The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fridge Temperature

TheFreeman's picture

Fridge Temperature

Hi all,


So basically I consider myself new to baking but I am getting quite consistent results with good rise and taste. 

What I was wondering last time was regarding fridge temperature. I am trying to figure out how people manage to get their final "proofing" done in the fridge. Do these people have a higher temperature fridge? I keep mine around 2/3c(38f) and I barely observe any rise if any at all. I do however notice the huge difference in taste the longer it is left in the fridge.

So basically what I have been doing lately is finishing my proofing (bulk+shaping) outside, then once I want to stop fermentation I am putting my loafs in the fridge. Is this a good approach or may I be overproofing?

idaveindy's picture

The dough still ferments in the fridge.  Cool temps favor the acetic-acid-forming bacteria over the yeast, but both slow down.  The yeast is still active, just a bit slower.  The lower temp also keeps the gas bubbles a bit smaller.

Yeast/LAB in a starter in the fridge still eat, and need to be fed, or else they will form a hooch.  I have to feed my  starter in the fridge every 4 to 6 days,

Same processes happen in dough, just not as concentrated as a starter.

Putting in the fridge does NOT stop the fermentation.  It slows the yeast a lot, and slows the other bacteria somewhat.  

This common misnderstanding sometimes leads to beginners over-proofing their dough, because they wrongly think everything "stops" in the fridge.

And even being in the fridge, there is still  the degradation of the proteins by the acids and enzymes.

BernardH's picture

200200506I too would appreciate some guidance on this topic. Recently I tried placing two loaves in brotforms (dough temp about 23C, 72F) to proof overnight (=15 hours) in the fridge. They rose nicely, see picture, but were overproofed - when I removed the plastic film they collapsed down to just above the top of the brotform. Nevertheless I got good oven spring and two presentable loaves. Before doing this I put some play-dough in a brotform in the fridge to see how quiickly it cooled - see my post here:

As I see it this means that in my fridge this dough proves too much before it has cooled enough for the yeast to stop working. So, yes, I can use my fridge to retard the ferment, but I still need to remove the loaves to bake them when they are correctly proofed: I can't simply leave the dough overnight. Am I missing a trick here?

Benito's picture

Have you checked the temperature of your fridge?  Put a glass of water on the shelf you will use overnight in the fridge and take its temperature the next morning.  You can check in various parts of your fridge to check the temperatures out higher and lower in the fridge.  Your fridge might be warmer than you think.  I haven’t had a dough, so far, over proof in my fridge.


albacore's picture

Woodpulp brotforms are a special case. They have very thick walls of lightweight insulating woodpulp and it seems to me that the contained dough will cool down a fair bit slower than in a cane or plastic banneton.


BernardH's picture

Thank-you both for your suggestions. My fridge was running  at 3C, so I think the insulating effect of the brotforms explains what's going on here. If I chill the brotforms in the fridge before baking that should overcome the insulating effect so I'll give it a try. If it retards the proof too much I can always allow the loaves to warm up before baking.

TheFreeman's picture

I am really surprised that the activity still occurs at 2/3c, because I am sure I have read that yeast is inactive at those temperatures (dorment).

I understand that flavor develops since existing gas will incorporate better with the surrounding dough. Regarding the other post, I have never seen that many rise if any at all in my fridge. You must have some hot spots or very bad circulation. I have tested my fridge with a probe and its almost constantly at 2/3c. 

But I will keep what you said in mind and make sure to put my dough in the fridge before the RT proof is ready.

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

Yeast produces heat also. If it goes in active and is well covered it can be quite a while before it goes dormant.

DanAyo's picture

Freeman, if your fridge is 39F or lower the dough shouldn’t rise much if at all during an overnight retard. BUT at 40F a slight rise can be expected. The dough is very sensitive to slight temperature changes in that temp range. See Benny’s suggestion HERE.

Lance mentioned pulp baskets being more insulated. Two thoughts.

  1. Place them in the freezer for a while before placing dough
  2. Place the banneton with the dough in the freezer for 15-20 minutes or so before refrigerating

Thermal data logs show that it takes ~5 hours for a bread dough to normalize to refrigerator temps. During this time of temperature reduction the dough is continuing to ferment. Most over proofed doughs that have been retarded spent too much time fermenting before the bannetons were placed in the fridge.

greyspoke's picture

This is pretty much what I do @TheFreeman, though my fridge temperature isn't quit as low as that.  If I leave my fridge on its normal setting (no. 3 on the dial, works out at around 5.5C if the door is left shut), loaves tend to over-proof overnight, but at 4 (around 3-4C) they don't.  At the lower temperature setting there is some further rise during the first few hours but virtually nothing thereafter, at the higher setting loaves go on rising a fair bit overnight and generally over-proof (in the sense that the dough goes all slumpy, won't score properly, and the loaves have uneven crumb, though they taste OK).  In fact, if it clear this has happened, I bung it in a tin to bake and don't bother trying to score it at all.  It seems to be quite sensitive to the temperature, which obvoiusly varies if people are opening and closing the fridge a lot. 

Chemical reactions go faster at higher temperatures, but the relationship is anything but linear, so some reactions will grind to a halt in the cold, whilst others will saunter on.  At your low temperatures , yeast and probably the bacteria are pretty dormant as others have noted, so CO2 production will slow right down.  But there will be chemistry going on which will change the flavour.  


For what I reckon is the same degree of proofing, an overnight in the fridge results in more acetic/acetone aromas to my senses.  How would you characterise the flavour difference?