The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


ValerieC's picture


If time constraints and management are not an issue, which approach produces better bread: bulk ferment or final proof overnight in fridge ? I make 100% wholewheat loaves. Many thanks. Valerie

tgrayson's picture

I don't like final proof in the refrigerator because items often lose tension with the long rest. Might be OK for small items or ones that are baked in a form of some sort.

iPat's picture

Bulk fermentation all the way.

Gill63's picture

Like most things, it seems to vary from person to person! May be down to recipe, dough handling skills, local environment, or a combination. Personally I get on better with a final overnight proof and baking direct from the fridge. My slashing is better and I seem to get better oven spring that way.

NeilM's picture

I like two-three day fridge ferments .

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I like to retard the bulk ferment, mostly so I can watch the dough during the final proof and bake it when it's 'ready'. I've had a few over-proof in the fridge, and it's hard to save it then. I do proof some shaped loaves overnight in the fridge though, depending on my baking schedule. Makes it much easier to hit the ground running when I have to bake a lot of bread for my little shop opening at noon. I set the oven to come on 45 minutes before I get up, then just pop the shaped loaves into the oven when I get up. So, I guess the answer is, I do both!

Evrenbingol's picture


So you bulk ferment regardless. All doughs are bulk fermented(Almost all). 
So I am guessing you mean after you finish your stretch and fold you do a retard before you shape.

1 )if you retard after shape you ll get a thicker and more chewy crust->  great for country stylebreads Boule/Batards(your bread)
Not so good for baguettes as you would have to chew to much to a point it hurts your jaw muscles. 
2) The minute water touches flour protease enzymes get activated and this weakens the gluten as time passes. If you have to shape after a retarded bulk you would have a more tacky dough to shape. In production this is an issue sometimes.

3)Retarded shaped dough is harder to tell if it is ready. You can not do a poke test. So you need to experiment with your timing to see when ready to bake. If you Bulk ferment and retard before shape and when retard is completed you shape and dough has to come to room temp and proof/rise. 

3) Most importantly whatever if better for your schedule. 

Flavor wise there is no difference. But as I mentioned you get a better crust for some applications if you retard shaped


What will give you the best result is an overnight (6-8 hours) autolyse