The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fridge too cold??

intelplatoon's picture

Fridge too cold??

at what temperature will yeast stop working. Ive made a few different batches of dough (brioche, and a sourdough) that i let proof at room temp for about one hour. I then put them in the fridge overnight to finish proofing slowly. when i wake up in the morning and take a look at the dough, which has been in the fridge for almost 9 hours, it doesnt look like it has done much rising at all. Is my fridge too cold? or is the retard method used to ferment only for flavor and not much rise at all. then let it rise at room temp after the fridge? i hope this makes sense. basically the fridge seems to stop my dough completely and i dont think my fridge is much colder than any other? 

foodslut's picture

What's the temperature in your refrigerator?

cranbo's picture

From US DOE web site I quote: 


At low temperatures 32-50F (0-10C) yeast will not grow, but not die either.

At temperatures 50-99F (10-37C) yeast will grow and multiply, faster at higher temperatures with an optimal growth at 86F or 99F (that depends on the species).


Maybe not completely accurate, but a ballpark estimate. 

So yes, what temp is your fridge?

You just may need to leave your loaves at room temp longer if you keep your fridge the same. But if it's too cold, you won't achieve as many benefits of long, slow, cold fermentation. 

intelplatoon's picture

im not sure the temp of my fridge, will an oven thermometer suffice to figure this out?  i will start with that, as i have a feeling this is the culprit. thanks for your input guys. if this were the case for you, would you raise the fridge temp, and keep going on the long slow fermentation, or would you just bring it out to roomtemp for a proof?

as of right now i have brioche dough in the fridge, and am not sure if bringing it to room temp to proof will have ill effects due to the butter content.


thanks again

cranbo's picture

I'd get a fridge thermometer, or use a room temp thermometer to measure. Oven temp thermometers won't go low enough. 

If you want long slow fermentation, you may need to raise fridge temp. Of course this will (potentially) impact the storage of your food, but only slightly if it's in the right range. This is why some people use a separate fridge for fermenting dough.

You shouldn't have any problems proofing your brioche at room temp, except that I wouldn't leave it out a really long time (more than, say, 6 hours), unless your dough was frozen.




Chuck's picture

I have my fridge set as cold as I can get it without freezing anything (average about 36F). That way I can keep things for months without worrying about them spoiling. Apparently this is pretty typical; although lots of refrigerators are set 45F-55F and work well for retarding, lots of others are set 35F-40F. Although my cold refrigerator works great for putting the bread dough process completely on hold during schedule snafus, it doesn't work for retarding. Anything below 40F causes yeast to pretty much not grow at all ("go dormant" ?).

I don't want to turn up my refrigerator and start having spoiling problems. So I have a second small refrigerator just for retarding dough. ("Dorm" refrigerators and "wine coolers" [and "used" things:-] work well and tend to not cost too much.) I can turn the temperature in that second fridge up or down as necessary for the dough without worrying about the other refrigerator contents because there aren't any. Usually it's set at about 55F.

You''ve probably already found that even though "oven" thermometers and "refrigerator/freezer" thermometers look the same and work the same, they cannot be interchanged. That's because the manufacturers have set two different temperature ranges: the "oven" thermometers don't go down low enough to use in a fridge, and the "refrigerator/freezer" thermometers don't go up high enough to use in an oven.

intelplatoon's picture

thanks again for all the info guys. after writing the last post, i thought about and figured that an oven therm wouldnt go anywhere near low enough to read a fridge temp.

i ended up pulling the dough out of the fridge for a few hours so it could warm up a bit. once it looked like it was doubled and didnt have much farther to go i shaped it and baked it about an hour and a half later. it turned out deliciously smooth. 

I've only ever made sourdough before, because its what i do at work. ive been experimenting with yeasted and enriched doughs at home for the past few days since i got a stand mixer and it is like a whole new world to me that i am already half familiar with. heh

if i can figure it out, here are pictures of my brioche loaves. the middle loaf has cinnamon and sugar rolled into it. could that be why it didnt rise quite as much?

^kinda figured it out, you have to  view it on my FB page

bakingmaniac's picture

Hi folks, sorry to stir an old topic, but I wanted to share a trick I'm using that can help those of us who don't want to get a second fridge for retarding.

Last night I produced a dough and measured its temperature at 20C. I measured the fridge temperature at 5C. I put the dough into a thermal bag (a common picnic one such as this ),

then into the fridge. Now, eventually the temperature in the fridge and in the bag equalize, but the idea is that it takes a lot longer for the dough to cool down, so it gives more time for the yeast to act before going dormant.

This morning I measured the dough temperature again and it was 8C, so we can see that in 8~9h, the dough temperature didn't drop all the way to the fridge temperature. I took the bag and the dough out, left them out for as long as I could before going to work (I had about half an hour, but ideally up to 1h30 depending on room temperature), then back in the fridge.

This is not a definitive solution, but doughs retarded in this way have definitely turned out better for me than those I put straight into the cold fridge.

I'm yet to try the opposite approach: leave the bag out of the fridge, but with ice packs in it. My guess is it wouldn't work, the dough might get too cold in the beginning, then too warm in the end, but if anyone tries this, let us know how it turned out.