I often refrigerate my loaves after shaping, letting them finish up their final proof in the fridge overnight, for example, so that they’re ready to bake first thing in the morning, or whenever. This has proven to be a wonderful technique for controlling my baking schedule so I can fit a few other activities in (you know, little things like work and sleep).
If I have more than a couple of loaves, though, that can take up rather a lot of space in the refrigerator. When someone on The Fresh Loaf recently brought up the subject of retarding (refrigerating) the dough during its initial fermentation to save on fridge space, I realized that was a pretty good idea, which I had not considered before, especially for breads that proof in a space-greedy couche (thanks, beenjamming!). Then in my recent class at SFBI, retarding was covered in some depth and it was confirmed that, yes, bulk retarding is a very fine strategy. One of the breads we made to illustrate this was a ciabatta, which recipe I have adapted here by substituting a little whole wheat flour and increasing the water to satisfy that thirsty flour.