The Fresh Loaf

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Retardation in the frig

CountryBoy's picture

Retardation in the frig

I read of the importance of retardation often but am not clear on the parameters for same.  Rose Barenbaum in the bread bible says that 24 hours in the frigerator is too much and will kill the yeast, so, I guess that is the maximum limit but what amount of time is generally considered the best for a regular loaf of white bread, say with Floyd's recipe?  My guess is that there is a continuum of minimum, optimum, and too much.  Do most people omit this phase altogether and get on with life?  Rose Barenbaum  retards the starter the night before and then also the dough in the last stage after taking it out of the frig and cutting and shaping.  Thanks.

Country Boy

bwraith's picture


When I do yeast raised breads, if there's time, I build a preferment (poolish or biga), let it rise, then refrigerate overnight. I think it makes a difference. Occasionally, I've also retarded dough, and again I think it does add something to the flavor. I think it can add something to the flavor of a sourdough starter, too. I often build a sourdough starter for a recipe the day before, then refrigerate it overnight. That's a convenient breaking point in the process, but I think there are some flavors that develop in the refrigerator, too.

I'm not sure there is really a 24 hour limit on refrigeration. I've never really gone that long with a shaped loaf. However, I've built batter starters and used them two to three days later. The flavors do get stronger after a couple of days, and the starter loses a little of it's strength, but it does work, as long as the starter is not a huge percentage of the final dough (i.e. less than 30% of the flour in the dough is contributed by the starter). In order to last and be usable, though, it needs to be fed with bread flour, unless you are going to use only a tiny amount in a long rising dough (like less than 10%).


crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Hey CB

I do think that a night in the fridge with your preferment or mixed or shaped dough adds a fair amount of flavor to sourdoughs.  I have had real good luck with making my dough with 40 degree water and nursing and folding throughout the day and baking last thing before bed.  Pros are great flavor and a finished loaf at the end of the day.  Cons are having to mess with your dough on and off throughout the day.  I do think that retarding and longggggg fermentation work better than trying to add tons of starter for flavor.  I am currently trying SDguys method of adding a miniscule amount of starter to the flour,water and salt and letting it hang on the counter for 20 hours or so.  I have a feeling that allot of flavor will be built this way.  I am always in a time crunch so I plan ahead and retard any of the above ways.  I also know from expereince that if you leave a sourdough in the fridge past a few days you end up with a big ball of goop.  I have heard that regular yeast left too long gives the bread a alcoholic taste? Not sure if this fully answers the ? but hope it helps.

Da Crumb Bum


BROTKUNST's picture

... for three days and produced nice baguettes with picture perfect ovenspring without any problem. I don't think that 24-hr rule applies, although I could imagine that depends on the amount of yeast that is used. A dough with a low percentage should have enough starch available to support a growing yeast culture. A dough that was designed rather for speed than flavour might run into problems when you retard it too long. Can't comment of those 'fast food' doughs though since I am not working with those ... leaves too much flavour on the table.



zolablue's picture
zolablue okay according to Glezer.  She states this for retarding both just-mixed dough and shaped-loaves for final fermentation.  I do this regularly with shaped loaves but I've only kept them for 24 hours or less.  I'll have to experiment letting it retard longer.  It would really be a nice thing to be able to do.

ehanner's picture


I have read all the advice about overnight retardation in the fridge. I have done it myself many times with varied results. To be honest, I'm not as confident that I know how the rising will turn out once the dough has been cooled. I have had a number of times where the dough never really started to get active again after it came out of the ice box. It will eventually rise but at a way slower rate, especially sourdough.

This is just my experience and others apparently have had better luck. Now I try to plan my schedule timing so I don't have to refrigerate.


CountryBoy's picture

on my retardation question.  They seem to cover a range of different results.  Also I note that as Bill said "I think it makes a difference" which is implied by others as well. That is my experience. The point here is that the degree of difference with retardation seems to be to varying degrees and possibly not So Necessary as maybe some books say. Maybe different palates of different people pick up different nuances.