proofing times vs. retard times


I'm trying to figure out the whole proofing timing issue, having always worked from recipes that told me exactly what to do, and when to do it (and only having done commercial yeast recipes for decades). Here's my question: I made a recipe from this site that called for 6 hours total proofing time, 4 as bulk fermentation and 2 hours for the final fermentation. The author said the final proof was done overnight in the fridge, which counts as the final 2 hours of proofing. Is there a direct correlation between proof time at room temperature and proof time in the fridge? Meaning, does 2 hours at room temperature always equal 8 hours in the fridge, so if I wanted all 6 hours done in the fridge, I would have a proofing time of 48 hours? Can you even do 100% of the proofing in the fridge?

And no, I'm not necessarily wanting to do all my proofing in the fridge; I'm just looking for the timing principle I can use if I want to tweak proofing times.

I hope I made my question clear. Somehow it seems kind of cumbersome to ask... (Maybe I need a nap!)

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rossnroller 2010 November 19

Hi Dorean

Well, 8 hours in the fridge is supposed to equate to 2 hours proofing at room temperature, but that is only an approximation. If it was winter, your ambient temperature might be quite cool, in which case the 2 hours @ room temp would blow out considerably. In the middle of winter, I often do my final proof on the kitchen counter overnight rather than retarding in the fridge - and this is quite a common practice.

In summer, room temps might be 30C or higher, in which case 2 hours for a final proof @ room temp could be far too long!

Whatever, I find that when ambient temp is around 24C or above, I can whack the dough in the fridge immediately after shaping (bulk proof having been completed), and bake it straight out of the fridge next day. It doesn't seem to matter much whether the retardation period in the fridge is 8 hours or longer, although everything will have some sort of effect on how the bread turns out.

When ambient temps are cool, you're going to need to do part of the final proof at room temperature before retarding in the fridge. How long depends on the room temperature, the dough, the leavening power of your starter and possibly other factors.

Sorry to be inexact, but there really isn't any precise calculation as far as I know, since there are multiple variables involved. Getting a feel for assessing the stage your dough is at is helpful, as is taking notes when you make a bread. Recording ambient temps, proof times etc gives you a basis for tweaking to improve aspects of your bread next bake and can help you customise your recipes to your environment.

Just to keep things interesting, of course variables will keep altering with seasonal changes to temperature, humidity etc. Experience and intuition come into play as much, or more, than calculations based on truisms that do not factor in all the variables involved.



Dorean 2010 November 19

Thanks for the input. It helps me to hear some of the thinking behind the decisions in this. If we were talking yeasted dough I'd be confident, but I'm still feeling my way around sourdough. I'm looking forward to the day I can attack a sourdough loaf with the same confidence I do its yeasted brethren!

My starter is amazing (really active, nice aroma and flavor) which makes me happy since I had two failed attempts on the way to this one. I baked my first loaf from it a couple days ago, with somewhat mixed results. It was my first loaf with the no knead method, so wasn't sure how loose the dough should be. Now I know; less loose than what I did! It tasted great, but looked pretty funny.

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