The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tips on retarding?

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Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Tips on retarding?

I've had my first attempt at retarding recently, and it was a little lackluster. Less than the usual oven spring, predictably a denser crumb, and the crust was oddly less crisp. The flavor was good, though. I'm guessing I simply didn't let it warm up long enough, but I don't know.

My loaves are about 20 ounces, white with ~10% rye. It generally proofs for about 5 hours altogether, half hour autolyse, and 3-4 stretch and folds before final shaping. My method was the same here, however after autolysing and allowing an hour to get going and a bit of folding, I put it in the fridge for about 16 hours. After that, it spent about 2 hours at room temperature before the final shaping, then proofing for an hour and a half. It felt basically normal temperature-wise at that point, though I noticed the dough felt tenser than usual.

Would a loaf of this size need more time to adequatly heat up? I believe I've heard of people baking loaves right out of the fridge with good results though, so I don't know what I've done really.

Ideas?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I overnight dough in the refrigerator all the time. I make a WW  dough,throw it into an oiled large plastic container and throw it in the refrigerator to be baked the next day.

I find it is a balancing act,at times. You want flavor but it is easy to over-ferment and then it takes forever to proof resulting in lackluster ovenspring and a dense loaf. Sourdough,especially can be a little unpredictable on any given day, depending on ambient temp, starter activity,dough temp. But nothing beats the flavor when it all comes together.

I would think that if you are doing S&F for an hour or so that it will have puffed up a bit before you retarded in the refrig. By the next day it should have risen some in the container. It may be that 2 hrs at room temp (depending on the temp) and then 1 1/2 hr for proofing may be too long.You may just need to remove it from the refrig and shape and proof with no set time to warm up. Just handle lightly! You don't want to knock out all the gas. A lot depends on the dough activity- starting with the starter and also if there was any additional commercial yeast. I usually don't rise to double on that counter rest before shaping and it's important to pay attention to the dough behaviour for the final proof. There can sometimes be no forgiveness on the line between proofed and overproofed with sourdough so I tend to slightly underproof these loaves. I'm always learning on this skill.

So keep working on it and have delicioius fun!

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

There's a lot of room for this error with this rule (per dough composition), but in general:

(a) if using sourdough starter (i.e. no commercial yeast), bulk ferment at room temperature, shape and proof 60 minutes (or to ~1/2 proofed) at room temperature before putting in the refrigerator for retardation. 

(b) if using combination of sourdough and commerical, bulk ferment at room temperature, shape and proof 30-45 minutes (or to ~1/3 proofed) at room temperature before putting in the refrigerator for retardation.

(c) if using commercial yeast, bulk ferment at room temperature, and put immediately into the refrigerator for retardation after shaping.

Before baking:

(a) allow 45 to 60 minutes to increase core temperature

(b) allow 30 minutes to increase core temperature  

(c) OK to bake right out of the refrigerator, but nothing wrong with giving it 10-20 minutes to increase core temperature

This is completely empirical, from my experience only; your mileage may vary.

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

The only time I retard the bulk fermenation stage is for Pain a l'Ancienne and pizza dough.

The pizza dough recipe is a similar formula to the l'Ancienne in hydration, but having much less yeast (1/8 tsp.) and much longer bulk ferment, sometimes as long as 10 days.

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Alright, thanks, so I figure I probably might have let it overproof unknowingly? 

Is there any general guideline on how much retard time is equivalent to how much normal temperature proofing? It may be that there is more activity while refrigerating than I had assumed.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

The "calculation" of retard times is so strange and approximate that about the best it can do is give you a very rough number to start from: Supposedly each change of about 17F (about 8C) halves/doubles the rising time. Since it's usually not too clear exactly what the "starting" temperature and time is, and since mathematical errors accumulate so rapidly when you keep doubling a value, the "calculated" times can easily be way off. Use them as a starting point, and be prepared to adjust massively depending on your actual experience.

Also, it depends hugely on the coldness of your fridge. Even "regular" household refrigerators (let alone "wine coolers" and other purpose-specific coolers) can easily be adjusted by just turning the knob, and are very different in different houses. Households with either a "cold freak" or someone who regularly tries to beat "use by" dates can be about 35F. Households that are quite sensitive to energy usage and turn over their fridge contents every few days can be about 50F. The difference roughly doubles/halves the rise time! So if in one refrigerator it's say 8 hours, the same thing in another refrigerator might be 16 hours. (!)

Lastly, it depends on the size of your batch, since a large ball of dough can be 35F at the outsides but still 65F in the middle for a long time. Subtracting a couple hours from the retard time for a very large roundish lump of dough at an initial high temperature is not unheard of.

BTW, I generally treat "rise times" as just guestimates, and mostly judge by the "feel of the dough", with the clock being only a very distant second.

(In response to your original question, I agree that "warm up" time can [and probably should] be short or even nonexistent, and allowing too much time to warm up probably led to over-proofing. To a 450F oven, dough at 75F [375F difference] and dough at 45F [405F difference] are so similar there's almost no effective difference.)

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Okay, thanks for that. My fridge is on the colder side and I only tend to do single loaves, so I don't think a longer retard would be too dangerous. I'll try this again without so much time between removing from the refrigerator and baking and see if it does any better.

In order for warm up time to be totally absent, I would need to shape the loaf before retarding, of course. I would think that shaping a loaf and letting it sit around for hours and hours would result in a sort of floppy slack loaf, though the cold may prevent a little of that. A proofing basket seems like it would be idea for that but, I don't have one.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

As Chuck says, there are many variablse when we retard dough. For something so simple, it is really complex. The nice part is that most results are quite delicious, even if they weren't quite what we expected.

I found the fastest way to learn what effect my actions have is to keep notes on bakes. Another lesson is to make/ bake the same dough often-til I get the hang of it. I'm at the point with some of my daily bread doughs I don't measure much-mixed blessing when it comes to telling someone else my "recipe" but the loaves turn out wonderful more than 99.8% of the time.

I started retarding out of necessity and by accident. The first time,life  intervened just when I had a dough mixed/kneaded before the first ferment/rise. Some household emergency. I threw the dough into a large,covered plastic container and put it in the refrigerator til the next day.Halfway thru the next day, I was finally able to get to it and a new technique was added to my repertoire. That was one delicious,moist,non-crumbly WW loaf. I did it deliberately after that-it was often better than staying up late to finish off a bake. It wasn't until later that I learned it was called "retarding".

So try a few different techniques,make notes and see what works with your equipment,your recipe and your environment. There are MANY ways to do the same thing.

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

Yeah, I've actually been baking the same simple sourdough for months now, trying out little variations and seeing what does what. I guess retarding is just more unpredictable than I had thought. And I can't help but giggle at the name of the process a little. This bread is... retarded! (look at me, so clever)