“Old dough”, in bakers’ lingo, means a piece of dough, cut off before shaping the bread, and kept in the fridge for later use. When I learned how to make a wild yeast starter from the scratch, and baked my first bread, the French recipe called for always saving a portion of the dough to use as starter for the next loaf.
Advancing from a series of weapon-grade, dense and chewy “bricks” to more edible breads, this method worked very well for me, until I branched out and started baking other types of bread than my everyday German Feinbrot.
The old dough was replaced by a whole wheat starter, and all but forgotten as viable rising agent.
With Ketex’ Bauernbrötchen in mind, I reserved a piece of dough from a yeast bread I had made, and stored it in my basement refrigerator – and promptly forgot all about it!
Three months later, when I was looking for something in the back of the fridge, I saw the little container, and remembered why I had put it there.
I opened it gingerly, expecting nothing good after all the time, and the old dough, indeed, looked a bit “antique”, and didn’t smell very nice, either. At least there was no mold on it!
Always curious, and open for experiments before I throw something in the trash, I wanted to see whether there was any life left in the relic, and proceeded with the recipe.
I was rather suspicious about the taste, after all, Ketex’ “old dough” (aka pâté fermentée) is never older than 10 days, but my distrust was unfounded: the rolls rose well and tasted surprisingly good. And I had a new, interesting formula to work with.
For my second bake I did just the opposite: my old dough had slumbered only for 3 days in the fridge. With my first batch of Bauernbrötchen, I had followed Ketex recipe to the tee, using a poolish as preferment, and adding the reserved dough later to the final mixture.
I didn’t really see the need for an additional poolish, especially since the dough was being retarded in the refrigerator overnight. Instead, why not feeding the old dough up front, and letting it act the part of the poolish?
Since the amount of rye flour in the dough was too small to have much influence on the crumb, I took whole rye flour instead of medium.
Rather than long kneading of the dough, with one fold, I used Peter Reinhart’s method – a brief mix, then autolyse, followed by a series of stretches and folds.
Ketex adds a tad of yeast to his dough for a more predictable rising time. For these very small amounts you need a special scale to accurately weigh a few grams or ounces. It looks like a big spoon, and is easy to use (about $12 at Amazon).
The second batch of rolls, without the poolish, performed just the same, but tasted a bit heartier with the whole rye. I had to adjust the baking temperature and time – every oven is different.
Soon I started baking the tasty Bauernbrötchen for my customers, too. Over the next years I stretched the time limit for storing the dough longer and longer, from three month to four, five, and, for my last bake, even seven!
Though the really old dough looks a bit darker on the surface, and smells alcoholic, there is no difference in its rising power or taste. I keep it in the fridge, until I feel like baking another batch, whether a week later – or half a year. My last bake was just fine (see featured post photo above or scroll down to the bottom of the post), though the dough felt it little stickier.
My customers love the hearty, rustic rolls, and so do we. I always bake extra ones for us. They are great for open-faced sandwiches, and toast well, too. You can easily freeze them, therefore it’s worth it to make a double batch.
But don’t forget to save a piece of the dough: for your next Bauernbrötchen!
BAUERNBRÖTCHEN WITH OLD DOUGH (adapted from Gerhard Kellner)
100 g/3.5 oz reserved old dough (fridge)
5 g/1 tbsp whole rye flour
42 g/3 tbsp water
147 g/5.2 oz refreshed old dough (all)
400 g/14.1 oz bread flour
45 g/1.6 oz whole rye flour
248 g/8.7 oz water
8 g/0.3 oz olive oil
10 g/0.4 oz salt
1.8 g/0.06 oz instant yeast (or 2.5 g/0.09 oz active dry)
3.5 g/1 1/2 tsp barley malt
rye flour for dusting
In the morning, feed old dough with rye flour and water. Cover, and leave at room temperature until it looks a bit puffed and some bubbles show (like a poolish.)
In the evening, mix final dough ingredients at low speed (or with wooden spoon) until all flour is hydrated, 1 – 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. Then knead at medium-low speed (or with Danish dough whisk or by hand) for 2 minutes, adjusting with a little more water or flour, if needed (dough should be somewhat sticky.) Continue kneading for another 4 minutes. Dough should be still more sticky than tacky.
Transfer dough to lightly oiled or wet work surface. With oiled, or wet hands, pull and press it into a rough square. Fold dough from top and bottom in thirds, like a business letter. Then do the same from both sides. Gather dough together in a ball, and place it, seam-side down, in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
Repeat this stretching and folding 3 more times, at 10 minute intervals (total time: 40 minutes). After the last fold, cut off 100 g/3.5 oz dough (for the next “old dough”.) Refrigerate reserved piece in a small container with lid. (Ketex recommends using it within 10 days, but it keeps for several weeks to months.)
Gather remaining dough into a ball, and place in an oiled container or bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Remove dough from fridge 2 hours before using (then the rising time will be about 1 hour, otherwise it can take 2 hours).
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface (it might be a bit sticky). Divide it into 8 equal pieces (about 90-100 g/3.2 – 3.5 oz) and pre-shape these into balls. Let balls relax, covered, for 20 minutes, then, using your hands, roll each piece into a strand with pointed ends.
Place rolls in a couche, seam side up. Sprinkle with rye flour. Cover, and let proof for about 60 minutes, or until a dimple, made with your finger, still feels elastic, but remains visible (= finger poke test).
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500ºF/250ºC, including steam pan.
Place rolls, seam-side down, on perforated, or parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle again with rye flour, and score each roll lengthwise.
Place Bauernbrötchen in the oven, pour a coup of boiling water into steam pan, reduce temperature to 450ºF/230ºC, and bake for about 20 – 28 minutes. (Rotate baking sheet 180 degrees after half the baking time, and remove steam pan). Rolls should be golden brown, and register at least 200ºF/93ºC on an instant thermometer.
Bauernbrötchen can be stored for 1 day in a brown paper bag. For longer storage (after they are entirely cooled), put them in a freezer bag, and place it in the freezer. (Let rolls thaw at room temperature, then mist with water and re-crisp them at 375ºF/190ºC in the oven.)
(Updated and re-written post, originally published 2013)