The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

When do you retard your dough?

fleur-de-liz's picture

When do you retard your dough?

Is it best to retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator after  bulk fermentation or after the final shaping?  I have seen both methods  mentioned in various recipes.  For most sourdough breads, I prefer the taste after an overnight slow fermention in the refrigerator.  I also prefer the timetable of an overnight slow ferment.  Would appreciate your advice. Thanks, Liz

mse1152's picture

Taste and convenience. The last time I made sourdough, I did 3 stretch-and-fold cycles during bulk ferment, then stuck the dough into oiled bags and refigerated it for 19 hours. I haven't tried retarding shaped loaves in the fridge, just because it's easier to find room for a bag of dough than for loaves on a baking sheet.

Here's how the bread turned out: link

There's another thread about refrigerating: link


fleur-de-liz's picture

Thanks, Sue.  Those beautifully risen loaves dispel a misconception I had.  I thought that refrigeration during fermentation would affect leavening, but I can see that is not the case.  Most authors seem to recommend retarding after shaping for flavor development, but it would be helpful to sometimes retard early in bulk fermentation.  I find a lot of conflicting information about bread baking,  particularly sourdough, and I don't have a sound enough handle on the chemistry of bread baking to understand the best methods.  I do appreciate the guidance from those here. Thanks, again.  Liz

zolablue's picture

I agree those are beautiful loaves and, Sue, I envy your slashing ability. is one of my downfalls so far.

Fleur-de-liz, if you read the thread Sue linked you will find some interesting info.  Since I retard shaped loaves often I can attest to not only the ease it makes for bake day but I really do notice more of a tang than retarding the bulk dough.  Both are nice options however. 

One of my problems with retarding bulk doughs is depending on the dough's consistency and flour content it takes such a very long time to warm up and begin to rise the next day.  I'm speaking mainly of sourdough here.   I do think I need to have my fridge checked as it may be running too cold and I hope that is the case because I want to take advantage of every opportunity to make my life easier. 

fleur-de-liz's picture

Thanks, Xma, about your comments about when to retard the dough in the refrigerator.  From my searches, the majority of the pros favor retarding during the final proof (Hamelman, Glezer, Reinhart, Daniel Wing, Silverton).  But, there is an occasional recipe, most recently one I read by Amy Scherber, where retardation was done during fermentation.  And, like Sue, I can see the convenience of throwing the dough into a plastic bag and retarding during fermentation.  Just wondering about what happens to the dough as a result of retarding during fermentation.   I guess the only answer is to test it out and take the same recipe and retard during fermentation the first go around and retard during proofing the second time, and compare results! Thanks so much!

eat.bread's picture

I've been reading Hamelman's book Bread and in the begiining of the Straight Dough section he discusses mixing dough, starting the bulk fermentation and then popping it into the fridge overnight, then shaping in the a.m., letting it rise and baking.  He doesn't state how long to let it rise once shaped though.  I find it all confusing.


Is it okay to just do the 2 hr bulk fermentation, shape it and then pop it in the fridge?  And if so do you bake it straight out of the fridge?


There is so much info to digest!



southernbread's picture

I'm experimenting with a yeast dough (for donuts!) being refriderated during fermentation today, actually. I mixed and kneaded last night, and then popped in the fridge overnight. I'm letting it rise right now, then I'll shape it, let it rest, and bake. I'll let you know how they turn out! Just as a side note, I sampled the dough this morning while kneading and whoa.. the complexity of flavors is just awesome. If this works out, I'm definitely adding this technique to my repetoire.