I usually shape, refrigerate then bake straight from the fridge the next morning. This time I tried cold retarding then shaping cold, proofing only as long as the oven took to preheat. The dough was slightly under proofed I felt, as a result, and I noticed the crust didn’t have the usual blisters of an overnight dough. The crust was also too thin for my liking – but this could be because I didn’t open the oven early enough to let the steam escape. I’ve heard more than once that a cold first proof, not the second proof, is the crucial element for developing flavour, and it has to do with the dough cold retarding in a large mass. The details escape me. I assume this applies to the professional bakery with its large volumes of dough. And there’s probably also the question of logistics and ease—it’s easier to cold retard a large mass of dough than individually shaped doughs. But could there be a difference for one or two loaves??? Yet another one of the myriad factors to consider. Of late too, I haven’t been liking the smell of my leaven. It’s been acidic or at best, neutral and flat-smelling, even after a few consecutive feedings. I suspect it didn’t take well to the change of my go-to flour.
I’ll never forget how once, long ago, for one fleeting time, it smelt so distinctly of meadows and butter, yes, that’s right, butter and cream and dairy. I felt I had somehow crossed into a meadow just by opening and sniffing the jar of leaven in the fridge. Pure magic. Since I change flours all the time (I like to experiment), as well as feeding patterns, I don’t know by what alchemy it had arrived at that state, and how to retain or perpetuate it. And dear leaven, you know that I would love to feed you daily that you may be constant and bubbly and constantly bubbly, but alas I don’t bake enough to warrant daily feeds. So suffer you must and together we try to arrive at something this side of edible.