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Intentional Cold Retard: when do you begin the cooling?

Vivian de Pane's picture
Vivian de Pane

Intentional Cold Retard: when do you begin the cooling?


 We have been baking utility bread loaves for home use and working with our dough with the goal of making a nice useful loaf of bread.

 With each batch I make, I like to take a few balls of dough and set them aside in the refrigerator for use later in the week.

 These balls are separated from the main batch of dough after a bulk ferment, a subsequent folding, and a second rise. I cut the balls away when I am forming and preparing to proof the individual loaves.

 I place the balls in sealed containers and store them in our household refrigerator.

 I am writing to ask a question about "cold retard" because these dough balls are developing a very slight sour aroma and taste, which is not necessarily bad but not especially desirable as I am not attempting to work with sour dough.

 My basic active dry yeast bread recipe includes an overnight 100% hydration preferment that is made with 400 grams of a total of 3000 grams of flour (13.33%?), which may be the source of the sour character, but the sensation only occurs with the dough that is stored for an extended time in cold storage. The fresh dough as is used for the primary goal of bread making yields a rich malty aroma.

I am unfamiliar with intentional "cold retard" processes, and have been very casual about considering the extra dough balls I set aside for cold storage.

This leads me to my question; if you are striving to do a cold retard process, do you get the dough into the cold storage at a much earlier juncture than I have described?

Thank you!


idaveindy's picture

1. Depends what you are using the refrigerated dough for.

2. Depends on how long you store the dough in the fridge. What is an "extended time"?

3. Depends on fridge temp.



1. The fridge does not stop the biological processes of the yeast and whatever other naturly ocurring bacteria are in there.  Those processes merely slow down.  Your dough is, literally, continuing to proof in the fridge, just at a slower speed than at room temp.  The yeasties are still producing CO2, even if you do not see a rise, because the CO2 goes into solution in the water at cooler temps.

2. If I recall correctly, the non-yeast bacteria slow down less than yeast at typical fridge temps.  (someone please set me straight if that's wrong.) 

3. 4 degrees C or 39 degrees F seems to be a crucial temp. Go over that temp and the yeast and bacteria pick up speed.

4. Flour has some naturally ocurring yeast and lactic acid bacteria.  That's how we are able to make starter out of just flour and water.  So, a day at room temp, and a few days in the fridge... boom... you're at the beginning stages of creating a sourdough starter.

5. The sooner you take those dough balls out of the room temp main dough and put them in the fridge, the less yeast and bacteria will go with them. Therefore, they will last longer in the fridge.

6.  Question:  "if you are striving to do a cold retard process, do you get the dough into the cold storage at a much earlier juncture than I have described?"

Answer: there is no one answer.   It's all a balancing act between:

a) amount of initial innoculation of yeast (or sourdough culture) that goes into the preferment/levain.

b) the time that the prefement (or levain)  ferments.

c) the temp of the preferment while it is fermenting.

d) ratio of preferment to total flour.

e) the time that the combined preferment and main dough ferments before splitting off your dough balls for retarding.

f) the temp at which the combined preferment and main dough ferments before splitting off your dough balls for retarding.

Hope this helps.

Bon chance, et bon appétit.

Vivian de Pane's picture
Vivian de Pane

Thank you for taking the time to explain.

So as not leave your questions unanswered:

1) Pizza or and cinnamon rolls (ironically the "sour" flavor is more apparent in the pizzas and seems to be masked by the sweetness of the cinnamon rolls.

2) We make use of the dough balls 1, 2, or 3 and sometimes 4 days after the bread making day. The 'souring" seems to occur the first day and doesn't seem to increase much after that.

3) Don't know our fridge temp. I probably should but its just seems to work fine in a general way for other routine fridge storage purposes.


Thank you!

phaz's picture

You can fridge a dough at any point in time, to answer the question. But what you're seeing (make that tasting) isn't so much a matter of sourness as it is a lack of sweetness. All very expected in your process. Of course you'll notice it more in an unsweetened dough, simply cuz of less sugars and they are mostly consumed (even in the cold). I am not a fan of "sour" pizza dough. When your expecting something, and it's not there, it's simply more noticable. The obvious remedy is too not retard, at least not so long. You may be able to compensate with added sugars, but you'll have to experiment to get the right balance. Personally i didn't find that to be the cure, i just make the dough to order now. Enjoy!

Ps - 2 or 3 days in the cold will maximize gluten formation, an advantage without mechanical manipulation of the dough. 

idaveindy's picture

I hadn't thought of that.  It makes sense.

If you are using diastatic malt or whole grain, that could also increase fermentation too.  Whole grain has a tendency to keep chugging along. So putting in fridge earlier would help.


It takes a few hours for dough to cool down in the fridge.  And if your containers are plastic or glass, that could insulate the dough, keeping it warmer longer.

Possible adjustments are putting dough in fridge earlier and/or using containers that insulate less, say a plastic bag sitting on a glass shelf which will dissipate the heat faster than if the dough were in a thicker plastic or glass container.  


Another thought... Are you using the .85% ash (T85) flour for your overnight poolish? If so, that is supercharging things.  You may want to use white (bread or AP) flour for the poolish, and add in the T85 in the main dough.  You'll then need to ferment the final bread dough longer, but the pizza dough that you separate out won't be so fermented when it goes into the fridge.

Vivian de Pane's picture
Vivian de Pane

Thank you to both for sharing the additional thoughts.