Making bread in hot weather

The weather can really affect how your dough ferments. This is true when using commercial yeast and sourdough.

If the weather is warm, the yeast works more quickly. Yeast is most active at 38C ( and dies at 55C) so if the temperature in your kitchen is heading towards the high 20’s/ 30’s (above 80f) then your dough is going to ferment more quickly than on a cool day. What usually takes an hour might take half that time when the weather is warm.

A dough that ferments quickly can mean an inferior loaf. There is less time for the dough to develop flavour. Because the yeast is working fast it can also consume all the sugars available to it, the lack of residual sugars when the dough is baked leads to a diminished flavour and a pale coloured loaf.

I have some top tips to help you control fermentation in hot weather.

Top tips for making bread in hot weather

For commercial yeast (active dried/ fast action/ easy bake/ quick/ instant/ fresh):

  1. Reduce the amount of yeast that you use. If your dough call for 5-7g of yeast reduce this to 2-3g. If you are using fresh yeast and the recipe calls for 20g you can reduce it to as little as 5g.
  2. Use cool or cold water to mix your dough. If your kitchen is warm the dough will warm up slowly and this will slow down the yeast activity.
  3. Put the dough in the fridge. Once your dough is mixed and developed (either through kneading or the stretch and fold method) then you can cover it well (with a large inflated plastic wrap) and keep it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. This is a good tactic for any weather conditions as a dough that ferments more slowly will have better flavour.

For sourdough:

Three sourdough starters

A sourdough starter or dough will ferment much more quickly in warm weather.

For a starter this means you have to feed it more often. If you keep you your usual feeding schedule you will notice that the starter becomes more liquid, often with a hooch on top, and smells more acidic. This is because the yeast has eaten all of the sugar available to it and has become exhausted giving the acids the opportunity to build. An overly acidic starter will struggle to rise your loaf and will make the bread taste unpleasant. To combat this, try this:

  1. If the weather is set to be unusually warm for several days, then as a home baker, I choose to pop my starter in the fridge and if I want to bake bread I use commercial yeast. To get the starter ready for the fridge I discard all but two tablespoons of starter then add 50g flour and 50g water and stir well. I leave it at room temperature until bubbly and vigorous and then I pop it (well covered but not with an airtight seal, I use cling film) in the fridge until the next time I want to bake with it. I have left my starter in the fridge for several weeks and it has been fine. When I want to bake with it next I fetch it out of the fridge, discard all but 1-2 tablespoonfuls and then add the same weight of flour and water and mix well. If it bubbles up within 6-8 hours I know I can use it bake with. If it is slower than that then I discard half and feed it again and wait for it to bubble up again.
  2. If popping your starter into the fridge is not an option then you may need to feed your starter more often. If you feed it once a day, then start to feed it twice a day instead.
  3. You can slow the starter down by refreshing it with cool water rather than warm.

For a dough this means that if it ferments more quickly it has less opportunity to develop a good flavour and your bread won’t taste as good as it usually does. To slow down fermentation try these tricks:

  1. Mix your dough with cool water instead of warm. Your dough will warm up in a warm room, but this gives it a short delay to help the enzymes and bacteria to do their work.
  2. Once you have completed your stretches and folds or kneading you can pop the dough in the fridge to ferment. This will slow the fermentation down to give flavour the chance to develop.
  3. Use less starter than normal. If you reduce the amount of starter that you use this will delay fermentation. Try halving the amount of starter that you normally use.

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