The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

controlling overproofing

Windischgirl's picture

controlling overproofing

I'm beginning to think my yeast is on steroids...

Given my hectic schedule, what with work and home and hubby and 3 kids going at least 4 different places, I have often stowed dough in the fridge to buy some well as develop the flavors.  However, I've noticed a pattern that I haven't seen discussed on the forums yet:

If I put the dough in the fridge before first fermentation (knead it and fridge it), I get very little rise in the fridge.  But if any rise has happened at room temp and then I fridge it, either during first fermentation or proofing, I get the time the dough has come to room temp again, it's huge and I might as well degas ( the action, not the artist!) and shape from scratch, otherwise it's impossible to slash and I get almost no oven rise.

Doesn't matter if it's yeast, or yeast-starter combo.  I do the combo because my starter, altho bubbly and tasty, has never really risen...and I seldom have the extended stretches of time to let a straight starter do it's thing...but this will be another posting. it my fridge? (Which has been having it's quirks now, as well!) I store the dough on the bottom shelf--it's a bottom-freezer version--which is coolest.

Am I using too much yeast/starter?  If straight dough, yeast is typically 2 tsp for a 1 1/2 to 2 lb loaf; if yeast-starter, I use 1 tsp yeast and about 25-30% starter for the same size loaf (about 4-5 c flour).  I am basing the starter percents on The Metropolitan Bakery Book (Metro. is a Philly-based artisan bakery) which suggested using 30-40% starter for max flavor and keeping quality.  And since I had a bathtub full of the stuff...

Are there other issues I should be aware of? 

Should I work on my organizational skills, developing a schedule for proofing, retarding, etc?  In my earlier life, I was scheduled rigidly, but having been knocked around by life and being married to Mr. Spontaneity, I've lost that ability ;-).  The thought of reverting to a schedule makes me cringe, but if I have to for the sake of good bread...!   


obrien1984's picture



I don't think anything is wrong with your yeast or your refrigerator. I have the exact same experience if I leave the dough out too long before stashing it in the fridge.

I think that it simply takes a long time to cool dough in a typical 40-50F refrigerator. If you pop it in immediately after you're finished kneading (and have used ice water instead of warm water), then the dough is already close to 40-50F, so the dough never has a chance to rise. However, if you start with warm water and give the yeast a head start of, say, 20-30 minutes, then by the time the dough has cooled from 75-80F, the yeast have already had plenty of time to do their thing. 

 So, I would recommend using ice-cold water and putting the dough in the fridge immediately after kneading.

 Good luck.


Windischgirl's picture

Joseph, thanks for the reassurance!  (My fridge actually has other issues--waiting on parts--but at least I know it's not after my bread!)  I also appreciate the explanation...what you're describing makes sense to me.

I use filtered water from the fridge, so it's about 40F to start...but maybe if I time things a bit better and retard right away...or maybe after de-gassing...the dough should behave itself.

I have not been able to use tap water because ours is so actually stunted the growth of the yeast, and I have a white crust on the pan I use for steam (thank goodness for vinegar or I could mine the lime off...hmmm...wonder if there's a market?) 


tadmitchell's picture

I'm positive Joseph is right. It's all about the dough temperature. Your dough should be a certain temperature when you are finished kneading it (or when it leaves the mixer if you are using a mixer to do the kneading). Normally the desired dough temperature is 80 degrees. Normally if you are using a mixer to do the kneading, the dough gets too hot if you are using room temperature ingredients. So you need to start with ice water to achieve the desired dough temperature by the end.

It sounds like you have the opposite problem. You are using ice water and your dough never reaches 80 degrees. Try warming your water up a little in the microwave to 60 degrees.

All that said, 80 degrees for the dough is too warm if you're going to be retarding it. Try 70 degrees. If it still overrises, reduce the temperature a little more. You should not need to ferment the dough prior to putting it in the fridge. It's hassle you don't need.

Finally, you'll never create a repeatable process unless you buy a thermometer. They only cost $10. You need it to check the water temperature and the dough temperature. Checking my dough temperature out of my mixer has increased the consistency of my bread enormously.


caviar's picture

I have been unable to achieve a dough temp of over 75 degrees from the kneading. I hand knead on a granite counter at a rate of every two seconds with my 220 pounds. The recipes all call for 78 to 81 degrees. Is it the counter which is cool? I do get a window pane effect. I have a couple of instant thermometers which give a reading of about one degree difference from each other so hopefully it isn't the thermometer.

Should I try increasing the water temperature. Also I have not used the temperature formula which I don't think I understand. If I use a whole grain flour fropm the fridge it is probably 37 degrees but even using flour at room temp I still can't get 78 degrees.

Windischgirl's picture

Hey Tad: You may be right, I amy need to fiddle with the temperature a bit more.  I do have a lovely digital thermometer...but I also have an old house so ambient temp tends to fluctuate depending on the outdoor temp.  When I started my sourdough it was January and my house was 65F (59F at night).  Come July it will be 90F+, (and I am carefully reading those posts about grilling my bread!).  I guess I need to develop some patience and make it worth my while to heat my water if I'm able to bake that day, and maybe being more conscious of the time if I'm mixing dough and it needs to ferment.

One of my goals of the retard is to develop flavors and improve bread quality; but the other is dealing with life's little disasters...the kid who needs a run to the store or the ER at the last minute, or the hubby who says..."Honey, can you wash?  I've got a trip tomorrow..."  So into the fridge goes the dough and I hope for the best... 

I will give the thermometer a try.  Maybe I should also be in the market for household staff ;-)   Any takers?  You will be paid in improved bread!


hazimtug's picture


What a coincidence. I made walnut-sourdough bread this weekend with 20-25% whole wheat. The formula I am using asks that I keep the dough out at room temperature for about 2-4 hours after I am done shaping and before I refrigerate. I had a hunch that I'd be overproofing at the end of the process, because I could see a lot of rise in the dough already before I put it in the fridge. The next day, I found a fully grown monster in my fridge. I still proceeded with getting it to warm up for about an hour or so before I scored. Well, not to my surprise and just like a symbol of my efforts partly going down the drain, there was so much deflation. I proceeded with baking and got minimal oven spring. The flavors were still there (as commented by family and friends) but not the expected texture and crumb...

Next time, I will be sure to record my temperatures as suggested and put the dough in the fridge right after shaping. I have no idea how things will change when the room temperatures soar up to 80 - 90 degrees here in summer.

Thanks for sharing... Hazim