The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Better to retard dough or loaves

Sour Doh's picture
Sour Doh

Better to retard dough or loaves

I frequently need to retard my dough to fit baking into my schedule.  My question is, is it preferable to retard during the bulk fermentation stage, or to shape the loaves and retard during proofing.  Or, is it just a matter of taste?


wally's picture

Either method yields acceptable results.  I think the one you choose should be guided by your schedule.  Generally (though there are exceptions), if you shape and proof your loaves and then retard them, they will be ready to bake as soon as your oven is up to temp - no need, in other words, for additional proofing time.  For the most part, shaping loaves and retarding before they have proofed is not a good idea in my experience.

However, if you bulk retard your dough, it will take longer the next day to be ready for baking.  You can shape it right out of the retarder/refrigerator, but then it will need a final proof, and because the dough is so cold, the proofing time will be considerably longer than normal.

So it's mostly about which method will work best given your schedule.


Sour Doh's picture
Sour Doh

Thanks - that was what I suspected.  I often can't fit a full bulk fermenation and then a full proof into my nighttime schedule, so I need to overnight some step of the process in the fridge, or do so while I'm at work.

I'll take your thoughts on retarding after proofing to heart.  I may have goofed this morning, then -  I have two loaves of whole wheat genzano sitting in my fridge at home right now, and I put them in immediately after shaping.  I guess I thought they might slowly proof all day in there.

Chuck's picture

... have two loaves ... sitting in my fridge ... and I put them in immediately after shaping. ... I thought they might slowly proof all day in there

I'm hoping the exact same thing  ...that my loaves will slowly proof in the fridge.

I too for scheduling like the idea of actually doing a dough step in the fridge rather than just using the fridge for marking time.

I haven't tried it yet though. Please let us know what happened with your loaves!

hanseata's picture

It's a matter of available space, too. If you bake more than one bread (as I do), you need a lot of space to place whole baking sheets with breads in the refrigerator. If you divide your finished dough in portions and refrigerate those in individual, stackable containers you don't need much space, and, also, smaller amounts of dough come to room temperature faster than a big bowl full.


SonicChick's picture

I wasn't sure this was going to work, but this past weekend I ran out of time and ended up retarding both the bulk ferment *and* the proofing of my enriched flax meal sandwhich loaf.

This particular bread seems to come out better with retarding, or maybe it's just me since I tend to over-proof and get hung up with sticky doughs. It's pretty slack -- 75% hydration and 30% Graham flour, plus the flax meal soaker -- so putting it right into the fridge after mixing makes it easier to handle. I stretch and fold it 2-3 more times before leaving it, and it develops very nicely.

Usually when I'm ready to bake I take the dough out and let it warm for 20-30 minutes, just so it's a little more flexible. I pre-shape, rest for 20 minutes, then shape and proof in the loaf pan until it rises an inch above the rim. This time, I pre-shaped right out of the fridge, rested 20 minutes, then shaped the loaf and popped it back into the fridge for another 10 hours. It went straight from the fridge to a cold oven, and after little over an hour came out the best yet.