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Assume a no-knead focaccia with 1.33% dry instant yeast and 100% hydration has a bulk fermentation of 2/3 hours at room temperature. Then it's spread on a dish, let rise for about another hour, and then baked. If the focaccia was "forgotten" during the bulk at room temperature and kind of over-fermented, like 6 hours, the dough was poured on a baking dish, spread, and let rise for a couple of hours.

If the latter raise just didn't do, is it because the yeast already (over-)did its job and had nothing more to do in the second part? Plus the deflation due to the pouring killed some air? Makes sense?

Follow up: if one wanted to make this recipe doable in 8h, should the baking dish rest in the fridge, then brought to room temp, possibly dimpled and then baked?

2 Answers 2

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Yes, you can certainly overproof dough. From the point of view of the yeast, it's not "it did its job" - the yeast doesn't have a job, it's a conglomeration of cells that get fissioned, metabolize and die, just like any other life form. In a young yeast colony, you still have most of the original structure of the dough, plus a little bit of carbon dioxide (the bubbles we want). In an established yeast colony, you have a lot of carbon dioxide, more than the dough can hold, plus a ton of other, less tasty waste products (and the dough structure is less capable of holding it, being changed chemically through time and yeast activity). Also, in a distressed yeast colony - which is a colony that grew up too quickly, because it was supplied with a lot of food and warmth - you get other types of waste products than in a slowly maturing one.

What we want as bakers is to stop the fermentation long before the yeast has established a mature colony. We bake the bread at the very beginning, when the dough is still almost fresh and we only have enough bubbles to get a rise. If we want the taste of a long-lived mature yeast colony, as in sourdough bread, we take care to add enough (50% to 99%) fresh flour-water mixture to have a nice structure to the loaf.

If you want the recipe doable in 8 h, you can use a refrigerator (take care to include warming-up time; also, don't do it in the last rise, but in the first) but also reduce the yeast. Large amounts such as 1.33% dry yeast are meant for quick-rise recipes. Fridge-retarded doughs will use a maximum of 0.5% dry yeast.

For more information on making slow-rise doughs, search the site for "slow rise" or "retardation". For dealing with "forgotten" dough, look at How can I rescue overproofed bread?.

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  • so fridge retarded AND yeast reduce or you mean use 0.5% for a room temp retarded dough? For example, Claire Saffitz's focaccia can be done either at room temp in few hours or delay the timings with a fridge pause but she doesn't mention reducing the yeast youtube.com/watch?v=NGnMrM9qDtE
    – David P
    May 25, 2023 at 9:06
  • @DavidP yes, I mean fridge retarded at below 0.5%. Using lots of yeast has the opposite effect of retardation, so if you try to combine both, you're working at cross-purposes with yourself. Apparently, it can be done, but there is no good reason why you'd go that way.
    – rumtscho
    May 25, 2023 at 10:04
  • she doesn't mention refrigerating in bulk either, but to the bulk at room temp, fold, spread, and then refrigerate for up to 24h
    – David P
    May 25, 2023 at 10:42
  • this sounds a bit counterintuitive. You're saying 0.5% AND fridge even for a same-day time window? I'd think: more yeast can be slowed down in the fridge and less yeast can work in longer times at room temp.
    – David P
    May 25, 2023 at 13:49
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    @DavidP there is no point in using lots of yeast and slowing it down at the same time. The reason to use lots of yeast is if you want a quick rise, either because you want the quick-risen taste, or because you don't have the time. If you don't need the quick rise, just use smaller amounts of yeast and let it proof outside. But if you also want either to have a slow rise, either because you want the taste of slow-risen bread, or because you'll sleep for 8 hours and don't care to get up in the middle of the night to bake, then combine small amounts of yeast with the fridge.
    – rumtscho
    May 25, 2023 at 14:22
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It’s likely that the the yeast already did it’s job. However, if this happens, you can ball it up, knead, and allow to proof again. This should work at least one time. There are a few variables at play, so arriving a precise timing is difficult. Much depends on ambient temperature. You can bulk at room temp, move to dish, then refrigerate to slow things down. You could also reduce yeast % to slow things down. It will be a matter of experimentation for your local conditions.

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