The Fresh Loaf

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cold fermentation of dough versus shaped loaves

bsumberg's picture

cold fermentation of dough versus shaped loaves


I'm wondering what the difference is, if any, between retarded fermentation in the fridge of dough vs shaped loaves. I bake directly on tiles in the oven and have occasionally retarded loaves proofing in baskets in the fridge. I've also put the dough in the fridge overnight during bulk fermentation, taken it out and proofed loaves at room temp. Is there any difference in flavor or otherwise? What do you consider when deciding when to put it in the fridge? I'm asking because I'm thinking about a shape that would be difficult to transfer from a baking sheet to the peel, where the recipe calls for proofing the loaves in the fridge. 

Thanks for all your expertise,


Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

I personally don't use a cold retard in the fridge very often.  The only things I take into consideration for putting it in the fridge are:

1. Timing.  Last night, for example, I was proofing a new SD recipe that was supposed to rise in 12 hours, bake in the evening.  Well, 15 hours went by and I didn't think it was totally proofed yet.  I didn't want to stay up and bake so I put it in the fridge.

2. Developing flavor in yeasted doughs without making a sourdough starter.  This is great for no-knead recipes where there's a big bulk ferment and you can just grab chunks of dough for different bakes throughout the week.  At my refrigerator temps, the time it takes to develop rich flavor is 72 hours. I'm dubious that anything below this timeframe could impact the flavor of the loaf unless you have more controlled conditions like a professional retarding box that can keep the dough at specific temps, usually higher than fridge temps.

3. Is the dough too delicate/wet to handle at room temp for shaping and scoring?  Like pastry dough, a really wet dough can be easier to handle after 30 minutes in the fridge.

So, with my mindset that I'm always smarter than the recipe, whether or not this is true, I would question if your recipe really does have a reason to put it in the fridge.  It seems like tricky shapes, I'm thinking baguettes, would benefit more from minimal handling than from a little fridge time after it's shaped.