The Flailing Baker

Schedule

Scheduling when to work on baking a loaf of bread can be a bit tricky; for an overnight loaf, especially, make sure you're available when the dough needs you.

The first hour of fermenting requires folding every 10 minutes, so make sure you set aside that time. Otherwise most of the time is waiting patiently for magic to happen.

Here are some guidelines to get you started. Note that 1) many variables will affect timing, and that 2) deviating from a schedule (oops, I forgot we were proofing!) is usually uncatastrophic and may prove educational.

Remember also to let the baked bread sit at least an hour. Hot bread from the oven tends to be more gummy than divine (but give it a try sometime just for fun!).

Step Overnight Loaf Timing Daytime Loaf Timing
1. Autolyse Start 7:00pm
Duration: 25 minutes
Start 10:00am
Duration: 25 minutes
2. Mix Start 7:25pm
Duration: 5 minutes
Start 10:25am
Duration: 5 minutes
3. Ferment/Fold Start 7:30pm
Duration: 15 hours
Start 10:30am
Duration: 3 hours
4. Shape Start 10:30am
Duration: 5 minutes
Start 1:30pm
Duration: 5 minutes
5. Proof Start 10:35am
Duration: 3 hours
Start 1:30pm
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
6. Bake Start 1:35pm
Duration: 45 minutes
Start 2:45pm
Duration: 45 minutes
Completion END 2:20pm
TOTAL TIME: 19 hours 20 minutes
END 3:30pm
TOTAL TIME: 5 hours 30 minutes

Timing the Sourdough Starter

I usually make two loaves a week, so I don't want to have to feed my starter (Izzy, pronouns they/them) every day. In between feedings I keep Izzy in the refrigerator, but that means I have to warm them up and give them at least one feed so they are at a ravenous peak when I let them loose on the dough.

The schedule looks something like the following, assuming roughly 6-7 hours to get from feeding to peak. Note I'm aligning the Harvest Goal time with the Autolyse recipe step for convenience (I set Izzy next to the Autolyse so they have a little time to get to know each other before the Mix step).

Step Overnight Loaf Timing Daytime Loaf Timing
1. Remove from Fridge and
Sit on Counter at Room Temperature
DAY BEFORE MIXING
Remove: Bedtime
Sit: Overnight
DAY BEFORE MIXING
Remove: 5-10 hours before bedtime
Sit: 5 hours
2. Feed and Let Expand DAY OF MIXING
Feed #1: 7am-ish
Feed #2: 1pm-ish
Duration: 6 hours each feed
DAY BEFORE MIXING
Feed #1: Bedtime
Duration: 8-ish hours
DAY OF MIXING
Feed #2 (Optional): 7am-ish
Duration: 3 hours
3. Add a Portion to the Dough,
Aligning with the Mix Step in the Recipe
DAY OF MIXING
Harvest Time: 7:00pm
DAY OF MIXING
Harvest Time: 10:00am
4. Feed Again and Return to the Fridge DAY OF MIXING
Back to Fridge: 11:00pm
DAY OF MIXING
Back to Fridge: 2:00pm

Keys to remember

  • For the Overnight Loaf, get the starter out of the fridge before you go to bed the day before baking, and feed when you get up (if you want to get two feedings in; otherwise, just feed in the morning sometime)
  • For the Daytime Loaf, get the starter out of the fridge the day before baking and feed before you go to bed.

Final note: I feed the remaining Izzy right after adding a portion to the autolyse for mixing and let them get a good party going, 4-5 hours, before putting them back in the cooler.

Final Final note: Sourdough starter is a resilent bunch. Mixing with dough straight from the fridge means they'll take longer to get going, but they'll get it done. Accidentally letting them sit out overnight after the post-harvest feeding—no problem, just give them an extra feeding to express proper contrition.