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Yesterday, I was on the cusp of baking my bread (I had just begun the final shaping process of the dough, putting it in banettons to rest at room temp. for 3-4 hours) when I had to leave for work. I remembered that my recipe said I could delay or "retard" the process by putting the banettons filled with the dough, in the refrigerator for up to twelve hours. Well, when I arrived home seven hours later, I took the dough-filled banettons out of the refrigerator, heated up my oven, filled pans with water and put them on the lowest shelf of the oven, tossed the dough into the Dutch Ovens, scored the tops of the dough and put the lids on the pots and waited twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, I took the lids off the Dutch Ovens and let the bread bake for another twenty five minutes.

I never got the "oven spring" out of these loaves and the crumb is rather dense. Should I have let the dough warm up after removing it from the refrigerator? How long should I wait in this situation?

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    I think normally you would retard the first fermentation, not the final rise in the banetton. And yes, you would bring them to room temperature. – SAJ14SAJ Feb 15 '14 at 2:03
  • The recipe is from Chad Robertson's 'Tartine' book. He mentions two different options depending on time constraints... One option is a 3 to 4 hour rise at 75 to 80 F... The other is to place the dough in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours... -Thanks for the insight! – user22597 Feb 15 '14 at 2:57
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    I have plenty of bread recipes (including professional bread books) which allow for final rise retarding. The difference is duration: a first proof can sometimes be retarded for days; a final one by 12 hours or less (maybe 18 at most). The problem with retarding the final fermentation is that bacteria will eventually start to break down the gluten, so oven spring may be compromised and the loaf may "spread" more during baking. If the dough appears too "slack" when removed from the fridge, it can be better to reshape again and do a third proof before baking if you think the yeast can do it. – Athanasius Nov 25 '14 at 19:14
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Yes, you should have let the dough come to room temperature before baking. Also, you might try pre-heating the Dutch oven so that it is really hot before adding in your loaves.

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Properly proofed retarded loaves should not need to be brought to room temperature before baking. In commercial bakeries, this is not common practice as it would result in condensation forming on the outside of the loaves, time, and space.

Since you let your loaves proof for 3 hours, then placed them in the fridge, they were over-proofed by the time you baked 12 hours later. When retarding, it takes about 1 hour for the temperature of the loaf to reach temperatures to really slow down yeast, so really, it was like you proofed for 4-5 hours at room temperature. For levain breads, total final proof time should take between 2-3 hours, depending on temperature, formula, etc. Unless your dough is in a cool environment (below 76 degrees F), then it should not proof longer than 3 hours.

Try following the same procedure, but put in the fridge after 30 mins-1 hour of proofing at room temperature. This should time up with baking at about 12 hours retarding. You may have to play with these times, depending on the temperature of your dough, temperature of the room, and activity of your levain.

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