The Fresh Loaf

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coffeetester's picture

I want to learn more

I have been making the Norwich sourdough 2 weeks in a row now. I spend about 6 hours last night getting the dough into the fridge. I did not mind but this brings lots of questions to mind. Here are a few

1. How quickly in the process could I have put the dough into the fridge. If I was falling asleep before the final 1.5 hour proof could I have just put it into the fridge and done the splitting and molding the next day? The container I am using is a Ikea rubber rectangle that has enough room to 5X grow the loaf.

2. My dough never seems to get to 2X the original size. The last time I made it the oven spring was fabulous. This time I am planning on making a deeper score as to allow more spring. Is this normal? Should I see before the fridge a nice doubling of the dough. My starter was 11 hours old when I had started. I had a 4X increase with a fall back to the 3X. I feed it a 1:2:2 ratio. Is this normal?


Thanks for any feedback you can give me

G-man's picture

1) The way to think of refrigeration is that it's taking a lot longer for the starter to do what is going to happen one way or another anyway. An overnight stay in the refrigerator will probably not hurt the dough, so long as you allow it to come up to room temperature when you pull it out again, or knead it so that it warms up some. Having not made the Norwich sourdough, I am going off what I've done in the past that has worked.


2) Sourdough doesn't have to double. In my experience it rarely does. I consider a rise "done" when my loaves reach a certain level or (if there is very little rise) when a certain period of time has passed, since the temperature in my kitchen is pretty consistent. A lot of the time, in my experience, when my starter has "peaked" it begins to rapidly move from a dense ball to a more goopy state. I don't know the science behind it but I'm assuming this is because the gluten in the flour has started to seriously break down. Having overproofed more than a couple loaves of sourdough, I can say with some confidence that you don't want to wait.

coffeetester's picture

So now that I am getting comfortable with Norwich and Last night I tried the 1,2,3 dough I am trying to figure out a couple more questions:


What is the best process for freezing either dough, bread or partiall cooked bread? I want to bake 2 loafs during the weekend but by Thursday its stale. I want to freeze the second loaf and revive it Wednesday night. What is the best process?

Since my dough is not rising 2X but I am getting lots of gass bubbles how ripe must my starter be. Can I use it after its been feed for 4 hours and doubled even though I know it will go to 4X before it finishes? Can I use it after 12 hours when it went to 4X and has fallen back to 3X?

I like the fridging method called for in the Norwich and I get a great oven spring and scoring the loaf is much easier when it is cold. Should I change from this method since it seems to fit my schedule pretty well (5 hours the night before and 16-18 hours in the fridge and bake on night 2).?

Davo's picture

Personally I fridge shaped loaves, and I do it about 3 hrs after mixing. The bulk fermented dough  - that I have mixed/kneaded (over about 40-50 mins or so, with an initial 20 min rest after mixing, and then 10 min rests between short french folds), and then fermented through a few more stretch and folds - is never doubled. Ever. If it's doubled it or even close (for me) it will be overproved by the time it comes out of fridge. Maybe that's because I do big loaves (900 + grams), and maybe the cane banettons and plastic bag I put them in inuslate and allow a fair bit of fermeting type temp before it finally cools down. What I am looking for is some activity, and some SMALL bubbles through it when I cut the ~3.8 kg of dough into 4 pieces for shaping.

I am more interested in what stage it's at at the other end. It may be that after 20 hrs in the fridge, it is ready to bake cold, or it may take up to 2 hrs of warming up. This all depends on response to poke test, and overall size-for-weight, not time.

If your spring is huge to the point of tearing, I'd say it  could do with more proving. They say if you know you are underproved but have to bake anyway, slash deeply to allow for more expansion before the skin hardens, and with overproved dough don;t slash at all.

It's a trade-off - you want big overall loaf. If you get too much rise before the oven, the overproved loaf will bake flat. If you get too little rise before the oven, the spring will appear huge but the overall loaf size will be not so big, because you missed some rising capacity before the bake. Like Goldilocks, you want it just right, and only the dough behavour will tell you that, not a clock.

G-man's picture

If you have a method that works well for you and everyone else who tries your bread, by all means stick with that method! All of the really excellent instructions I've read that deal with sourdough try to point you in the right direction instead of saying "do this precisely this way". If it works for you, and produces a product that you are quite happy with, you're doing it right.


On freezing: I need an answer to this, as well. I'm sorry I can't provide any insight. I have tried to par-bake a pizza crust and it is sitting in my freezer right now waiting until I have a chance to finish it. I have no idea if it will turn out. From what I can gather, you cook it until it is half or three-quarters done, then freeze, thaw, then finish it. Hoping that works. I will report back if it is a success.


On to your starter: Yes. You can use it early as long as it is very active. You can also wait until it has peaked to use it. The difference will be one of flavor. From recent experience, using a starter that hasn't peaked will give you a loaf that is far less sour, giving you a flavor more like that of a dough made using a biga or a poolish; that is, more robust than a yeasted bread dough made without a pre-ferment but less intense than a sourdough. The peaked starter, of course, will yield what folks typically think of when they say sourdough.

Chuck's picture

How quickly in the process could I have put the dough into the fridge.

I think you have your choice of which part of the process to retard: the bulk rise part or the proofing part. (Although most recipe books recommend just one or the other, you should really be able to do either according to your own whim.) I just noticed there's a new whole thread here on this very topic. Take a peek.

This time I am planning on making a deeper score as to allow more spring.

Don't. (Or more precisely: if you do, and it works, please post all the gory details [and some pics if you can] so all of us can gawk at it.) Deeper slashing won't help fact it will probably hurt. Slashes should be no more than about 1/4 inch deep.

If you expect a huge amount of oven spring, and you know from experience one slash won't be enough to accommodate it, try making two shallow slashes rather than one deep slash. Usually though just one slash is enough (more short ones are sometimes used simply to make more interesting patterns). There are pictures here on TFL of loaves that had just one slash down the entire length of one side of the top where that single slash opened hugely to the whole width of the top of the baked loaf (several inches).

Scoring/slashing creates a weak point in what will become the crust, allowing the oven spring to bloom forth. No slash at all means little obvious oven spring because it could never get out at all. (Or maybe it means a "blowout", which essentially is telling you "you should have slashed, maybe here".) But slashing is just an all-or-none thing; the size of the slash doesn't affect the amount of oven spring.

One ideal is to do the slash at a shallow angle, so the top side covers the opening while the loaf is in the oven and the bottom side just keeps expanding and expanding. The result is the spread spot changes smoothly from dark to light from the part farthest from the slash to the part nearest, and the top edge raises up a little to form an "ear" or "grigne".