The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ideal retardation temperature?

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Pablo's picture

ideal retardation temperature?

A little bar 'fridge was getting thrown out and I grabbed it for a dedicated chilled compartment for retarding dough.  Any thoughts about the ideal temperature to try to achieve?  I'm thinking about 55 degrees F. 

gavinc's picture

Jeff Hamelman's Bread page 151 suggests:

Up to 8 hours about 50 degrees F should suffice.  Breads retarding for 16 hours need close to 40 degrees F. 

Pablo's picture

Terrific, thanks.  I can see I'd better expand my library.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Different breads will be different, depending on their hydration and the amount of riser you are using.


Some will take longer, some less time.


So, try.  We tried to get our dough fully risen in the retarder so it could go straight into the oven, as Jeff Hammelman suggests.


Your points of control are the hydration of the dough, the amount of riser, the amount of time the dough sits at room temperature before it goes into the retarder, the temperature of the retarder, and how long the dough is retarded.


Play with the variables and you can make the bread come out when you want and the way you want.


Also, you might look into external thermostats.  Home brew shops have them.  Most refrigerators don't have very accurate temperature control, so an external thermostat helps a lot.


Good luck,



Pablo's picture

What I found out today is that my oven is whacked.  With the control set to 525 a stand-alone oven thermometer was varying between 350 and 400. :-( The stove came with the house 3 years ago and was not very new then.  The house is from '83 and perhaps the stove is as well.  This is the excuse to replace it.  Actually it seems the 'fridge may not be getting down to an ideal temperature for storing food either, it's a contemporary of the stove.  Sears here we come.  I hope that helps to explain some of my less than stellar results.  I'm really into this whole deal though.  It was attempting artisan bread baking that got me to pick up an oven thermometer and an internal probe and start a journal of my efforts with more precise measuring and monitoring.

Shaping loaves is also very difficult for me.  I see these videos of people working very wet dough on unfloured surfaces and I think I should be able to do that.  I end up really traumatizing my dough and getting a rough approximation of shape.  My current plan is to get the Peter Reinhart books and so some careful reading and step by step following of instructions.  I thought I could just pick a hydration ratio and go for it.  But it hasn't panned out like that.  They've all been edible, and tasty even, but not the open crumb/crispy crust that I'm striving for.  But it sure is fun!  And I can much more fully appreciate some of the spectacular results people post photos of here.

dougal's picture

What I found out today is that my oven is whacked. With the control set to 525 a stand-alone oven thermometer was varying between 350 and 400. :-( The stove came with the house 3 years ago and was not very new then. The house is from '83 and perhaps the stove is as well. This is the excuse to replace it. ....
OT I know, but when its the OP doing the hijacking... !!!

Before spending $$$ on a new oven, my suggestion is that you at least inspect it before junking it.


Traditional basic electric ovens would often have heating elements on the left and right sides, concealed by easily removable panels (that hold the racks). 

Those heating elements don't last absolutely for ever. If one has failed, it will limit the maximum temperature (and make the heating less even and less accurate - more variation). But it would probably achieve lower temperatures - so at least see what it gives when you set 300 - and don't expect any mechanical on/off thermostat to hold a temperature very closely, it should vary slightly to both sides. True electronic controls can hold more accurately, but they are more expensive both to buy and to repair.

I think it might be well $-worthwhile to check it and see whether there is something that is easily fixable with a $10 part (like replacing a failed element) before spending $$$ or $$$$.

BUT PLEASE DO electrically isolate the thing before having a poke around its guts.


Similarly, in the fridge, sometimes the way its loaded (and how full) can affect how evenly the thing cools. It can be one temperature near the thermostat sensor and something very different elsewhere - particularly if the fridge is either opened a lot, or not at all! (And with ice/frost around the sensor, all bets are off.)

Pablo's picture

I'll check out the oven, after unplugging it, thanks for the info.

After the recommendation about temperature in the 'fridge I looked it up on the web and the page I found said that ideal 'fridge temperature for food storage is 35 - 37 F.  I put a probe in a container of liquid in the 'fridge and found the temp to be 48 F.  That seemed way too high.  I pegged the control at its coldest and it now measures 42 F.  I'll try moving the container around inside the 'fridge and checking the temp in various places.  42 is much closer to 38 than 48.

Pablo's picture

As it turns out, there are no side panels to remove.  We opted to replace the stove, which we had been contemplating doing anyway.  We just ordered a Samsung.  One of the determinates was the tall oven with lots of room for the pan under the racks to throw water in.  Also the stove has a "steam cleaning" cycle, indicating that the oven cavity is OK with steam and it's not likely to destroy the computer controls for the oven.  Plus it looks cool and it wasn't too expensive.

amyv's picture

:taking notes:

In Local Breads, Daneil Leader suggests that he thinks you should probably not retard whole grain breads. Does Peter Reinhart discuss this in his book on the topic?  Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?