First fermentation: where the taste is born


You’ve already kneaded (or at least mixed your mater dough with the flour of your choice, water and salt) and now play the first fermentation. Even if you’re not an expert baker, you’ve probably sensed that if there’s a first one, it’s because there’s a second fermentation. Right! The second one we’ll talk about in another inning, so let’s go now with the first fermentation.

First of all, and although it may seem like a butt, there are two basic practical aspects that need to be considered. The first is that if we are going to reuse the bowl or container where we have made the mixture, it is necessary to wash it well with water to remove the remains of dough and flour attached, dry it with a cloth and oil it with a little olive oil (worth any). You have to grease ALL the inside of the bowl, not just the base. This is because our dough will grow, and if we put a non-stick layer – the oil is that, in fact – only at the bottom of the bowl, when it grows it will stick and we will load the structure of the dough when we try to remove it from the container. So you have to oil a completely clean bowl well.

The second aspect to remember is to cover the dough WELL during the first fermentation. It’s not worth a kitchen rag. Surprised? Let me guess… I’m sure you’re remembering your mother making various bread or sweets, and covering the dough with a simple kitchen rag. Was your mother doing it wrong? No, but in this case that’s no use to us.


If you are going to make a fast bread (i.e. industrial yeast) or a bun, a rag serves to cover the dough, because it does not give it time to dry. Instead, the first fermentation of a sourdough bread should be long (7-16 h), so either we cover it with a film or plastic bag, or a scab will form on the surface that is then impossible to remove, and makes it difficult to form the bread for the second fermentation.

If we don’t want to generate too much plastic waste, a great trick is to use those shower sparrows that are in all hotels; they adapt to any container, and with them we guarantee that the dough will not dry out. Not at all.



We already have our oiled bag and our shower beanie, film or plastic ball ready. We make a ball with our dough (creating tension), put it in the bowl, cover it, and ferment. How long and at what temperature? This is what’s left of this post. The first fermentation of your mater mass should be long to give the microorganisms time to come out of the lethargy in their powdered state (if you’ve seen Han Solo frozen in carbonite in The Empire strikes back,you can imagine how inactive they are in the envelope), to multiply, produce gas and many substances that, during cooking, will give your bread a spectacular color and aroma. Sourdough is a biological process and, as such, is greatly affected by temperature. The higher the temperature, the more biological activity. In other words: the more heat your dough will be ready, so the shorter the first fermentation should be. The best trick to know if the dough is ready is very simple: see how much it has grown.

If it is clearly larger but does not double its volume, it is at its point. If you don’t have much eye with this estimate of the size of a bread dough, you can get an idea simply by knowing the temperature of your kitchen. If in winter it has little or no heating (let’s put 18 degrees or less), your mass will have a hard time being ready for about 15-18 hours. In summer, however, if it is very hot (let’s put 30 degrees, which is already heat in a kitchen), the dough will be ready in a 6 hours. As you may have imagined, in spring and autumn, or as long as your kitchen is at a pleasant average temperature (20-25 degrees), your dough will have a hard time growing about 10-12 hours.


Maybe you think all this is very complicated, that you’re going to have to walk all the time with a thermometer, looking at the clock, that you’re going to pass or you’ll be short… Not really. We have created Mass Mater to be error-proof. Try this simple rule: you can almost always do the first fermentation while you sleep, starting to make bread in the afternoon-night (19:00-21:00 h) and ending first thing in the morning. With muuuuucho heat, on the other hand, the first fermentation should be so short that it is better to start making bread early in the morning, so that it is in the oven in the middle of the afternoon. With cold muuuuucho, finally, the first fermentation should be so long that it is better to start kneading early in the afternoon, so that you can cook the bread the next morning.


One last piece of advice, which many of us have learned from errors: look at the consistency of the dough. With heat, the dough becomes softer, more “liquid”. And with the cold the opposite happens, it gets stiffer, more “ball”. The first thing can be a problem, because a mass that spreads by heat, does not allow to form well.

The solution is very easy: put less water in summer. The bread will not come out exactly the same, since the less water, the crumb comes out denser. But yet the greña comes out better, so one thing for another. Have you never wondered why Andalusian breads are dense crumbs – little water – and Galicians have very large holes – lots of water?? Because the Andalusian heat would make a very hydrated bread unmanageable, and the Galician freshness would make the fermentation of a bread with little water very slow. Funny, isn’t it? Well, take note of this final tip on the amount of water: we suggest you make breads enjoyed in winter and Andalusian in summer.

You’ll tell us.

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