Baking bread is a long and complex process: weighing the ingredients, kneading the dough, letting it rise and many more steps up until the perfect loaf. When you finally reach the stage that your bread is ready to go in the oven, there is a chance you are tired or have some other commitment requires your attention or maybe you prepared a big portion of dough and would like to freeze a portion of it.
The simple answer to Can I freeze bread dough is YES. Freezing dough kills about 30% to 50% of your yeast ( sometimes more ). You will have to compensate for this by adding more yeast to your recipe. Even if you add the extra yeast there are some drawbacks to freezing bread dough but it is certainly possible.
In this article, we will discuss how to go about freezing your dough, at which stage you should freeze it and, how to proceed with the baking process after thawing out your dough.
How Long Can You Freeze Bread Dough For Before It Goes Bad?
I would recommend you freeze bread dough for up to 60 days. You have probably read many articles stating you can freeze the dough for 6 months to a Year. While this is true it is not recommended to do so in a home freezer. A home freezer temperature fluctuates frequently due to opening and closing the freezer door all the time. This opening and closing of the freezer door along with fluctuating the temperature also introduce moisture to the freezer and can create water crystals forming on your dough. These crystals can eventually lead to freezer burn and will ruin your dough.
So if you must freeze bread dough try to keep it under 2 months.
TIP: Make sure to write the date on your bags. This way you will know how old the batch of dough is and how long you got before it goes bad.
What Happens To The Dough While In The Freezer?
As mentioned in the opening of this article. Freezing bread dough kills about 30% of the yeast. This is not the only effect freezing has on your dough.
Along with the yeast dying you also have the issue of your gluten structure weakening.
To combat these two issues you should
- Double the amount of yeast you use
- Use strong flours ( flours with higher protein content)
Doughs made with Rye flour, for example, have a lower gluten content in them so they would not fare well in the freezer. If you just love your rye bread and would like to freeze it try using a lower percentage of this rye flour. About 20% max. You will still get that great rye flavor while maintaining a gluten structure in your dough.
Lastly, a bread baked from a dough that is frozen will most likely not have the volume a fresh dough bread would have. Even though you have increased your yeast, the gluten structure will still be weaker and will not allow the bread to expand in the way a fresh dough would. If the size of the loaf is a concern to you try to increase your recipe about 15 – 20%. This should help balance out the size issue.
For a simple way to increase your recipe, you should use a scale that offers a bakers percentage function. This will allow you to increase your recipe easily without having to start calculating your ingredients all over.
There is a great scale on the market made by My Weight. I have written a full review on this scale right here. Be sure to check it out as it is truly an amazing home scale that performs like no other on the market at a very reasonable price.
Does Freezing The dough Change The Taste Of The Bread? Will It Still Feel Fresh?
Most people will not notice a big difference in appearance or flavor. The only way o really notice the difference is if you bake one bread that is fresh and another that is from the freezer. Then you will notice.
Freezing bread dough can result in a slightly more crumbly texture and also a denser dough. This is the side effect of your gluten structure breaking down under the cold temperatures of the freezer.
As for color and shape, if you bake your bread properly you will not notice a difference.
What Changes Should I Make In The Dough To Help It Survive The Freeze?
- Flour: Use flour with high protein content. The gluten comes to form the protein portion of the kernel. As your freezer weakens gluten in the freezing process you should use a flour with higher protein content to help counter it. Most flours have about 11% protein in them. If you can find a flour that has 14% protein that would be the best, but it is not always easy to find so if you find a flout with 12.5% it should do the job as well. Flours such as Rye have a low gluten content in them so try to steer away from this type of flour. If you must keep the percentage of this flour low in the dough you are freezing ( about 15% would be ok)
- Yeast: Increase the amount of yeast by about 50 to 75%. This will counter the yeast that dies during the freezing process. Adding this much yeast will make your dough (before freezing ) rise very quickly so make sure you adjust accordingly and punch your dough sooner than you would have if you had your usual amount of leavening agent.
- Water: You should use filtered water or spring water if you intend to freeze your bread. Regular tap water has (low levels) of chlorine in it and other additives like fluoride. These additives have a negative effect on yeast so using filtered water or spring water will give your yeast a better chance of surviving and thriving especially after thawing it out.
- Dough hydration: The amount of water in your dough can have a great effect on whether or not your bread will rise after you thaw it out. The ideal hydration level for bread that you intend to freeze should be 65% or lower. Lower hydration doughs have a stronger gluten mesh and are less fragile. The yeast will also survive much better in these cases as well. you should stay away from freezing Ciabatta dough or high hydrated sourdough bread for this reason.
- Sugars: most bread recipes do not include sugars in them but you might want to consider adding some sugar to your recipe. Sugar is good binding agent and really helps to activate the yeast in the thawing process. You can also use other natural sweeteners like honey or even malt is a great additive. These natural sweeteners will add a great flavor and also a nice color to your dough so try it out.
- Citric acid or Ascorbic acid. This additive is very popular in large bakeries. It acts as a stabilizer and really improves the volume of your bread when baking after the dough has been frozen.
When Is The Best Time To Freeze The Dough?
So the question now is when is the best time to freeze my dough? The answer to this depends on the type of bread you are making.
For regular white bread or whole-grain bread where you have one rise and then shaping the best time will be after the first rise. You punch the dough down or knock it back, then shape the loaf.
If you are making a dought that has 2 rises before the shaping stage than you would want to freeze it after the second rise. Either way, you wan to freeze your bread after shaping.
The reason you want to freeze your doughs after shaping is that this is the stage that the yeast in your dough is already evenly distributed thought and all that is left now is either a fermentation stage ( which you can do in the fridge ) or the final proof before baking.
How To Freeze Bread Dough
- Take your shaped loaf and put it in your bread pan.
- Cover the pan with a plastic bag or you can use cling wrap.
- Let it freezes for 24 – 48 hours.
- After it is frozen solid remove the bread from the pan,
- Wrap it a couple of times with cling wrap and then cover it again with some tin foil. You can also use a freezer bag ( make sure to get all the air out ) and put it back in the freezer.
- Lable your bag or tin foil. This will help you keep track on the date you froze this bread. This is especially useful you have a couple of loaves in the freezer. Also, you will be able to tell when your dough is getting too old and you should bake it before it goes bad.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Getting the air out of the bag is crucial as moisture from the air can get trapped in the back and form crystals during freezing.
These crystals can create freezer burn on your dough and will have a great effect on the look and flavor after baking.
In order to get the air out, stick a straw in the bag and seal it until you get to the straw, then suck the air out, remove the straw and close the ziplock all the way.
How To Defrost Bread Dough?
So now you are ready to thaw out your dough and bake it. Follow these steps for the perfect loaf.
- take the bread out of the freezer and unwrap it our take it out of your freezer back.
- place the frozen loaf in your baking pan/tin or in your proofing basket
- place the baking pan or proofing basking in a plastic bag ( leave some air in it).
- Now place the loaf in your fridge and thaw it out for about 24 hours
- The next day take your bread out of the fridge and give it the final proof
Proofing Your Bread Before – Home Hack Version or Proofing Box
To proof your bread you will need a warm and preferably a humid environment. It is best to use a proofing box if you have one. Check out a product review we did for the Brod and Taylor proofing box. This is the one I personally use and highly recommend using. If you do not have a proofing box see below for and alternative.
One way to achieve this is to put your loaf in your oven and turn the oven light on. This light will bring your oven temperature to about 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Ferinheight.
To introduce moisture to the oven, boil some water in a kettle. Place the boiling water in a stainless steel bowl or a pan and put it on the floor of your oven underneath your loaf. This should do the trick.
Proof your bread until it has almost or doubled in size. Now it is ready to bake.
The main thing you will have to experiment with is the percentage of leavening agents you will need to increase. As mentioned before, you should be using about 50*75% more than you usually do but this varies depending on your flour blend and type of leavening agents you use weather it is dry yeast, fresh yeast, or sourdough starter. You might find yourself increasing your leavening agent by 100% in some cases.
Do not get discouraged if your bread does not turn out well after the first time you have frozen it.
The biggest tip I can give you and this goes for anything in baking not only when freezing a dough is to journal your process. Write down everything you do. This way you can always go back and see when and where you need to adjust things.
Baking takes lots of experience. If at first you don’t succeed try and try again. Success in baking is very fulfilling and is worth the journey.