The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is the term for this period of rest?

DrPr's picture

What is the term for this period of rest?

When a proofed dough is removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rest until it reaches room temperature, what is this period of rest called?  I'm not really proofing it again, am I?

LindyD's picture

Hi DrPr, I think it is part of the final fermentation.  According to Hamelman, the stages of fermentation are:  preferment (optional), bulk (primary) fermentation, bench rest, final fermentation - and oven spring..

There is no need to bring a retarded dough to room temperature before baking. If the dough is just about fully risen when removed from the cooler, you'll wind up with flat bread if you wait for the dough to warm to room temp.

Give the yeast a chance to do their final dance and load the bread when it is around 85-90 percent risen.  With good steam (or Susan's magic bowl technique), you'll get great oven spring.

dghdctr's picture


Lindy's reference of Jeff Hamelman's descriptions are probably accurate, but first we have to define just what you're pulling out of the 'fridge before we define what sort of fermentation is occurring.

Is it a shaped loaf?  Or is it a bulk dough that hasn't yet been shaped?  You call it simply a "dough", so I can't quite tell which one you mean.

Also -- "proofing" is the term used for letting shaped loaves re-inflate sufficiently before baking them.  It should not be applied to any other period of fermentation.

When you put any kind of dough (or shaped dough) in the 'fridge, you are "retarding" it's fermentation.  That is to say, you're purposely slowing things down.  Retarding bulk dough is less of a problem than retarding shaped loaves, because with bulk dough you don't have to worry if the thing collapses.

My gut tells me you were referring to a bulk dough in your refrigerator.  If that's the case, then you probably should remove it from the container (don't fold it over itself -- leave it loose), and then divide it into rectangular or square portions.  Flour them very lightly and cover first with a towel, and then with plastic to avoid the development of a skin on the portions.  Let them warm up to about 60 degrees F or so.  If they're too cold before shaping, they will not be extensible enough to shape properly.

That period of re-warming a bulk dough after it has been retarded has no separate name to it.  It's essentially just the ending of the bulk fermentation.  Retarding a bulk dough really just extends bulk fermentation.

When you retard shaped loaves in the refrigerator, you're extending the "proofing" period, and it's only purpose is to slow down the final proofing process.  Some bakers will disagree about whether or not it is necessary to allow retarded shaped loaves to warm up a bit before baking.  In my experience, it isn't really necessary unless the loaves didn't rise enough in the refrigerator.  Your biggest worry should be getting the loaves in the oven before they collapse.  If they have grown sufficiently, the loaves are best loaded right away before risking any collapse, in my opinion.

That may be more answer than you asked for, but I hope your question was answered.

Dan DiMuzio -- former executive baker, baking instructor