The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Midweek sourdough, double-retardation

Anomalous's picture

Midweek sourdough, double-retardation

I've been looking for a way to do sourdoughs in the middle of a working week without taking too much time out of a busy schedule. My first attempts involved stretching, folding and shaping the dough in the morning then cold-proving it in the fridge while I was at work for an evening bake, but this was problematic when I started a new job (community neuro-rehab) which demanded an earlier start. Here's the solution, needing only a bit of attention on three successive evenings. I'm using a 100% hydration wholemeal rye starter which I keep in the fridge.

Evening one: I put 100g of sourdough starter in a tub with 200g strong white flour and 200g cold, filtered water, mix it up, put the lid on and put it in the fridge. That takes about 3 minutes.

The next morning, I take the tub out of the fridge and leave it out at room temperature, then off to work. The sponge is looking limp and lumpy, so not a lot has gone on overnight.

Evening Two, approx. 20:00: taking the lid off the tub, the sponge looks loose and bubbly. Ready for action.

I add another 300g of strong white flour, 10g salt and 100g cold, filtered water, a good glug of olive oil and mix it thoroughly by hand. I also throw in a tablespoon of linseeds and a tablespoon of toasted, crushed hemp seeds. Now it just looks like a crude dough. That took about 3 minutes.

I put the lid back on and wander off for 15 minutes doing something else.

20:15. 15 minutes later, the dough has developed a little and is easier to work with. I turn it out onto an oiled work surface.

I take hold of each of the four corners in turn, pull them out gently to stretch the dough and fold the corner back into the middle, as though to make a parcel, repeating this a few times until it feels tight and stretchy. 

Now I put a bowl over it to keep in the moisture and leave it for another fifteen minutes and it looks a bit more relaxed.

20:30. Then I repeat the stretch and fold process and it's looking a bit tighter and more elastic. 

I cover it with a bowl and wait another 15 minutes to give it the third stretch, fold and shaping.

20:45. The third stretch and fold done, the dough is developing nicely. Back under the bowl for another 15 minutes.

21:00. The final stretch, fold and shaping. Now it has a nice structure, springy, elastic and tight, so I flour the banneton and gently put the dough in, topside down. 

I put the banneton into a big ziplock bag to keep in the moisture and put it in the fridge to rise overnight and while I'm at work the following day.

Evening Three, approx. 18:30. When I get home from work, it's nicely risen. I put the oven on maximum (230C) to heat up for 20 minutes.

The dough is ready to be floured and turned out into the base of the combo cooker and slashed.

Now the lid goes on and it's ready to go in the oven.

The lid keeps in the moisture and heat for the first 20 minutes, preventing crust formation and allowing for maximum oven-spring. After 20 minutes the lid comes off and the loaf is nicely risen.

It goes back into the oven, no change in temperature setting, for a further 20-25 minutes to set the crust and finish baking. When it emerges, there's a lovely caramelisation of the crust.

The crust crackles noisily as it cools. The results are consistently good, and it's difficult to resist it while it's cooling, with lots of butter at the ready. It's good for sandwiches and makes gorgeous toast. The routine works well for a busy working week so I can keep it going even when I have an early and rushed start in the mornings.




dabrownman's picture

always your friend.  I'm convinced that, not only can folks work out a good baking schedule using the fridge no matter how busy they are, but the bread tastes better and is more sour too!  Your bread is gorgeous - well done!


Anomalous's picture

Using the fridge makes it so easy to control the schedule. It means we can have fresh, still-warm bread with dinner, as well as great sandwiches the next day. I just wouldn't be able to manage it without slowing down the rise.

chouette22's picture

Thanks for sharing your schedule, this is just what I needed. I have been struggling, lately, to find a good working method to get my bread baking done. The schedules, very often, just don't work with my rhythm and I have to do all the baking on a weekend, when again, things get in-between my recipes and other plans. I will give this a try. And your bread sure looks fantastic!

Anomalous's picture

Hope it works out well for you. I've also done it with reduced quantities to make a smaller loaf, just bringing everything down to 80% of the quantities above. This works well for us if I bake every other day, but it depends how many people will be eating it!

isand66's picture

Great looking bake.  Love the rise you achieved. I also like to use the fridge for my baking.


Casey_Powers's picture

I really like you boule.  The shape and color are warm.  I enjoy the crust and crumb of you braes as well.   What a nice way to enjoy some bread and butter.  I bet it sang like music for you.

Warm Regards,


dmsnyder's picture

Great job working out a schedule that works for you, too.


Foodzeit's picture

The rise and the crumb make my mouth water for your bread. I really have to try to let the bread rise overnight in the fridge, too. Read it before but never tried it. Hope my bread turns out like yours :)

bakingbadly's picture

Very nice bake. Not much else I can say. :)


mrfrost's picture

Nice. Is the combo cooker pre-heated?


Anomalous's picture

No, I don't preheat the combo cooker. Initially I did, but it seemed to sometimes make the bottom of the loaf a bit too charred and hard. There's not much of a difference, but I prefer to avoid preheating just to avoid the nuisance of handling the scorchingly-hot cast iron when turning out the dough. It can work out well both ways and I think it just comes down to individual preference so I would say it's best to try both methods and see which one suits best.

Anomalous's picture
  • If I leave the sponge out for longer than the 12 hours above, or if the weather is hot, the dough can be harder to work with because it feels wetter and stickier, and the final loaf will be a little flatter and less dome-shaped and with more sourdough tang. Reducing the time for which the sponge is left out at room temperature brings things back to normal, but a tangier, slightly flatter loaf is not a bad thing!
  • I can make the sponge significantly further in advance and leave it in the fridge for a day or two before bringing it up to room temperature, so it can help keep the process going if I'm away from home for a night or two. 
jim_bikerider's picture

I've been using your recipe for a while now.  Works great. Thank you for sharing it.

Anomalous's picture

Thanks Jim, I'm still using it pretty much as described above. It keeps us in great bread all week long.