The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How long can one refrigerate a sourdough dough?

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

How long can one refrigerate a sourdough dough?

Have a sourdough dough that is about 1 - 2 hours from finishing the bulk ferment. A simple recipe:

It was thrown together at the spur of the moment with starter that was refreshed almost a week ago. It's been about 7 hours but out of time and wish to refrigerate till Friday / Saturday? Is that do-able? 

When I'm ready to carry on I can take it out of the fridge, allow it to warm up so it can be shaped then final proof etc?


pmccool's picture

I made some yeasted, not sourdough, honey whole wheat bread in class on a Saturday.  Since it was the last bread of the class, it was bagged, carried home, and placed in the refrigerator.  It wasn't baked until the following Friday.  All in all, I doubt that I could tell any difference between that one and one made and baked in the same day.

Again, that wasn't sourdough.  Given my experience that sourdough moves even more slowly in the refrigerator than a yeasted dough does, I expect yours should be alright.

There's one way to find out.  ;-)


Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Thanks Paul. I'm confident that if you can do that with a yeasted dough over a week then you're correct that a sourdough should be less of an issue. 

My refrigeration learning curve is about to get steep :) 

Nice to know that most of the hard work has been done and whenever I'm ready I can just shape it and carry on. 

BaniJP's picture

I think because you have a lower hydration and quite little starter, your should be fine. If I was making my standard sourdough loaf (100% flour, 60% water, 50% starter), I wouldn't keep it longer than maybe 36 h in the fridge since it could degrade the gluten network too much and the flavor also gets too intense.

When shaping it, maybe let it come up to room temp a little, because imo then you have the best conditions to work and shape the dough without tearing it.

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

As it turned out I found time to bake it 24 hours later and it turned out very nice. It had a good rise in the fridge, when I took it out, and left it for one hour at room temperature before shaping when it reached the optimal ferment stage. It was shaped and refrigerated again for a few hours and then baked. Great looking loaf but haven't tasted it yet. Nice oven spring.

DanAyo's picture

Your refrigerator temperature. If the temp is 3.5C (38F) or lower the dough should not rise. If 4.5C (40F) or higher the dough will remain slightly active and subject to over proof, given enough time.

Thermal charts indicate that a dough can take 4-5 hours before the temp of the dough normalizes to the fridg. You might consider placing in the freezer for a quick cool down. It shouldn’t take very long. Be sure to monitor closely.

Put a glass of water in your fridg and leave it for a few hours, better yet overnight. Take the temperature if the water. Guess what? We all know that cold air falls, but for some unknown reason the top shelf of my fridg is the coldest. Go figure...


Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

I don't know the temperature of my fridge but please see my comment above where I explain that it had a good rise in the fridge and with a further one hour at room temperature it was ready to be shaped. So it did continue to rise but did eventually stop. Just in time it seems. 

If it rises too much but still has strength then that is fine. As long as it has enough food left over for a shape and final proof. Getting it at the perfect risen state for a good bake is more important at the final proof stage but doesn't mean it's all over as far as fermentation. That's why one can 'sometimes' bulk ferment till more than doubled but then shape and final proof till just under doubled. Often over proofed can be reshaped and proofed again. 

Just how can one know exactly how much time the dough has before it's all over I suppose it's down to trial and error with lots of practice. Since all our starters are different I don't know if any other way. I have followed recipes which have turned my dough to soup through over fermentation. Now I have an idea when I see how much is prefermented etc. The fridge does throw things off a bit. Often for the better as a safety feature but for very long ferments i havent tried it to be sure.