See Baking Steps Guide for more information on bread making techniques discussed on this page.
All doughs can be refrigerated. Chilling dough slows the activity of the yeast, but it does not stop it completely. For this reason, it is necessary to punch down the dough a few times over the first few hours it is in the refrigerator. Once the dough has completely cooled, it needs to be punched down only once every 24 hours. A dough will last approximately three days in the refrigerator; however, it is best to use it within 48 hours.
Refrigerated dough after Kneading
This is the best way to refrigerate your dough. After the dough is kneaded, place in a lightly oiled, large mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. You can also store the dough in a self-sealing plastic bag (sprayed with oil to prevent sticking) and then place in refrigerator. The refrigeration time is considered the first rise. When you are ready to use your refrigerated dough, remove it from the refrigerator, punch it down, and allow it to rest before shaping. If you are using the refrigerated dough for more than one baking time, only take out the amount needed - or separate the dough beforehand into the desired amounts you will be using each time. The final rising will be longer than indicated in the recipe because the dough will still be cool. Bake according to the recipe directions. See Baking Steps Guide for procedures and tips on bread making steps.
Dough may be refrigerated after it has been formed into the desired shape. Cover shaped loaves or rolls tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, partially unwrap, and let rise until the dough passes the "ripe test". Bake according to the recipe directions.
It is not recommended to freeze your doughs. Commercial bakers have specific changes to their procedures and recipes that allow them to successfully freeze doughs that produce a quality final product. Home baking doesn't allow you to adapt your doughs as successfully to freezing. A good rule to follow is "bake first, then freeze." If you still want to try freezing your doughs, follow the guidelines below.
Freezing doughs after Kneading
After the dough has been kneaded, divide it into the sections needed for the finished product - for example, one loaf of bread, one pizza or one pan of rolls. Flatten each section into a 1-inch thick disk. Place in self-sealing plastic bags and freeze. Dough can be kept in the freezer up to four weeks. For an even thaw, place it in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to use, partially unwrap dough and place it on the counter for 15 minutes to bring it to room temperature. Punch down the dough. Proceed with shaping and the second rising (or proofing). Dough may also be moved directly from the freezer to the counter for a shorter thawing time. However, the edges will thaw faster than the center, so the dough will have to be worked some as it thaws. See our Baking Steps Guide for a detailed description of bread making steps.
Freezing doughs after Shaping
Place shaped dough on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for one hour to harden. Remove from freezer and wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Place in a self-sealing plastic bag and return it to the freezer. Dough can be kept frozen up to 4 weeks. To thaw, unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pan. Lightly oil the top of the shaped dough and cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap or foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator, partially unwrap, and bring to room temperature. Let the dough rise until it passes the "ripe test". Bake according to the recipe directions.
Baked, completely cooled breads can also be successfully frozen. Wrap first in plastic wrap or foil, then place in a self-sealing bag. Freeze for 6 to 8 weeks. Let thaw at room temperature, partially unwrapped to allow moisture to escape. Slicing bread before freezing will make it possible to take out a partial loaf at a time and will shorten the thawing time, as the slices can easily be separated. However, it may not stay as fresh for an extended period of freezing.