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafBrød and Taylor Proofer

In my post on building a dough retarder I mentioned my use of a dough proofer to keep my dough warm through bulk. Let’s talk about this wonderful little device. I’ve been using a Brød & Taylor proofer for several years now. The proofer is powered inside my pantry and runs 24/7 where it holds my sourdough starter (and a levain before a bake) at a comfortable 76-78°F (24-25°C) for optimal activity. Since purchasing this proofer I noticed a significant increase in the consistency of my bakes, again, because temperature is so important.

I also use this proofer to hold my kombucha in-the-making and even when I make homemade yogurt. It’s so versatile, anything you need to keep at a certain temperature it has you covered. If you’re worried about it taking up too much space in your kitchen, don’t. It folds up to a small, flat rectangle if you ever need to move it out of the way. An ingenious design.

There’s enough room in the proofer to fit my starter (and even another levain) in a corner, but it’s also able to simultaneously fit my proofing bowl with 2kg of dough (see picture, below). This means I can have multiple bakes going at the same time that are nice and warm.

The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafThe Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafI know some of you will ask: the Weck jars shown above are their 1/2 and 3/4 liter glass jars (you can find them on my baking tools page). What you see above is typical for a morning here in my kitchen: two levains and my starter (at left). The proofer is plenty spacious and I could even fit my bulk fermentation container in there with these three.

The proofer is dead simple to use. Input the desired temperature via up/down buttons until the the desired temperature is displayed. The entire bottom of the unit is a gentle heating element designed to run continuously and maintain this temperature. They even make a shelf you can insert midway from the bottom so it could hold to shallow bowls or trays.

At the beginning I mentioned adjustments could be made in bulk if we miss our DDT by a small margin (1-2 degrees). If my measured FDT is a little low, I’ll turn up the heat on the proofer by 5 degrees so the dough mass heats up at the beginning of bulk. Then, at each set of stretch and folds (30 minutes apart), I take my dough out of the proofer and take the internal temperature. If the temperature is close enough to my initial target I’ll set the proofer back to my DDT for the remainder of bulk.

My Proofer Settings for Starter and Levain

When my starter is in the proofer I keep the unit set to 76°F – 78°F (24°C – 25°C) on the display. I have noticed the temperature inside my starter jar will sometimes register a few degrees warmer (perhaps due to extra insulation from the jar), but that’s my desired range for starter maintenance anyways.

The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking via @theperfectloafBecause the proofer can adjust temperature rather quickly, we now have the ability to speed up and slow down fermentation (within reason). Sometimes I’ll use the controls to speed up when my starter (or levain) is ready for a feeding by increasing the temperature a few degrees. This is incredibly handy.

My Proofer Settings for Bulk Fermentation

When I have dough in bulk fermentation inside the proofer, I set it to the formula’s DDT exactly. As I said before, this typically is between 75°F (24°C) and 82°F (27°C). I also like to keep an eye on my dough during bulk by periodically measuring the internal temperature, just to make sure it’s still on target. I’ll do these measurements at each set of stretch and folds, a good time to check in with the dough and assess progress.

Another Option: Oven With Light On

Another option for maintaining dough temperature without the use of a dedicated proofer is to use your home oven. Place your starter and/or bulk fermentation container in the oven (that’s turned off), along with an ambient temperature thermometer, and turn the interior light on. Usually this light will generate enough heat to raise the internal temperature quite a bit — just keep an eye on that thermometer and make sure it doesn’t go too high.

The downside to this approach is that it ties up your oven for regular use. There’s also another worry: don’t accidentally leave the light on too long or turn your oven on to preheat! I’ve received a few emails/comments about people doing this (that’s why I recommend getting a dedicated proofer if possible).


I’ve talked in the past about how we, as bakers, need to be acutely aware of our environment and treat temperature as importantly as our ingredients flour, water, and salt. It’s that critical: temperature is a driving force behind fermentation. Yeast and bacteria each thrive at varying temperatures across the spectrum, but when temperatures cool unexpectedly we need to either be ready to adjust our dough’s timetable or adjust the ambient temperature. With the ability to control our water temperature (and ultimately the dough) and the ambient temperature during bulk, we can set the stage for predictable and consistent (last time I say this, I promise) bakes.

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of dough temperature in baking, we can square up with these challenges and see them as opportunities for continuous growth.

More on baking temperatures:

Thanks so much to Brød & Taylor for sponsoring this post. As always, the opinions and content here are my own. I’ve been using their folding proofer for years; it became a staple in my baking arsenal from the day I bought it!

Happy baking!

  1. Consistency is a word you’re going to find used very often in this post.

  2. These numbers are what I typically expect using my starter, levain (used at appx. the same level of ripeness), environment, flour, and so many more factors after baking the same recipe numerous times.

  3. See here for more information.

  4. Determining this number can be difficult. It’s best to whip up a test batch and measure the dough temperature difference before and after mixing and use that delta as a starting point for determining the friction factor for your mixer at that speed

  5. We multiply the FDT by 4 because there are 4 temperature inputs into this formula: 1) Levain, 2) flour, 3) room, and 4) friction factor.

  • Maree Tink

    Another great post Maurizio! Thanks. Now, we just need to get you guys to adopt celsius rather than Fahrenheit, my app gets too many work outs converting! 🙂

    • Thanks, Maree! Ahh yes. I’ll go through and add celsius, I keep meaning to do that!

      • Maree Tink

        Ha ha, makes me concentrate more. 🙂

  • Brett Fielder

    Just spent a ton of time trying to find good guides on this from under proofed bakes this last week…perfect timing, huge help!!

    • Ahh, yes, the dreaded winter under proof — it happens all the time! I get caught off guard by that first cold spell and have to adjust. Glad this post has helped, happy baking!

  • Thomas Rainer

    This is a great post, Maurizio! After many months of great loaves inspired by your recipes, I’ve had a string of overproofed (I think) loaves. Consistent temperature is likely the culprit. This is very helpful.

    One question. I’ve been using high whole grain recipes quite a bit lately. For these, you said you’d target the FDT at 75 degrees to compensate for the faster fermentation. But your chart shows the 75 degree going for 4 to 4.5 hours. If fermentation increases with more whole grains, should the temperature and time decrease? After a string of overproofed loaves, I’m worried that if I drop the temperature but then extend the time, I’ll end up with overproofed loaf. Recently, I’ve cut bulk to 2.5 hours for some high whole grains (at about 78-81 temp with a VERY active starter), and still get loaves with uneven big air pockets under the skin). Dropping the temperature seems warranted here, but would I still extend the time?

    • Thanks, Thomas! Yes, temperature is incredibly important and it can be hard to monitor/control sometimes. A few good tools definitely helps with each.

      You’ll likely not need to extend the time with more whole grains, but it does depend on many factors (fresh flour, percentage of whole grains, levain percentage, maturity of levain, etc.). With the information you’ve provided I’d say don’t extend bulk any more than you do currently and with that FDT. If you think you’re going over then yes, cut it back!

      The other thing you could do to adjust is to reduce the levain percentage in your mix. This way, even with a very ripe levain (which is how I always bake these days), the timeline won’t shorten too much — I don’t like to go < 3 hr bulk if possible. That said, watch the dough and not the clock, adjust as needed.

      Hope that helps!

  • Kate Warner


  • Kate Warner

    I find if I am doing the bulk fermentation of dough in a cold kitchen, easiest for me is to put a heating pad on the lowest rack of the oven, then put another rack on the next slot up and put the dough bucket
    on it. The heating pad is sometimes on high, sometimes on medium depending on the amount of dough in the bucket.

    • Kate, thanks for that suggestion, that will work very well! Anything to keep that dough warm 🙂

  • Droubledibble

    Hey Maurizio! very informative post as always! after reading about your proofer previously, my dad kindly put together a contraption that will give me between 20C&26C consistently…it’s made winter baking so much more hassle-free!

    I am looking for some advice on levain temperature though; I was wondering whether it’s possible to build an 11hr levain while I’m at work so it’s ready for mix when I come home from work. I’ve experimented at a few low temps and 5% starter (as a %age of flour weight+water) but nothing would float after 11hrs,..any advice?

    • Thanks! That’s great to hear about the proofer — they really increase consistency when we can keep that dough nice and warm, especially in the winter.

      Yes, building a 10-12 hour levain is totally possible, I do it sometimes when I want to get baking first thing in the morning. What I do there is mix 20% mature starter with 100% flour and 100% water, then I leave it overnight at around 75°F. In the morning it’s usually ripe and ready to go. Sometimes it needs another hour or two, but if I need to speed that last bit up I pop it into my proofer and turn the temp up a few degrees to speed it along.

      The key is to play with the percentage of mature starter you use to create the levain. It might take a few trials but you’ll figure out what percentage (and at what temp) gets your levain to the same stage as when you make a shorter, warmer, build.

      I hope that helps!

  • jinal contractor

    Tremendous information here, Maurizio yet very concisly written. Temperature is the most important aspect when it comes to sourdough baking. I was caught off guard many seasons before realizing that :), in fact it’s true for fermentation in general. Glad you addressed it in the way that’s easy for home bakers to understand. Awesome product recommendations also.

  • Don Burks

    Are the optimal temps an attempt to attain consistent results within a timeframe to produce the desired results or are the same results attained by longer proofs and lower temps? Hammelman says that flavor and keeping quality are enhanced by slowing the process down by retarding doughs or proofs. Is a more open crumb only possible by adhering to a 78 degree dough temperature? What is gained and lost by trying to replicate recipe timeframes?

    • These are great questions, Don. No, an open crumb doesn’t necessitate a strict 78°F — there are many temperatures across the spectrum that could lead to a nice, light loaf. There are lots of factors that go into that and at each step of the process including having a healthy starter/levain, good quality flour, gentle handling, a full bulk, full proof, etc.

      Controlling (and observing and adjusting to) temperature is a good way to help increase the consistency of our bakes but the actual temperature isn’t the key point of this writeup. I presented what temps work for me and the results I’m after but maybe your dough does better at 75°F (perhaps because you’re working with fresh milled flour or 100% whole grain). The key is we can’t expect consistent outcomes if one day we have a FDT of 70°F and the next 85°F (I think Hamelman even says this in his book).

      I agree totally with Hamelman that longer fermentation times for the dough yield more flavorful and bioavailable bread. I always get the best crust when I cold proof my dough overnight, in addition to a slight acidity that tastes incredible. When shortening the timeline by removing the cold proof, for example, we’ll usually get bread that’s much less sour tasting and it usually won’t have the same crust coloring. In my experience these same-day loaves are great when trying to emphasize the wheat flavor in the bread or to produce a more “clean” result for something like a baguette or delicate table loaf. That’s my opinion, at least!

      Hope that helps!

  • Good advices for consistency. I also use variation in salt content to control the

    • Yes, salt is another element we can use to temper fermentation!

  • Hello @maurizioleo:disqus,

    It’s been months that I’m looking for a way to calculate the water temperature reliably, the formula you give there is the most used, but none of the formulas I found allowed to take into account also the rate of hydration of the dough in the calculation. Until a month ago!
    In Modernist Bread, this formula is given:

    wt = ddt – frictionFactor + (38 * (ddt – frictionFactor – flour_t)) / th;

    (sorry it’s javascript notation, I just get it in the program I developing)

    Hope this will be useful for someone..

    This article is also interesting if you want:

    Thanks for you blog, very interesting.


    • That’s a very interesting read, thanks for linking that article. I don’t have Modernist Bread, can you define what some of the variables in that equation are (th? flour_t? what’s 38?)?

      I agree that perhaps this standard formula needs a slight “upgrade” to take into account the amount of water used relative to the other ingredients, as @Ryan has said in the comment above.

      Thank you!

  • Ryan

    I used this formula a week ago and I still overshot my DDT by 8 points (86 instead of 78). Wouldn’t the volume of water compared to how much dough/levain you use make a difference?

    • Absolutely, the amount of water in relation to the other ingredients does play a role. The larger the volume of water used in the dough mix the more of an impact the temperature of that water will make. I should state in this post that the above advice, and calculations, are really a starting point for calculating FDT and DDT — they’ll kind of get you in the ballpark of what DDT you’re trying to get to and from there you have to adjust from bake-to-bake.

      I find when I’m baking every day the temperature adjustments are usually minor because I have the days prior as a starting gauge for where I need to adjust to hit my DDT. I still take the temperatures of each component and I know how to adjust the temperature of the water, especially since I know approximately how much water will be used, to get right to my DDT.

      All that said, 8 points is quite a deviation! It sounds like something else might have been wrong unless your ratio of water to flour was skewed really far to one side. Any chance there was an error somewhere?

      • Ryan

        I was making my temperature notes in my phone as I measured them… I measured with a Thermapen MK3:

        Levain @ 72F
        Flour @ 69F
        Room Temp @ 69F
        FF @ 0F.

        DDT was 78.. so it told me to use 102 degree water (as did your calculator page).. ended up with 86 degree dough after hand mixing. *shrug*

        (This was your typical Tartine Country Loaf recipe, FYI).. so we’re talking 750 grams water, 1000 grams flour and 200 grams levain and 2% salt.

        I’m about to start up another batch tonight so I’ll post back again to see if I have more success.

        • Yes, those numbers check out. The water definitely needs to be heated up but I’m wondering if there should be another factor in the formula to account for the small percentage of water. This formula is pretty standard and is what you’d find in almost all textbooks (and the one we used in a course I recently took at King Arthur Flour) but perhaps as the total amount of ingredients drops, and the water ratio then becomes more and more significant, the formula should be adjusted somehow to suit.

          I almost always use this formula but usually when I’m doing larger batches (like 4kg) — I’ll have to test this again with a small 1-2kg batch and see how it affects the results.

          Please post your findings and I’ll keep thinking about this and test it soon as well! Thank you!

          • Ryan

            Okay, so last night:
            Flour @ 71F
            RT @ 71F
            Levain @ 73F

            Calculation says use 97F water. End up with a FDT of 86 (again)… Same Tartine Country recipe (2 loaves). I’m unsure how this would change if we say, doubled or tripled the batch since the ratios are the same.

            • Awesome, thanks for reporting back those numbers. I’m wondering if when I do these calculations I have outside factors playing a role. For example, when I mix by hand I typically mix on my counter top (it’s granite) and it might be cool enough to chill the dough and offset the delta you’re seeing.

              I’m going to verify this again myself here in the next day or two. Maybe I need a factor in there to account for the deviation you’re seeing if I end up with the same result. Right off hand I’m thinking I might need to adjust the friction factor variable when mixing by hand.

              Question: how are you mixing? Are you doing it in the bowl or out on the counter? Thanks for helping me debug this, Ryan! Sorry for the frustrating outcomes.

              • Ryan

                I’m mixing in a 6 quart cambro sitting on a formica counter.

                Don’t feel bad. I just wanted to share my experience with the calculations. As you said above they are published in numerous books.. so I just found it odd I didn’t get within a degree or two of my DDT… but 8 over!

                • I definitely want a solid formula here that works for most home bakers. There are, of course, a lot of conditions to take into account with each person’s individual kitchen, but I feel like there might need to be adjustments to this classical formula if it’s not working out for most of us. I’ve used it for quite a while and it works ok here (I don’t measure every time, usually only when shifting to a new formula I’m developing), but it might be that the conditions of my kitchen make it so.

                  Anyways, it’s fun to get to the bottom of these differences! For me at least 🙂

                • Ryan

                  Perhaps the metal bowl you are using is taking some of the heat away from the dough. Metal is far more conductive than plastic.

                  NEXT time I’ll do my mixing in a metal bowl.. and post back again. (or you can test in a cambro tub if you have one)

                  (for the record I tried to register with Disqus and it hasn’t send me a verification email)

                • Yes, I do mix in a metal bowl — that could be one factor. However, when I mix I always do slap and fold, which keeps the dough in contact with my home granite counter for quite a while. It’s usually pretty cold and the dough cools off several degrees during this time. I’m pretty confident that has to be the reason the formula works reliably for me.

                  That’s strange about Disqus — any chance it’s in your spam folder?

                • Ryan

                  So far nothing in spam or any other folders.

                • Ryan

                  Ok.. finally the verification email came through. That was slow!

                • I was just checking through the settings — ok, at least it came through!

  • Adam

    Hi Maurizio,

    I’ve got a question about cold proofing. I never seem to get much of a rise (if any) from overnight cold proofs –
    and I wonder if my fridge is too cold. It’s set to 37F.

    What temperature is your fridge set for cold proofing? Also, if you believed your dough was underproofed in the fridge, would you proof more before refrigeration, or after?

    Thanks much – and wonderful blog.

    • Thanks, Adam! My fridge is usually around 38-39°F, so pretty close to yours. I don’t see a lot of rise from my dough when it’s in the fridge, at those temps most of the activity will slow or stop. I’d recommend trying to leave your dough out a little longer before placing it into the fridge — that extra room temperature proof time will help push things farther before slowing in the fridge.

      In the morning, take a look at the dough and give it a few pokes. It should feel slightly more puffy than when you put it in. If you think it could use even more time, let it sit out some time (perhaps 20-30 minutes during oven preheat) to proof a little farther.

      These times are very dependent on your dough and how fermentation is progressing. The best advice I can give there is to try and stick with the same formula for a while so you can spot the nuances as the dough develops. Try to keep as many things as consistent as possible (including dough temperature!) between each bake.

      I hope that helps!

  • AY

    Hi – first thanks for the detailed posts. Really helps in taking my baking hobbie to the next level!!
    I am now convinced I need a tool to measure DDT consistently as well as my oven real temperature. I saw there are infrared Thermometer options that will measure the over temperature easily but only measure the surface dough temperature. Is that sufficient and can I assume surface tempurture is the same as inside the dough? Or would you recommend a probe based Thermometer?

    • You’re very welcome! I know some bakers that use an IR thermometer to take dough temperature but I prefer to use a probe thermometer. Theoretically the temperature of the dough inside the mass could be slightly different than the exterior surface, depending on how the dough is place in the bulk container and whether it’s covered, etc. Hope that helps!

  • Tee Sing

    Hi Maurizio,
    I have the Brot & Taylor proofer which is a great tool. I’m having some fine adjustment challenges.

  • Tee Sing

    Sorry, hit enter button too soon. I make my levain at 9pm with water at 78 degrees. I put it in the proofer set for 72 degrees. I’m excited to make bread at 9 am but levain does not float which means I’m past the active stage. What is your experience?

    • It might not float for a variety of reasons: it’s under fermented, it’s over fermented, it has a large percentage of rye (all-rye levain won’t really float). If it looks like you’re going over, you could turn the temperature down to 70°F or use a smaller percentage of mature sourdough starter to build the levain — these things will slow the process down. Additionally, you could make the levain later at night so there’s less time before it’s needed for a mix.

      I hope that helps!

  • Sharon Bennett

    Hi Maurizio and Happy New Year to you!
    I just purchased a Brod and Taylor Proofer as I’m having difficulty maintaining consistent temperature in my home. I live in central Ontario Canada and today its a record breaking day for December at -13F. I keep my home between 68-70. Chad Robertson recommends keeping the levain at 65 degrees. Why is that? I only bake twice a week so do you recommend keeping my starter in the fridge the entire week then transfer to the Proofer once I begin adding to my starter as I’m getting ready for a bake?

    • Happy New Year, Sharon! Keeping a levain at 65F would really slow down activity in the levain, it would lengthen the ripening process quite a bit. Maybe Chad is going for something specific there but I prefer to keep my levain pretty warm so it’s well expanded and ripe by the time I use it in my dough.

      If you don’t wait to do daily (or 2x daily) feedings for your starter you could definitely keep it in the fridge most of the week. Have a look at my weekend baking schedule for exactly how to do this. Hope this helps and happy baking!

  • Bonnie

    Hello Maurizio!
    I have used this recipe close to 40 times and each time i get a different loaf. Sometimes it looks gorgeous and has a lovely ear however lately i’ve really struggled to get an ear, and instead have a lot of blow outs. i have a couple of questions

    – Sometimes but not often, i get the beautiful gassy bubbles at the end of bulk fermentation and other times i only get a few small ones sitting on top. Is this a dough temp issue?
    – are the blowouts in my loaf and lack of an ear caused by poor scoring?

    Thank you!

    • Bonnie — I’m not sure what recipe you’re referring to but the actual recipe shouldn’t matter too much, this shouldnt happen regardless. If you see blowouts it could be a combination of shaping, insufficient scoring, and/or under proofed dough.

      Make sure to keep an eye on the dough temperature starting when you finish mixing all the way through bulk to the end. You want it to stay pretty warm! This way you’ll get sufficient fermentation activity in the dough. Alternatively, if it’s cooler than expected lengthen bulk fermentation until it shows signs when it’s time to divide (bubbles, domed edges, smooth texture, strength).

      Make sure you score deep enough and at enough spots to allow the loaf to rise in the oven and expand in a controlled direction. If you see blowouts in other areas it could signify insufficient scoring.

      I hope this helps!

      • Bonnie

        Thank you!! i’m going to start paying a lot more attention to the details. Looks like i’ve posted this question twice – on this thread by accident 🙂

  • Sharon Bennett

    Hi Maurizio,
    How important is humidity in the air? Its an extremely dry cold winter here and I purchased the ambient temp thermostat you suggest. The humidity is showing only 20%. Will this affect my breads in any way? I purchased a humidifier to increase it. Im using the Brod and Taylor proofer for when Im baking just for myself but how humid should the house be when I make larger batches and cant use the proofer?

    • Humidity is important. The B&T proofer comes with little humidifier trays you can place in the proofer but I find it easier just to keep the bowls/bins/tubs I place in there covered with reusable plastic wrap. Covering everything ensures they stay moist and a dry crust won’t form on the top. Either way, you do want to keep the dough relatively moist through the process, a dry crust can cause issues. Hope that helps!

  • Sharon Bennett

    How high should the humidity in my room be when I’m proofing on the counter top not the proofer?

    • When I proof my dough at room temp en couche (on baker’s linen) I believe it’s typically around 30-50% humidity (it’s really dry here). However, in my fridge when I proof overnight it’s usually 70-80% since it traps all moisture inside my retarder freezer. I think it depends on how long you’ll be proofing. If it’s a few hours, whatever your kitchen is at should be fine.

  • Bogdan Popescu

    Hello Maurizio! I’ve just bought a Brod and Taylor Proofer!
    I have a question. For dough proofing should we use the dry or humid proofing? By humid I mean the mode with the little tray with water, under the grill. I’m assuming for the sourdough we will use the dry one, considering the jars are covered.
    Thank you!

    • Right on, Bogdan! You’re going to love it. Answers:
      1. I always keep my bowls covered and thus never use the humidity tray. It’s best to keep the dough somewhat humid to avoid forming a crust on it while bulking or proofing. If you keep your bowl covered it should be just fine as is, but if you want to leave things uncovered then some water in the tray will definitely help.

      2. Signs of condensation are fine. It might mean it’s quite warm in there but perhaps not. I don’t see any issue with that.

      Happy baking!

      • Bogdan Popescu

        Wow! In my house is pretty warm, but the temperature seemed to vary during the night when nobody was in the kitchen. After one month of failed attempts to feed a sourdough (no bubles, no growth) wtih two different flower types, after I bought this little box, my culture after 4 days grows predictable and has bubbles! 😀 Amazing!

        • That’s fantastic to hear! Yes, this thing really elevated my baking to the next level — such a simple but effective (and well designed) device! Have fun 🙂

  • Stefan Scho Eni

    Hi Maurizio,

    Thank you for this great post!

    One question that I‘ve been thinking about quite a lot: is there in your opinion any difference between steering the levain ripening time over temperature and over the amount of starter?

    Theoretically, if I want to set up the levain the night before baking (and so give it about 10 hours to get ready), I could use a smaller amount of my starter or let the levain ferment in a colder environment than I would normally (and use the same amount of starter). What do you think?

    Another question, that‘s connected to the first: Is there any reason why the most recipes use 50% (in bakers %) starter in the levain? Theoretically I could use 100% starter and get my levain ready in a shorter time, or is there anything speaking against this? Sometimes I use 100% for freshing up my starter and it would be ready for use as a levain after 2-3 hours.

    Thank you!

    • Hey, Stefan! Most bakers have their preferred way to build their levain, whether it’s an overnight, 12 hour build or a shorter 4-6 hour build (and everywhere else along the spectrum). I haven’t seen a significant difference in the various ways to build a levain, personally, and for me the most important thing is to just use the levain at the right level of ripeness. I like to wait till it’s very mature/ripe before using it in a dough, whether it’s a build that takes 12 hours at cooler temps or smaller inoculation, or a warmer build that takes 5 hours.

      I personally don’t see an issue with building a “faster” levain with higher inoculation, in fact, this is typically what I do! Just keep an eye on that levain and use it when it looks ready to you and your process.

      Hope that helps!

      • Stefan Scho Eni

        Hey Maurizio, thank you! Nice to hear that as I mostly made the same experiences.

        Another little problem that I can‘t solve – my loafs will mostly float away after the final proof. I have to reshape what means pressing out gas and I can‘t score them sufficiently – bad oven spring 🙁

        The dough is not overproofed (happens also already after 2-3 hours of final proofing) or overhydrated (75%) and shaped really tight after bulk – so it seems the gluten structure is too weak, or could there be other reasons? I give about 5 sets of S&F while bulk.. would you recommend even more or any other things? Flour is 100g organic full grain and 900g of typo 00.. last thing I could imagine would be more sets or a longer autolyse – what do you think?

        Thank you!

        • It’s very hard to say, it could be many things. If there’s too much fermentation activity in your dough you could reduce your levain percentage, reduce your final dough temperature, or even use your levain a little earlier before it gets overly ripe. From there, a tighter shape and/or more dough strength could also help keep it in check. Also, keep an eye on the dough during bulk and divide a little earlier before it gets too gassy!