Temperature of water for bread making

I have noticed that most bread recipes call for "tepid" water, but many artisinal books call for room temperature water. On last week's episode of America's Test Kitchen, I think that they (potentially) ruined all the careful hard work. They made a biga (excellent), but when they made the final dough they were using water that was more than hand hot. Probably around 110F. Clearly that will cause it to ferment faster, but other than that does it have any effects (good or bad)?
I know I am careful to use room temperature ingredients because it was the way I was taught. Certainly some of the fermentation is slow, but the products are generally pretty good.
Please weigh in with opinions, thoughts, ideas.....





ChefJune September 14, 2011
Ive been making bread for so many years I can't count them all, and I used to very carefully test the temp of the water to make sure it was "warm enough" without being too hot. Then I started teaching cooking (including bread making and pizza). One day a student mixed the yeast with water straight from the cold tap. The bread rose just fine, and in the time frame I needed it to. From then on, I have always used room temp water. That way there's not a chance I'll kill the yeast with water that's too hot.

These days I use SAF instant yeast, which you just mix right in with the flour. Cool"ish" water works just fine with it, and I never end up with a doorstop.
petitbleu September 14, 2011
I make a lovely sourdough bread with a very long rise. I always use cool, not cold, water. I like the sour flavor that the long rise gives the bread, and cool water keeps my rising time nice and slow. However, for breads with shorter rising times, don't hesitate to use room temperature or tepid water. It all depends on what kind of dough you're working with.
boulangere September 14, 2011
Cooler temperatures also result in a slower proofing time, which for those that are typically under the artisan umbrella (baguette, focaccia, ciabatta, for example), is ideal. You get lots of ancillary bacterial development in those long, slow proofing times. Too, heat is one of the by-products of fermentation, so stay with a cooler water and let the dough develop it's own little environment. Cool water probably shouldn't be over 80 degrees, and warm between 90 and 100. And by the by, I often don't agree with ATK.
Author Comment
As a brewer, temperature does control the flavors of the yeasts work. Hotter temperatures produce fruity sour esters. Like banana and coriander. Cooler temperatures might give a more complete digestion of the sugar leaving a cleaner flavor.
innoabrd September 14, 2011
I've always targeted warm to the touch, but not too hot. Needs some warmth to get the yeast moving, but too hot and you'll kill the yeast. Really, if you're using a fast-acting yeast (which is what I use) that you add to the dry ingredients before you add liquid, I have a hard time believing that the difference between warm and lukewarm would be significant given the volume of dry ingredients to liquid.
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