The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Retarding dough overnight with no yeast

jimhaas3's picture

Retarding dough overnight with no yeast

 Hi Bakers, 

 Can anybody make some suggestions about retarding dough overnight when there is no yeast in the formula. I have tried to do this a couple of times with some basic sourdoughs, but for the life of me, it seems to be very difficult to get there though to wake up again when I have pulled it out of the retarder. 

 Any ideas, suggestions, shared experience will be very helpful. 

 Happy baking everybody.


msneuropil's picture

I've been waiting for other to jump in cause I've scratched my head as to what exactly you mean.  LOL!

First...have you experience at all with a successful loaf of sourdough when NOT retarding it?

Did you bulk ferment at room temp at all before retarding it? 

Did you only retard AFTER bulk ferment...then shape it?? 

Danni3ll3's picture

each time I bake. 

1. Keep the amount of prefermented flour to around 10%. For example, this weekend, my recipe of 1225 g total of flour, 125 g of that is in the Levain or sourdough starter. My total Levain was 250 g. 

2. Be sure to develop the gluten well. In order to do that, I do a 2 hour autolyse. I also mix my dough in a mixer for 6 minutes, then I do 6 sets of folds (4 sets 30 minutes apart and the last two sets, a hour apart). If by hand, I do slap and folds on the counter for the first 3 sets (70,40,10). Then I do the regular folds. 

3. I put my dough in the fridge to finish bulking and make it easier to shape. This can be anywhere from 2 to 5 hours depending on my schedule. 3 or 4 hours is my norm. 

4. After the divide and preshape, my dough rests in the counter for an hour before the final shape. I believe it is important to warm up the dough in order for the final proof to happen in the fridge. 

5. After the final shape, the dough goes right into the fridge for 8-10 hours. My oven spring suffers if I go over 12. 8-10 hours seems to be the sweet spot for my ingredients. 

6. I bake right out of the fridge. No extra proofing on the counter. 

I know it sounds long and painful, but this routine works for me. Yes, it takes me all day but the results are worth it. 

DanAyo's picture

Danni, what is the temperature in your frig? You are producing beautiful breads and I’d like to consider your process.

Very interesting. “I put my dough in the fridge to finish bulking and make it easier to shape. This can be anywhere from 2 to 5 hours depending on my schedule. 3 or 4 hours is my norm.“


Oh! Our next Community Bake is set to take place the following weekend after Easter. It will feature Maurizio’s Oat Porridge Bread. I hope you join in. I play close attention to your input, and I’m sure others do as well.

Danni3ll3's picture

is what I keep it at. I use the top shelves and that’s where I measured the temp. 

GlennM's picture

Hi Dani

i like the sound of your timetable, I have been struggling with timing for both the bulk and final proof. I think I have been leaving the bulk go on too long and not getting the oven spring I’m looking for. I do like scoring the loaves when cold, I get much better results. The problem I have currently is there is little to no rise in the final cold proof

i followed your timetable above and it doesn’t seem to work for me, I may be not interrupting it correctly?

7am - 2 hr autolyse

9-12 - stretch and folds

12-4pm. bulk in the fridge 

5-6 rest 

6 pm form and into the fridge 10 hours

that means bake at 4am?



Danni3ll3's picture

it means bake at 4 am. I usually start about 9 am and some things take me a bit longer because I deal with 4 batches of dough at once. So...

9 am Last Levain feed. This usually doubles in 4 hours but I often wait 5. Time of the year does affect how quickly it rises. 

11:30 or so am Mix and autolyse. I start early because of the 4 batches of dough. Otherwise 12 pm would be fine. 

2 pm Add salt, (yogurt, add-ins if using) and Levain. Mix for total 6 minutes in mixer (1 minute on fist speed and 5 minutes on 2nd speed). This takes me well over a half hour with 4 batches. 

3 pm first fold

3:30 pm second fold

4 pm third fold

4:30 pm fourth fold

5:30 pm fifth fold

6:30 pm sixth fold and into fridge. Sometimes this is a bit sooner if the dough is zooming along and starting to rise past 20%. 

Then the dough will sit in the fridge for 3 to 5 hours. It can be shorter or longer depending on what I am doing but I aim to take the dough out between 9 and ten pm, although if I am out, it can be 11 or 12 at night. 

10 pm Preshape and let rest for an hour 

11pm Shape and into fridge for the night (9 to 10 hours. And yes, the dough barely rises. But if you take a picture of before and after, you will note that there is some rise, not a lot though. Just bake right out of the fridge. 

I set the oven to delay start so I don’t have to get up for that and let it heat up for an hour. So that means if the dough goes in to fridge at 12 pm, the oven heats up on its own at 7 am and I get up to bake one set of 6 loaves at 8 am. The next set of six goes in about 75 minutes later to allow baking of the first batch and reheating if the oven to temp. If you are doing only one batch, you can set your oven to heat at 8 am and bake at 9. 

None of these times are written in stone so adjust to your needs. I find that finishing the bulk in the fridge really gives me a lot of flexibility in terms of when I want to shape and makes the dividing and pre-shape so much easier since the dough is cold. You do need that hour rest to let it warm up a bit before the final shape and proof. 

Something else to think about is that I keep my fridge pretty cold but I am sure that the temp rises a fair bit when I put 12 loaves in there for the night. One or two loaves will cool down a lot faster than 12 so you might want to set your fridge around 40F which I believe is the maximum safe temperature for refrigerators. 

Hope this helps!