Question about fridge retarding and oven spring


Hey all!


I've been baking sourdough for a couple of months now, and some of the loaves turned out fantastically well, so I am rather encouraged.


However, whenever I have been trying to fridge-retard bread in the final stage of proofing, it turns out a lot flatter, with no/hardly any oven spring.


This has happened several times so far.  Anytime I proof at room temperature, it's fine.  Anytime I retard in fridge, it's deflated.  Anytime I make a batch of two loaves and proof one at room temp and one in the fridge overnight, the first (room temp) comes out fine, and the fridge one is flattish and lacking oven spring.  The flavor and crumb is typically good in both, the crust is crunchy and has good color, and I have no idea what is actually going wrong.


My typical baking cycle is:  some sort of sourdough - either a levain-based one, or a direct-added starter one.  Bulk proofing at room temperature for 3-4 hours (until roughly doubled), then pre-shaping and proofing in towel-lined colander, and the latest in my new banetton.  Invert onto sheet of parchment, place that in preheated dutch oven, shut with preheated lid.  20 min with lid on, 15 with lid off.


The fridge-retardation problem happened with various recipes and at different hydration levels.  I am totally baffled, so if anyone has any good insight, I am happy to hear it.


The reason I wanted to use fridge at all was because I'd like to bake one bread in evening, and then the next one in the morning.  I am considering simply proofing the second in batch longer at room temperature, but then I worry it'd get overproofed.


Please help, any thoughts are appreciated!

401 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 September 6

Hello Lilith,

You didn't mention how long your final proof (for the RT loaf) is and when and how long do you fridge it (for the retarded one)?

Do you go straight from fridge to oven or do you give time out before baking?


Lilith 2011 September 6

Farinam, hi.

I typically do 2-4 hours final proof at room temperature (deciding when it's ready by size and poke test - I bake when the depression left by finger springs back slooooowly), or 1-1.5 hours at room temperature and then in the fridge at 2°C overnight, so that'd be 8-12 hours.

I have tried both, going straight from the fridge, or letting the dough sit out for 1-1.5 hours.  Same result.

This morning the dough came out of the banetton (after overnight proof) looking very pretty, but the moment I slashed it, it deflated.  I baked it anyway, and while it looks misshapen and the slashes did not open, the crumb is open and the flavor is fantastic.  But... no oven spring.  I'm at a loss, because the only thing I can think of is that it gets somehow overproofed in fridge, which would make no sense.

Sherry Bruno 2017 May 22

.......oh, I did forget one very important thing!  After you have final shaped your dough and put it in the banneton, and covered it with a plastic cap, only leave it out at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour MAXIMUM in a moderate temperature kitchen before putting in the refrigerator for its overnight proofing!  Please try this and let me know if you are successful!!!

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 September 6

Hello again Lilith,

Sounds like overproving to me.  So I would suggest trying putting it straight into the fridge after shaping.  It takes some time for the coolth to soak in so quite a bit of action goes on before the temperature slows it down.  So your 1-1.5 out of 2-4 plus the retard time could easily lead to over-proving.

Nothing to lose but your smoker's cough so give it a go and let us know how you go.


Lilith 2011 September 6

Aha, good to have my suspicion confirmed.  I am going to start another batch today, and post an update in a couple of days when it's done, so we'll see!

Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly!

CaperAsh 2011 September 10

I retard regularly and can get good oven spring. And many recipes (in summer) have around 3-4% starter at 9 pm, then are retarded overnight (meaning instead of being 75-85F they come out between 55-65F depending on how warm the dough was when it went in, humidity etc.).


Now: I have found - at least for me - is that the big trick is to put it in when the dough (after proofing of course) is what I think of as:


'plump but not puffy'.


Puffy is like a pregnant woman in the last month, over ripe and ready to burst. In this case the dough is aerated, puffy, wanting to crawl out of the bannetton and so on.


But plump still has a ways to go (6-7th month). It might even feel like it is too soon (premature). But if it's plump, springing back a little when prodded, but basically it has risen but is not yet puffy, it's ready to go in oven (birth canal). In it goes, then you get the spring in the first 10 minutes or so.


Plump not puffy.


Works for me....

Lilith 2011 September 27

Farinam and CaperAsh - thanks to both of you, and apologies for the late reply again!

It appears you were both right - I had not thought it was possible to overproof with a fridge step, but I guess I wasn't thinking enough (since fridge stage is just a slower stage of overall process), and the results have been much, much better!

Will have to take photos and show you next time I do a fridge retarded loaf (last couple have been room-temperature as I was making them for parties and giving away, and the schedule worked better without refrigeration).

breadhead223 2011 September 28

Try this:


- Mix until dough temp is 23 degrees

- Ferment 15-20 minutes (first problem - your first fermentation is much too long)

- Cut and preshape

- Rest 20 minutes

- Final shaping

- Retard 12-15 hours at 10 degrees OR 12-48 hours at 4 degrees (second problem - because of the long first fermentaion the retarding had no positive effect on the dough.  Like putting a dying man to sleep)

- If retarded at 10 degrees, bake right from the fridge.  If retarded at 4 degrees, proof at 16 degrees for 4 hours and then bake.


A few other notes:


You seem to be rtansfering the dough a lot (from the bowl to a colander to the banneton, to the dutch oven...) The more you handle the dough, the more volume you will loose.  let it ferment right in the mxing bowl and retard and proof in the banneton.  When you're ready to bake, then invert it off the banneton.


Hope I could help.



redrich2000 2011 December 28

Bumping this thread rather than starting a new one... I have been trying retarding overnight in the fridge because my loaves have risen really quickly. I had a similar problem to the original poster in this thread. For the most recent loaf, I proved for about 2-3 hours, the dough had more than doubled. I left it in the container, with a damp towel and then the lid and put in a vege box in the fridge overnight. Out of the fridge this morning for 3-4 hours and it barely rose and didn't spring much in the oven.

So if this is over-prooving, I should get it into the fridge more quickly. But should I bulk ferment for say 1 hour, then pre-shape, then refrigerate. Or bulk-ferment for an hour, then to the fridge as is and pre-shape in the morning?

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 December 28

Hello redrich,

I think if you are going to bake directly, you probably only need about 1 or one and a half hours of bulk proving.  If you are doing stretch and fold, then you will need to shorten the time between S&Fs (say 20/30 minutes rather than 1 hour).  If you are kneading up front, then just let rest for the required amount of time.  The main requirement is that the dough is well developed and will form a thin window when stretched.  Then shape your loaf and prove for another hour and a half (or whatever it needs to double).

If you are going to retard, then the same up to the shaping stage and straight into the fridge.  The potential problem that I see is that the loaf could still overprove in the fridge if you just leave it overnight since your system seems to be so active.  That is why I suggested that if you are going to retard you might be best to monitor how fast it moves at the lower temperature and go to the baking stage when it is ready.  Once you have done it once then the timing can be your guide for the future.

In general, you have to adapt to what your particular activity and conditions are.  For a given system, things happen faster at warmer temperatures and go slower at lower temperatures

All in all breadhead's entry in the previous section sums it up fairly well.


Marvincent 2017 May 6


Sorry for bringing this thread back to life after 6 years, but I felt like I had to do it to clarify for future readers,

After 3 deflated loaves, I've finally got it right.

I bulk ferment my dough for a total of 5-6 hours: autolyse, rest for 1 hour, mix everything, rest for 1 hour, knead for 20 minutes and rest for 4 hours.

After the bulk ferment, I shape it very gently and transfer onto a pan lined with oiled aluminium foil, because I don't have a banneton and I've always had problems transferring the dough from a container to a pan and from the pan to be served. After shaping, I let it rest for 20-30 minutes before refrigerating it. I leave the dough for around 16 hours in the fridge. Mind you, room temperature in this place is usually over 86F.

5 minutes before baking, I take the dough out of the fridge (not really necessary to do it 5 minutes earlier) and I preheat my turbo broiler (it preheats rapidly, you can skip this step if you use a turbo broiler, but I find that letting the heating element go red is optimal). When I baked it, It did get a little oven spring (oven spring is inhibited in my turbo broiler) and there were nice holes in the dough after slicing! My recipe was 65% hydration.

To sum up, proof the dough for only 20-30 minutes and bake immediately after taking out of the fridge.

Marcy Grote 2021 October 17

The beneficial effects of fermentation is a minimum of 8 hours to metabolize the phytic acid, then the next few hours of fermentation are the breaking down of the complex carbohydrates in to simple sugars where the bacteria then can consume them.  The sugar is substantially consumed and the bread becomes sour.  Hence, sourdough.  So ferments less than 12 hours, or minimally less than 8 hours will be flavoring the sourdough but without the amazing health benefits of a long ferment.  Of course, the reason for making SD bread from scratch is up to the person making it.  There is lots of research on this subject available if interested.

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