The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Retarding Dough

FMM's picture

Retarding Dough

I really like the idea of retarding sourdough dough as it allows for a lot of flexibility.  However every time I have tried this method, when I remove the dough from the refrigerator, it fails to produces any further rise, no matter how long I leave it on the bench to come to room temperature.  Also I find that with refrigerated doughs, when I bake the bread, the crumbe is tight and the crust is very pale.

 Any ideas?


umbreadman's picture

While most books I've read have suggested forming loaves and retarding them in a fridge for the final proof, I've had similar experiences like yours where somethings would just not go right and the bread would be sub-par. Now, I do a partial bulk fermentation at room temp, and the rest I finish in the fridge. the next day I take it out, shape it, and let it proof at room temp before baking. I think the manipulation after pulling it from the cold helps to redistribute food for the yeast and re-stimulate the rising action. I'm not sure how this impacts taste / texture explicitly since I've never done a real side by side comparative test, but it's been working better so far and produces tasty stuff. 


tattooedtonka's picture

If you dont mind me asking-

How long is the bread usually sitting in the fridge? 

Also are you shaping the dough and letting it rest out for a bit, or just shaping and putting in the fridge? 


mcs's picture

I guess it depends on the reason for your wanting to retard the sourdough. If you are trying to slow down the rising process to delay the baking, I would go through all of the stages of proofing up until it is ready to go into the oven. (In fact, in your case, I might 'overproof' them slightly on the final fermentation) Next, put them in the freezer, covered with plastic wrap. After 4-6 hours or so, they should be ready to put into freezer bags for long term storage. Then, when you want to bake, thaw them at room temperature on your pans in a humid environment (off oven with a pan of water) then bake when they are thawed. Don't know if this answers your question, but it should remedy the paleness and rising. (The slight overproofing on the first day, I believe gives it a bit of a kick start). Cheers


leemid's picture

It may not be ideal but it is not too cold.

What percentage of your final dough is the starter? I make sourdough nearly every week and have found that without the overnight fridge retard I cannot get the taste nor all the rest of what makes this bread great. Having said that, I use 67% (baker's %) starter in my dough. When it comes out of the fridge it takes 3 - 5 hours to come up to temp and finish rising. I have given it several hours the night before of folding and fermenting at room temp before the chill. After it's doubling rise in the morning I shape and let it rise another 2 - 4 hours depending on the room temp and bake. So far people are raving about it. That they do so is great for the ego but of course most of the bread is for my own family. We like it.

I have no reason to doubt that chilling at the 'proper' temp would produce an excellent bread, but I have trouble believing that this bread could be much better than it is. Sorry for the brag, but it really is outstanding. A friend of mine spent the holidays in California and visited a couple of great bakeries there and proclaimed my bread to be better that anything he found there. That won him another loaf of mine, so you be the judge...

That's my story,


crumb bum's picture
crumb bum


I retard my doughs by adding a miniscule amount of starter 1-2% and allowing it to grow and ferment over a long period at room temp.  I fold the first few hours and let set until the next day when I shape.  This method is very flexable and allows me to do midweek bakes. I stir up the dough 8pm after the kids go to bed and fold till 10.  When I get home from work the following day at 4 I shape and let rise for a few hours and bake just before bed.  I The resulting bread has a fairly mild sd flavor.  I would urge you to give Lee's method a try.  This guy knows how to get some serious flavor out of his doughs.  I had the pleasure of trying his bread and it is great.  It has that full San Fran sd taste.  Lee was also nice enough to give me some of his starter but I have yet to duplicate that classic sd flavor he gets.  Care to spill the beans?  What % is your starter kept and what hydration is your final dough would be my two first questions.  Thanks

Da Crumb Bum     

leemid's picture

That was very kind. Forgive the self-serving comment but the bread I make now is miles ahead of what I made back in the day. I seem to have nailed down the process.

On the other hand, your process and starter percentage produce exceptional flavor as well. Your miche really appeals to the eye and the tongue.

Were you asking about my recipe or FMMs? I am building my own web page documenting my process; not that this venue is not excellent for that. I just like doing web design.


FMM's picture

If you're willing to divulge your recipe, I'd be more than grateful.  You say you use 67% sourdough which is a lot more than I've ever used.  I think mine would be more like 20 to 25%, though I'd have to work it out.  I'm taking your advice and I'm going to turn the dough a few times before putting it in the frige.  This means I've had to take it into work with me- something I vowed I'd never do because no one else in my office has any inclination towards bread-making and they all think I'm daft.


Ramona's picture

I also have taken to putting my doughs into the refrigerator overnight and even for a couple of days and the flavor has really improved.  I am not using a starter though, just dry yeast, but I seem to follow, for the most part, the same procedure that you do and my family really likes the results.

leemid's picture

I use Pendleton's Morbread flour, thanks to crumb bum's recommendation. I use either the Oregon Trail starter from the Friends of Carl on their website or a genuine SF starter from an SF bakery (I would name it but don't have their permission and don't want to send a bunch of folks there hoping to get some too, sorry).

I keep about 120 grams of starter in the fridge over the week until Friday morning when I grow it to 400 grams for bread and refresh it to ~120g to go back to chill for next time. The 400g stays at room temp for the day. In the evening I build the dough with 600g of bread flour, 450g water (stolen from a friend's well), 400g starter and just less than 1 tblsp. sea salt (but intend to convert to kosher now that I have found a source). My scale won't give me accuracy I can trust at such small qty. I mix the water and flour and let it autolyse for at least an hour, then add the salt and starter, kneading together until well mixed and my need to knead is satisfied. It goes in a rising bucket for an hour, if I have that long, and then I do the stretch and fold. I repeat that cycle until I go to bed, so sometimes I S&F once, sometimes 4 - 5 times. It's best to get at least 3 cycles. Then it goes in the fridge overnight. I take it out as soon as I get up and let it warm up and double, when it gets around to it. I form two loaves, usually a couple of batards, or the closest I can get it, that are 2 1/2" to 3" in diameter and perhaps 12 to 16" long (I have never measured them). I couche them in linen until fully proofed. That is vague but they swell up nicely, hard to say double. I bake at 475F for 5 minutes with steam, tossed in from a cup (1/4 c. in qty.) every 90 seconds for 3 times, then reduce heat to 450F for 8.5 minutes, turn the loaves to even the color and go another 8.5 minutes. Then I always wait for them to cool to room temp. Oh, I slash them in the traditional 3 diagonal cuts, straight in tho not at an angle like I'm supposed to.

I will fess up that the original recipe was from RLB's Bread Bible and I honestly can't tell you what I have done to mess with it, which I always do. It might be close, it might not be, but in my opinion that is a good book. Of course, there are a lot of good books out there. We should own them all. All in favor...

That's my bread and I'm sticking to it,