Retarding bread dough is when you slow down the fermentation process by lowering the temperature of the dough, in this case by putting it in the refrigerator. The lowering of temperature slows down the microbial activity and is said by many artisan bread ‘experts’ to improve and deepen the complexity of flavours in the loaf.
I have done this many times before but only for an overnight stint so I could bake the first thing in the morning. Knowing that I most likely would not get to baking over the weekend, I mixed this dough Friday night, did a 45 minute autolyse then stretch and folded every 30 minutes for 2.5 hours. I then bundled the dough into the fridge and there it stayed until this morning (Monday). I took the container out, divided the dough (2 X 748g pieces) and did a preshape then a 20 minute bench rest before final shaping. Proofed until ready and then into the ‘toy oven’ 17 minutes lid on 230c, 15 mins lid off 210c. I really have to watch this last cooking stage as the loaf is so close to the top element it can easily burn. Loaves have turned out really well so I’m not so nervous about retarding them to suit my schedule for future bakes.