The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to "retard" during bulk ferment?

Bread Head's picture
Bread Head

How to "retard" during bulk ferment?

I would like to start retarding some of my bulk fermentation, for a better flavor would I go about that?

Right now I bulk ferment for about 13 to 18 hours on my kitchen counter (70˚)

Would I start it on my counter for about 5 hours then place it in the fridge?  And how long should I leave it in the fridge?

Is their a specific formula of in the fridge hours vs. counter hours?

Also when I take it out of the fridge do I let it warm up or shape it cold?

Thanks for your time>

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

One idea would be to use less yeast. After you have completed all mixing and stretch and folds place the dough into a container, cover it with plastic wrap and put it where the ambient temperature is lower. 

Without working with a specific formula that addresses this concept you will need to experiment. For example you could reduce the yeast by 25% to 33%. When the dough has doubled relocate it to a warmer area (75 degrees) and after an hour do a pre-shaping. From there on everything else will remain the same.

See: Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day for this concept.

Good luck,



ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Retardation in bulk, especially when a natural leaven is involved, does not produce better flavour; it simply produces a different flavour-profile, one that downplays the sort of aromatic compounds most tasters find agreeable in bread ("fresh," "fruity," "floral," and so on) and will always select for those flavours that are associated with the baking process ("nutty," "roasted," "burnt," "bitter," and so on), certain aromatic compounds that are grain-based ("malty," "wheaten," "bitter caramel," and so on) and the interaction between the two (heightened Maillard flavour; very little crumb flavour but with a very "loud" crust flavour). Depending upon yeast activity and inoculation, there may be one-sided alcoholic, boozy and yeasty flavours as well.  The only way around this would be to pre-ferment enough of the total flour at room temperature (say, starting at 33% of the total flour), which would have already developed the necessary levels of yeast-extractives, acid-, enzymatic- and aromatic flavour-compounds to overcome the above flavour-profiles.

I can also recommend a desired dough temperature, which is a range of temperatures inversely proportional to dough mass and volume-to-surface-area ratio.

Retardation in bulk will really only favourably benefit straight doughs with an instant-dried yeast level between .2% and .8%, or those with stiffer, commercially-yeasted pre-ferments.