There is a technique of making bathed bread. For it, the dough is kneaded as usual, then shaped into a boule, bound in cheesecloth, and submerged in water for the first proofing.

When it floats up, it's considered ready. It is then shaped, final-proofed and baked. There is no knockdown and second proof before shaping.

This is a home technique, I've never heard of it being used professionally.

I realize that it's a convenient way for novice bakers to judge when their dough is fermented. But is this the only advantage? Does the technique somehow change the quality of the prepared bread?

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    Does it come in contact with the water? Cheesecloth is usually porous, so I would imagine so; some starches near the surface would wash away, concentrating gluten at the outer layer.
    – JasonTrue
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 22:32
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    @jasontrue yes, it does. I'm not sure how much it is reshaped before baking. It's traditionally baked into a low round loaf, so probably not much. It's a very interesting though - maybe it isn't that much about leaching the starches, but about hydrating them much more than the rest of the dough, bringing more oven spring, comparable to steaming?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


What you are looking at here is an old, almost forgotten method of proofing yeast dough for cold conditions. I have an old cook book1 from ca. 1930, when rooms could be cold in winter. I'd say it's "granny's version of proofing in the fridge".

My book says to leave out about 1/4 of the flour, all sugar and, if used, the spices. It does not, however, say to use cheese cloth. The firm ball of dough is simply placed in a sink or bowl full of cold water, where it sticks to the bottom in the beginning. It should peel off, turn upside down & rise to the surface within an hour (or longer, if little yeast was used). Then, it's taken out, first the sugar, then the flour are kneaded in, and finished according to the original recipe.

I have tried it once out of curiosity, but that was probably 20 years ago & I was way less experienced than today. I do not recall any major differences with the finished product (sweet bread, in my case).

(1) It's in German, "Luise Haarer; Kochen und Backen nach Grundrezepten".

  • @rumtscho: If you consider getting a (newer) edition of the book, make sure you do get one of the older versions, as there are a bunch of "updated" editions with photos - which are sadly lacking in the old techniques. But I'd be surprised if it wasn't already on your shelf...
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 7:21
  • I don't have the book. Is it worth having? I can probably find a cheap secondhand old edition, but I'm not that much into traditional German cuisine.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 14:10
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    @rumtscho: How would you define "worth having"... My mom got hers back in the 60s, when she went to "Hauswirtschaftsschule", mine is from the 80s. My kids will leave our household with their own copy once they are old enough. It's been a "Standardwerk" at many schools here in Swabia, but do not expect any fancy modern techniques or low fat preparations. In fact, it's even as imprecise as to write "bake at a good heat", which tells me it dates back to when wood stoves were common. But if I need a quick reminder or basic recipe for some what-not, that's what I'm dragging out.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 17:41

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