French Rustic Bread, using cold fermentation

This is another slow fermentation bread, but this time you put it in the fridge and you can leave it there until you are ready to bake it (although probably not more than a week). This means you have much more flexibility over when you bake it. There is something about cold fermentation that turns the starch in the flour to sugars even more than in  the basic no-knead recipe, and it therefore has a slightly sweet taste and chewy texture.  In order to give it some structure ( and by that I mean an ability to keep its round shape and not sag into a pancake) you stretch and fold it a few times before you put it in the fridge.

I’ve called this French Rustic Bread, because the technique used is a simplified version of a classic way to make French bread with the addition of ‘old dough’ saved before the previous batch of bread was baked and added to the next batch. For more details go to one of my favourite books ‘The Village Baker’ by Joe Ortiz.


3 cups of strong bread flour

3/4 tsp instant yeast

1 1/2 cups of water (tap water is fine, as long as its not too full of chlorine)

1 1/4 tsp salt


  • Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix
  • Add the water and stir until all the flour is hydrated
  • Cover it with cling film or a disposable shower cap and leave for 15 minutes
  • With a large metal spoon, reach in to the bottom of the dough and pull upwards and then fold across back into the centre of the dough. Then fold the dough another 2 or 3 times, starting at different corners

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  • Cover and leave for 15 minutes and do this folding procedure again. Repeat in another 15minutes
  • Now its ready to go in the fridge for a 10-12 hours (or longer if you want)
  • Once you have taken it out of the fridge let it slowly come back to room temperature, this will take about 2 hours
  • Empty the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and stretch to the right and fold into the middle and then to the left and fold into the middle

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  • Now sprinkle with flour and shape into a round ball, by pulling your hands round the dough in a downwards direction to tighten the upper surface, tucking the pulled dough underneath

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  • Flour a clean tea towel and place the dough on to it, seam side down (i.e. the side which was already the bottom as you were shaping it)

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  • Cover with the corners of the tea towel and leave to rise for 1/2 hour
  • Put a medium to large heat proof covered pot (Le Creuset works well) into the oven and pre-heat it for 1/2 hour  to 250 degrees C, (or as hot as it will go)
  • Take the pot out and take the lid off. Uncover  the dough and sprinkle a bit more flour on the top and lift up.  Gently let it slide off the tea towel and place it in the hot pot seam side up

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  • Put the lid on and put it back in the oven to bake for half an hour
  • Take the lid off and turn down to 200 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes
  • Take it out of the oven and on to a rack to cool, for at least 15 minutes before slicing and demolishing
  • If you put your ear to it when its just come out of the oven you may be lucky enough to hear little crackling sounds

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9 responses to “French Rustic Bread, using cold fermentation”

  1. Betsy says :

    Awesome. Bread that speaks. How old is ‘old dough’, exactly??

  2. Rebecca says :

    Hi Lucy looking forward to trying this bread. Apart from slow fermentation flavour that I love, I like the idea of being able to leave it in the fridge until you have the time to bake it.

  3. Stephanie says :

    I love home made bread! This loaf has such a beautiful crust (which I think is the best bit). I like this technique of storing it in the fridge; that’s so convenient.

  4. k says :

    I loved the idea of leaving it in the fridge to ferment but found my patience tested after this particularly having to wait for it to come back to room temperature … anyway I finished baking the bread 17 minutes ago, cooled it for 15 minutes and one minute later we’ve now only got a quarter of a loaf left… it was clearly well worth the wait – thank you!

  5. Kathie says :

    I have made several loaves – and have tried using different flours too; today’s loaf was with 1/3 rye flour and it tastes almost nutty with a fantastic crust, yesterday’s was with malted wheat flour and it disappeared before it was cold.

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