Category Tools

Build Your Own Dough Retarder

Over the numerous years I’ve baked bread, and the countless nights my dough has proofed overnight in the family fridge, there have been (so many) times where I yearned for the luxury, and sometimes necessity, of a dedicated space for my dough. An open, wide space where I could control the temperature and didn’t have to fight with those items that spoil at warmer temperatures. Oh that precious fridge real estate, something highly tussled for in a family with two kids. I finally decided it was time, time to remove my dough as a contender for that sought after space and construct it: a place just for dough.

This may seem like an extravagance. But when you bake as often as I do, and in ever increasing quantity, this dough retarder1 has gradually elevated to necessity. The actual physical space was one motivator but I’ve also yearned for the ability to experiment with warmer proof temperatures (45ºF and above) to test the effect on the resting dough overnight. If you’ve read my posts for a while now you’ll know that I typically push bulk fermentation pretty far and/or I’ll leave the dough out, in shape, for some period of time before retarding in the fridge at 39ºF. This, in effect, helps further the fermentation in the dough but in a different way due to the warm ambient temperature, whereas proofing at a cooler temperature, say 50ºF, has the effect of slowing yeast activity in relation to bacteria activity (more on this below). These varying proof temperatures, warmer than a typical household fridge but cooler than ambient temperatures, are something I’ve wanted to test and experiment with for some time now.

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  1. I like to colloquially call it a fretarder (freezer + retarder)

Sourdough Starter Maintenance Routine

My baking focus has lately been predominantly on my sourdough starter maintenance and maximizing fermentation, and I’ve made some of the best bread I can remember (all the bread pictures in this post were made with this starter). This is somewhat a continuation of my Managing Starter Fermentation post that I wrote quite a while ago, but pinpoints on following my process of initial feeding, watching the rise to peak, building a levain and finally discarding a portion of my sourdough starter over the course of a day.

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Baking with Steam in Your Home Oven

Steam burns hurt. Like really, really hurt. The small mark on my left forearm begs the question every day: Maurizio, was it really worth it?

But before we talk about my new baking badge of honor, let’s concentrate on overcoming the challenges of baking good bread at home. While many of these challenges present themselves early on in the two-day process (fermentation, flour selection, mixing, shaping, and so on), there is that key component at the end of this whole ordered procession: baking with steam in a high-temperature home oven.

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Sourdough Baking Tools Roundup

Tools, tools tools. I’ve always been told by my father: having the right tools makes the job that much easier. True statement right there but finding the right tools can be quite a challenge (and expensive). Over the years I’ve accumulated a large number of baking items I’ve either loved or hated immediately. Those I’ve loved have stuck around and helped me bake many a loaf, a gradual natural selection process right here in my kitchen.

Starting out baking can be an intimidating thing: it’s hard to determine exactly what you need to get started, what tools make it easier when you get more experienced, and what tools are just “nice to have”. Well, I’ve finally created a page that lists all my most used and favorite sourdough baking tools, a “Sourdough Baking Tools Roundup” if you will. When I first started baking I had many questions on what to use at each step of baking: “what am I going to proof this dough in?”, “what’s the best and cheapest scale I can get to measure out these ingredients?”, “what kind of jars can I use to keep my starter in that will make it as easy as possible?”, and so on. In an attempt to help everyone out there to find these tools (without having to scour through old comments here on the site) I’ve listed everything out in an easy to read page. All of these items I’ve either acquired by searching myself or by reading books, asking questions, and posting on websites.

I’ll keep my tools page updated with any new items I acquire and will only add them as I determine they are worthy. I hope these tools that have evolutionarily passed the test help you as well!

You can find a link to my tools page up top or check out my tools right here.

If I’ve missed any must-have tools send me an email to let me know or drop a comment below. I’m always trying out new items and have a bit of a problem when it comes to acquiring new baking gadgetry.