Proofing sourdough overnight

I’m a big fan of the sourdough overnight rise i.e. proofing sourdough overnight. It allows me to fit sourdough baking into my daily routine more easily and offers an opportunity to improve the flavour and aroma characteristics of my loaves.

In this post, I wanted to share some basics and tips around using this technique.

How does the sourdough overnight rise method work?

Fermentation will continue during refrigeration which will ensure the rise takes place albeit more slowly. By slowing down the process, sourdough breads that ferment overnight in the fridge develop more acidity during this time.

In general, there are a few things to look out for when baking an overnight sourdough bread recipe.

Overnight first rise

This method relates to the initial rise of the dough once you have mixed your dough ingredients including the refreshed sourdough starter. If you want to give your bread a good, long rise for reasons of flavour and nutritional quality but you cannot start the process until late in the evening, this would be a good option. Try to mix the dough at around 27°C (you can influence this by using water at this temperature) to give it a head-start, then place in the fridge at 5°C overnight before shaping the loaf and its final proof.

Overnight proofing

This is a great method if you want to bake your loaf first thing in the morning. Overnight proofing however isn’t risk free as proof times will as always vary based on the dough temperature and general vigour of the sourdough used. When I use this method,  I tend to use water 27°C – 32°C for mixing the main dough ingredients and leave it to rest at room temperature for a good few hours before shaping the loaf. This means the fermentation process has well and truly started by the time the loaf goes into the fridge.

However, if your dough is too lively at this stage, or your fridge not powerful enough, the loaf may over-proof before the morning and you won’t be there too notice until it’s too late.

On the other hand, the dough may not be lively enough and the fridge will slow things right down. So by the time the morning comes, your dough may not have risen enough and due to the cold dough temperature it will take a while to get it to its final fully proofed stage. Experience will be your best guide here.

Tips for proofing sourdough overnight

  1. The dough will be cold as it comes out of the fridge. If you are proofing your sourdough overnight for its first rise, it will take a while to get going again. Ensure it arrives into a warm space after its time in the fridge.
  2. Get to know the vigour of your sourdough and get the dough temperature right before starting the overnight rise. This will ensure you limit some of the risks described above.
  3. Experiment with different recipes and different flours to test and learn.
  4. Here are some recipes to get you started on this method: French pain de campagne and Russian 100% rye bread
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