I want to put my bread dough in the fridge tonight. Do i put it after the first rise or after the "punch down"?
Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
After the first rise is one option. But you can also go ahead and shape it, dust the tops of the loaves with a bit of flour, then cover with plastic (the flour is so the plastic doesn't stick). Refrigerate the loaves overnight, then remove from the fridge in time for them to warm up and carry on with the second proofing. Then bake them up, and enjoy them.
This is the typical method for artisan breads which require long, slow fermentation periods because of minuscule amounts of yeast. So, as AntoniaJames suggests, definitely reduce your yeast by at least half, if not 25% of the original amount. What you're doing with refrigeration is slowly building a yeast population that will raise your bread, while at the same time allowing for lots of bacterial growth which lends great flavor and character to your bread.
AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
I might add too that it doesn't hurt to secure the plastic wrap (with a large rubber band or a piece of cooking twine), around the edges of whatever vessel the dough is in, as sometimes even in the refrigerator, rising dough (especially when unattended, as in overnight) can become unruly. I typically reduce the amount of yeast in the recipe for this reason. I've had more than one batch of dough overflow the bowl during an overnight rise. ;o)
Very good point,AJ. This reminded me of an illustration in a children's book from my childhood in which boiled over milk had taken on a character, running away from the pot and a kid (or two) chasing it. Your animated description made that resurface out of nowhere :).
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