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Freezing bread dough

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breaddoughbowl.JPGI find that one of the things that keeps people from baking more yeast breads is the time it takes from start to finish. The active time is not necessarily that great, but because the bread dough must rise at least once to give the yeast a chance to work, there is a lot of down time for dough. This is often not a problem on laid-back weekends or when you’re working in/around the house, but on a weeknight or a weekend when you’re running back and forth to various activities, it can really be a turn off.

Fortunately, there is a way to make the bread-making process much more convenient, although it doesn’t actually speed things up: freeze the dough. Almost all doughs can be made and frozen in advance, then either thawed just before baking or baked for a few extra minutes when you’re ready to eat.

The reason that freezing the dough – and I’m talking about a period of a few days or weeks, not years, although I have frozen things like pizza dough for months without problems – works is that cold temperatures essentially put yeast to sleep. You see, despite the fact that overly high temperatures can kill yeast rapidly, yeast is a resilient organism and can actually “hibernate,”  slowing themselves down, for a period at low temperatures. Warmth and moisture (in the case of freeze-dried yeast) will wake them up again. This is why overnight rises in the fridge are called for in some recipes to allow the dough to develop slowly, and why adding warm liquid to yeast will activate it very quickly.

If you are going to freeze dough, do so after the first rise and let it come back to room temperature before shaping and baking it when possible for optimal results. If the recipe you are working from only has one rise and no shaping step, just leave the dough out for about 20 minutes before freezing to give the yeast a chance to start doing their thing. Again, bring the dough to room temperature before baking. I find that a lightly oiled ziplock bag works beautifully for freezing dough, especially since it can be labeled with the date and name of the dough inside.

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  • Elle
    April 10, 2007

    This freezing of bread dough is a great idea. I’ve just been reading a book with lots of bread recipes, but many do have a long rising time after the first few steps. Freezing after the first rise might just make it possible to prepare some of the more complicated ones. Thanks!

  • shuna fish lydon
    April 13, 2007

    Wow! Thanks for posting this. Of course I know this for professional bakeing but for some reason I forget some of that stuff in my home kitchen.

  • Joyce Staiger
    November 18, 2007

    Thank you, this will enable me to bake bread and not have a loaf go stale. It will also allow me to prep ahead of time and give people fresh home made bread or I can give it to them frozen so they can bake it at home and have warm bread with dinner. Once again thank you.

  • Alec
    April 7, 2008

    What should I do with a bread that has a second rizing in the bread pan. I only have a couple of pans so leaving them in the freezer is not an option for me.

  • Brian
    July 28, 2008

    “What should I do with a bread that has a second rizing in the bread pan. I only have a couple of pans so leaving them in the freezer is not an option for me.

    As stated above, just freeze it after the first rising. After the first rising, I just pick it up and run it through my hands a few seconds until the bread dough is “deflated”, then pack the dough into a Ziplock. Then put it directly into the freezer. When you take it out of the freezer, you can shape the bread dough or put it into a bread pan and let it rise once more and then bake.

  • Cheri
    July 12, 2010

    This is sooooo helpful! My family loves homemade yeast rolls and donuts, but I never could find the time to make them through the week. Using this method, I can make a large batch of rolls dough on Monday morning…have some with dinner that night, and freeze the other two portions for another two dinners! Sooooooo much less time consuming. It’s also a good idea for the donuts because I can get the dough ready and freeze…then, lay it out the afternoon before…cut and shape that evening..then, let rise again in the oven overnight. All I have to do the next morning, is cook them!

  • Sandy
    August 1, 2011

    I have read in other places that the yeast should be doubled when planning to freeze dough. I have my doubts about this, and your explanation makes sense. Am I correct that the quantity of yeast does NOT need to be increased?

  • Joyce Bonitto
    December 11, 2011

    Im a new bread baker, This will come in handy for me, due to me living alone. I love to bake fresh bread, for myself and now can take my frozen loft to my kids, so they can enjoy them too.

  • David
    January 15, 2012

    Hello, I have started baking my own breads, rolls and buns, since my wife is allergic to corn and pretty much all bread products have some sort of corn syrup, corn meal, modified corn starch, etc in them. I have a recipe that I use for hamburger buns that just calls for making the dough, shaping into the bun and letting rise for an hour or so and then baking…should I just freeze the entire dough after kneading, or should I divide it into the 16 bun sized portions and freeze the smaller amounts? I am leaning toward the latter option so I could just pull out as many buns I want…so I don’t have to bake 16 at a time.

  • Amanda
    August 2, 2012

    Thank you!!!! This is so helpful! Thank you for being so detailed and for including a one-rise variation because that it what I needed. 🙂 I so appreciate your help!

  • Ilham
    March 21, 2013

    Thank you !!!! Your demonstration is very helpful. My family likes to eat fresh homemade baked bread , and it is very painful to make a roll a day in a very busy life style. Well now I can make many rolls and just freeze them until I need to bake them. Awesome, thanks again

  • Kelli
    May 3, 2013

    Can you shape it into buns and then freeze it?

  • Michael
    December 19, 2013

    Looking for confirmation of something I’ve known and practiced a long time. I remembered Julia Child writing that she froze yeast for years and that they just remain in stasis. So much posted about not freezing dough because it killp yeast. Tell that to the 2-month frozen rolls cooling on my counter now. Guess no one told them they shouldn’t have risen. About ice crystals, as soon as you can, wipe them off with a paper towel.

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