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My bread book says that I can store the shaped loaves of white bread with sourdough starter and yeast in the fridge overnight instead of just leaving them to proof for two hours outside under a moist cloth. It also says I should put them in an air-tight container.

But if it's already shaped, it will stick to the container and the shaping will break. Also it's very hard to find an air-tight container that can fit a short baguette. Instead, I have just put it onto the baking sheet, including paper, and wrapped it in cling foil.

In general that works well, but it's tedious to wrap the thing in a couple of meters of foil, and it will sweat underneath. The baking paper will be damp, it's hard to open it up again and the cling foil clings to the loaf.

Is there a more efficient way to leave the loaf to proof in the fridge overnight? Does it need to be air-tight?

I'm talking about a home-size fridge and baking sheets for a home-size kitchen oven.

  • Not part of my answer but I was wondering: What do you use to keep the high-hydration baguette dough in shape? Typically I use a linnen cloth ("couche") with "folds" between the individual loaves. – Stephie Dec 18 '15 at 17:57
  • @Stephie The baguette was an extreme example for the box. I'm actually mostly just making round breads. The book calls them boule. I don't have a cloth yet, and also an actual baguette doesn't fit in my oven. Maybe diagonally, but all the baking sheets I have are deep and that's super inconvenient, so I have not tried. – simbabque Dec 18 '15 at 19:31
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    Even more off-topic but I noticed your profile puts you in Germany - did you ever check out Plötzblog (presuming that you speak Getman)? – Stephie Dec 18 '15 at 19:35
  • @Stephie no, I have not. Just recently started baking bread. Thanks a lot. :) – simbabque Dec 18 '15 at 19:38
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Using the refrigerator for the first rise is absolutely easy, but that is not what you are asking about.

For a second rise, tweaking your current approach a bit, I suggest:

  • Place yout bread(s) on a baking tray or similar or use a well-floured banneton (basket).
  • Find a plastic bag large enough to fit the entire tray or the banneton plus a bit extra room inside.
  • Lightly "blow up" the filled bag and close with a clip, rubber band or similar. You are not creating a "ballon", just enough to have the bag "float" a bit over the loaf.
    Another option would be placing a glass, can or similar object next to your loaves to support the foil tent from below.
    You need not create an air-tight seal, but you want to limit the loss of moisture to keep the surface of the bread from drying out.

  • For a single boule, an inverted bowl can protect the loaf enough, or if you use an appropriately sized Tupperware or similar bowl in lieu of a banneton, just close the lid.

A few additional thoughts:

  • For round loaves (boules) a banneton or in a pinch, a bowl, helps to keep the loaf in shape. Especially for long proofing times the tension created by shaping the loaf might not be enough to hold over hours, causing the loaf to "flow" sideways. Flour the basket well and don't worry about excess flour at the bottom (or top, depending in technique) of the loaf, simply brush it off after baking.
  • You don't need to put parchment under the loaf if you transfer them to a pizza stone or pre-heated tray. Don't try to lift a baguette by hand, use a sword-shaped baguette peel or, in a pinch, a cutting board and roll the baguette onto the peel and back onto the pizza stone or second tray.
  • That said, damp paper isn't much of a problem unless it is so wet that it will simply tear.
  • Rolls or other small items are easier to pack into a plastic container - plus they bake quickly in the morning, which may add a bit of convenience (or allows for a few extra minutes of sleep).
  • Just revisiting this because I got a 1k views badge for it. What I've recently done a lot is use a banneton for the bread, and cover it not with foil, but just put the largest cooking pot over it, so the pot is directly on the glas of the fridge shelf. That's pretty air-tight and does not sweat a lot. – simbabque May 3 '17 at 21:40
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Stephie's answer covers a lot of related information and possible solutions.

Because it doesn't need to be perfectly airtight (just prevent too much air circulation which could form a dry "skin" and decrease oven spring), one other solution I might recommend is trying to find a large pan/bowl/other container that's deep enough to invert over the loaves and still allow them to rise sufficiently. For small baguettes, you might even be able to get away with two baking sheets with somewhat deeper sides, with the second one inverted on top. If you don't have anything big enough, perhaps buying a cheap, deep disposable aluminum lasagne pan might do the trick. Or even some sort of small plastic bin inverted over the loaves.

Depending on the geometry of the situation and what containers you may have, you could even use multiple containers for multiple loaves. (In a pinch, I have often just inverted various bowls over free-form round loaves or boules during the final proof; it's easy and potentially a lot less messy than covering them with a towel or plastic wrap.)

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