How long can I store bread dough in the fridge before baking

Posted: January 11, 2024 Last modified: January 28, 2024
How long can I store bread dough in the fridge before baking

Can you let bread dough rise in the refrigerator? It’s a question I get asked a lot, but I honestly had no experience with it. So I’ve spent the last few weeks reading up on the subject and, of course, experimenting in the kitchen myself on how to store bread dough in the fridge.

I will share my findings and a step-by-step plan, and of course tell you how to store bread dough in the fridge to let it rise. This way you can prepare the dough in the evening and bake it fresh in the morning without taking too much time. It’s convenient, and the slower the bread rises (because it’s cooler), the better the end result.

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Why do you want to store bread dough in the fridge?

Before you put your dough in the fridge, ask yourself why you want to do this. Is it because you want to have a fresh home baked loaf of bread in the morning, without wanting to get up early? That’s the reason why I store my dough in the fridge. The fridge causes a slower rise which give me time to enjoy fresh bread in the morning, without having to set my alarm clock absurdly early.

The first time I stored dough in the fridge was after making pizza bread sticks. I had some pizza dough left and decided to give it a try and store it in the fridge until the next day. The cold temperature in the fridge caused the dough to rise slow. It did rise a bit, but not as much as it would have on the counter in my kitchen for a few hours. I made mini pizza’s from the left over dough and they tasted amazing.

The cold temperature in the fridge stops the yeast activity. More details on that later. But I have to say: I’ve had some of the best results in my bread baking with dough that was stored in the fridge.

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First or second rise in the fridge?

In my search, I soon found out that you can stick to different ways of proofing in the fridge. As you may know, most breads rise twice. The first rise is immediately after kneading and is called the bulk rise. The second rise occurs after the bread is shaped. After this second rise, the bread goes into the oven.

One of the two rises can be done in the refrigerator. I prefer to do the second rise in the refrigerator, because then I have very little to do in the morning to get a fresh slice of bread. That’s why I explain the process this way.

If you want to do the first rise in the fridge, the principle is the same, only you form the dough after the first rise in the fridge and the second rise is outside the fridge.

Fun fact: In the Netherlands: we LOVE bread, or ‘brood’ as we call it. Most Dutch people will lunch with a ‘broodje kaas’, a slice of bread with cheese. We also have all kinds of sweet sandwich toppings, with chocolate sprinkles as the most well known and popular option. It’s delicious, I can recommend trying it sometime.

Questions about storing dough in the fridge

Does the type of dough matter?

As far as I have tested: it does not matter which dough you have. I let all different kinds of dough rise in the fridge and I had great results every time.

From pizza dough, to dough for sourdough bread. Or just a simple dough for a loaf of white bread. Just choose a bread recipe and start baking.

How many hours do you store the dough in the fridge?

My dough usually sits in de fridge for 12-14 hours. I make the dough right after or just before dinner and bake the bread after I wake up.

This isn’t a rule, no problem if you have the dough a few hours shorter or longer in the refrigerator. The longest amount of time I stored my dough in de fridge is 18 hours. I think it could have been in there longer, but I haven’t tried it.

​I’ve heard people storing there bread dough for 3 days in the fridge.

Can you freeze bread dough?

You can! But unfortunately, the freezer kills many of the yeast cells, which in turn weakens the gluten, resulting in a lower and longer rise. If you want to freeze bread dough, do it after the bread is shaped. Thaw the frozen dough and let it rise before you bake it.

It depends on the size of your bread/buns how lang it takes to defrost.

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Step by step plan

The following step by step plan is totally based on my personal experience and what I’ve found to be the best way of storing and rising bread dough in the fridge.

  • Prepare the bread dough according to the recipe and let the dough rise according to the recipe. Most recipes call for the dough to rise for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in volume.
  • Squeeze the air out of the dough with your hands and shape the bread to your liking. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap (it’s still rising) and refrigerate. You could also use an airtight container to store the dough, but make sure there is room to let the dough rise.
  • Leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t pay too much attention to the number of hours. For me, it’s usually between 12 and 14 hours.
  • The dough just keeps rising in the fridge. Sometimes it doubles, sometimes it does not. In the latter case, you can let the dough rise outside the refrigerator until it has doubled in volume.
  • I take the dough out of the fridge and leave it covered while the oven preheats. When the oven is hot, I put the bread in the oven, or you can just follow the baking time from the recipe.
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Additional Tips, Tricks and Facts

  • Yeast stops working at a temperature of 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit). The dough will no longer rise at this point. If the dough and yeast are above this temperature again, the dough will continue to rise.
  • Good to know: If you put your bread in the refrigerator, the dough will rise until it has cooled down to 7 degrees Celsius/45 degrees Fahrenheit (your refrigerator is usually lower, of course), the dough will not be at that temperature the moment you close the refrigerator door, so there’s time for the dough to rise.
  • Do not use a cast iron pan to place your dough in if you are going to let the dough rise in the refrigerator. You run the risk that the baking pan will not survive the temperature shock (from the fridge directly into the oven) and it will take an incredibly long time for the baking pan to return to room temperature (I speak from experience 😉 ).
  • Looking for tasty recipes to make your own bread? Take a look at these bread recipes. I have bread recipes that you’ll make with a standard yeasted dough, but there are also no knead bread recipes.

How to store your homemade bread

You don’t have to be an experienced baker to bake your own bread. I have learned a lot over the years by just doing it. Additionally I have learned a thing or two about the shelf life of homemade bread. I’ll share my tips with you.

  • You can store your bread for about 3-5 days
  • Don’t use a plastic bag for your bread, a paper bag works best. Another option: wrap the bread in a tea towel or use a cotton bag.
  • You can easily reheat your bread. Sprinkle some water on top and reheat for a few minutes in the oven. The bread will taste crispy and fresh.

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