Can You Refrigerate Bread Dough?

There’s nothing quite like the irresistible aroma and taste of freshly baked bread. Whether you’re an amateur baker or a seasoned pro, the process of making bread from scratch is a culinary adventure that requires precision and patience.

However, life’s demands sometimes interrupt our baking plans, leaving us wondering if we can refrigerate bread dough to save it for later.

In this blog post, we delve into the fascinating world of bread making to answer a common question: Can you refrigerate bread dough?

Yes, bread dough can be refrigerated. Due to the longer fermentation time, you will probably get better results, and the yeast will work more effectively.

You will hear any bread baker worth his salt tell you it is better to let your bread rise slowly and cold rather than fast and warm. It is important to refrigerate the dough immediately after it has been mixed, not after it has risen.

Both the first and second rises can be chilled. It’s best to do one or the other rise at room temperature, as your yeast won’t appreciate both rises in the fridge.

This can take a few hours or even overnight, depending on the amount of yeast in your recipe. Before baking, let the dough warm up a little.

Should You Refrigerate Bread Dough?

It is traditionally thought that bread dough rises as a result of yeast eating the sugar in the dough and releasing gas as a result. Warm yeast accelerates this process.

Before baking, people often let their bread dough sit in a warm spot for a few hours after kneading. The bread dough will taste better if you store it in the refrigerator instead.

Slower fermentation results in better bread. To open up the flavors of the grain, it takes time. Before baking your dough, let it rise in a cold temperature (not freezing), as the longer you let it rise, the more flavor it will develop.

There are some kinds of dough that don’t follow this rule. Particularly when it comes to sugary bread. This method, however, will enhance the flavor of French bread and sourdough bread.

You should let your bread dough ferment in the refrigerator overnight or for 8-12 hours after you have finished making it.

To allow the flavors to develop, cold ferment the dough during the first or second rise of leavened bread, but do not freeze the dough for both rises.

Is It Better To Refrigerate Bread Dough On The First Or Second Rise?

In order to allow more activity at a microscopic level, bread dough must be refrigerated to extend its rise time. By giving the dough more time, it will continue to develop into something that will make your bread better.

Putting the dough in the fridge at any rise is fine, since all that needs to be done is to extend its rise. There is no right or wrong way to refrigerate your dough, but I’ll explain why I think it’s better to refrigerate the dough on the first rise.

What You’ll Need To Refrigerate Your Dough

Without proper storage, the refrigerator can be quite harsh on dough. You run the risk of your dough drying out and developing a leather-like texture if you don’t take good care of it. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen.

The best way to keep your dough in good shape is to keep it in a somewhat humid environment. A container that is airtight can be used to store the dough. Airtight seals prevent moisture from being pulled from the dough’s surface.

You can store your dough in the following ways:

  • Large Bowl or Container
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Oil

For the same results, you can use a large bowl/container with an airtight lid instead of a bowl/container and plastic wrap.

You can refrigerate your dough very easily once you have everything you need. To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Add a drizzle of oil to a large bowl or container and spread it around. You can use your fingers or a kitchen towel to do this.
  2. Make a ball out of your dough and place it in an oiled bowl. The dough should be coated completely with oil to prevent drying and sticking.
  3. Make sure the top of the bowl is tightly covered with plastic wrap. If you don’t get an airtight seal initially, you may need to add two or three layers.
  4. Be patient and place your dough in the fridge.

That’s all there is to it. To make it easier to remove the dough, the oil prevents it from drying and sticking. 

In reality, you don’t need to do that if you have the right dough tools to get it out of the bowl/container without tearing it.

It’s now just a matter of waiting but keep an eye on it within the first few hours to make sure it doesn’t rise too rapidly. It may be necessary to punch it down if it doubles in size very quickly.

It Is Easier To Refrigerate On The First Rise

You’ll save yourself a lot of pain if you refrigerate on the first rise. You can continue the recipe even if it rises too much and collapses. 

As long as you shape the dough and proof it again, it doesn’t matter if the dough collapses (unless the yeast ran out of food).

You have to reshape and reproof the dough if the dough collapses during the final proof after shaping. By this point, the yeast may not be able to consume any starches, so it won’t rise.

The dough only needs to warm up after the first rise before you shape it and allow it to proof at room temperature until it’s ready to bake.

During the first rise, I recommend putting your dough in the refrigerator since it’s so much easier. If you are a beginner and don’t know when to perform the final rise, this is especially useful. 

When your dough rises a second time, it’s no problem to refrigerate it if you have a little more experience. 

A classic sourdough loaf proofed in a banneton is the first exception to this rule. Traditionally, sourdough dough is bulk fermented (first risen) in a bowl at room temperature before shaping. 

Placing it in a banneton basket overnight and letting it proof in the fridge. As with any dough, this does not need to be refrigerated, but you get better results when it is.

Can You Refrigerate Fully Risen Dough?

Your dough might seem to be over proofing once it has risen, but it might not be. It should be okay to put your dough into the fridge for a short time if you can’t use it immediately or reshape it.

It is possible to drastically slow the rise of the dough by placing it in the fridge once it has fully risen. Over Proofing is more likely to occur if you let it sit too long. For best results, chill the dough as soon as possible. 

Using a small amount of dough is best. It will likely take a while for the center of a large batch of dough to completely chill, so it will still likely rise in the fridge. If you refrigerate large quantities of dough, the dough can overproof.

With a lot of dough, it is still possible, but it is necessary to keep an eye on it so it does not overproof. The dough will overproof/collapse faster in the fridge, since it is fully risen and won’t be able to be kept as long as unrisen dough.

Depending on how much yeast you use and the fridge’s temperature, you can store it for different amounts of time. 

The precise time frame cannot be given, but it’s smart to check every hour for the first few hours and every few hours thereafter.

Can You Refrigerate Dough Before It Rises?

It is a common misconception that putting dough in the fridge completely stops the rise. Due to the fact that so many recipes for beginners indicate that dough can only rise in a warm environment. 

There is a reason for this. Fortunately, dough can rise in the refrigerator and continue to rise. The dough can be refrigerated before it rises. 

Rather than stopping the rise completely, the cold temperature slows it down. Depending on the temperature of your refrigerator and the amount of yeast you use, your dough will rise completely within 12-24 hours.

Your dough can be proofed in the fridge straight after it is kneaded. It takes only a few minutes to form a ball out of the dough and place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will rise after a few hours if you leave it alone.

Tips For Refrigerating Your Dough

However, there are still a few tips you might be able to use to make better bread even if you refrigerate your dough. If you are going to refrigerate your dough, here are a few things you should know.

Let It Warm Up Before Trying To Shape It

If you try to shape cold dough, you won’t have much luck. After feeling it straight from the fridge, you’ll quickly realize what I’m talking about. 

It is easier to tear and stretch dough when it is chilled because the gluten tightens. Allowing the dough to warm up at room temperature for 30 to 90 minutes is always a good idea. 

Temperature in the room and volume of dough will determine how long it needs to warm up. Due to the relaxed and more elastic nature of gluten, you can easily shape it once it’s warmed sufficiently.

Watch It During The First Few Hours

You may have to wait a while for your dough to reach your fridge’s temperature if you have a large amount or it’s warm.

It is still possible for your dough to rise fairly quickly during the chilling process.

For the first few hours, make sure you monitor the dough every 45-60 minutes or so to make sure it’s not rising too fast.

Whenever the dough rises too much, you can simply punch it down and allow it to rise again. If your dough contains less yeast, this shouldn’t be an issue.

The dough can be divided into smaller balls and placed in individual containers if you are worried about this. The faster they chill, the slower they rise.

Use Less Yeast

It’s not necessary to add a normal amount of yeast since your dough will rise for a long time. You can cut the standard 7g packet of dry yeast by 50-80% and still get great (or better) results.

A lower yeast percentage will continue to slow the rising, allowing more flavor to develop in the dough. Making bread with less yeast will definitely make a difference.

For those who aren’t patient enough, you can either keep the same amount of yeast or cut it by around 25%. It will still give you better flavor, but it will take similar times to rise.

Final Words

My bread dough has been refrigerated for two- or three-days numerous times. Before baking, let it come to room temperature. Many amateur and professional bakers put risen dough into the fridge after it has risen.

The yeast is more active when it’s warm, so chilling or freezing yeasted dough slows the yeast’s activity, resulting in a slower rise of the dough.

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