Differences Between Soakers: Cold Soak, Scald, & Mash

In regards to bread baking, soakers involve cooking or soaking a portion of the dough’s grains or flour with water, sometimes other liquids. Once matured, the soaker is then added to the final dough mix. In general, this process is performed to:


Super Soaker

No, not that kind of soaker


Cold Soak

Method: Cold soaks are prepared by combining cool to tepid water with flour, usually a day prior to dough production. The soaker is then rested at room temperature (below 30°C / 86°F) for several hours.

Ingredients: Flours with high enzymatic activity are best used for cold soaks. To prevent the development of off-flavours from extraneous fermentation, salt can also be added to cold soaks.

Salt Crystals

To delay fermentation or enzymatic activities, consider adding more salt



Method: Scalds are prepared by combining hot water (75°C / 167°F to 100°C / 212°F) with flour or grains. The soaker is then rested at room temperature (below 30°C / 86°F) for several hours.

Ingredients: Scalds are used when enzyme-deficient substances or tough materials are present. Examples include whole or cracked grain kernels and seeds. When such materials are soaked with hot water, parts of the starch is gelatinized and later degraded by active enzymes in the flour or grains.

Recipes with scalds:


Water Roux (Short Cooking)

Method: Also known as “tangzhong”, water roux is prepared by heating water and flour together for a brief period. This may result in partial or full starch gelatinization, which imparts a softer, moister bread crumb. Generally, the hotter the mixing temperature, the more successful the starch gelatinization is.

Ingredients: The more refined the flour, the better.

Recipes with water roux:

Diagram of hydrated starch granules and starch gel

Formation of starch gels
(Photo courtesy of Science and Food)


Mash (Long Cooking)

Method: Mashes are similar to water roux. However, the intended purpose of a mash is to convert starch into simpler sugars, not gelatinize the starch. This is done by heating the flour and water mixture for a few hours at around 66°C / 150°F. When flour is cooked in such a way, alpha-amylase enzymes remain intact while beta-amylase enzymes are denatured. Ultimately, mashes lend a sweeter flavour profile to breads.

Ingredients: Mashes typically use whole grain flour or coarse meal, but refined flour may also be acceptable.

Recipes with mashes:


1: Baking with Scalded Flour. Virtuous Bread.
2: Comparison of the Effects of Microbial a-Amylases and Scalded Flour on Bread Quality. ACTA Scientiarum Polonorum.
3: Mash, Scald or Cold Soak? Baking+Biscuit International.
4: Mash Vs. Water Roux. The Fresh Loaf.

Author: Zita (bakingbadly)
Published: June 17th, 2014
Last Modified: June 17th, 2014

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