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.

8 thoughts on “Pâte Fermentée”

    1. Hi Tony!

      It works just like bread starter. You can substitute it for up to a third of your total bread mix. Does that make sense?

      – Joe

  1. So…can I make a loaf using the pate fermentee as the only levant. Then keep a piece of that loaf dough for use in the next and keep repeating. Essentially removing the need for yeast after the first loaf?

    1. Hey Teri!

      Yes you can. It’ll take longer and in the end the loaf will be denser that it would be without the “spike” of commercial yeast, but natural yeast by itself will definitely raise bread!



  2. Hi Joe, how long can you leave the old dough before the next bake? Any especial conditions?

    1. Hey Eva!

      The general rule is three days in the fridge. After that the dough will start losing its oomph.

      Bake well!


      1. Thanks Joe!
        Two more questions how long in advance should I have take the old dough from the fridge to add to the new bread mix? How long will you give the bread to raise if you only use the old dough a the raising agent? I know this can be tricky to answer but just to have a rough idea..
        Many thanks!

        1. Hey Eva!

          You’ll want to give the old dough from the fridge about half an hour to warm up. At that point it’s ready. As far as rising time, that is indeed a toughie. As a general rule I’d say take the time of the rise for the old dough itself, whatever it was, then double it. But keep a lookout. When the newly made dough doubles in size you’re ready to move on to the next step.

          Let me know how it goes!


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