The bucket collection (and the dough that lives within: day 5)

Bucket Collection (and the dough that lives within)

Several of you have had questions about the right type of bucket to be using. There are many that fit the bill beautifully, these are just a few! It depends on the size and shape of your refrigerator and how much dough you intend to make. There are a few basic guidelines to storing your dough in a bucket:

  1. Use one that is large enough to hold a full batch (5 or 6 qts), the dough needs plenty of room to grow! Obviously a larger one if you are doubling and smaller for half batch.
  2. Make sure that it has a lid, to prevent a tough skin from forming on your dough.
  3. Make sure that lid is not airtight, you want the gases from the yeast to escape or you will get a crazy alcohol smell building up in your bucket. If you have airtight seals on your bucket, just leave them ajar and it will be just fine!
  4. If you are using a large bowl, which I didn’t take any pictures of, but are just fine to use, either put a lid or plastic wrap over the top.

Now to answer the question about what my dough looks like after it has risen in the bucket and is storing in the refrigerator. These are pictures of the master recipe after 1 day in the fridge, I will try to update as the dough ages!

Bucket Collection (and the dough that lives within)

dough 1 day old

181 thoughts to “The bucket collection (and the dough that lives within: day 5)”

  1. Hi folks! I was working at Magers & Quinn a few months back when you did your demo there, and I have been hooked on the book ever since. I have the same refrigerator space issues that several folks wrote about, but I found that a cheap 6-quart Rubbermaid pitcher from Target works really well as a bucket. It is tall and relatively thin, fits in the bottom shelf, and I simply leave the hole that would usually be used for pouring with its top slightly open. I’ve had no problems with under-rising or accidental sealing. Thanks again for your amazing visit to our store, and for bringing bread-baking back into my life.

  2. Peter:
    Thanks for coming to our event, that was a fun evening. Glad you’re having fun with our book.

    Cheap is a good way to go, with any of these food-grade plastic containers, so thanks for the tip. Jeff

    I bought a new Sterilite shoe box with the half-moon locking lid handles (think gas escape hatches). It is 5.7 liters, and I have some rye dough working in it right now. It is exactly the right size for my fridge with zero wasted space inside the bucket. I wrote to Sterilite, and they said that the plastic in the shoebox is exactly the same as their food storage items, so I am cool with it being a shoe box. And, the price was right, about $4, might be less at a Big Chain store.

  4. Shari: My standard advice would be not to use anything unless it’s labeled and sold as “food grade.” Just being very cautious; you never know who you talked with and what their level of understanding was. Jeff

  5. what sterilite said:
    snip…Our products, including #1882, are made of polypropylene plastic, which is a food safe material. The polypropylene used in our containers meets FDA requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations for all food contact excluding actual cooking applications. We do not use Latex, Teflon, or other stain resistant chemicals in our manufacturing process…snip

  6. I found an excellent source for large food safe containers/buckets! 6 quart size is only $3.61.

    I ordered 2 each of the 6 and 8 quart buckets and the lids. The lids are sold separately, but the 6 and 8 qt ones use the same size. Great for storing flour too!

    So if you are really into this method of breadmaking you can order quantity and save — ha!


  7. Thanks Patti! That’s a pretty cheap option but we can’t endorse anything here, especially for a vendor we’ve never used. As always, be certain that it’s food-safe, not just “NSF” or “FDA” certified. The website is a little ambiguous. Jeff

  8. Hello,
    I have an equipment question for you, I can’t find the right place to post it. Is there a brand of loaf pans that you recommend using? I have a couple of old nonstick ones banging around, but they don’t do so well these days and I want to replace them before baking a loaf bread.

    Thank you, and thank you for the wonderful book.


  9. Hi Elise,

    I have every type of loaf pan imaginable and as long as they are non-stick they work well.

    One thing to keep in mind is the color of the pan. Lighter pans will result in a lighter crust and may actually take longer to bake. The opposite is true of a darker pan.

    The other difference is the thickness of the metal and how well they conduct heat. The thicker, and probably more costly pans conduct heat slightly better and may improve baking. But, this is a minimal difference and not necessarily worth the extra cost?

    I recently bought mini loaf pans at my local grocery store for just $4 each and they work great. I think they are called bakers secret? I’ll double check.

    Thanks! Zoë

  10. Hi!
    This is my first try making bread ever. I need help trouble-shooting.

    I’ve made several loaves which seemed to work fine. However, I went to make one today, Day 7, and the top of the dough was gray and smelled slightly sour. Underneath was a light tan as it was originally. I did look at the 5 days of photos on your website and mine was definitely the wrong color and kind of leathery. I ‘m going to toss everything- a batch and a half- and I’m so bummed.

    I have 2 likely suspects. My best guess is my container- a 6 qt tupperware-like rectangle from Target. It’s not airtight, but it is snug. I bought 2 and made a single batch in each one. My second thought was that I used spelt flour, which is what I had at the time.

    If it is the container, will a pin-hole/nail-hole in the top do the trick? My fridge gets full and I don’t want a loose lid.

    Appreciate your help.

  11. Amy: First off, so sorry you had to throw out so much dough. I’m afraid we didn’t do a great job letting people know what to expect as the dough ages. What you saw at day 7 is pretty much what we expect, and it makes a nice loaf. I actually prefer these fully-aged ones. The grayish color and sour aroma are normal; they’re not mold. It’s not your container and it won’t matter whether or not you make a pinhole; that’s the way it gets at 7 days.

    That said, you may prefer the less-aged stuff–it all depends on how much you like sourdough. Jeff

  12. Jeff,
    Thank you so much for telling me! I was so afraid that I had almost food-poisoned my family. From now on, I’ll probably only make a single batch per kind of dough so I can go through it more quickly. If I do stir the gray top layer in, will I get a nice sour-dough kind of thing? I do like sour-dough.
    Thanks much. I’ll try again.

  13. Hi Amy,

    Yes, you are not the first person to be thrown off by the discoloration of the dough. But not to worry. If you just mix that “old” dough into your fresh batch you will jump start the sour dough characteristics in the next batch. We find it is better with age and like to keep that going in the new batch.

    I do find that if you allow the gases to escape from the bucket you are less likely to have the graying of the dough.

    Thanks, Zoë

  14. my bread does not come out with a flat bottom. It seems to buff up and create a rounded bottom which is not all that crisp…it still tastes great but looks a bit funny. I call is semi-ball bread. what am I doing wrong?

  15. Hi Pat,

    The time this happened to me was when I didn’t let the dough rest long enough before baking. If your loaf is larger than 1# or your kitchen is at all cool you may need to let the dough rest longer.

    Also make sure that you are slashing the dough deep enough so that it can open up nicely on the top without pulling the sides up. About 1/4″ deep slashes should do the trick.

    If you are not getting a crisp crust on the bottom, flip the bread over and bake for a few minutes with the bottom crust facing up.

    Thanks, Zoë

  16. Wonderful recipe! I’ve been making the basic for two weeks now and now have your book. My question is – my container is getting quite a bit of moisture and condensation in it – I just lay the lid on instead of pressing it down. I’m worried about mold – there was some liquid in the last batch I made but I’m thinking that is similar to what sour dough starters do. I just wanted to double check that this is ok – the bread came out wonderful, so the end result is just fine.

  17. Hi Chris,

    Yes, what you describe is totally within the range of normal for our dough. If you put the warm dough in the refrigerator you will end up with condensation on the inside of the bucket. I’ve recently let a batch go for 3 weeks in the refrigerator and it developed quite a bit of liquid. I just added a bit more flour and proceeded as normal. If there is no actual mold then it is absolutely fine to continue using.

    Thanks! Zoë

  18. I just started reading your book, and notice you say to add the yeast to the salt in the water. Everything I have ever read about bread baking is that you don’t put the salt with the yeast because it interferes with the yeast. Do you do this because of the amount of yeast the recipe calls for? If you mix the salt in with the flour instead, does it affect the results (good or bad)? I am really looking forward to the book, because I have been baking artisan bread for years but as a working mom it has gotten more and more challenging to have time to bake bread that takes 2 days to prepare.

  19. Rebecca: You’re right, every traditional book cautions against letting salt and yeast come into contact for very long. And it is true that salt inhibits yeast growth. But we’ve tested this over and over again– for this length of time (before putting in flour), the yeast do just fine and rise the batch beautifully. We throw everything in at once for convenience sake, because the easier and quicker that first step is, the more likely people will store dough and bake every day.

    It won’t make any difference at all if you mix the salt in with the flour, and if it’s equally convenient for you to do it that way, go for it!


  20. I found a nice 6 liter Rubbermaid covered container at The Container Store in St. Louis. This is a chain so I’m sure you could find this somewhere other than my landlocked area! It is square which I find a great space saver.

  21. Hi Nicole,

    That sounds perfect. Make sure to leave the lid cracked just a touch to allow the gases to escape.

    Thanks for the tip!


  22. Hi Zoe and Jeff,

    I’m reading through old posts, catching up on all I’ve missed while I’ve been playing with bread…

    In January, Joyce posted that she wasn’t fond of the removable dust jacket on the book. It was the first thing that I noticed when I bought the book, I just KNEW that I’d beat that dust jacket to death in my kitchen! BUT, in the past when I’ve had a book with a dust cover that I wanted to preserve, I have taken them to our public library and had them put one of their celophane covers onto the dust jacket. They charge a small fee, but it’s worth it to have a book with a jacket on it that will stand up to heavy use.

    What a compliment that we are ruining our dust jackets with heavy use!

    The problem with your book is that I can’t bear to send it away for a week or so–I’m too busy using it!

    Love the book,
    Julie from Duluth

  23. Hello Zoe and Jeff,

    I happen to have dough that is older than 14 days…(I know, unbelievable, but true). Is there a time frame that you would recommend NOT using the dough after? The dough looks perfectly fine aside from being a little wetter than when I initially made it.

    The dough could be as old as 20 days – I can’t exactly recall when I made this (very large!) batch.

    Thanks in advance.


  24. I’m relieved to know the gray color is nothing to worry about, but I am also having a second problem. I am using a 10 qt Rubbermaid container and leaving the lid ajar, but my dough always seems to form a tough skin after just a few days. I’ve made the bread with the skin and it has tough places in it. I’ve tried putting plastic wrap over the dough, gently pressing it down to actually make contact with the dough (but not airtight) with mixed success at avoiding the skin. I’ve only been making small batches, so I am wondering if there is too much air in the container even with the lid. Any suggestions?

  25. Hi, I love your book and have made many of the wonderful breads our favorite so far is the pumpernickel one. I do have a question. I have a friend who loves ‘crunch’ in the bread. Can one add seeds such as sunflower, poppy etc. Should I compensate with more water. I added more granola to the granola recipe and changed the crumb to much denser. Should I have added more water. My thanks for the book. We all love the breads .

  26. Wendi: Your guess about the small batch and the large container is a good one; maybe try to match the batch a little better to the container. But I’d also suggest that you seal the plastic container after the first loaf has been taken out of it and a day has passed. Gas production usually decreases enough by that point to allow you to do this without popping the container, and it will prevent the hard skin from forming. I’d have expected your plastic wrap idea to have handled this so try the alternatives and let us know how it works out. Jeff

  27. Marianne: It depends on whether your added seed absorbs much water. If they’re cracked wheat, it absorbs water over the next 24 hours, and you need to compensate, I’ve found– add a little more water and don’t use the dough until 24 hours have passed. Granola will behave this way too. But whole seeds won’t absorb a lot of water (sunflower or poppy). But it all depends on how much you add, so experiment and let us know how you make out. Jeff

  28. I have my first loaf of bread in the oven. (Fingers crossed) I used a round cake taker and just turned it upside down. There is enough head room to make two batches if I wanted to.

  29. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I bought this book after reading all about it on several food blogs. I wanted to thank you for saving me the 30 mile trip to the “good” bakery for bread–your master recipe is better and cheaper! Now I just need to practice my slashing technique–too much one time, too little the next. It may not be pretty, but it tastes fantastic!

  30. Jennifer– you’re welcome, so fun to hear from people. Check out the videos from our home page, at the top, for technique. Jeff

  31. I was so glad to see the container on the left in front of the tulips since that is the one I am using … and I was over thinking and stressing about using the right container.

  32. I’m glad to read about the gray dough. We made our first batch of boule bread dough a week ago, and haven’t used it since then, but it has been in the refrigerator since then. It was actually on the counter for several hours before we put it in the refrigerator, so I was worried about that. It is stored in a white bucket that once held ground flax seed that we buy in bulk. Our bread did not seem to rise very well and seemed a bit dense. Could it be because we used sea salt and forgot to decrease the salt by 1/4, or is it more likely to be the fact that we only use freshly ground hard white or red wheat? (We used hard white this time.) We cooked it from the freshly made (unrefrigerated) dough that had been allowed to rise for a couple of hours, then formed and cloaked and let rest on a wooden cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, as we don’t have a pizza peel. We slid this into the oven after letting it rest for 40 minutes and cooked it (on the parchment paper) on a cookie sheet) at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes. I know we should cut back on the salt next time, but is this dough ruined due to that? Also, should we try a lower temperature and/or more water due to using all fresh ground whole wheat? Or maybe a different recipe? Typically we make all our own bread using a Zojirushi bread machine and our recipe includes honey, powdered milk, oil and an egg. Thanks for any advice! Oh and one more question, could we add ground flax seed to the recipe? We usually use it in our regular bread. Thanks again!

  33. Tricia: Likely explanation was the hard wheat– requires more water; you’ll need to experiment. Likewise if you add ground flax– just keep the overall consistency the same, as in our videos and it should work better. Bottom line is that you can’t substitute high-protein or other heavier flours w/o a water adjustment.

  34. thank you for your reply I will use the sea salt and make my first try at this bread..thank you so much

  35. can you do this bread without the water in the broiler pan and just spritzing water on the loaf occaionally? to keep it crusty?

  36. Hi Terrie,

    Yes, you can certainly use a bottle to spritz the dough with water. We didn’t use that method because some people find it more labor intensive than the broiler tray with water. Both will end in a lovely crust!

    Enjoy, Zoë

  37. I just gave your bread concept a try and made my first basic batch one week ago. I have made three small loaves using this batch of dough with good result. The problem is that I noticed I have mold-looking stuff growing on my dough in the refrigerator along with a blackish looking liquid starting to accumulate – clearly not a good thing considering the dough is only 7 days old.

    I used a brand new container from King Arthur (pictured on the right) and cleaned and rinsed it throughly before mixing the dough in it. The book stressed over and over not to use an air tight container so I left the lid askew, could this be the reason for the mold?

    Eager to hear your answers.

    1. Hi LisaRene,

      Are you sure it is mold and not just a discoloration of the dough. The top of the dough may turn a darkish purple color and have the dark liquid and all of this is perfectly normal. It is just a byproduct from the yeast. It actually acts as a preservative for the dough, and is not at all dangerous. I’m surprised that you are having this so quickly and when you are using the dough so often. I usually get this when I have left the dough unattended for a few days in a row.

      Hope that helps! Zoë

  38. Zoe – Thanks for the quick response. Yes, my dough looked as you have described. It didn’t have actually fuzzy mold but had a blackish/speckled/moldy appearance with a purple/blackish liquid forming. After looking over past comments it seems others have expressed the same concerns with their dough. Sounds like it occurs about day 7 or so.

    It would be very valuable if you posted a color photo or two of the dough as it ages, showing it in this purple/liquid/discoloration stage as it would be very easy to mistake it for ruined dough.

    1. Lisa: Your second note here makes this a bit more difficult to tell what’s going on– you’ve used the word “speckled.” Mold doesn’t have to be fuzzy– any patchy growth on the surface is a problem– it can be light-colored or dark, fuzzy or smooth. So if the dough surface is “speckled,” with patches of any color, as you say, it could be mold and should be thrown out. Uniform darkening of the exposed dough surface (usually with dark liquid above) is not a problem. I’ll look for a batch that does this and try to photograph it.

      So: dark liquid and uniform dough discoloration isn’t a problem, but a patch or patches, in spots on the surface, definitely could be a problem. Jeff

  39. Just for those that are interested… I have found that Ikea carries a great storage container for bread dough. They have a lid that is not airtight and fit and stack nicely in the fridge. They are called Slugis and are located in the organization section at the store.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      I know Jeff has found some great food grade containers at Ikea and I have some great glass flour bins that I got there as well. Love Ikea!

      Thanks, Zoë

  40. I have a quick question about the Bran-Enriched White Bread recipe. (pg. 72) I notice the ingredient list calls for a cornstarch wash, but the directions don’t make any reference to this later. Could you comment on what a cornstarch was is and how/when to use it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Diane,

      It is a traditional wash to help achieve a glossy crust on the bread. In our second book we tested with and without it and realized that it was a step that didn’t achieve as much results for the effort. It turns out brushing the loaf with water does as good a job, with much less effort! 🙂

      Thank you! Zoë

  41. Hi Zoe and Jeff,
    I am new to bread baking and was really interested in trying the recipes from your book. Had a quick question though: I am trying to remove all plastic from my life, so I was thinking I could store the dough in two 4 qt pyrex mixing bowls covered by dinner plate, so that I can store them on top of each other in the refrigerator. Do you think it will work or should I use plastic wrap only.
    Thanks a bunch..

    1. Neelima: You can use glass, pyrex, stainless steel, glazed pottery (food-safe of course), and the plates are fine on top. They’ll vent just enough to prevent pressure buildup. May want to transfer to smaller bowls as you use it up if the surface seems to be drying.

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