There's nothing like eating a warm and freshly baked loaf of bread. Usually, in order to enjoy a loaf straight from the oven, you need to start the dough earlier in the day. However, if you have homemade bread dough in the freezer, you're in luck. Making bread dough in advance and freezing it for later use saves time and space in the freezer—a ball of dough takes up less room than a baked loaf.
To make a few batches of bread dough, simply shape them into loaves and freeze them for whenever you want freshly baked bread. You can also consider giving frozen dough loaves away as gifts to family and friends who also love freshly baked bread, but are unable or apprehensive to prepare the dough themselves.
How to Keep Yeast Bread Dough Fresh
Thankfully, you don't need any special supplies to freeze bread dough. Simply gather the dough, the pans you'll bake it in, and some plastic wrap. When making the dough, make sure to mix the bread according to the recipe’s instructions, but be sure to add twice as much yeast. This is to compensate for the yeast that will die off in the freezing process. Additionally, you want to ensure that you use only active dry yeast—not fast-acting yeast.
After making the bread dough, you'll want to follow six steps to prepare for freezing:
- Let the bread go through its first rise, as most yeast bread goes through two rises. Allow the bread to rise in a greased bowl as per recipe instructions.
- After the first rise, punch down the dough and knead. Then, shape the bread dough into loaves or one single loaf.
- Place the loaf (or loaves) in a greased bread pan and cover with a greased plastic wrap to prevent sticking. This also allows the dough loaves to hold their shape when frozen.
- Place bread pans in the freezer and let the dough freeze for about 10 hours.
- After 10 hours, remove the bread dough from the pans. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in a resealable plastic freezer bag.
- Date the bag(s) of dough loaves and place in the freezer immediately. Your dough can be frozen for up to four weeks.
Using Frozen Bread Dough
Because the dough went through only one rise, it still needs to go through the second one. Thus, don't put a frozen loaf of bread dough directly in the oven. Plan a night ahead for the second rise—it's better than having to spend a whole day making bread dough.
To use frozen dough loaves, remove a loaf from the freezer the night before you want to bake it. Keep the loaf wrapped in the plastic, and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. After the dough has thawed, place it in a greased bread pan, cover, and let it rise. Bake the bread at the temperature and length of time described in the recipe.
Freezing Yeast Pita and Pizza Dough
It's imperative that pita bread and pizza dough made out of yeast goes through at least one rise prior to freezing. Add a little bit of extra yeast before freezing. You can keep pita and pizza yeast bread for six months to one year as long as it's wrapped very well. You may need to cut pieces of the dough into smaller portions, especially if you're buying a baker's yeast that comes in a large block. Simply wrap each section into a tight and firm film before freezing. The dough will last the best if you put your freezer at -10 degrees (in comparison to the usual 0 degrees).
When you're ready to use your dough, first put it through the second rise and add another teaspoon of yeast to help it rise better. Then, you can simply drop it in a jug, add an appropriate amount of warm water with sugar, and allow it to froth. Make sure that you cook it to the second rise as normal in the oven. Do not thaw your bread dough in a microwave oven, as the yeast can easily be killed.
The Pros and Cons
The great thing about freezing bread is that you can prepare meals in advance to make cooking faster and easier, you can gift dough to friends, and you can save room in your fridge. Bread stays edible in your freezer for a very long time, conveniently. It's a better option than refrigeration, as the texture of the dough changes. While freshly baked bread can be delicious, it takes some time and preparation. Plus, keeping it on the counter wrapped as a storage method isn't always a great decision, as water vapor can easily escape, allowing bread to get soggy. Of course, not wrapping it at all can allow the bread to go stale and hard quickly.