The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Overnight Proofing

breadnut's picture

Overnight Proofing

I have read that a shaped loaf can be taken directly out of the fridge and immediately put in the oven for baking without leaving it to return to room temperature, and the interesting point was that the loaf can be scored easier that way.

Any ideas about which method is better? I have never taken a loaf out of the fridge and put it directly in the oven. Any comment regarding this is appreciated.

One more thing. I bake with poolish all the time. I normally leave the poolish for 12 hrs, then mix, knead, ferment for 2 hours, shape and a final rise for 45 minutes and then bake. comes out good, but with a tight crumb.

I'm thinking about expanding the whole process: poolish for 12 hours, autolyze flour and water, then add salt and starter, ferment for about 6 hours (with 4 foldings in the middle), shape, final proof in the fridge overnight for 12 hours, bake in the morning.  The ingredients are flour, water, yeast, salt; only, and around 73% hydration. any comments or ideas or concerns regarding this procedure would be greatly appreciated, and if it works, could it be scored and baked right out of the fridge, or should I leave it out for 2 hours prior to baking? Thanks. The reason I'm going about this procedure is to fit it in my schedule, and improve quality of taste, texture, crumb, etc...


Floydm's picture

I say give it a try and see what happens.

I just finished reading Good Bread Is Back, a soon-to-be released contemporary history of French bread baking. One thing that blew me away is how much variety there still is in French bread recipes.

The author profiles about a dozen of the top bread bakers in France today. All agree that low yeast, less kneading, longer fermentation, and high quality flour are necessary to produce great bread. But that is about the end of what they agree on. One guy uses a 12 hour poolish. The next uses old dough and an extremely long primary fermentation. The next does an overnight autolyse and brief final fermentation. Others use no poolish, old dough, or autolyse, they just stretch the fermentation out 36 hours. It is crazy how different their techniques are, yet they all produce killer bread.. So... I come out concluding that you gotta just experiment to find something that matches your taste and your schedule. Your experiments might yield some duds, but, then again, you may stumble into something a cookbook would have never told you try.


But if you do find a trick like that which produces amazing bread, you'll share it with us, won't ya? ;)

breadnut's picture

Sure will. Just trying to get there. I only bake with the four essential ingredients, without adding anything else, and I'm in the process of working on eliminating yeast. So I'll definitely keep you posted and see how it works.

hansjoakim's picture

Wow, that looks like a killer book, Floyd. Thanks for the tip :)

I'm also experimenting with retarding dough, long periods of autolyse, preferments etc., and to me, all these techniques seem to be variations over the same underlying principle: Cooling or slowing things down, so that enzymes are able to break out sugars and acids from the starch in flour. I wish I knew more about the chemistry of baking, and I hope I'll find time and energy to dig into this in the future! It seems to me that the trick is to find the "sweet spot": The "sweet spot" being where the enzymes have generated a sufficient amount of sugars and acids (for colour, taste and food for the yeasties), but where there's still enough starch intact to ensure great crumb texture and spring in the oven. From what I understand, reducing the amount of total yeast in the dough, or by simply slowing the yeasties down by reducing temperature, allows enzymes to do their thing. How you achieve this balancing act is more a matter of technique and what's most practical for you as a baker: It could be using a pre-ferment, overnight autolyse, retarded fermentation or a combination of these techniques.

Thanks again for mentioning that book, I'll be sure to have a look at it!

socurly's picture

Overnight proofing is something I stumbled on by accident.  It gives a better flavour and crust. Shape your bread in the pan you are going to bake it on. Cover you bread with plastic wrap and then a dishtowel. Proof overnight.  I remove the bread from the fridge and slash the top while the oven is preheating.  It will gently rise some more as it warms and then I bake.  All my recipes have a tastier result when I do this.  I have baked 24 pannini buns this way for large gatherings.  The crust gets crunchy and chewy and has a rich flavour.