The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Refrigeration Proofing

goose13's picture

Refrigeration Proofing

I have been working with a sourdough recipe which calls for mixing the starter with flour and water, allowing to proof for four hours, then tossing in the fridge overnight. Now I am thr type of person who likes to know why I'm told to do certain things, follow steps. It doesn't say exactly why I need to put the dough in the fridge overnight, which brings me to the question, do I even need to? Is it for further proofing? Can I just continue with the bread after the four hours of initial proofing?

On a side note, I purchased a scale last week (yippee!) and already I can see a difference in some breads I have baked. However, the last recipe I used called for 2 teaspoons of salt, or .5 ounces. When I measured it using the scale, it seemed like a bit much, but went with it. needless to say the bread came out terribly salty. Could it have been a type-o? Two teaspoons of salt comes out to about .35 ounces. I'm going to simply adjust it the next time, but just wanted others opinions on the matter.

As usual thanks for the help,



fminparis's picture

Not a typo - just different tastes. That's why the first time you make a new recipe it's kind of experimental; then you start adjusting to your likes and dislikes.  You have to decide what's correct for your taste, which is why taste tests are kind of silly.  We all have different tastes.

As for refrigeration,  it just slows down the yeast action.  Why?  I don't know.  I stopped making starters, poolishes and haven't noticed any difference, but I don't make sourdough breads.

jcking's picture

Most scales don't measure small amounts very well. There are small scales available at Harbour Freight (Cen-Tech) for 10 $. Or continue to use tsps.

As to the over night fridge, a number of things can happen; time flexibility, increase/decrease, yeast/bacteria depending on fridge temp. Short answer.


Chuck's picture

A second scale to measure the small ingredients to the nearest tenth of a gram is easily and cheaply ($10 or less) available  ...if you look in the right place. Just search for  " pocket scale "  and you'll find them all over, for just one example they're at the Amazon online store.

placebo's picture

If a recipe simply asks for "salt," it's probably referring to table salt since table salt is so common. The density of other salts, like sea salt, can be quite different, so you may need to adjust the amount if you're not using table salt. I've found that 1 tsp of table salt has a mass of about 5.7-6.0 grams, which weighs about 0.20-0.21 oz, so 2 tsp would be about 0.40-0.42 oz. I suspect whoever converted the 2 tsp to 0.5 oz just rounded to the nearest 1/4 oz. The 0.1 ounce difference corresponds to about a half teaspoon of salt, so it's not that much salt.

You seem to be using a less dense salt, so the extra 0.15 oz of salt is almost another teaspoon of your salt. That's why when you weighed it, it looked like so much more than what you usually use.

Chuck's picture

A "teaspoon" of salt is probably a little over 5 grams (specifically around 5.7 grams), so two teaspoons is around 11 grams. That's about 0.4 ounces. Something went awry, but I'm not quite sure what; maybe confusion between the two weight measures "grams" and "ounces", or maybe too much math "in the head", or maybe premature rounding, or maybe a misread, or ...

My suggestion is to stick to "grams" for everything; don't trip yourself up, don't risk confusion with those pesky "fluid ounces", don't risk "ounces" being a little different in different parts of the globe, and don't deal with nearly so many decimal places with the much larger "ounces". Many digital scales can switch between ounces and grams, sometimes with a separate button and sometimes with an oddball sequence of multiple presses of other buttons best described by the directions that came with the scale. I've set mine to "grams" and just leave it there all the time.

I find measuring salt by weight much more accurate for different kinds of salt. "Sea salt" for example tends to have larger crystals which don't pack as tightly, so a "teaspoon" of sea salt and a "teaspoon" of table salt are noticeably different. But a "gram" of sea salt is the same as a "gram" of table salt, so measuring by weight means one less thing to worry about.

Many people judge that much longer rises give significantly better flavor; that's a big part of the reason to use pre-ferments (biga, poolish, etc.). You can get pretty much the same result without a pre-ferment by just arranging for the main rise to take a loonnngggg time. Problem is, if you let the dough rise for say 15 hours, it will swell and swell and swell and then eventually collapse when the yeast runs out of food. So what's needed is some way to "slow down" the yeast a whole lot. It turns out yeast gets quite a bit slower at colder temperatures (yeast goes completely dormant at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit).

So the thing to do is just stick the dough in the refrigerator to rise very slowly. This is a standard technique that can be used on pretty much any bread (whether or not the recipe explicitly mentions it). It's called "retard" or "retarding".


clazar123's picture

I make a lot of my weekly breads using 1 c flour-1 c water and 2-4tbsp of my starter (right from the refrigerator) as a pre-ferment. I mix this up and let it sit on the counter anywhere from 4-24 hours.It gets nice and bubbly,yeasty smelling and rises some.I often mix the pre-ferment up before bed and make bread the next morning (8-10hours later?). The next morning, this is mixed into the other bread ingredients.

Throwing the preferment in the refrigerator just slows it down. I imagine you could probably use it up to 48 hours later! It adds great flavor to the bread and if the starter is mature enough, raises the bread quite nicely without additional yeast. By mature, I mean a starter that has been around more than a few months and has developed a balanced,dense culture of yeasts.A newly established starter may have a little more difficulty with this and may need some instant yeast to help boost the rise.

A pre-ferment is a way to add great flavor to breads. There are other ways of doing this but the idea is to give the yeasts time to digest a portion of the starches and release their flavorful alcohols and esters without digesting everything and causing the dough to deteriorate into a glob.So any method used affects the balance between desired loaf quality and yeast digestion. Yeast digestion is affected by time,population,temperature and available food and other ingredients.Salt,spices,honey and sugar can adversely affect yeast!

 If it is warm in the kitchen, I had better use the pre-ferment by the 8-13 hour mark or it flattens out and hootches over. If you still try and use it in a loaf, it will also cause a release of undesirable enzymes which will weaken the gluten.You will end up with a really good tasting but flat,damp loaf. Not even good for pizza dough!

SO put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours.... or not. 

 You say "PO-TAY_TO", I say  "PO-TAH-TO"

HMerlitti's picture

Sourdough fermenting products different acids.   One of the acids does better at room temp and the other does better at about 48 F.    Research it. 

goose13's picture

Thanks for all the advice. I'm coming to the conclusion that a lot of home baking seems to be trial and error, with a mix of science as well. I  think I'm going to try it once without refridgerating and see how things go.

Thanks again for the tips,


HMerlitti's picture

Many people more advanced in this process than we went to much effort to write this stuff down.    The lease we can do is read it and learn. 

goose13's picture

From this comment, and your other above, I get the feeling that you're implying I don't read anything and just post questions randomly. That isn't the case, I like to see what other people have done and experienced, who have spent more time baking than I have. If I'm wrong in the way I've read your comments, then I apologize, and please disregard my comments.

HMerlitti's picture

Discovering Sourdough
By Teresa L. Hosier Greenway

Part III

I have the .pdf but this forum will not allow me to attach a .pdf.    May be you can look it up?  

Just googled it.        It is googleable. 


polo's picture

I'm afraid Teresa's e-books are not currently available to download from the site. Her website is called "Northwest Sourdough", I also recommend taking a look at it.

goose13's picture

I found Teresa's books via the Google, but I'll also take a look at her site as well.


sanchiro's picture

I have made several loaves of sourdough. The breads always taste great and the crumb is pretty good, but the maximum height/rise i have ever achieved is about 2 inches. I have purchased loaves which are usually 3 to 4 inches or more and I see many photos here of similar type results.

I wonder if I need to get better proofing baskets. These aforementioned loaves have been both rounds and torpedos. They rise well, but then after I move them to the baking surface, score them with a razor, they seem to 'fall'.

Please advise. What crucial step am I missing?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

The short answer is, sourdoughs for the most part should be slightly under-proofed for the best spring. The longer answer is, it really depends on the recipe and your techniques. In other words, the entire answer to your question suggests that any wrong move during any phase of the process can result in a loss of oven spring. This includes dough hydration, dough development, final proofing, dough transfer to baking surface, scoring, oven temperature, and any techniques such as steam injection and/or 'magic lid' applied once in the oven.

In order to solve any one person's particular unsatisfactory results, we need to know your recipe, and how you've approached each phase of the process from mixing to oven. We can then exclude anything that seems normal and focus on where a weakness might be hiding.

Assuming you're doing almost everything correctly, we go back to the short answer, which is try to aim for about 80-90% final proof. Carefully transfer dough to baking surface, taking care not to deflate it too much handling it. Work quickly to get it scored and into the heat. Find a steam solution that will work for you, and steam for the first 5-10 minutes. This keeps the top crust soft to allow for expansion. If that doesn't get you better results, then we might have to start fishing within the longer answer(s).

- Keith