The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

overnight proofing of shaped loaves

toddvp's picture
toddvp

overnight proofing of shaped loaves

Hi! Long time lurker and occasional responder, but I've been spending a lot of time lately on the forums trying to really nail down my sometimes haphazard technique. I've been using baguettes as my practice bread to really kick my butt, and they've improved a lot with different tweaks and techniques (I can share more info if anyone's interested).

My question today is about overnight proofing. In Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson talks about his friend who lets the loaves proof overnight on the counter and bakes in the morning. I think that would be an ideal way to proof the baguettes so they could go right in the oven when I get up, but I'm worried about over-proofing and missing the ideal window. Has anyone tried this? What are some ideas to keep the final rise slow?

Second best option is overnight proofing in the fridge, but everyone seems to feel like loaves need time to warm up, which defeats the "instantly in the oven" part of the equation. Has anyone baked loaves that were retarded overnight in the fridge and put almost literally straight in the oven? Or is the warming up time non-negotiable?

Any problems with loaves drying out during either of these approaches?

Thanks! Looking forward to your input. Here's a picture of one of the better batches lately as I've nailed the art down a little better:

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I have questioned the fridge to oven process before and got a simple answer as this:  Jeffrey Hamelman suggests it so how can it be wrong?

I still haven't tried it myself, but I guess that should be true.  If a master baker suggests it in a recipe, I'm sure it would be fine, for that particular recipe.  I personally like the idea of letting it come to room temp at least.

John

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

  I am from the school of thought that a loaf should be allowed to come up to room temp. prior to being baked.  Not only thought but from experience too but I suppose it depends upon the shape of a loaf.  I would imagine that a baguette could be popped right into the oven because they are so thin and long but I know with boules the crusts will dry out before the center of the loaf gets baked....but I guess one could lower the baking temps. and all might be 'done' at the same time.  Easier for me to allow room temp. time prior to baking.

Overproofing:  To manage that I would simply lower the amount of leaven you use in your loaf or fiddle with the temp. using the refrig. or counter top.  I use whole grains in my baking so I would be courting disaster if I were to leave a loaf on the counter overnight  with a leaven containing more than 8 -10% of the total flour and temps. above 68°.  Also obviously different doughs contain different ingredients all of which come into play during fermentation....so my suggestion is to experiment...experiment and experiment some more until you find what works in your kitchen.  It is only flour and water and a bit of salt :-)

Good Luck,

Janet

gerhard's picture
gerhard

No matter what route you choose it will take at least 1/2 hour for your oven to stabilize to your target temperature, with the baguette that might be enough to bring it to room temperature.

Gerhard

toddvp's picture
toddvp

my plan was to set the oven timer so it's already hot when I get up. Normally I get the dough/loaves out and proof for a few hours to bring it up to temp, but I'm just seeing how uber-efficient the process can be for the sake of schedule.

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

"Has anyone baked loaves that were retarded overnight in the fridge and put almost literally straight in the oven?"

... I regularly retard shaped loaves, boules, whatever - overnight in the fridge, then wham straight into a hot oven in the morning, or whenever it is convenient later that day. No warming up. No dilly-dallying. Hardcore! Whip dough out of fridge, mist, flour, slash - and slam into the furnace it goes. No problemo.

The beauty of this approach is the cold dough is lovely and firm, so you get nice clean scoring, no tearing or tugging. In fact the proofed dough - even very high hydration dough - is so chilled it doesn't flump outwards once released from the banneton or couche, so more rise in the oven than dough proofed at room temperature. And the firmness of this cold dough allows me to nudge, shove, coax it onto the peel without any injury to the shape. The other, and very considerable benefit, is that providing I've kept my yeast levels on the spartan side, I can leave the dough in the chiller until I'm ready to cook - giving far greater flexibility than room-temperature proofed dough which demands to be baked when and as it is ready, and the baker's convenience be damned.

Retarding in the fridge doesn't dry the dough or crust if you pop the proofed loaves in their bannetons, inside a plastic bag folded over a couple of times at the top; the fold held in place with a couple of paperclips. Even a couche can be chilled this way if placed in 2 large plastic shopping bags. Just pop one on from the right, one from the left, so they overlap.

Try it - show the dough who's boss!

All at Sea

toddvp's picture
toddvp

Gracias for the awesome thoughts, bakers. I'm going to try a fridge proof tonight and bake right away in the morning. I'll keep you all posted on the results.

toddvp's picture
toddvp

Tried it this morning, but they came out dense and flat. I think the issue was more that the loaves were underproofed (almost non-proofed) due to the coldness/slowness of fermentation. I had the dough in the fridge before shaping last night, and although I gave it a couple hours to warm up and start rising before they went back in the fridge, I think it wasn't enough to get them to where they needed to be. 

I'll try again soon!

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

.. spot on, toddvp.

At some stage, whether in bulk ferment or in final proof, the yeast needs a good few hours out of the fridge to do its thing. Some folk prefer to retard during bulk ferment; others(like me) find it more convenient to retard during final proof. So long as you allow those yeasties some frolic in the warmth one way or t'other, it doesn't matter - yer takes yer choice!

And if you decide to retard during final proofing and want to bake straight from the fridge, you may still need to let the shaped dough sit out on the counter for a while before its overnight stint in the chiller. It's all down to ambient temps and how much yeast you've included. You'll get to know by feel and sight when the dough is ready for chilling, but it will likely take a little experimentation at first.

All at Sea

Grenage's picture
Grenage

Like All At Sea, I bake straight from the fridge - probably 95% of the time.  It's easier to handly high hydration loaves when they are cold, and much easier to score.

While I normally just retard near the end of the proof, I will often also retard near the end of the bulk ferment; it depends on my schedule!

toddvp's picture
toddvp

tried again this morning, with much better results. Good oven spring and shape. I had some issues with crust color and scoring, but I think those again are on my side rather than the fridge-to-oven technique in itself.

Thanks for all the support!

toddvp's picture
toddvp

Did it! I used a better formula (strongly based on PR's poolish ciabatta from BBA), proofed the loaves almost to complete before putting them in the fridge, and baked within a couple of minutes of taking them out in the morning. Turned out fanstastic-- good spring, crumb, color, etc. If there are any issues, it's a slight thickness of crust from having such a long time to dry out, but it's definitely not a dealbreaker.

Check it out:

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

WoW!

These are stunning.  Not just a success but a magnificent one in my opinion :-)

So much fun to learn a new trick and then get it to work in your kitchen and you have achieved that and then some!

Thanks for posting the results and the photos.

Take Care,

Janet