Eh? Why would anyone want to do that?
Leaving the dough overnight has two advantages, as far as I can see.
For one, it frees up time in the day. So, if you spend your morning up to the eyeballs in the various occupations of three under 6s (for example) you don't have to find time to knead the bread because it's already done. I think it's rather nice to have some kneading time, all to myself, perhaps with an audio book for company, after they have gone to bed.
Come to that, you could do your kneading at any time and use this s l o w method to have the bread conveneniently ready whenever you want it.
Don't forget flavour!
Allegedly - and don't take my word for it - the longer the yeasts have to ferment, the tastier the bread becomes. Thus, if you make your bread slowly, letting it ferment overnight, you are developing a tastier bread with a good-things-come-to-those-who-wait flavour.
Want to try?
You can do a long, slow ferment with any dough. The trick is to reduce the amount of yeast and keep the dough cool.
Reduce the yeast
The more yeast you put into your recipe, the quicker your dough will rise, roughly speaking. If you want your dough to develop slowly, without bursting out of the tin and covering your entire fridge in a coating of impenetrable goo, you need to start with less yeast. There's an actual recipe, below, but if you want to use a different recipe, that's fine, just half the amount of yeast.
This recipe is for a 50% wholemeal loaf:
250g/8 oz/1½ cups wholemeal flour
250g/8 oz/1½ cups strong plain flour
¼ tsp instant dried yeast
2 tsp salt
315g/10 fl oz/1⅓ cups water
*This is such a small anount of yeast that you may have problems weighing it out - my scales aren't that sensitve so I've devised a method for measuring out dried yeast without scales.
Once you've made your dough, leave it to ferment for 45 minutes as usual (method here if you're wondering). Shape it as usual. Place it in the tin as usual. Then...
Instead of letting the dough prove quickly, in a warm place, pop it in the fridge. The chill will slow down the action of the yeast - it'll still be alive and fermenting, just much slower than at room temperature. This, as I said, is what will give your bread a great flavour.
Refrigerated dough will last overnight quite happily, and beyond.
When you get up in the morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.
NOTE:This will take about three hours, so if you were hoping for fresh bread for breakfast, you need to try again tomorrow and get up before dawn to lift that loaf out. Nevermind, it'll be ready for lunch.
As the dough warms up, yeast activity will increase and you will see the dough starting to rise. Once it has properly proved (has passed the top of the tin if you're making loaves) it is ready to bake as normal.
You get the Real Deal here: I'm telling it how it is for me. I honestly can't tell the difference in flavour with this loaf. It's totally worth it for the convenience of getting to do the kneading the night before, without children, but the flavour thing is a moot point. It tasted great! But I'm not sure that it was actually greater than usual.
Maybe I'm just insensitive. Maybe I have a tendancy to eclipse the delicate flavours of the bread with too much butter (come on, I didn't even begin with the Marmite!). I'd love to know how it was for you. Does the overnight prove really make that much difference to the flavour?
Want a regular ol' everyday loaf?
Need super-quick freshly baked bread for lunch?
Got more questions? Leave me a comment. I'd love to meet you :)