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Proofing Bread in Fridge

Asked by Anona. Answered on 10th May 2014

Full question

I am making Nigella's Essential White Loaf. The dough rose, I knocked it back and shaped it and left it to rise again. It is ready to bake, but now I am unable to bake the bread as there is no gas in the bottle. Will it keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours?

Our answer

Most bakers prefer to give a shaped loaf a second rising (or proofing) at warm room temperature as it is easier to check the loaf regularly and bake it at the correct time. When the loaf is ready to bake the dough will look puffed up (if you push your little finger into the dough it will leave an indentation) and will usually almost have doubled in size. If it is baked too early then the loaf will not rise and will be dense. If left too long then is likely to have large air pockets in the loaf and the loaf may spread too much. Also some people find that their loaf can be too dry if baked from chilled. If the loaf is left for an extremely long time then the yeast can die off and again the loaf will be dense.

If the loaf has already risen then refrigerating it will retard the yeast a little, but you will probably have a loaf that is slightly over proofed. We would suggest letting the loaf come back to room temperature as much as possible while the oven heats up. Generally if you are going to refrigerate a dough then it is best to do this at the first rising. Nigella's Essential White Loaf recipe (from Domestic Goddess) suggests mixing and kneading the dough, then putting it in a greased and covered bowl and leaving it in the fridge overnight. The next day knock back the dough, shape it and leave it to prove in a warm place until ready to bake.

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