When to retard the dough and surface drama
I actually posted this as a reply to another string and realized that it was kind of a non-sequitor there.
Given the time logistics and requirements for sourdough-- mine is a six hour starter-- I am a real fan of retardation in the fridge, both the sponge and the shaped loaves. It also helps that retardation gives the levain time to develop flavor and complexity. I have found it convenient to retard the dough right after it has been shaped and before any significant rising (this is of course after the first pre-shaping rise). Then the next day I take it out roughly 7 hours before I plan to bake it (1 hour to come to room temp, 6 hours to double). The results have been very good. I like the idea mentioned in another post about allowing it to rise after shaping, then retarding it overnight before baking. Obviously the timing is different in that I would have to plan for two 6 hour rises in one day. I'll be trying that next.
I am particularly curious to see if the slashes are more dramatic this way. With my basic white sourdough boule (starter, flour, salt, water) I get great crust, delicious flavor, good crumb with varying size holes, etc, etc. What I don't get are the great ragged crests where I slashed the dough before popping it into the oven (I bake on tiles under a flowerpot cloche). Rather, they, melt back into the surface of the bread, looking like old scars. Interestingly, my raisin walnut bread, which has more ingredients (starter, water, 2/3 white flour, 1/3 whole wheat flower, milk, sugar, raisins and walnuts) and is a heavier dough comes out of the oven with beautiful dramatic crests. Both breads have roughly the same hydration.
I've followed some threads that talk about (I think) the Dan Lepard 1/3 fold technique which is supposed to increase surface tension. And will of course be trying that next also.
Definitely intrested in ideas to "correct" my basic white boule's lack of crest drama!