Pumpkin rolls

pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Delicious at any time of the year, but particularly fitting to make for Halloween, these pumpkin rolls don’t just look the part, they taste it too as they’re made from a roasted pumpkin (or squash) dough.

I’ve written out the instructions (with some images) how to make these rolls into pumpkin shapes, but they can also be made into ‘normal’, round dinner rolls too. The dough is also marvellous when baked into a full sized loaf (top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra oomph).


It’s a bit tricky to cut up just the right amount of pumpkin/squash for this recipe, so I suggest using a whole, small pumpkin or butternut squash. Once roasted it’s easier to weigh out the correct amount and any that is surplus to the recipe can be used up elsewhere (freeze for later, turn into soup, add to a pasta dish, mix into mash potato for example).

You can skip the shaping instructions and just make round rolls if you prefer.

Do make sure you get rid of all the string before serving!


  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Linen tea towel
  • Two large baking trays
  • Roasting tray
  • Sharp, large chef’s knife and potato peeler
  • Sieve (not fine gauge) and large spoon
  • Smaller bowl
  • Butchers/bakers string and scissors
  • Saucepan or microwavable bowl/jug (for warming the milk)
pumpkins - inksugarspice


  • 1 small pumpkin or squash (you will only need 120g once roasted, see notes above)
  • Strong white flour – 475g
  • Fresh yeast – 15g (or replace with fast action dried yeast – 7g)
  • Milk – 200g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon (plus extra for the pumpkin)
  • Black pepper – several turns
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of a good quality olive oil, I used Filippo Beri organic extra virgin olive oil (plus about another 3 tablespoons to drizzle on the pumpkin for roasting and to oil the bowl)


  • Warm your oven to 180C fan / 200 conventional / 400F
  • Halve the pumpkin or squash and scoop out the seeds
  • Take the skin off the pumpkin and cut into large chunks (about 3-4cm)
  • Spread the pumpkin pieces out into your roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, about three tablespoons’ worth and then sprinkle with some salt
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. The pumpkin pieces should be soft when pressed with a fork or spoon. If they are not ready, leave in for another 10 minute
  • When ready, leave the pumpkin pieces to cool a little until you can handle them
  • While the pumpkin is cooling, gently warm the milk in a microwave or a saucepan a little and stir in the yeast. Leave this to one side while you prep the pumpkin flesh
  • When the pumpkin flesh has cooled enough to handle (but is still warm), press the pumpkin through the sieve into the smaller bowl. It’s easiest to press it through wi th the back of a large spoon. This will remove any little crispy edges that you wouldn’t want in your bread and break down the fibres so that it incorporates into the dough more thoroughly
  • Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, mashed pumpkin, olive oil and the milk/yeast mixture in your large bowl
  • Once combined roughly, tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly because of the pumpkin flesh, so knead it for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl seam side down and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
  • Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
  • Divide your dough in to eight equal pieces
  • Cut up eight pieces of the butcher’s string – each about a metre long
  • Taking one of the pieces of dough, shape into a ball
  • [See the images below for the following steps) Take the string and its centre point over the middle of the ball of dough, flip the dough over and make a loop round the dough and finish with a little twist of the string – your ball of dough should have a loop over it. Make sure you come back to the middle of the ball of dough and ensure the string is not tight or cutting into the dough
  • Twist the string and repeat another loop at 90 degrees to the first, so the ball of dough looks like a parcel
  • Repeat twice more, keeping the string between the first two loops – so that the ball of dough is eventually sectioned into eight wedge shapes. Tie off loosely and trim off the ends of the string
How to tie up the pumpkin rolls with string so they get that quintessential pumpkin shape when baked - inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread
  • Place the dough ball on a floured baking tray
  • Repeat with the remaining seven balls of dough
  • Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, until the dough has started to rise through the string and created a pumpkin shape
  • While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240F conventional / 475F
  • When the rolls are ready, place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 200C fan / 220C conventional / 400F
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
  • Leave to cool and when cold, snip off the string from the underside of the roll and pull through the threads to ensure there is no string left before serving
pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Nine top tips on artful bread scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses with flower scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses

I’ve been known to share more than a few images of my bread with stylised scoring and detailed plaiting techniques… it’s lead to a few comments over time asking me for hints. I’ve sidestepped this for a while, assuming that there are plenty of other out there, way better than me posting about it. I still believe that, but as I do continue to get asked I thought I’d write a short piece on slashing bread.

ALL the photos in this article are breads made by me, to my own recipes or to the tried and trusted standard loaf ratio: 400g flour, 5g yeast, 5g salt, 280ml water – or a slight variant thereof.

Some are flavoured, a few are sourdough. Notice that none of my scored loaves have large inclusions like fruit in or are of a brioche-style. A few have flavourings or malt flakes or flours other than strong white bread flour. This is because some recipes don’t really align themselves with slashing: strong sourdoughs, enriched breads, breads thick with inclusions like Bara Brith, composite breads or plaited or styled breads should all be left as they are already gorgeous and don’t slash well.

One exception is a rolled, enriched loaf with fillings which is simply cut in order to show off the fillings, such as this wild garlic scroll:

Wild garlic bread in a slashed scroll form

Wild garlic scroll

Best choose a ‘standard’, fairly simple loaf in a simple shape: a cob/boule, a bâtard, a bloomer, a stick etc to start off with and learn which recipes work as you progress. For a list of common breads shapes please see my article Bread shapes – making at home

So here are my top seven tips to bread scoring…

ONE: Have a sharp blade. A VERY sharp blade

A sharp blade slices through the sticky bread dough – using a blunt blade will drag and tear the ‘skin’ of the loaf. While a loaf is proving, the outer skin will dry somewhat, useful for keeping the shape of the loaf intact and for your scoring definition. This skin is minimal and your blade will cut through it and into the wetter dough underneath. If your blade is blunt it will catch and drag as you slice through the dough, causing puckering. It will also make manoeuvring the blade round corners and curves more difficult for you and can even mean you have to ‘re-cut’ the same cut over and over, which results in a very jagged and messy pattern.

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

You can use a strop and chalk to keep your blades sharper for longer (as for keeping leather and wood working tools sharp) but even if you do this, eventually your blades will need to be replaced. If you don’t use a strop then your blades will need replacing very frequently. Be careful to dispose of them safely and correctly.

Also, the thinner the blade the easier it is to use to cut and the less likely it is to drag. So, while you can get reasonable straight cuts from a highly sharpened normal kitchen knife (forget using one unless you’ve just sharpened it especially), it will only be good for basic straight cuts, like a cross. I have a locking No. 8 Opinel knife I keep exceptionally sharp that I use when I go on a self catering holiday – I confess I try and bake even when I’m away (the pouch ear bread below was baked in a holiday let kitchen!), although that also doubles up as my foraging knife.

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

Which blade to use? Craft knives and scalpel blades are effective, very sharp, cheap and easy to get hold of, store well and are my go-to blade of choice.

Razor blades – these are fab but lethal! You can get the traditional double blade cutthroat razor type (which usually are popped onto a grignette) and the safety type, which has only one sharp side. These are brilliant, but tricky to get used to employing without slicing off a layer of skin. If you’re using a double-edged blade on it’s own without a holder/grignette be careful! The best way to pick it up is between thumb and finger on the short edges only and watch out how you score as you’ll be exposing that flap of skin between your thumb and forefinger to the edge of the blade. Avoid if you’re worried and stick to a craft knife!!

Grignettes and lames: a grignette is the holder (with or without the blade in it) and a lame is just the blade. This is basically the go-to set up for creating slashes with height and forcing curvature on the bread cut. This occurs because (typically, but not always) the lame is placed slightly bent into the grignette, creating a curved blade. Using this curve opens up the cut at an angle as well as slicing downwards through the dough. This gives the skin of the loaf room to lift away from the bread causing maximum expansion. Really typical for use to create ear/pouch cuts and for baguette slicing.

Here is a short video I made on my YouTube Channel about making your own DIY baker’s blade:

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette - notice how it's got maximum expansion and ripped the 'ear' away from the loaf

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette – notice how it’s achieved maximum expansion and ripped the ‘ear’ away from the loaf

TWO: Lubricate the blade

Another way to stop the drag on the dough is to lubricate the blade. You don’t need this every time, but it’s helpful if you have a particular dough with a high hydration level. You can lubricate with water or with oil (any cooking oil is fine). If you use water, tap off the excess (without wiping dry) as the addition of extra hydration can cause the loaf to expand in ways you’re not expecting! With practice, you can get used to the way that this adds additional expansion to cuts in the loaf – sometimes I hydrate a blade on some cuts and not others. The oiling technique is more even and reliable, but don’t have the blade dripping in oil. The way I do it is to oil a sheet of kitchen towel and then swipe both slides of the blade over the oil.

Stoneground organic flour loaf with another of my Union Jack slashes

Stoneground organic flour loaf with one of my signature Union Jack slashes

THREE: Pre-plan if you’re not sure

The worst thing to do is hovering over the loaf, blade in hand thinking “What do I do?”. At least have an image in your mind before you start, or know the shape of the cuts you’re going to make (as in I’m going to make a stripy, freeform cut loaf). The best thing is to get some inspiration and to make a little sketch first.

I’ve gathered some of my own and others’ beautiful breads on a Pinterest board, which may help give your ideas or you can copy from (there are also other pretty breads that are not slashed on here).

And start with the basics, do something like a cross or a chequerboard design to begin with: it’s all just straight lines but looks totally impressive!

stoneground checquerboard cut loaf - simple straight cuts but totally effective

A stoneground checquerboard-cut loaf – simple straight cuts which are the easiest to achieve but give a totally effective and impressive slashed loaf

Graduate to something freeform and swirly (as below – no pre-planning) to get used to turning the blade, then just go for it! Make lots of lovely bread and practice, practice. Who cares if your first few are a bit wonky? It’ll still taste lovely and with each loaf you’ll improve.

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I've purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I’ve purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface

FOUR: Flouring … or not

While you can score any rounded-off loaf you’ve made without doing anything else to it, you will get the most dramatic results when there is a colour contrast between what has been cut and areas that are intact. (See the honey loaf above for a dramatic contrast example). In order to facilitate this, the easiest thing to do is to flour your proved loaf, smooth the flour into the skin of the dough. While you are doing this it helps to brush off excess flour and to ensure that flour is evenly distributed and not blotchy/patchy. White flour gives the most impact between itself and the cut marks, as they brown in the oven. You’ll get a white-ish background and a toasty-brown pattern. That said, experiment with other flours and vegetable powders.

Beet powder covered loaf, scored with a clover leaf pattern

A loaf covered in beetroot powder and scored with a cloverleaf design – the beet powder bakes very hard and can sometimes crack (as you can see). I now mix beetroot powder with a little maize flour, which helps counteract this cracking

Also, bear in mind that some doughs themselves will affect how visible the cuts are. How browned will the dough be after baking, have you added vegetables or fruit to it? Will it be very dark – or quite light?

Union Jack slash - this is pretty much my signature bread art! I've posted many loaves with these slash marks on in Instagram

Union Jack slash – this is pretty much my signature bread art! I’ve posted many loaves with this scoring design on Instagram

It’s similar to the consideration that the use of colours for typefaces on a web page requires where you have to think of visible accessibility: will the background help the foreground stand out or will it all merge together? Also, for some slashing this contrast doesn’t even matter – baguettes, pouch ear slashes, checquerboards and many others don’t need this layer of flour dusting as the expanded cuts are so visible the contrast isn’t needed.

Spelt sourdough baguettes - no extra flouring needed here: the slashes are wide and defined

Spelt sourdough baguettes – no extra flouring needed here as the slashes are wide and defined anyway (notice how the slashes ever-so-slightly overlap each other – this stops the loaf from bulging too much around the slashes)

FIVE: Make sure the loaf is ready

Your loaf needs to be almost at the point where you are going to bake it when you slash it. It should respond/bounce back when lightly depressed with a fingertip. Don’t let your loaf over-prove when you aim to score a design into it, as given longer, the yeast creates more and more carbon dioxide and the air pockets in the dough get bigger and bigger (and then also the yeast fatigues). You risk popping an air pocket if you leave the bread to prove too long, plus over-proving means the bread might not rise further or worse still, collapse in the oven. And if it collapses, that means it’s doing the opposite of what you need: you need it to expand and show the slashes to good effect. If it collapses or fails to grow in the oven then you don’t see the effect.

If you want to know more about how yeast works in your bread, creating these air pockets (and a lot more besides) then please read my popular article on the Science of bread making – how yeast works.

Beet scored bread - Lynn Clark/inksugarspice

Leaf slash beetroot loaf

SIX: Go in with a little vigour!

Don’t faff about with your cutting – do it with aplomb! If you cut lightly and gently you risk not cutting deep enough to make any impact, making a lot of ragged cuts that need to be joined up (these produce messy slashes) or worse having to recut into a previous cut (these look a bit of a mess – I do know: I did this myself in the past). If you are nervous, again you could end up having to make many ragged, untidy cuts where one large be stroke of a blade would have been better. That all said, don’t turn in to Sweeney Todd and get all aggressive with it as this can be just as bad – see my next tip…

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes

SEVEN: Don’t cut too deeply

As bad as timid cuts look, at least you’ll still have a nice loaf of bread if you’re tentative. If you go in with a heavy hand you can cut deep into the air pockets and collapse that part of the loaf entirely! Sourdough and other slow prove loaves are riskier to cut than other breads as they have larger air pockets, so this increases the chance of even a shallow cut popping the air bubble and flattening the loaf. I only score a sourdough loaf where I am used to the recipe and I know that the air pockets aren’t massive. New recipes or ingredients in sourdoughs make me nervous of this and so I do not slash these – I leave them as they are to crack and expand on their own or I make a very shallow simple cut, or an angled cut (see the next tip) so that it doesn’t go too deep. You’ll get used to the heaviness of the dough and it’s number of air pockets as you bake more and score bread more – you’ll be able to judge how deep you cut and also what the effect of shallow and deep cuts will make on the expansion in the oven.

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash

EIGHT: The angle is important

How you hold the blade (whatever you’re using) matters. If you hold it perdendicular to the loaf you’ll cut straight and deep. Great for a precise and defined cut with a medium expansion in the oven. Many scores call for the blade to be angled about 30º which cuts in and under the skin of the loaf, effectively making a bit of a ‘pocket’ shape. Pouch or ear loaves are the perfect example of this on one long cut, but this technique can also be used on smaller cuts, and it creates a bulge opposite the ‘ear’ so you can use this knowledge to plan design shapes for slashing.

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the 'rays' and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre - an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects - you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn't affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the ‘rays’ and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre – an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects – you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn’t affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)

NINE: Rest the loaf briefly

I’ve found that if I’m after a good expansion on the slash marks then after scoring I rest the bread for about 3 – 5 minutes before popping it in the oven. Don’t leave it longer than that as you don’t want the loaf to over-prove and fail to rise or collapse. (See point 5 above). You must factor in this additional ‘rest’ period to the length of time of your second rise on your loaf, ensuring that it does not over-prove before baking.

Extra tip TEN: a visual tip

Here I am slashing a star pattern into a white and wholemeal loaf with added malt flakes. This type of loaf recipe is trickier to slash as the blade can get snagged on the malt flakes (you can just notice it happening). Can’t believe it was nearly three years ago I posted this little video to Instagram and Twitter! Here, I’ve used a surgical scalpel blade as the pattern includes some tight curves.

Happy slashing!! Just don’t say that in public or the police may well tail you – you can always placate them with a lovely slice off your pretty new loaf though 🙂

If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer but I’m no bread guru, just an enthusiastic hobby baker (although I confess I have been baking – and plaiting, slashing and stencilling – bread for over 30 years).

Slashed batch rolls

If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful please ‘like’ it or better still leave me a nice comment or even ask a question – thank you!

Science of bread making – how yeast works

So, being nosey as usual, after making a batch of spelt walnut loaf I thought I ought to learn a bit more about yeast and the bread fermentation process. I remembered some stuff about yeast from A-Level biology (yeast is one of the most researched and written about organisms going) and I’ve had a batch of sourdough starter yeast on the go for some while, which is fascinating to look at and use. This post is an amalgam of some of the descriptions of yeast and fermentation I’d found both in books, e-publications and websites. I’d urge you to go and look up any specific aspects of this you find interesting for more in-depth information than I’ve given. There’s tons of detail out there (in fact I got rather overwhelmed by the amount of specific information) and it’s really interesting! Oh, and go give your own ‘pet yeast’ project a try by growing a starter dough.

What is yeast?

Yeasts are single cell fungi and there are apparently around 1,500 species of yeast. They are prevalent everywhere, even in the air, which is why anyone can make a sourdough starter.

Only one of those 1,500 species is used for baking and beer making though, and this is Saccharomyces cerevisiae (pronounced sak-ka-roh-my-sees serra-viss-ee-i). The name comes from combined Greek and Latin origins of saccharo for sugar, myces for mould and cerevisiae for ‘pertaining to beer’. Its name represents the way that it thrives off sugar and can be used in the fermentation process for beer.

Although it’s the same species as Baker’s Yeast, Brewer’s Yeast is a slightly different strain. In the past (and you could still do this, if you had access to a brewery!) bakers used to skim off the yeast from the brewing process and use that for their bread.

How yeasts do what they do

Yeasts normally ‘breathe’ (respire) oxygen and reproduce by budding. If they come into contact with sugars (carbohydrates) and are starved of oxygen they start to behave very differently – fermentation.

We can start off fermentation in bread when we mix and knead the dough, as the yeast becomes trapped within the gluten structures and is deprived of air. The dough also provides the carbohydrates the yeast needs. The lack of oxygen and presence of sugars is the perfect environment for yeast fermentation and making bread.

During the fermentation process the yeast’s two enzymes (amylase and invertase) break down the complex carbohydrate molecules in the flour into simpler sugar molecules. The yeast then consumes the sugar and carbon dioxide and alcohol (ethanol) are produced as ‘waste’. If there are more sugars than the yeast needs the result is a sweeter bread – this is controlled by the type of grain used (some grains have more carbohydrate than others) and with the additional of extra sugars in sweet dough, for example, a Kugelhopf or Chelsea buns.

The ‘waste’ carbon dioxide of course isn’t really waste to us at all. This is what causes the rise in leavened bread. The carbon dioxide is caught as bubbles within the gluten strands and puffs up the dough. The alcohol that is given off at the same time gives the dough flavour – a slow rising process (in a cooler environment) will result in more flavour.

So should we be worried that bread has living organisms, carbon dioxide and alcohol? For a start, you’ll be ingesting and breathing in yeast almost constantly, as we explored earlier yeast is everywhere, not just in your bread. Don’t be worried – not only would you not get leavened bread without them, but during the baking process bread the heat will kill off the yeast and evaporate the alcohol and carbon dioxide. All that will be left is the holes where the gas and alcohol had been – which gives you the lovely spongy, holey texture of a well-risen loaf.

Do we need to really knead and knock-back anymore?

A growing movement in baking, spearheaded by a number of bakers including Dan Lepard, Richard Berninet, Mark Bittman etc, is to treat bread with less intervention but more reverently – although this makes it appear that it is a modern technique. This not strictly true, as part of this new philosphy, the autolyse process, was developed and named by Raymond Calvel, a French chemist who, amongst other things, instructed Julia Child on bread as she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking [1961] with Simone Beck. However, I don’t think this dimishes the contribution our modern famous-name bakers play, as it took them to perfect and promote such techniques and attitudes that they are now understood and adopted.

For autolyse to occur, flour and water is given the most minimal kneading and/or a folding technique to ensure the incorporation of all the flour and then left to rest to start the fermentation process. This eliminates the ‘hard work’ part of the first few minutes of normal (non autolyse process) knead, and making it easier, however, the autolyse process does need around 20-30 minutes (some say much more). So while it’s less physical work, the bread making will take longer

I went to a session on bread making by a famous baker where he asked why would you knock back all the air that you’ve so lovingly tried to incorporate? I’ve not been able to find out about as yet is how this affects the original explanation of reducing the increased amount of carbon dioxide via the knock-back. As explained below, knocking-back is supposed to get rid of any very large holes – but it seems that without knocking back you don’t necessarily get giant holes anyway. Maybe less kneading means the yeast works slightly less vigorously producing more even (and therefore desirable) holes in the first place? And if you get very large holes, does it matter? Perhaps the carbon dioxide releases during baking or that cutting the loaf and exposing the pockets of gas to air simply eliminates this problem or, simply, it wasn’t such an issue as people thought in the first place?

I’m unclear on all this – I’ve tried many loaves with no knock-back, some or lots of dough-based violence: I can’t conclude anything concrete. I think a choice on how vigorous to knock back actually affects my bread way less than other things like atmospheric conditions, ingredients or especially the type of recipe. I can’t tell you for certain, but I believe a gentle knock back seems to work most consistently and that’s what I tend to stick with.

Why was knocking-back bread used if we want the yeast to make the dough rise?

The thoughts behind using knocking-back are mainly based around the pockets of carbon dioxide gas that fermenting yeast can create during the initial proving process. Huge holes aren’t seen as desirable in a loaf – not great for toast or sandwiches, but lots of mall and medium-sized holes are very de-rigueur now (during the second world war in the UK getting a holey slice of bread felt to people like they were getting cheated out of their bread allowance, so it became imprinted on the UK psyche that holes = bad). Knocking back bursts these larger pockets of aire and helps distribute the carbon dioxide, the alcohol, the yeast and any sugar molecules left through the dough. The process is also supposed to re-activate the yeast, giving it a ‘second wind’ to go on and ferment the remaining sugars, but this is becoming seen as less important now the trend is to left the dough rise sufficiently (but not over rise) in the first place. Typically, the second proving stage after knocking back is shorter because the yeast is exhausted and less vigorous so there is little chance of large holes developing at this stage – but equally less chance of a decent rise if you’ve bashed the hell out of your loaf. Still, done correctly and with a big less vigour the traditional way of making bread still produces wonderful loaves – the trick is to pick the technique to match the recipe and give the no-kneading approach a go to see how it works for you.

What affects yeast

Overwhelming the yeast with salt

Adding salt directly onto the yeast can inhibit or even kill it in extreme cases. So, best to add salt into the bowl after the flour and/or water has already been put in. You can easily reduce the amount of salt in a bread recipe if you are trying to cut down, as salt isn’t part of the fermentation process – it’s only there so you can taste salt in your bread!

High temperatures

A warm room and the yeast will become nice and active. However, too hot and the yeast can’t cope. If you’ve had a loaf that won’t rise chances are you used milk or water (dependant on your recipe) that was overly hot. You can use cold liquids (rather than the warm usually specified) – the kneading process will create friction, and therefore heat, to activate the yeast anyway. Yeast will die at anything around or above 50C (122F). An ideal temperature for yeast is around 30-35C (86-95F).

Cold temperatures

Actually, cold doesn’t kill yeast (well, aparently it does eventually ‘mostly’ die off at about -40C – see Temperature and Life by Herbert Precht). However, less severe cold will slow fermentation right down so keep your sourdough starter in the fridge to stop it being lively, if you’re not making bread that often.

Fresh yeast can actually be frozen in a domestic freezer as the extreme low temperatures put the yeast into dormancy and, after raising to the right temperature, it’ll spring back into life. (There is a caveat on this in that apparently some of the yeast will die off but there will be enough in dormancy to survice to restart the culture). I keep frozen blobs of my starter culture in the freezer, so if I lose my live culture (such as when I go on holiday) I can restart very, very easily. See Sourdough for starters (or grow your own pet yeast) for more on this.

You can safely let a bread rise somewhere fairly cool but it’ll just take longer (probably overnight). Some recipes call for the dough to be placed in a fridge/cool place anyway to slow the fermentation process down and create a more mellow yet deeper flavour.

If you’ve got a cold environment but can’t afford to wait overnight, there are some excellent tips on Epicurious’s Bread Recipes and Tips page – see section 4.Proofing about getting round the cold and speeding up fermentation.