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  • Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

    Some people shape the loaves and then retard in the fridge and then put these cold loaves directly into the hot oven. Some let these shaped loaves come to temp and then bake. What is the down side of going direct to the oven? and how would the temp need to be adjusted if it is?

    Last edited by SCChris; 10-25-2012, 05:19 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

    Hay Chris,

    I'll give that a go. You can do a slow final ferment at about 50 degrees. You ferment all the way to when the dough is ready for the oven. Then it can go straight from the fridge to the oven.

    Now a true retard all your doing is adjusting your time to bake so you ferment/retard at about 40 degrees so the next day you can pull it from the fridge and warm up and finish fermenting. Then it goes into the oven

    Both methods you need to consider that your dough can loose some strength and the cold refrigerator air can dry out your dough and greatly affect your crust so you need good humidity in the fridge.

    Hope that helps.


    • #3
      Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

      I don't retard loaves very often so I am not a great source on this! My main sourdough simply doesn't like cold and once cold is really slow to get going again...

      An important key to the concept of baking straight out of the fridge is that CO2 is MORE soluble in cold dough than in warm. Thus directionally cold dough will hold more CO2 in solution (and not in bubbles or crumb holes) than a warm dough. It is my impression that baking direct from the fridge increases the "freckle" bubbles that some people seem to lust after. And that makes sense for the CO2 (especially at the crust) can't migrate far before it has to come out of solution and create a bubble.

      However there are other effects. I believe that the crumb is a bit weird as the dough takes quite a bit longer to heat at the center than it would if the dough were warm.

      When I retard I typically bring the loaves back to room temp - about two hours before baking. The impacts are mostly subtle but...the loaves are not IMO "normal".

      As Faith points out, there are other issues. The enzymes are not as temp sensitive as the yeast and thus the dough degrades faster than the proof, and refrigerators are dry so it tends to dry out the loaf. I think it is important to retard in plastic bags that can be sealed to protect the loaf.

      Try it! You may like it...and you may not... It is good experience!
      Bake on!


      • #4
        Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

        Hay Jay....There you go getting all technical on us... :-) I'm with you I don't do a lot of cold retardation on final doughs myself. The dehydration of the skin makes a crust that I don't prefer and as you mentioned it does something not "normal" to the final bread. I'm thinking of trying a small humidifier in my retarding fridge and see if that takes out some of the strangeness. At times it would be nice to have some flexibility on bake times without compromising the finished quality.

        Hope things are well with you.



        • #5
          Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

          I've never shaped the loaves and held them in the fridge to bake later, so I'm trying to understand the timeline, and the up side and down side.. Many times of the year we're too warm to shape and walk away for any great number of hours. Maybe this winter I can Shape, Sleep and then Bake in the morning.. It's worth a bit of experimentation.

          Thank you both!



          • #6
            Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

            Hi Chris!

            It is a good experiment!

            You can retard for up to two days with minimal problems. Around three the dough starts really deteriorating in my opinion (just like pizza!). And the flexibility is great. One thing I forgot to mention is that fresh from the oven the dough is stiffer than when it warms up. Cold loaves (in my limited experience) tend to explode and warmed loaves show more natural oven spring as the dough is more flexible. But... all of this is rather variable.

            You will probably find that you want an X hour ferment before retarding for one night/day and a shorter Y hour ferment when retarding for two. OTOH, you may want to use one time but warm the one day loaves to room temp and bake the two/three day retarded loaves straight from the fridge. (Warming up lets the yeast get going again on the shorter loaves..)

            I will be interested in what works for you!

            Bake On!


            • #7
              Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

              I hope to do a build this afternoon and evening. The timeline I'll be following is the norm up to the point of putting the pre shaped loaves into the fridge.

              My starter has been fed a few times, so if it's not past it's prime when I get home, I'll take 200G and build the dough.
              Give the dough 3 or 4 hours to come up to speed and shape.

              Place one shaped loaf, loaf "A", directly into the fridge without proofing at temp. Give the other, loaf "B", a couple of hours to proof and pop it into the fridge.

              My expectation is that the loaves are going to need a bit of time proofing before going to sleep to be ideal.

              In the morning I'll preheat the oven and move the loaves directly from the fridge to the preheated cloche with a short detour to slash.

              Ideally the same process will be used with the change being to pull the loaves during the 90 minute oven pre heat period.
              and one more time without the intervention of the fridge.

              Last edited by SCChris; 10-26-2012, 07:02 AM.


              • #8
                Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                I arrived home early enough to harvest 200g of starter and start a couple of loaves.
                200g of starter at 72F
                400g of water at 72F
                600g of KA AP flour
                12g sea salt
                24g of water to slurry the salt

                The combined temp of the starter, water and flour at the beginning of autolyse is 75F.
                I'll add in the salt slurry at 30 minutes and S&F every 30 minutes to 2.5 hours.
                At 3 hours I'll portion, pre-shape and shape and let them proof for 90 minutes.

                At this point both loaves will go directly into the fridge. This is a bit of a process change from the previous posts process. I'll try differing the post shape proofing another time.

                Tomorrow morning I'll pull loaf ?A? and let it rest while the oven preheats for 90 minutes.
                After preheating, I'll invert the loaf onto parchment slash and place it in a cloche to bake.
                I'll pull the loaf ?B?, invert onto parchment slash and place it in a cloche to bake.
                I have 2 cloches in the oven so the only difference will be the resting period of the first loaf.

                Pictures to follow.


                PS Straight AP dough sure feels different when you're use to 20% whole grain flour mixed in..
                Last edited by SCChris; 10-26-2012, 07:40 PM.


                • #9
                  Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                  Shaped dough after 90 Minutes. I'll include at pulling loaf "A" and compair loaf "B" at 90 minutes just before loading them in the oven and post bake.



                  • #10
                    Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                    Did you put them in plastic bags before you put them in the fridge? Be sure to check for dehydration of the skin.

                    enjoying your experiment, thanks for sharing


                    • #11
                      Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                      This is a picture of "A" out of the fridge. My points of interest for both loaves are;

                      I would usually use the word concern, but this is an experiment and the chickens next door will enjoy what's not worthy.

                      Was the 90 minutes of proofing plus whatever cooldown period sufficent for "B"?
                      Is the above plus warming at 80F for 90 minutes sufficent for "A"?
                      Will the loaves release from the brotforms?
                      and then the other areas of interest about flavor, crumb and crust..


                      Noted condition of "A" after removing it from the fridge is that the exposed dough is dryer. I don't know how or if this is going to be a problem, it sure could. I used a plastic bag to contain both loaves for both the initual proofing and in the fridge. "A" is now resting in my proofer at 80F with additional humididy.


                      At 90 minutes "A" is still cold to the touch and I haven't seen the growth that I know the dough needs, so I'll add an hour.


                      At 2 hours I'm seeing better growth. So, next time rather than proof for 90 minutes before putting the dough to bed, I'll go just short of full proof.


                      Shots 2-4 are A and B side by side after 2.5 hours. "A" is far more plyable and "B", because of the cold, is tight. I don't expect much spring from "B" due to it's lack of proper proofing.


                      PS "A" is always on the left of "B" this is consistent throughout.
                      Last edited by SCChris; 10-27-2012, 12:03 PM.


                      • #12
                        Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                        Post bake comparisons.

                        499g vs 505g,

                        Although “A” at 499g is 5% or 10% larger, I’m surprised by the spring on “B” at 505g. I had expected the difference to be more like 20%. The tight crust of “B” shows in the near blowout of the slash.
                        The crumb photos will follow.

                        Last edited by SCChris; 10-27-2012, 11:52 AM.


                        • #13
                          Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                          Note the tighter crumb is some areas of "B", on the right. Also note the direction of the spring indicated by the pattern of holes.

                          As for taste, I think that "A" has a bit more nut aspect to the crust and "B" has a simpler profile. I've tried both side by side 3 times and the flavors are very close in my mind and palet. The profiles may be more distinct if all of the proofing is pre fridge and then these loaves are then seperated by a 90 minute proof.

                          Last edited by SCChris; 10-27-2012, 02:23 PM.


                          • #14
                            Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                            What I take away from this is the understanding of the viscosity difference, for lack of a better term, of the dough due to temperature. Jay as you mentioned, the colder dough seems to hold CO2 to a higher level when compared to the warm dough, this seems to be why “B” expanded so vigorously through the slash. The viscosity and activity changes do seem to affect how the crumb develops. I’m sure that when refrigerated the proofing of the shaped loaf continues internally as the outside stops and become more viscous, tighter. I bet that this contains the growth and to a degree contains the CO2. Conversely, when the dough is thawed, the warming dough on the outside becomes more flexible and lively. The time to bring the whole loaf to temp and some level of activity is significant and while this is happening the leavening is not homogenous. I don’t know how the differences during cooling and warming can’t make a difference in the crumb.

                            All of this said, I also don’t know that there isn’t a place for cooling and baking. The advantage is that the bake can happen when the oven hits the target temp at some significantly later time. Even if the bread is not tip top it’s still better than any supermarket and may so called bakeries..

                            Taste difference in my mind is a question to be answered. Logically, by retarding, warming, shaping and proofing, more sugars are available to the sourdough leavening community as are flavor benefits. I think I’d rather focus on the flavor made available by retarding and or pre-fermenting.



                            • #15
                              Re: Question about retarding shaped sourdough loaves

                              Nice experiment, Chris! I tend to think you were a bit more underproofed than is ideal. Probably need longer before the retard if you are to bake straight from the fridge, but...crumb looks pretty good. You are definitely right about the retard and crumb...The center of a loaf will get at least an hour more proofing before it gets cold enough to slow down. Warming up can at least partially compensate (as the outside warms up and the yeast reactivates but that is where my starter is not so good. It never seems to really want to go again.... And as I tried to suggest, the cold dough straight from the refrigerator often gives great oven spring (due to the high level of dissolved CO2) but it can "erupt as the dough is slow to expand due to its stiffness. Yours looks pretty good to me. Both!

                              The level of freckle bubbles is surprisingly similar in the two loaves. It seems that once you get the CO2 concentration high in the dough it has a hard time migrating fast enough to not form freckles. I was expecting the from the fridge loaf to show more freckling.

                              One thing that surprises me a bit about your approach is that it seems you are doing a single stage expansion (no preexpansion of the starter before the final mix). In my experiment that can work fairly well so long as the starter is in kick butt mode. But if it gets a little slow it can really bite you (But it may also be you did an expansion to get the 200 you used in the final mix so I could be misreading your process).

                              Oh... you are probably right that the retarded loaves have more sugar. This is complex but yeast (sugar eaters) slow more than the enzymes (sugar makers) so there is at least a chance. It is my impression that bacteria (sugar eaters) generally slow less than yeast so there is a chance you get a bread with a bit more residual sugar and more acid depending many facts (temp, speed of cooling, your starter, etc.) The longer time definitely gives the enzymes more time to create flavenoids and the colder temps slow their release from the dough so more flavor is certainly to be expected for a given level of proofing (yeast development). (Which is why Reinhart arrived at his retard approach for breadmaking.

                              Good job!