What is Dough Retarding and What Does it Do?
Retarding a dough is when you slow the rise of the dough by placing it a refrigerator at a temperature between 33°F and 40°F. The cooler temperature cause yeast to work more slowly resulting in a slower fermentation or rise. This process does two things …
Delay Using Dough
When you put your pizza or bread dough into a refrigerator you dramatically slow the yeast and thus can use the dough anytime up to a week later; although sooner would be ideal. By doing this you can make your pizza dough the evening before you want to make pizza allowing you to easily have pizza on a weeknight.
Retarding Dough Creates a More Nutty Flavor and Enhances Gluten Structure
Refrigeration does more than just allowing you to delay using the dough; yeast also creates a slightly more nutty flavor and darker color to the crust when kept at cooler temperatures. Also because the dough is slowly agitated by the yeast and the flour has ample time to fully hydrate you generally will have a dough with better gluten structure than a dough used within a few hours of making.
How to Prepare You Dough Early
Mix your dough as usual, knead and allow it to rise once, form it into individual dough balls and place in covered containers in the refrigerator. I use the 6 cup round disposable style containers with a small pinhole in the top for the CO2 created by the yeast to escape. The refrigerated dough can be removed and be used about 90 minutes after removing; enough time for the dough to warm to room temperature and fully proof (rise) for shaping into your crust. Make sure the dough feel warm / room temperature to the touch on the bottom before using.