Experimenting with Refrigerated Final Proofing

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How much starter did you use in this experiment and how long was your bulk?

About 18% starter and 7 hours on the bulk fermentation, ambient temp in the high 60s.

This was so helpful, particularly the videos. Thank you

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Am I correct in assuming that gluten is weakening as the loaf rests in the refrigerator? I routinely let my loaves go 48 hours in the refrigerator with great results, and have found that numerous people who have gluten sensitivity can eat my bread with no adverse reaction. Is it possible that extending the refrigeration is a means to achieve easier digestibility?

I would think the flour mix would make a significant difference. I often make 100% fresh milled wheat bread. Even 18 can be too long as it seems to ferment quickly. Your thoughts?

Remember that 100% whole grain ferments faster. You MAY have to decrease the temperature of at least 1 of your ingredients (most likely the water) and decrease your bulk fermentation time; That is what I do if I want to make fresh milled 100% whole wheat bread.

Hi, your article has been very helpful, especially the lack of bulk fermentation resulting in downright mouse holes. I’ve seen this and asked a large group forum about it and they said over proofing. But we retard the bulk ferment and not the final proof. I hope to move to a final proof retard in the future but my cold storage space is limited. So we’ve been final shaping and proofing in the morning after the bulk.

What is the temperature of your loaf (after a final proof in the fridge) when you bake, out of curiosity?

That was my point. The article would not apply directly to full grain doughs. Thanks.

Thank you - this was excellent. I did appreciate the “stitch” demo too.

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@nancy I’m not very knowledgeable on gluten sensitivity vs. intolerance vs. celiacs. When a dough is more fermented, the starches are more broken down and consumed. But gluten is a protein so my guess is that it’s not going to go away, even if the quality of its stretchiness degrades. I imagine someone who can eat your bread but not other bread was having issues with the starches in the other breads, and not with the gluten. Hopefully someone with more knowledge on this will weigh in though.

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Thank you for this informative article. I do a 2 hour bulk ferment on the counter than place in refrigerator overnight. Next morning I shape and final proof in the refrigerator several hours than bake in a hot cloche. I love your shaping video for the boule. What is the purpose of the “stitching “?

Thanks for the shaping videos. I’ve always suspected that my shaping was a weak link in my bread making, so I’ve been trying to pay more attention to it lately.

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Dear Melissa,

That is good education. Thank You. I have been thinking it is better to retard the dough during bulk fermentation (after giving it some time at room temperature) to avoid the problems with over and under proofing in the baskets. If you retard the dough in bulk fermentation and leave it in the fridge too long, you can still get back control by proofing it just right in the baskets during the final proof? Why or why not am I making sense?

@sadiecat22 @heyitsmebobbyd good point, whole grain does ferment faster, sprouted wheat, too.

Refrigerator temperature differences likely have the biggest impact on how long the retarded final proof can go e.g. 40F vs 37F makes a difference.

We all have to get to know our different doughs in our different appliances, and always keep an eye on the dough.

@lizmenke I think a retarded or room temp bulk fermentation can be cut too short, making mouse holes even if the final proof is taken far. I’m not sure if that addresses your question.

I put the dough into the oven, right from the refrigerator, about 37-38F.

@cccoger I stitched the doughs for a couple of reasons: Mainly because I knew they were going to have a long final proof and I wanted them to be tight, but also for the video – I didn’t want a really long pause where I left the doughs on the bench for the seams to seal before flipping them into the baskets.

@mgoldfine1 I ask myself these questions all the time. On the one hand the dough has finite food and gas producing ability. On the other hand some gluten strength can be regained through the preshape or the ol’ punching down the dough.

I think my conclusion is that a longer final proof can make up for a slightly too short bulk fermentation and vice versa: a short final proof can correct a slightly too long bulk fermentation. But neither of these tactics work at the extremes.

Edited to add: I don’t think cold temperature is a magic bullet just that it slows down the bulk or the final proof so much that your window of good outcome becomes wider i.e. your scenario of forgetting about the dough is less of a problem if the dough is cold.

I routinely mix my dough and put the whole thing in the fridge for 48ish hours for one long proof. I’ll then remove, shape, and immediately put in the oven. The crumb is generally pretty dense, but tender and very good flavor.

This is a really excellent write-up, and the videos are very useful. Would your shaping and stitching technique be the same for a 100% whole wheat or, even, say 50% rye loaf?