Easy Sourdough hacks, Fix Flat Sourdough,

Why proof sourdough bread in the fridge – the easy way to PRO proofing

Refrigerator method for baking BLME Sourdough

Proofing your sourdough loaf (taking it through the second rise) can be a bit tricky. You need to know how to work with the temperature of your room and the maturity of your dough to coordinate the heating of your oven so they are both ready at the same time. You have to be around for this… sorry, you don’t have an option!

When your dough is ready, it’s ready and all those precious hours of waiting, growing and shaping can all go wrong right here.

If you miss your sourdough loaf’s peak baking point, it will deflate like a flat balloon. No baker or oven in the world can fix it. (See point #7: 4 keys reasons why your sourdough bread be flat)

Using the refrigerator is called retarding, because it slows down the rising process. It’s brilliant for those times you want to be prepared ahead of time for a special event or an early morning bake, and it’s also perfect for beginners, making this the easy way to proof your sourdough bread like a PRO.

Our process of baking the loaf directly from the fridge makes you the boss of bake time, not your sourdough.

Slow makes you a PRO

This simple cheat takes a little patience (if you are at work or asleep while it happens: win-win!) but it makes you an instant PRO at proofing!

It’s virtually impossible to overproof (mature) your loaf using the refrigerator (unless you leave it for days) and the nice long second rise allows some overnight ZZZZ’s or workday to take place without supervising the proof of your sourdough loaf.

Another effortless aspect of proofing in the refrigerator is that it works just the same in every season. From a frozen winter to the melt of summer, you don’t have to adjust the times of your second rise to suit the weather situation. Meaning there is less to learn, less to troubleshoot and more sourdough to get on with!

Proofing in the fridge also increases the complexity of flavour, so it even improves the loaf you end up baking.

I have been making sourdough for over a decade. I know how to proof a loaf on my benchtop, in my car (yes! I have taken my dough to work!) and in the sun on a cold day. I learned to watch it, time the oven and get it going like a beautiful dance. BUT I didn’t know I could use the refrigerator.

This process is so convenient that it’s the only method I use now. No more babysitting my sourdough! I am free to do other things with my day and my little sourdough babies? Well, they mature perfectly and even develop extra flavour.

What’s not to love!

Benefits

1. No supervision
Using the refrigerator gives a nice long second rise (proof) allowing an overnight or workday to take place without keeping an eye on the rising loaf.

2. Adds flexibility to the baking time
You can bake when you are ready, not when your dough is. This simple method means you can prepare for events and early morning bakes ahead of time. Using the refrigerator method makes you the boss of bake time.

3. Requires no sourdough experience
You won’t miss the signals for when your dough is ready which gives you another boost towards making a successful loaf! If you want to learn how to tell when the second rise is ready, read: How to tell when your loaf is ready to bake – The poke test. This is irrelevant when using the refrigerator method. Your tell-tale sign will be the length of time you’ve left it there. A minimum of 10 hours, and a maximum of 24. Anything between the two will work just fine! Again… you become the boss of bake time!

4. Develops the flavour of your loaf
Just like wine, the increased fermentation time makes your loaf even taste better!

5. Makes baking easier
Cold dough is a lot firmer than when it’s at room temperature, giving it better resistance when slashing and it’s more rigid for placing delicately into hot vessels.

6. A note for traditional sourdough bakers
This method is helpful even for those who are using traditional sourdough methods because sometimes your loaf is ready to bake and you’re not.

If you want to skip the refrigerator method, which is written into each of our recipes, follow our instructions here: Skip the refrigerator method and bake your sourdough

How to use your refrigerator to proof your sourdough

1. Place your shaped loaf on to a piece of baking paper and place into a large Tupperware container or oversized bowl.

Optional: Wet a damp cloth or tea towel and drape it over the loaf to stop it forming a slight skin.

2. Seal with the Tupperware with the lid or cling wrap the bowl and leave in the refrigerator for a minimum of 10 hours, and up to 24 hours.

You don’t need to bring your bread back to room temperature when you bake.

Baking your sourdough bread

1. At least 45 minutes to an hour before baking, pre-heat your oven on to the highest setting and remember to add your Dutch Oven, Pizza Stone or other baking vessels.

2. After the oven has pre-heated for 45 – 60 minutes, take your loaf from the fridge and gently lift it from the bowl or Tupperware using the baking paper. Place on your bench-top.

3. Optional: Carefully flip the loaf over so the smooth underside is facing up. If the paper is sticking to the loaf, skip this step.

4. Wet your loaf with water and lightly dust with flour.

5. Using the sharpest knife you have or a razor blade, move deeply, quickly and confidently on an angle through the loaf. If you go slow, the knife will likely drag the dough.

6. Follow the instructions for your usual baking method:

Baking your bread using a Dutch oven or casserole dish in the oven
Baking your bread using a pizza stone
Faking it – Baking your bread without a Dutch oven or pizza stone

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