Freshly baked bread often seems beyond us, when bought bread is so convenient. But, with a little help from your freezer, I have a most excellent time-saving tip that will help you to fit bread-making into your busy schedule.
Actually, I'm writing this article in response to a very useful forum post, entitled, "Bread 'hacks'?!" (thank you, Kerry) which made me think about ways in which the bread making process could be adapted to fit in with our busy lives.
One of the questions discussed in Bread 'hacks'?! is the freezing of bread dough. Can you freeze bread dough? And at what stage in the process is it best to do so? I've been doing a few experiments, to find out.
Let's start with pizza.
I made a batch of my basic, Awesome Everyday dough, though you could use a different pizza-base or bread recipe instead.
I first combined the ingredients and kneaded the mixture (for more details, please look at How To Make Bread - The Master Method). I then left the dough to ferment for about 45 minutes, as usual. After that, I divided the dough into four equal portions, ready to shape it into pizzas.
For pizza, I usually pre-shape each piece of dough into a round, letting it rest for a while before using a rolling pin to achieve the final stretch. It was at this 'round' stage that I paused the process by freezing the dough.
How To Freeze Dough
When freezing dough, it's important to think about the defrosting stage, when you are going to want to separate those portions of dough. As they defrost, they can get very damp and stick together, which can be awkward. I recommend placing a barrier of some sort between the portions of dough. Greaseproof paper or baking parchment work well.
I was able to stack my pizza bases like this:
I then popped the stack of bases into a plastic container, and put the lid on, to go into the freezer.
We'll pick up the pizza-dough story in a moment, but first, let's talk more generally about freezing bread dough; any type of bread dough.
A Note On Freezing Bread Dough In General
You can freeze all types of bread dough.* After my pizza experiment, I successfully froze and revived dough to make wholemeal loaves, for example.
*By which I mean I haven't thought of any sort of bread dough for which this wouldn't work.
It's best to freeze the dough after the first fermentation stage, prior to proving. Some bakers recommend shaping the dough into its final form before freezing, whereupon you can simply defrost and bake. That is fine. My method is slightly different: I certainly freeze my dough in bakeable portions and I may pre-shape the dough a little bit but I prefer to do the final shaping once the bread has defrosted. For me, that's a way to ensure that the dough is fully defrosted and not over-proved. It's simply a personal preference and either way works.
As for the actual freezing process, I used a plastic box but you could store dough in freezer bags, or jars: whatever is convenient for the shape and size of your dough or your freezer. Bear in mind that the yeast might not be completely inactive for the whole time it's in the freezer, so a tiny bit of expansion is possible. Thus, do not pack your dough tightly into a container from which it might burst forth.
Yeast can be active at temperatures as low as 4oC, or so I'm told. That's the temperature of a typical domestic fridge. In the freezer, at much colder temperatures, the yeast will be relatively inactive but, importantly, not dead. It will still be slowly living on the resources it has around it, and these will be depleted over time. Eventually, the yeast will get old and/or run out of resources and become less effective or die. Clearly, it will not survive forever in the freezer but should be good for several months at least.
What Happened To That Pizza Dough?
Well, after a week or so, I wanted to make pizza. More precisely, I wanted to go out for the day and return home to a quick, easy dinner. I did not have time to mix dough and attend to it again after an hour, then later shape it and let it rise some more... Time to defrost the frozen pizza bases! I was kind of excited to see how it worked out.
I gently prised the layers apart and set them out on a plate, at around 9am. Actually, I only defrosted two of the bases because my husband and I were going out to dinner - I only needed pizza for three children.
Here is the dough, looking almost exactly the same as when it went into the freezer. You can just make out blobs of ice that had formed on the surface:
When I came back to the dough, later that day (after about five hours at room temperature in wintry England, if you're interested in details) it was completely defrosted and beginning to rise.
At that point, the dough was easy to roll out into pizza bases and I placed them on a baking tray to rise.
For completion, here's the rest of the process. Toppings on:
And, I know it's not very photogenic, but after baking:
So, you can see that my frozen dough produced a delicious homemade pizza, every bit as good as when I use fresh dough. It didn't rise very much, in actual fact, but I think that's ok for a 'thin and crispy' base. I could have made the base a bit thicker for a more spongy effect.
Here's the crumb* (*don't worry, it's a special term for the texture of the dough - how many holes and what size they are etc).
And here's the quality control team, giving the thumbs up:
I managed to inspire someone with my pizza making because some teeny-tiny blutak pizza was being made in the bedroom:
The Best Thing About Freezing Dough
So, my pizza experiment worked: my frozen dough made excellent pizza and - YIPPEE! - I still had two pizza bases in the freezer for another day. That's the best thing about being able to freeze dough: you can make extra, when you have the time, (because making two or three times the standard recipe doesn't take much longer than making a single batch) and simply keep the extra portions frozen until they are needed, to whip out of the freezer on a busy day. Next time, I'm going to make at least a double batch of pizza dough and have plenty for the freezer, to use on future occasions.
Last time I made loaves, I mixed up 1.5kg of flour (enough for three loaves) so that I could bake one and freeze two. A few days later, when we needed another loaf, I defrosted one of the frozen portions of dough, overnight, and baked it the morning, ready for lunch. I'm loving this new-found time-saving device. (Might be needing a bigger freezer!)
In Other News...
It was my birthday :)
Amongst the lovely, thoughtful things my family did to make my day special, I received this sweet gift from my daughter. It's a set of vouchers to redeem for things like a free coffee, cake or some help, to be provided by said daughter on production of the relevant voucher. I particularly love the one entitled 'Fuzzy Chart' which entitles the bearer to a free coffee but, get this, only after earning eight ticks in those circles. Ticks which I will receive when I have succeeded in making my daughter have a warm fuzzy feeling. So, just to get this straight, it's like a loyalty scheme: once I've made my daughter feel good eight times, she will make me a free coffee. Hmmm. Perhaps I'm being too cynical.
She did make me an absolutely fabulous cake (no vouchers required):
This has apparently inspired my other daughter to do some baking. There's a shopping list on the fridge pertaining to fondant fancies, as per her recipe book. And blueberry muffins, too, if I'm correctly translating the first item. (I don't think the mayonnaise and tomato have anything to do with cake.)
What About You?
Have you tried freezing dough? What worked for you? Please share any tips in the comments below or on the forum.
If you're looking for more bread recipes, my complete (and ever-growing) collection is available in handy one-per-page (no-scroll or even printable if you like) format The Recipes, which you can buy here.
For more information on how to shape your bread like a pro, you need How To Bake Beautiful Bread, available here.
I'm sure you've already subscribed to receive your FREE guide to Fresh Bread In 20 Minutes. If you haven't got your copy yet, just follow that link.
And, as ever, if you have any questions, just leave a comment below or send me an email. I'm always happy to help.