Final proof?

I’m new to this group and new to baking, all together new!
I bake bread for my family several times a week.
I mill my own grains and use a mixture of different grains.
The hydration rate is about 80%, and I often implement bulk fermentation overnight in the fridge, at least 8 hours. I use sourdough culture.
My question is about the final proof
Do I have to shape and add the final proof before baking?
I found that if I shape cold after the bulk fermentation, the bread rises nicely. However, after s & f, shape, and then long proof/ retard in the fridge, the bread doesn’t rise well.
What is the purpose of the second proof?
I have read that there should be bulk fermentation after s & f. Then, shape and second/ final proof before baking. However, I can’t get the bread to rise well when I add the second proof.
What am I missing?
Thank you,

I’m a novice as well so take this for what it’s worth. I’ve found and also read that proofing too long will inhibit the oven rise. Think about it as if the proof is too long then the loaf has nowhere else to go when it gets in the oven. I think an hour max has been working for me, but I haven’t been working with cold dough, room temp instead. Hope this helps.


I only have a year under my belt and I haven’t had real good luck with my starter because of the way I handle I guess. I have always had difficulty with bulk fermentation in the cooler ESPECIALLY with sour dough. Melissa may chime in she has a lot of experience and does all the time as she actually bakes right from the frig. Hopefully she will chime in. I believe from your post you may be having issues with procedures LIKE I DID and sometimes still do.

Using whole grains is a little different but not much mostly hydration.

I made myself a retarder that I could vary temperatures with regards to refrigerating dough for the following reasons. You can use refrigeration 3 ways.

  1. Delayed first fermentation or retarding in bulk. Dough benefits 12-18 hours around 45-48 degrees F. The dough can be divided and pre-shaped right out of the cooler. 3 to 4 hours may go by between removal, through the divide, shape & proof. Yeast can start at around 1.2% no idea where the sourdough starter would be but it would be more.
  2. Slow final proof of finished loaves. Retarding for a slow final proof the dough can be divided and pre-shaped a 1/2 hour after mixing. Allow dough to rest another 1/2 hour or so and shape again. Set dough in cooler at 48 to 50F. Anytime between 12-15 hours the dough can be removed and baked. The only thing is NORMAL household refrigerators are kept around the 40F mark. 1% yeast, again ??? starter.
  3. Retarded proofing of a finished loaf.** Use the same as above except the dough is kept at 38-40F. The dough can remain for 12 to 36 hours before removing and then finishing the proofing as it comes up to temperature. Yeast in this scenario needs to be more like 2%, again ??? starter. I BELIEVE this is what Melissa does with the majority of her breads BUT mostly her’s goes right in the oven.

I have even more notes on the subject that I do not mind sharing if you would like.

With all that said I am still experimenting when I can. I have had many flops usually because the dough had an enzyme attack (too much fermenting, too many S&F’s) and fell flat on its poor face.


I believe the preshape, bench rest, and final shape all add strength to the dough so that it can ferment for longer and still have form, especially if you’re making a freestanding loaf.

Also, a final proof also allows bakers making large quantities of dough to use one vat for the bulk and then divide and let new pieces come together during the bench rest and final shape.

If you are happy with your bread’s texture and flavor, I don’t think there’s any reason you have to follow conventions.

I really appreciate the help from the comments/write ups.
I am also very happy with the help about the mill. I have the Mockmill lino 200, the flour is so much finer!
Thank you all for your help!!
Happy Baking

Thank you so much for your time and willingness to share.
Happy baking,

Hi Dennis,
I am re-reading your instructions and some of the language is over my head.
I think I don’t know much about baking when I read the blogs about the baking process.
I normally autolyze for long period, then mix my dough, coil fold, then bulk ferment, then shape and bake.
It looks like I missed the second/final proof. My autolyze is the longest period. I need to learn to follow the processes for better bread.
I really appreciate the help from the members of this forum.
Liz mentioned not to bake with convection, which I have been doing, I am learning more as I read more
Thank you so much,

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I am glad to share what I have learned but far from a professional. It has only been the past 2 weeks I have had successful sourdough breads one after the other. I even have one retarding right now in the cooler and it looks like another success.

Anyways whatever I know I am glad to share.


Hi Melissa,
I baked again yesterday, I have good flavor, but lacks oven spring.
I mixed the dough, coil folds, and bulk fermentation in the fridge for about fifteen hours. Then bench rest, shape and final proof for another approximately twelve hours. Transferred the dough to pan and scored. During the scoring, the gas got released, the dough deflated and final bread lacks oven spring.
You mentioned in one of your post that your final proof is mixture of room and fridge temperature. You also mentioned that you like overnight proof and cold in the fridge. For your high hydration, you mentioned from fridge to oven within 1.5 hours.
I don’t know where I messed up. The dough is 90% hydration, with a mixture of different home milled flours. I use the Lino 200
Thank you in advance for the help,

Hi Dennis
Thank you for your quick response.

I have tried,100% whole grains at 100% hydration, the bread is okay. So far I don’t have the final proof down. As long as I have long bulk fermentation and final proof for about 1 hour at room temp, the bread rises well. It is the final proof that i am trying to learn, which gives the bread good flavor, but I need to learn timing. I am packing lunch tomorrow so my dough is sitting on the counter waiting for the second fold.

How long is your final proof, normally?

I am going to shorten the final proof.

I am going to look into this idea you shared, I have to find space first.

Thank you for your help,
I couldn’t reply to your original message, it was “no-reply”

I don’t time the final proof. I go by look (how much it rose) with rye I wait for cracks to appear on top and to some extent the poke test on the wheat but that isn’t totally reliable. It is one of those things that experience tells you. And I am still learning myself.

As I said in a previous post I did an experiment allowing a small mix to fully ferment so I knew the total time for fermentation and then applying that total time to the bulk ferment and final proof (ferment.) It worked at least for that 80% hydration loaf anyways. I am going to try this experiment with >100% hydration whole grain and see what happens in the final bake.

I am reading these feedback again.
Yes, my oven spring is good when I do the final proof at room temp, an 1.2 hour max as you indicated.
I am experimenting with the long cooler temp final proof and I can’t seem to find the right time yet.
Thank you,

The dough has been bulk fermenting for 6 hours now, I do have a little dome.
I will keep an eye on the appearance to learn from this

It sounds like somewhere along the way the dough overproofed. Sometimes if the first rise is extensive, the dough doesn’t tolerate as long of a second rise. Or even a different spot in your refrigerator may be warmer. Different flour may ferment faster…etc.

There are so many variables that as @DennisM said, we have to watch the dough. We have wiggle room in what works for the bulk fermentation and the cold final proof – the window of time that makes a bread you can be pretty happy with is measured in hours not minutes… but for something like room temperature final proofing in the summer, it IS a short window where the dough can go over.

It is good to know that extended bulk proof can lead to lack of a second rise.
I checked the dough and it was ready. I didn’t do a long final proof in the fridge this time, just room temp instead for the final proof and the loaves have nice oven spring.
Dough went into the oven at 9pm, I just finish baking the loaves now to pack lunch for tomorrow
Thank you both for your help

I have found it very helpful in my sourdough baking to have a simple model in my head for understanding why this or that is happening. Here’s how I think about this: flour is food for the microbes in sourdough bread. As they eat the food, their metabolic activity is what is raising the dough. But the amount of food is finite. Soooooo… if the bulk fermentation period goes on too long, then too much of the available food has already been consumed by the microbes, leaving not enough food to drive the final proof and any oven spring.

The whole process of sourdough bread baking is a balancing act of timing. I find it helpful to understand what is driving that timing.

Hi Dennis,
I have an entirely different message.
I order the einkorn grains three times already, over a stretch of more than two months. It appears that every time, close to the shipping date, the seller runs out of stock.
I believe you mentioned that you have your sources, directly from a farmer.
Breadtopia is no longer accepting order for einkorn grains.
Do you have a source for einkorn that you can share? The price is pretty hefty on Amazon.
Thank you,

About two weeks ago I bought some at You might try there. Reasonably priced.

I was going to suggest Central Milling and Pleasant Hill grain but I see PHG is out of stock now also.

Ordered again this month and ran out again, frustrating