How much dough is too much? Maybe you are baking for two people instead of four? Or, perhaps you have had to use up some left-over ingredients? We’ve all been in the situation where we made too much for whatever reason and asked ourselves the question ‘can you freeze dough’? Well, the answer is, yes, you can freeze dough, but there are one or two things that you must ensure that you do. This article is going to tell you what those things are.
Can You Freeze Bread or Pizza Dough?
Ok, so let’s start with some good news. People are always asking us, can you put dough in the freezer?
You definitely can freeze bread dough! This is really convenient as it means that you are taking up less space. Further to this, by preparing a huge batch of dough in advance, you can save time in the future. But there are a few little tips and tricks for freezing dough. To understand why we do them, let’s look at the usual life cycle of a loaf.
Understanding Bread Dough
Unless you are making unleavened bread, you are going to be using yeast as a raising agent. Here’s something really interesting about yeast… It’s actually alive! Yeast is made up of tiny little organisms. When you feed yeast, it eats whatever sugars you have in your dough and expels a tiny little bubble of carbon dioxide. These tiny little bubbles all club together to produce big bubbles, and that’s what causes your bread to rise.
So far, so good?
For the bubbles to work effectively, they need to be trapped in the structure of your dough. We build this structure up by developing the gluten in the dough. When the dough is first mixed, it doesn’t have much of a structure. Imagine it like a piece of chewing gum. At first, the gum is hard without much shape, but it will turn all soft and stretchy after you chew it. This is exactly what we achieve when we knead the dough.
Bread will generally be allowed to rise twice. This is called proofing. Why do you let bread rise twice?
We let the yeast and its little bubbles do some of the work in stretching the gluten. This aids in the development of the loaf. Second, the yeast can be a little bit active to start off with. By letting it get most of its energy out in the first rise (or prove), we get a much nicer loaf. After it’s the first rise, we normally knock some of the air out of the loaf (called knocking back) before shaping it and allowing it to rise again before baking.
So, to recap, here are the general stages of a loaf’s life cycle: –
- Mix the dough recipe
- First proof.
- Knock back the loaf
- Shape the loaf
- Second proof
- Bake the loaf
Why do we need to know this? Read on to find out.
At What Stage Can You Freeze Bread Dough?
You freeze the dough after the first rise and after shaping. Or, to put it another way… Look at the above stages. The time when we freeze bread dough is between step 4 and step 5. You make your dough, allow it to rise. Knock it back. Shape the loaf and then freeze it.
Why can’t you freeze bread dough straight after mixing? A couple of reasons…
First, if you froze it straight away after mixing the freezing process, it will change the loaf’s gluten structure. Not good if you want nice bread.
Secondly, the yeast wouldn’t work properly. Yeast hates the cold and produces far fewer bubbles if it has too low a temperature.
How To Freeze Dough
You won’t need much extra equipment, just some plastic food wrap. Another top tip for a springy loaf is to use twice as much yeast as the recipe calls for. Here’s how to freeze dough: –
Make the bread dough according to your recipe, but use twice the yeast.
Allow it to rise
Knock it back
Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap and place your shaped loaf inside.
Freeze for at least 9 hours
Remove your frozen bread dough from the loaf tin. And wrap in plastic. It will keep in the freezer for up to one month.
How to Use Frozen Dough
This is actually really easy. Remember, we stopped the dough halfway through its ‘cycle’. To get it going again, all it needs is to come up to room temperature. But cold dough takes a while to get to that stage… Here’s how to use frozen dough: –
How To Thaw Frozen Dough
The night before you want to bake, remove the frozen loaf from the freezer.
Allow it to thaw out in the refrigerator.
Once it has thawed, place it in a loaf tin and leave it on the counter to rise.
Once risen, bake according to the recipe instructions.
How easy was that?
An important point to note is that you can’t just throw frozen bread dough in the oven. The loaf will come up to temperature at different times, and the gluten (which is vital for springy soft bread) will not stretch when it is cold.
Can Frozen Dough Go Bad?
While frozen dough won’t go ‘bad’, you can expect a poor result after a month. The gluten breaks down and is damaged by prolonged cold. Further to this, the yeast will eventually die off. So you’ll end up with a solid brick of a loaf.
So now you know the answer to ‘can you freeze dough’? Freeze the loaf after the first rise and shaping, and bake it, using the above method, within a month. It’s fairly hands-off, so it should save you time. Have you tried to freeze dough? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments below.