Category Archives: Pâte Fermentée (Old Dough)

How to Make Pâte Fermentée

It’s really just bread dough, only you don’t bake it. Of course, if you make bread regularly enough you can just make a little extra dough and hold it in reserve for the next batch. Pâte fermentée will keep for 3 days in the fridge and about 3 months in the freezer. A basic formula is:

10 ounces bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
6 ounces (or slightly more) water

Combine your dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attached.

Turn the mixer on low and stir for a few seconds, the add the water and stir for about 30 seconds until all the ingredients are moistened.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for five minutes. You want a firm and slightly tacky dough.

Put the dough into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.

Let it ferment at room temperature for an hour, until it’s increased in size noticeably.

The put it into the fridge overnight. The next day — presto chango — you’ll have made pâte fermentée. Use it right away, within 3 days, or freeze.

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Pâte Fermentée

Pâte fermentée is what we in the English-speaking world call “old dough”, even though it means something closer to “fermented” or “ripened” dough in French. Classically, the old dough technique is very simple. Every time a baker makes a batch of baguettes (or some other bread that might be improved by old dough) he or she simple reserves a piece of the unbaked dough and stashes it away for use the next day.

Over the course of the night some very interesting things happen. Yeasts continue to reproduce, creating alcohols (and as those of you who’ve read other posts of mine on flavor know, some flavor compounds are only “unlocked” by — i.e. will only dissolve in — alcohol). Bacteria grow and create flavorful acids. And enzymes proceed to run amok slicing and dicing long-chain carbohydrate molecules (starches) down into sugars.

All of this is a great boon to a baguette dough (or any other bread dough it’s added to), both in terms of flavor and color.

Filed under:  Pâte Fermentée (Old Dough), Starters & Preferments | 2 Comments