The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question re: Proofing Following Overnight Refrigeration

Greg D's picture
Greg D

Question re: Proofing Following Overnight Refrigeration

I am a big fan of Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb except that many of his foundation breads require overnight retardation in the refrigerator followed by next-day warming and proofing before baking.  I am finding that when I pull the dough out of the refer it takes hours and hours to warm up and proof to the point I can bake it.  Part of the problem may be that in winter our house is barely 68 degrees F on a good day (thanks to my environmentally conscious wife) so everything takes forever to warm up. 

The six or seven hour warm up period following refrigeration is too long for me to be able to bake regularly and still make it to my day job.  Two questions:  #1 - Our new(ish) electric wall oven has a "bread proofing cycle" @ 100 degrees F with a fan- can I use that cycle to speed up the process of bringing the dough from refrigerator temp to where it is ready to bake?  #2 - I generally proof on half-sheet pans covered by big plastic bags and my wife the scientist is concerned that if I leave the bread dough in the plastic bags and put the entire half-sheet pan (and bag) into the oven and use the oven bread proof cycle, the plastic bags may "off gas" something bad into the bread and/or oven.  But I am concerned that if I put uncovered bread dough into a 100 degree proof cycle for an hour or longer it may dry out too much.

I am experimenting right now with using the proof cycle to replace hours of waiting around, but am interested in the experience of others (and also answers to the "off gassing" question if anybody has any ideas).

Thanks for ideas or comments.

wally's picture


It's unclear to me whether you are refrigerating shaped loaves that have fermented, or bulk refrigerating dough that must then be shaped and proofed prior to baking.

If it's the former, you can bake those loaves right out of the refrigerator once your oven/stone has preheated.  If the latter, however, then proofing is drawn out because the dough is so cold.  A proofer, such as you describe, will shorten the process, but you do not want to put uncovered loaves into it unless you include a steam source (bowl of hot water, e.g., that you will have to replenish as it cools).

Good luck,


autopi's picture

i.e. bulk ferment after mixing/kneading the dough, shape and then put in the fridge for overnight retarding. then, as larry says, you can just pop the shaped and proofed loaves in the oven in the AM.

Greg D's picture
Greg D

I am refrigerating bulk dough and then shaping in the morning after removal from overnight refrigeration.  I will play around with shaping dough before overnight refrigeration and also with putting a pan of hot water into the oven as a moisture source when using the bread proof setting.  Thanks for the input. 


ldavis47's picture

You might be able to find food grade bags. 

Also the proofing temperature of 100 is high and may encourage "off" flavors. I have a similar bread rising setting but can lower the temperature to 90. The optimum temp is usually around 75' so I end up turning on the oven light and turning off the oven after raising the temperature to 90 initially and the cold dough brings the temp back down to about 70. In winter I sometimes have to repeat warming the oven. 


Farmpride's picture

looks like you already got some good advice here,  I regularly use the fridge in my shop, especially for sweet goods, and for all them i put the doughs in the fridge immediately after mixing in bulk and cover with plastic, then i work them the next day, or even days later.... but bread is a bit different as for the most part it is so much leaner.. so i would lean to giving a short initial proof after mixing, shape the loaves and then bake as they are ready. i like to lightly wash the loaves with oil, this will help keep the crust from drying out, (still covered) if it develops a crust in the fridge (most refers are designed to remove moister from the air) it will not move much... it is all a matter of the day...<big grin>, each day and each batch has it's own mind, and you must ..and will develop that sense and flexibility to go with that flow. for "me" i would also add an ounce of sugar or 1 1/4 to your 700gr of water. and just a tad bit more yeast if the bread is still to slow. asked about the proof cabinet... like another said, use water in it for sure, again i like to use oil on the loaves, or use an egg wash, never naked unless you can generate steam. and i would go with your wife here and don't use plastic in the proofing cabinet, beside the issue she mentioned, if the plastic ends up sticking to the bread that is a major bummer and getting it off will wreck your day. not such an issue in the fridge especially if you oil the loaf also...trial and error, blood sweat and tears, that is part of what makes this such a fun trade/hobby, the challenge, the fact that it is not the same every day.


dabrownman's picture

been using a heating pad under the half sheet pan with the bread in a bag on top and covering the whole ything in a bath towel.  By using the low setting and putting what ever towels on top of the pad required to hold 80 F it is a real nice thing to have to speed things up in the morning,.

I can then let the dough, already shaped and in baskets, sit in the fridge for up to 40 hours to proof properly and bake straight out of the fridge.   Or I can get up a few hours early take the bread out and put into the heating pad setup, say at 4 in the morning and then by 7 AM or so it is ready to bake all warmed up and ready for a hot oven.  I like retarding after shaping and and proofing about an hour and a half on the bench before retarding.  It gives me the most flexibility of when I want to bake 12, 24, 30, 36 or 40 hours later - with a heating pad set up to speed things along if necessary.

hanseata's picture

I bulk retard almost all the doughs overnight in the fridge. My inner alarm clock wakes me up at 4 am, I sleepily remove the containers from the refrigerator, and usually start shaping the first batch around 6 am. My kitchen is not any warmer than yours. My question: how cold is your refrigerator? It shouldn't be colder than 40 F. The doughs I make from Peter Reinhart's recipes all rise sufficiently overnight, and two hours is enough for them to de-chill. More rising is usually not necessary (except for Pain a l'Ancienne dough.)

To warm them up or proof shaped loaves faster you can use the oven, but with the light on only. And either place a pot with boiling water inside to prevent a skin from forming, or spray them with oil and cover them with plastic wrap. If oven light is the only heat source, the plastic will not emit harmful substances. Plastic wrap is, to my knowledge, food safe, anyway.


Sondelys's picture

I used the Tartine Bread method . Everything seems all right except that after 12 hours to 15 hours in the fridge the dough remains exactly the same as when I put it the night before . In the morning I have to warm it up 2-3 hours to room temp. In order to have a bit of  rising movement . I get  a light to moderate oven spring . Should I expect the dough to rise  during the retard proofing ? Or no ? N.B. The main reason I use retard proofing is to get a more sour taste . My fridge is at about 4C . Thank you for your expertise 

Sondelys's picture

No clues ?Not even a little one ? :(((


jimbtv's picture

If I am going to retard the proofing stage I plan on going straight from the chiller to the oven. I have not had great success with bringing a proofed loaf back up to room temperature. For me, and generally-speaking, the gluten doesn't hold up well during those last couple of hours of changing temperatures.

Experimentation is the key so I might suggest you maybe proof a little longer before you put the dough in the chiller, then go straight from the chiller into the oven. It works well for me.



Sondelys's picture

....either you put the dough right away in the fridge after shaping ....(at least this is what I have been reading in books it would slowly develop all the flavours ...and this my point of view and of interest  ).   OR  as you say you can leave the loaf ready to proof a couple or 3 hours at room temp .   then retard if you have no time to bake ?but then the dough doesn't Develop the same

thank you for your reply Jim 

but I still need some enlightenings about this enigma

jimbtv's picture

Keep in mind that the fermentation activity does still occur in the chiller - just much more slowly. Flavor development is an added bonus to a retardation and sourness is usually an end result. It seems that the cold triggers the LAB to produce more acids.

As I have mentioned in other posts, gluten development is running on one clock and flavor development is running on another. The key is to have them peak at the same time. This is not an easy thing to do because much is working against you... time, temperature, handling, humidity... and any change in the variables will affect the end result. This is why I mentioned experimentation. You may have to run through several ferments/bakes to get things dialed in.

In any case, the resultant bread will still taste good!