The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Retarding Dough How-To

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Retarding Dough How-To

I had great success with overnight retarding of my ciabatta dough.  The flavor was sweet and nutty, the crust turned to a beautiful golden brown, and I got great big holes.  I thought that trying an overnight stay in the fridge for my rustic bread would yield similar results.  But I tried it this Saturday and my dough ended up with small uniform air pockets, and lacked in the rich develoepd taste of the ciabatta.


So I'm wondering what's the secret to overnight retarding of dough?  How long does it need to warm back up?  Should you knead once then put in the fridge, or knead twice and form?  Should you use a poolish, as I did, or just mix all the ingredients and then retard the dough?


I think this method has a lot of promise, but I'm wondering how everyone else does it.  Many thanks!


 


-Peter

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Hi Peter -



So I'm wondering what's the secret to overnight retarding of dough?  How long does it need to warm back up?



How long it takes depends on individual factors for each recipe. Rich doughs and lean doughs come up to tempertaure at different rates, but the biggest factor is the amount of dough you're dealing with. One small boule will come up to temp much faster than a 1.2 kg batch. You have to experiment...


- Keith

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Hi Keith,


Thanks for the response.  Yes, I understand that dough size and type will affect the length of time it takes to warm up.  Should I wait until the dough is 60 degrees, 70, 72?  If I've let it rise once, then punched down and put into the fridge, should I let it rise again as it warms, then punch down and do a third rise?  Is the goal to have it come to room temperature?  Experimenting is great, but with a three-day build for my rustic bread, I can only try something twice a week.


For the purposes of this discussion, assume a 1kg rustic bread, lean dough, 70% hydration.


 


-Peter

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Recently I baked a favorite bread: D. DiMuzio's SF-like SD, firm levain version. As close as possible I duplicated my previous process steps, temperatures, etc. I did make one significant temperature change building this baking's fresh starter, but I am certain it had negligent influence over the outcome of this anecdote, probably none.


It was only during bulk fermentation I made a significant change.


A couple of years ago I converted a clothes closet into a wine closet--it's too small to call a wine cellar--that is maintained at 55°F. Instead of putting the dough into my refrigerator (~42°F) were I retarded all previous bakings of this formula, I put it into my wine closet, and monitored it closely. Normally, as the 1700g of dough cools down CO2 production continues, and I get about 1.5x volume increase before the cooling dough reaches near dormant activity; i.e., no further significant volume increase. I allow the dough to warm for about 3 hours before turning it out for shaping and final proofing. However, at 55°F the dough had doubled in volume after 7 hours. I removed it from the wine closet and transferred it to the refrigerator. Minutes after I transferred it I decided to bake a small loaf immediately, and let the balance of the dough rest overnight. I reasoned that if the dough continued to change, for the worst, I would at least salvage one loaf. I removed 730g of dough, and preshaped it immediatly, let it rest for 30 minutes, and final shaped it and placed it in a round brotform to proof. Final proofing took three hours--I test proof completion by poke-testing the dough. Interestingly, the remaining refrigerated dough showed little or no further expansion during the time I was still monitoring it. I baked the loaf using the usual procedures and temperatures. The loaf exhibited the same oven spring, and crust as previous bakings, although it had taken five more minutes to reach an internal 205°F temperature; I think the loaf's core temperature was still lower than room temperature after final proofing.  i went to bed.


The next morning the dough had expanded slightly more overnight, but only slightly. I ferment my doughs in a vertically sided clear-plastic container, so estimating dough expansiion is quite easy. I let it warm the usual thee hours, finding many large--plum-size--gas bubbles on the surface of the now approximately 2.5x expanded dough. I gently deflated the dough, preshaped, rested, and shaped it into a boule. Final proofing took only 1.5 hours. Baking resulted in a loaf with oven spring, crust, and crumb (this one we are eating the last of today) essentially the same as all previous bakings, including its flavor.


I think a reasonable conclusion is there isn't any magic time or temperature to de-chill the dough so long as you pay attention to how the dough is behaving, especially, in this case, in final proofing. In fact, I think what occured reinforces the guidance heard from many bakers, pros and amateurs, to learn the smell and feel and look of your dough along its journey from bits and parts to the flnal loaf.


You also asked about kneading. After initial mixing, usually five to eight minutes on low, I let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes, then stretch-and-fold it once, and put it in the proof box, and if Im going to retard the fermentation, the refrigerator. Thereafter, I check its extensibility and "feel" every 45 minutes, and perform, or not, another S&F depending on my judgement of its gluten development. This dough--10% whole wheat flour, 68% hydration, retarded--has always required three S&F's before I'm satisfied. Another dough I'm learning--classic baguettes--all white bread flour, 72% hydration--seems to do well on a single stretch-and-fold, bulk fermenting at room temperature. The obvious conclusion: different doughs behave differently. Smell, touch, and look again. We have to learn the idiosyncrasies of each dough. I haven't, for example, worked up the courage yet to tackle sour rye:-)


Good baking to you,


David G


 


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

There is no "secret." Or, if there is one, I don't know it.


I've made several different breads where the recipes calls for cold retardation during bulk fermentation. The methods differ though.


Nury's Light Rye is allowed to double before retarding.


Bouabsa's baguettes (and my San Joaquin Sourdough) are fermented on the bench with repeated folds for an hour or more but not allowed to fully expand before retarding.


Gosselin's baguettes (the original method, not Reinhart's) is mixed (with ice water at that) and immediately retarded.


Some methods which have a long cold retardation in bulk call for completing fermentation (to doubling) on the bench before dividing (Gosselin). Some call for dividing immediately after the dough is taken out of the fridge and then "resting" the pre-shaped pieces for an hour before shaping and proofing (Bouabsa). Other methods call for allowing the dough to come to room temperature, then immediately dividing and baking without any further shaping or proofing (Nury).


The darn thing is, all of these make outstanding breads.


One generalization I can make is that retarding in bulk results in a looser, more extensible dough. I assume this is because of gluten degradation due to protease action. But the gluten is not so degraded that the crumb structure is hurt.


Please note that my examples are all of breads that are retarded in bulk. Retardation of formed loaves is another story, in my experience.


David

Yippee's picture
Yippee


Retardation of formed loaves is another story, in my experience.



David:


Could you please elaborate? Thanks.


Yippee


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

David,


I've found a lot of retarded bulk fermentation information and advice here and elsewhere online, but very little on final proof retarding. Like Yippee, I'd like to know more.


Thanks,


David G

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi David G. and Yippee,


Many of Jeffrey Hamelman's sourdough recipes include an option to retard the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge. This allows the bacteria to "catch up" with the yeast and generally intensifies the sourness of these loaves.


There has been a lot of discussion on TFL (search the archives!) about how long such dough requires at room temperature, after removal from the fridge, before baking. Hamelman himself suggests that less is more in this case (i.e. he doesn't favor letting the dough come to room temp, as the chance is greater the dough won't spring up in the oven, or worse, a flat loaf will result). Others say the colder dough in the center of the loaf will need more bake time and this may adversely affect the crust.


Having used this technique to good effect on many occasions, I recommend it, so if you haven't tried it, by all means do. N.B. with wetter doughs I tend to underproof at room temp and let the final proof-rising happen in the fridge. Also, use of a "magic bowl" or roaster pan lid during the initial baking period cancels the possibly adverse crust effect mentioned earlier, in my estimation.


HTH!


David

davidg618's picture
davidg618

David,


I knew asking you would get me a good answer. I'm baking baguettes next, so I won't try it there, but next SF-like SD boule get's the treatment.


David G

Yippee's picture
Yippee

 David. 


In Hamelman's recipes calling for retardation of shaped loaves at final proof, is the dough also retarded at bulk fermentation as well? 


Do people normally retard their dough during one or the other stage but not at both? Any additional benefits you can think of if it's done at both stages?


By the way, what do N.B. and HTH stand for? There is so much to learn here, including acronyms. 


Yippee

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Hope this helps


Nota bene

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Pamela.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

A pro baker may decide to retard their bulk dough or their loaves, or both, but most (I'm not saying all) would choose to do it for purposes of convenience and creating a production schedule that pairs well with their bakery's size and/or staffing needs.  Retarding hundreds of finished loaves, especially, is not a casual process.  It is fairly risky with conventionally yeasted loaves (though less so with sourdough, since wild yeast works more slowly), and refrigeration is expensive.  While the flavor may be a bit different than when the loaves are proofed conventionally, the amount of preferment in their doughs -- if any -- would very likely be tailored to account for those overnight changes anyway.


For instance, Wheatfields Bakery in Lawrence, Kansas (you can read about them in Maggie Glezer's book) starts their work day by baking the previous day's shaped raw loaves, which were held overnight on speedracks in a retarder.  A few hours later the mixer comes in and starts making doughs.  Then a while thereafter the shapers show up and work to complete all shaped loaves, which are, again, held overnight in a retarder for baking the next morning.  The advantage of retarding for them that makes it worth the risk is that they create an almost conventional work day for their bakers, who might not get started until 5 or 6 am.  Before refrigeration could be used to retard finished loaves, bakers were completely at the mercy of their yeast and/or levain, which necessitated starts around midnight or before.


A home baker doesn't have to think in those terms, so they're more free to experiment and use refrigeration as they like.  But I wouldn't try to think of "retarding" as some sort of necessary step in making great bread.  2 or 3 hours of bulk fermentation (at room temperature) with a considerable amount of pre-ferment works fine, and even sourdough loaves can proof adequately then in about 2 to 3 hours, depending on size.  But letting mother nature do its job while you're free to go home, do the shopping, and get real sleep at night is a motivating factor.

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Dan, for your information.


Yippee

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The use of retardation to control a bakery's production schedule makes all kinds of sense. But home bakers have a production schedule to consider also. Baking on day's off - typically weekends - is one thing, but figuring out how to produce fresh-baked bread for dinner when you are working all day has got to be as great a challenge as that faced by the commercial baker.


I would love to be able to have fresh bread (not previously frozen) for dinner some days. Having a dough in the fridge that can be divided and baked without a long proofing (à la Nury) or a retarded formed loaf that can be baked an hour after I get home would be great.


I have the good fortune to work 15 minutes from my home, so I can get home by 5-6 pm, if I don't have to stop on the way. Dinner at 8 pm is not unusual for us, so I have 2-3 hours to play with, potentially, at least some nights.


A bread that can go from refrigerator to oven in an hour, bake in 20-30 minutes and be ready to slice in another hour would be great.


Nury's Light Rye is the only bread I've made that could fit this schedule, but I wonder if I could adapt other recipes. Hmmmm ... for example, I usually retard formed sourdough boules before they are fully proofed. In "Crust&Crumb," Reinhart calls for fully proofing the SF SD before retarding it. I have not done it this way, but I should try. I should also try retarding my SF SD after the dough has doubled and shorten the rest after pre-shaping. 


The risk I see is that the yeast would exhaust their food supply before baking leading to lousy oven spring and a denser crumb. 


Any thoughts?


David

xaipete's picture
xaipete

On the one hand, I've really become a believer in previous frozen bread unlike previous frozen salmon.


Other the other hand, what you are desiring, a bread that goes from fridge to table in 2 hours, is possible. PR's new book, now coming out in mid October, makes it possible. I'm sure you will take his ideas to new heights.


But what about cooling the baked loaf? Are you willing to sacrifice on that score?


I think you should take a long, doctor's lunch hour at home.


--Pamela

Soundman's picture
Soundman

My thanks to Dan and David for their comments on scheduling. (I assume this is where the retarding idea came from in the first place.) As David points out, a home baker has scheduling issues too, and the convenience of being able to do a lot of work on your bread one day and then to save the baking for the next is very handy. Before refrigeration that wasn't an option.


David, I have fully proofed sourdough boules before retarding them and usually have issues with less than stellar oven spring. A lot depends on the level of activity of the yeast, and the ambient temperature. If bulk fermentation has gone quickly, I know I need to retard before the proofing stage is done. If bulk fermentation has been leisurely, I let the proofing go on for longer. But the dough continues to ferment in the fridge, so I like to leave a little cushion of time for that.


David

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I absolutely agree that retarding finished loaves or bulk doughs can be very convenient for home bakers, too.  I'm mixing a Pugliese dough today with the double hydration method and after just an hour -- maybe 90 minutes -- I'll be retarding it until tomorrow morning.  Not all my house is air conditioned, and I prefer to bake in the cooler temps of the morning.  But it is the convenience that motivates me -- retarding the dough will make little difference in the final loaves in this case.


A lot of bakers -- pros included -- were searching for what the big differences were between European breads and American breads back in the early 90's, and some of them hit upon retardation as some sort of big qualitative difference (or French flour, or preferments, or oblique mixers, or ovens made from French brick -- pick your silver bullet).  As I've alluded to in other posts here, this mentality led to creating urgent ideas-of-the-moment in our baking (yes, mine too), and many of us grabbed at any seemingly unique insider's procedures.   That probably led to a few positive developments, but ultimately, I think, it circumvented the adoption of the most effective thing we could do -- learn more about the science and traditional techniques behind the process.  We should have just done our homework, practiced our skills, and stopped focusing on our perceived magic tricks.


Using retarding to slow the bulk ferment of dough or the final proof of loaves is a valuable technique to consider for any baker, but it is just a tool used for convenience sake.  There is no "holy grail" that will ensure better bread baking.  And I mean no offense to anyone who wishes to adopt the practice for its obvious benefits, but they should be careful about over-valuing the effects of the process.


--Dan DiMuzio

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Hi Dan,


I agree that technique and experimentation should guide all our baking decisions, and not some search for a shortcut to good bread.


I'm wondering about your comment that retarding is just a tool used for convenience sake.  I feel that I got better caramelization and much better flavor from ciabatta dough that was fermented overnight, compared with the PR ciabatta that has a build and bake in one day (not counting the poolish).  Much like a pate fermentee adds to the flavor profile in bread, wouldn't an overnight fermentation also let the flavors develop more?


 


-Peter

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I've certainly seen a big difference in the amount of crust caramelization in retarded loaves, as well as (sometimes) additional oven kick since the cooler raw loaves get just a minute or two longer to expand before the yeast dies and the crust prevents further expansion.  (BTW -- if I'm retarding finished loaves leavened primarily with manufactured yeast, I use about 20 ppm ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to reinforce gluten structure -- just as insurance against prolonged fermentation creating too much CO2.  This is a controversial practice argued between people who agree with Raymond Calvel and those who don't).


I should have acknowledged that crust difference in my answers above, but guess what?  If you make no adjustment at all in your baking of retarded baguettes vs. a conventionally proofed baguette, for instance, that tendency toward accentuated crust color also becomes accelerated crust color, so if you want the inside of the loaf to be baked normally and keep the crust from becoming too brown too soon, it's often advisable to reduce the baking temperature by 10 or even 20 degrees, depending on your oven.  So that overnight difference might not always be seen as an advantage.  Also, those bubbles (which I think are cool looking) on the crust are seen as a baking defect in France, purely for reasons of aesthetics, and a baker there would probably use a shorter bulk ferment at room temperature before retarding.  Alternatively they might just use less yeast or even a cooler arrival (goal) temperature for the dough before retarding, trying to get rid of those bubbles (which, again, I think I and most Americans like).


I've seen much less difference between loaves made from bulk fermented doughs that were or were not retarded.  Still, differences in perception of flavor are subjective, so I can't tell you that there is absolutely no difference.  I'd just say that, assuming you have a dough that is conventionally fermented and proofed in a proper manner, respecting flavor and natural dough maturation, the chief consideration for retarding that dough or loaf is not one of "improving" its characteristics.  Most professional artisans (that is, people who make a living at this) would choose retarding chiefly for its advantages in convenience of scheduling production.  And, if any baker is considering the adoption of the technique for any reason, they should be aware that its adoption by professionals is now more or less acknowledged to be for the sake of convenience.  Once you know this, make your decision based on whatever criteria you wish, and good luck with it!


--Dan DiMuzio

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Yippee,


You'll get the hang of all this stuff, it just takes time and a little patience.


As Pamela rightly says, N.B. stands for "Nota Bene" which is Latin for "note well" or "listen up!". HTH is much newer and stands for Hope This Helps. HTH!


Now to the substance of your post... no, Hamelman does not retard both the bulk fermentation and the proof stage as well, and I have never tried that combination either. I would think that so much fermentation might make a very sour loaf, and I wonder too about the enzyme and acid actions on the gluten. But we love experimentation around here. Let us know what results you get!


Keep baking!


David

Yippee's picture
Yippee

David.



Keep baking!



I sure will!


Yippee

AndyM's picture
AndyM

I wonder about the differential effects of retardation on doughs of different hydrations.  All other things being equal, cold flours can hold more water than warm flours, leading to the effect that a cold dough always feels drier and stiffer than the same dough at room temperature.  Wet doughs also tend to ferment more quickly than dry doughs.  Could it be that one of your doughs (the ciabatta, generally a very high-hydration dough) was wet enough that it continued to ferment effectively at the retarding temperature, while the other dough, perhaps being lower hydration to begin with, was more affected by the lowering of temperature, and lost leavening steam because of this? 


Just wondering,


Andy

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Andy, you may be on to something!  The ciabatta had great oven spring with huge bubbles, and my rustic had tiny bubbles.  I had the feeling that the air pockets couldn't re-inflate after the rustic dough was retarded overnight because the dough wasn't as slack and pliable as the ciabatta.  Maybe this means it would be better to have a lower-hydration dough have more time to get to room temperature so it's more extensible in the oven.


Flour, water, salt, yeast, time and heat.  So many variables, so many outcomes!


-Peter

AndyM's picture
AndyM

Yes, so many variables, and as with any complex system, there is probably more than one potential solution.  I think you are right that allowing a low-hydration dough more time at room temp might help things.  However, this might also result in a dough that ferments as though it has a much lower hydration than you intend, and this might not produce the effect you are looking for. 


Another thing to try might be to increase the hydration of your rustic dough if you are planning to retard it.  This might allow the retarded dough to "act" as if it had the same hydration as it is used to having at room temperature.  If you try either (or both) of these experiments, please let us know what you learn!


Enjoy,


Andy

Davo's picture
Davo

I posted the below in another thread some time ago. It's my way of baking midweek, by retarding the formed loaves. You could I guess cut into a loaf an hour after baking it, but I wouldn't. I always prefer my sourdough the day after.


Not sure if you call this day 2 or 3 baking, but what I do is typically, mid week:


Say Tuesday morning, take starter out of fridge and feed. Feed again Tues night.


Wed Morning mix up stiffish levain for a long ferment, for 4 loaves (200 g starter (which is around 85 % itself) into 600 g flour and 360 g water).


Wed evening mix bread dough = levain less a bit reclaimed (sometimes don't bother reclaiming), plus 1400 g flour, 950 g water, 40 g salt. Autolyse, then french fold kneading with rests between, over about 30 mins. Bulk ferment about 2-3 hours, shape, retard in fridge.


Thursday evening come home from work, pull out 2 loaves (I can bake 2 at a time), switch on oven to warm, check loaves for rise, pull out other loaves 45 mins after taking out first 2 from fridge, bake them in two lots of two, once ripe and warmed close to room temp.


This schedule works perfectly for me, with work and family. I'll do the same on the weekend, leaving myself the option of baking any time during the day of baking, if I happen to be around doing some gardening or whatever. You can just suddenly get 2-3 hours at home and decide to whack the oven on and pull out the loaves from the fridge - easy.


PS when it's hot in summer (just ended here in Australia) I bring the levain (which ferments 8-12 hours) in my car to my air conditioned office so it doesn't overheat and go sloppy, at our house.

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

I made ciabatta and rustic bread this weekend.  I retarded both overnight, and have come to some conclusions:


- ciabatta dough is so wet that it benefits from little/no handling and will form huge air pockets on its own


- the overnight retardation of ciabatta dough helps the flavor because the dough is so wet


- the rustic dough had huge bubbles in the morning, but reforming it and giving it a second rise resulted in a bread with a fairly uniform structure (evidently I wasn't gentle enough!)


- ciabatta is thin enough that it doesn't take too long (around 1.5 hours) to warm up enough so that it'll bake through and have good oven spring


- a batard of less hydrated dough will take a l...o...n...g time to warm back up


- the flavor of the rustic bread didn't get any more developed after an overnight stay


- the rustic bread DID have a great eggshell crust:  thin and crispy


Conclusion: I'm going to continue to retard the ciabatta overnight, but will go back to a 2-day build for the rustic:  poolish on the first day, dough and bake on the second.  Incidentally, I found that I've been baking my bread before it doubles, so the bread springs too much and doesn't form an ear.  Patience, dear boy, I told myself.  The ear was much better when I waited!


 


-Peter