When I first started working with sourdough, I was discouraged by the need to follow the precise timing which required a 12 hr baking schedule. When I read that it was possible to cold proof in the fridge (both the bulk and final proof) I was excited. Until my bread didn’t rise even after more than 48 hrs in the fridge. It turns out that was the fault of my less than active starter. My second starter, the canned pineapple juice/whole wheat one, doubles happily at room temp (68-70 deg F) and is ecstatic at higher temperatures. However, it will even make the dough rise in the fridge (34-38 deg F). All of which makes baking sourdough almost as convenient as baking with yeast.
My latest pair of experiments is an examination of the relative oven spring/bake that comes from transferring a cold proofed dough into a cold dutch oven, and then placing it into a preheated oven) versus transferring the dough into a dutch oven that had been preheated along with the oven.
For the first experiment, I started with a plain, no knead sourdough bread recipe from Carole L. One of the unexpected benefits of cold proofing is that your chilly dough is very easy to score. You can get creative with your lame and end up with sharply defined slashes that open up dramatically during baking. NOTE: Since this isn’t a high hydration recipe, there won’t be big holes in the crumb.
After 12 hours in the fridge, the dough is turned out and slashed, then baked.
For the second experiment, I added sun dried tomatoes and dried basil to a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and then stirred the add-ins into the second stage of the dough. This dough was cold proofed 16 hrs before being turned out, slashed and baked in a pre-heated dutch oven
Conclusion, there isn’t an measurable difference in the oven spring of the two loaves.
The crunchy crust and soft crumb make this bread great to dip into extra virgin olive oil, an artichoke or other dip, a hearty stew or slather with hummus.