Can I Bake Dough Straight From The Fridge?

Imagine waking up on a lazy Sunday morning, craving the warm, comforting embrace of freshly baked bread. You stumble into the kitchen, still bleary-eyed, only to realize that you forgot to prepare the dough the night before.

Your heart sinks as you resign yourself to a bread-less breakfast… Or does it have to be that way? Is it possible to salvage the situation and bake bread straight from the fridge?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a time crunch or simply wanted to enjoy the convenience of pre-prepared dough, you may have wondered if it’s feasible to skip the step of allowing your dough to come to room temperature before baking.

The dough does not need to come to room temperature before baking – you can bake it straight from the refrigerator. When baked in a very hot oven, the dough does not have any problems being baked cold.

There have been no problems while baking from the fridge, and I’ve baked many loaves with great results. Whenever I have the time, this is how I make my best sourdough. There is a lot of information about this method in books and on the internet.

How To Bake Dough Straight From The Fridge?

The ability to let your dough rise in the fridge is a tempting solution, and luckily it happens to be quite practical as well, whether you’re trying to develop flavor, work around a tricky schedule, or realize you had to pick up your friend at the airport halfway through a bread recipe.

If you prefer a long (8- to 12-hour) rise in the refrigerator rather than a 1- to 3-hour rise at room temperature, you should choose a long rise in the refrigerator. A slow refrigerated fermentation is called a “cold fermentation” and has many advantages, including flexibility and flavor.

Almost any bread recipe can benefit from this chilly technique. For the final proof, it is most convenient to do the first rise at room temperature and then place the dough in the fridge.

The first rise can be allowed at room temperature in the early evening after the yeast or starter has been prepared in the daytime.

After shaping the dough, you can transfer it to a proofing container and chill it overnight. Next morning, the dough will be ready for baking.

The bread can be baked straight from the fridge once it has fully proofed. Prior to putting the dough in the oven, make sure it is hot – ideally for around 30 minutes.

If your dough was already ready to bake, removing it too early from the refrigerator may cause the yeast activity to rise and result in an over fermentation of it. Therefore, it is best to bake straight from the fridge.

If it’s removed, I wouldn’t give it more than 30 minutes. Proofing dough in a basket like this keeps it in good shape during the long proofing process.

To prevent skin from forming from drying out, cover it or place it into an airtight bag. Place the Dutch oven or baking sheet on a floured worktop when ready to bake.

Fermentation is drastically slowed by the cold temperature of a fridge, so it is common to allow 8-12 hours for the fermentation process.

Using a floured finger, poke half an inch into the dough to see if it is fully proofed. You need to give it more time if it springs back very quickly.

When Can I Refrigerate My Dough?

There are usually two rises in bread recipes, the first rise (also called bulk fermentation) and the second or final rise.

It is okay to chill your dough either during the first rise or the second rise. In order to get the best results, you should do either one rise at room temperature or one rise in the fridge.

Choosing A Cold First Rise

When working with large quantities of dough, it’s best to use the fridge for the first rise. In the midst of their milk, eggs, and leftovers, few people can store a giant pan of focaccia.

It’s easier to let the focaccia rise on the counter after chilling the dough in a covered container.

Will It Bake Evenly?

Baking straight from the fridge seems counterintuitive. It is best to bring cold foods back to room temperature before cooking – I am thinking of steaks and whole turkeys that will cook unevenly if they are kept cold.

But bread seems to work fine despite having a colder center – there are no obvious downsides. The oven temperature, the time and the distribution of heat through the dough must be perfect.

I recommend baking bread straight from the refrigerator in the best bread books I own (such as Tartine and FWYS).

According to all of them, if you are preparing two loaves, then you should keep the second one in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. A premature release may lead to over proofing.

The dough bakes evenly whether cold or at room temperature, according to my own experience baking and reading online forums. After baking, cool the bread properly to set the crumb. 

Tips For Successful First-Rise Refrigeration

The dough should be allowed to rise on the counter for about 20 to 30 minutes before being placed in the refrigerator. Before we chill everything down, we let the yeast get going.

It may not be necessary to wait the 20- to 30-minutes if your recipe contains high yeast levels or the weather is warm. 

Keep in mind that your dough will grow. Make sure your dough is in a covered container with plenty of space. So, you won’t end up with a dough volcano in your fridge, you want the unrisen dough to fill the container about 1/3 of the way.

Don’t let your dough dry out. Covering the dough will prevent it from drying out. It is possible for dough to not rise to its full potential if it has a hard crust.

Make sure your dough isn’t covered in breathable materials such as linen. Keep moisture in by using lids or wraps.

Tips For Successful Second-Rise Refrigeration 

There is no need to cover free-form artisan loaves when stored in the refrigerator. Using a floured linen, drape the edges over the top. There may be a little dryness on the surface of the loaf, but it just makes it easier to handle.

It may still be a good idea to cover the loaf with plastic wrap or a pot lid if your fridge maintains very low humidity. Sandwich loaves can also be refrigerated! Put the dough in a greased loaf pan and shape it.

Cover the dough with a cover that will keep the surface moist but will not touch the dough itself. You can use a shower cap or bowl cover. You can cover the dough with greased plastic wrap in a pinch.

Keep an eye on the temperature of your dough. There is a possibility that the fridge will not be able to cool your dough before it over proofs if it is above 80°F.

You should aim for a dough temperature of 75°F to 80°F if you plan on refrigerating your shaped dough.

Benefits Of Cold Dough

When making bread, cooling the dough to delay fermentation and rising (also called retarding) has several well-known benefits.

A Simpler Way To Score

When the dough is cold, it is firm and easier to cut deeper into. When it’s warmer, the blade can get stuck because it’s stickier. 

Cold dough is ideal for scoring bread and achieving a specific design. Probably because of the air contact, the longer time in the fridge also helps form a harder outer layer on the dough.

A Crust That Is “Blistered”

A baked dough with small bubbles on the crust is created when the dough is proofed overnight in the refrigerator.

During the cooling process, gas escapes from the surface of the cold dough, causing the blistered effect. A good sourdough that has been left to rise in the cold for a long time will have this characteristic.

Flavor and Texture

As the bread ferments slowly, its flavor is enhanced by the byproducts of fermentation, acids and alcohols. In order for this to happen, the dough must be refrigerated to slow down the fermentation process.

As the dough ferments, the texture mellows as well. Finished bread is softer and more textured because the gluten breaks down.

Make Sure It Doesn’t Get Too Warm

It is important to remember that the yeast activity will rise again if the dough is brought to room temperature. Your dough is far along its proofing limit if you’ve spent all the time proofing it perfectly. 

You run the risk of over proofing it if you then warm it up for an hour. The dough will get weak, gassy, and prone to collapsing. In addition, too much fermentation will weaken the structure of the bread and allow gas pockets to escape.

Baking should therefore be done when it has fully proofed, not a minute later. A stable cold temperature, such as the fridge, also makes it easier to predict the dough. The next time you bake, you can be consistent with your results.

Refrigerating Dough: Is It For You? 

There is one thing you can count on whether you refrigerate your dough during the first or second rise: an increase in flavor.

Fermentation creates organic acids that are essential to the strength and flavor of your dough. Having doubts?

Make two loaves of the same recipe of bread. One loaf should be baked immediately and the other should be baked after an overnight rise. You’ll be amazed at how much more flavors develops in the second loaf!

Consider your schedule carefully before refrigerating dough to save time. The first-rise refrigeration will be suitable if you have extra time tomorrow but are in a hurry today.

Use a second-rise refrigeration if you have time to spare today but only a short window for baking the next day.

Final Words

The added flavor of refrigerated dough is really appealing to me, especially in sourdough.

It is also easier to score the skin deeply and cleanly to get the bread to open up nicely (and to create the “ears”). You must try refrigerating dough – it adds a wonderful depth of flavor.

In addition to a really hot oven, I would also recommend getting a baking stone or baking steel. As a result, the bread receives a nice blast of heat when it is baked. If you do this, you will always have great bread.

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