The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Overnight Proofing Temperature

Boboshempy's picture

Best Overnight Proofing Temperature

I am able to control the temperature of my sourdough loaves for overnight retarding and proofing and I wanted to get everyone's opinion of what you think the best temperature is and why. There has been a bunch of recent thoughts and discussion on this circulating in books and whatnot and I wanted to put this question out there to the masters.




G-man's picture

Hey Nick,

My kitchen stays at about 60F fairly consistently overnight during much of the year. During the couple hot months of the summer it goes up to about 70 or 80.

I'll leave my preferment overnight above the fridge, where I get 65F, a total of about 8 hours. I've left it up to 12 hours and it still turns out ok. During summer I tend to stick it in the fridge.

dmsnyder's picture

In commercial settings, my understanding is that retardation is generally at 50ºF. This temperature promotes the relatively greater development of heterofermentative (acetic acid producing) lactobacilli, particularly in a firm starter or final dough/shaped loaves.

Storage at refrigerator temperatures - around 40ºF - basically stops yeast growth and bacterial metabolism, although some goes on before the starter or dough cools down completely.

So, the ideal temperature depends on whether your purpose is starter storage or flavor development.

Some of our professional bakers or Debra Wink may have more authoritative input on this question.


Boboshempy's picture

Thanks G-man and David for your input.

Yes, I am looking to develop (flavor development) the final dough/shaped loaves over a period of time so they will be ready to bake off the following day.




doughooker's picture

I'm trying to figure out how a small sourdough bakery with one bake at the same time every day would operate. It seems overnight proofing would fit such a production schedule. Figuring 4 hours for mixing, make-up and baking, approximately 20 hours would be available for an overnight proof. The question is, if they have 20 hours available for proofing, what should the temperature be?

If we accept an 8-hour proof at 86F as the reference:

And looking at the curves found here:

If my math is correct it would appear that dropping the proofing temperature from 30C to 20C would make a 20-hour proof at 20C (68F) approximately equivalent to an 8-hour proof at 30C (86F), the same proofing time and temperature as the S.F. bakery. Does this seem correct?

68F is warmer than the typical refrigerator temperature of 40F. Maybe a refrigerator with the temperature control cranked way down would work as a proofing box?

ElPanadero's picture

My local Artisan Bakery uses a temperature controlled refrigerator as you suggest.  It's purpose built with lots of metal racks.   Only certain loaves are proved overnight like this though and often it's done the night before the busiest baking day(s) so that a higher volume of loaves can be produced in the same timescales.  I'm talking about finished loaves here, i.e. shaped and placed in bannetons and then proofed overnight in the fridge.

Obviously in addition to this they also mix up some doughs/preferments in large containers and leave those doughs to bulk ferment overnight for use the next day.  Typically that's for standard long fermented white loaves and for baguettes and so on.

So, yes overall, your thoughts were about right.   Each day at my local artisan bakery they work the various pre-prepared doughs that have been fermenting overnight in a specific order (according to how long each subsequently takes to final proof etc).  So scaling, pre-shaping, shaping, proofing and ultimately baking.  When all the doughs are done, and whilst the oven handler is still baking, the Mixing person makes up the new doughs that will be used tomorrow and of course refreshes all the various starters of which I think there are 5. 

Something along those lines anyway !


doughooker's picture

Any idea what temperature that special refrigerator is set to?

In addition to loaves, they would also have to manage their starter for sourdough.