Drunken Bread: Proofing Bread Like an Artisan Bakery

How do artisan bakeries get great flavor into their bread? They make it drunk. By cooling the temperature of the dough to 55 degrees and letting it rest, a great flavor is developed. You can make your bread taste great too!

It’s drunken bread— bread with natural alcohol from giving the yeast in the dough extra proofing time in a cool area. And it really works. The yeast in bread dough does two different things: creates gas and produces alcohol as it breaks down the sugar. As the yeast and dough cool it produces less gas and more alcohol, giving the bread a yeasty flavor.

It takes little effort: make the dough, pop it into a proofing bag to set the perfect environment, place it somewhere cool (55 degrees or lower), and leave it alone for a few hours or a few days. That’s it!

This article will tell you all about how to make drunken bread by proofing your bread just like the artisan bakeries.

How Professionals Proof Their Bread

Professional bakeries retard their bread— they slow down the bread proofing process. With this, the yeast breaks down the sugars to create more alcohol than gas. The alcohol gives the bread a yeasty flavor.

So how do they slow the process? They use a retarder, or a special refrigerator, with a timer set to keep the bread cool at 55 degrees or lower for a specific period of time. In most cases, they make the bread dough during the day and let it sit in the retarder overnight, so it’s ready to go straight into the oven the next day.

You can create the same effect just in your home.

How You Can Proof Your Bread At Home

Here at the Prepared Pantry, we have proofing bags. While we’ve discussed using proofing bags a lot for your fast-rising doughs, you can really use a proofing bag for any sort of yeasted product. That’s what makes it such a handy tool.

A proofing bag controls the environment, traps in the moisture to keep your bread from becoming crusty, and keeps it from any extra pressure that could stop the rising.

When we want to make drunken bread, or proof our bread for an extended time, we use a proofing bag and set the bread dough somewhere cool to proof. Whether you’re letting it rest for a few hours or a few days, it must be set in a temperature of 55 degrees or lower; otherwise, it will grow like a weed for the next few hours or days.

Our favorite spots for slow-proofing bread are in front of a window on a cool day, in the refrigerator, in a cool basement, or just in a cool spot in the house.

We’ve even tested out leaving the bread dough inside a proofing bag in the cold garage during the winter time, and the flavor came out absolutely perfect.

That’s all you need to proof your bread like an artisan bakery: a cool spot, a proofing bag, and patience while the bread becomes drunk. How great is that?

Once you’ve let your bread proof for a few hours or a few days, be sure to allow it enough time inside to get back up to room temperature before forming it into a loaf. This could take up to half the day depending on how cold it got. Then, form it into a loaf and let it rise a last time before putting it into the oven.

Why 55 Degrees?

The key temperature for yeast is 79 degrees. At 79 degrees, the yeast forms gas bubbles and produces alcohol at the same time as the bread rises.

As the temperature of the dough drops to 55 degrees, the yeast begins to slow and makes more alcohol than gas bubbles. The dough stops rising completely once it reaches 55 degrees and lower. Any warmer than 55 degrees, and the dough will rise until it seems more like a monstrous weed.

Once you have the temperature of the dough at a controlled 55 degrees, you can let it proof for anywhere between a few hours and five days. It will likely take three to four hours minimum to get the drunken effect. You will then need to let it return to room temperature before forming it into a dough and letting it rise a final time before putting it in the oven.

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