Dough can overferment on the counter, it can go bad in the fridge, and it can deteriorate in quality when it’s left in the freezer for too long, so it’s important that you get a good understanding of how to properly store your dough to make great bread (or pizza).
Whether you’re curious about different ways of storing your dough or you have left it to proof for longer than you planned and you’re not sure if it’s okay, this article should be able to help you.
How Long Does Dough Last At Room Temperature?
The length of time you can leave dough on your counter varies greatly depending on a few factors. Dough that just consists of flour, water, salt, and yeast will last a long time since the ingredients won’t go bad, but you do risk overproofing it if you leave it for too long.
The duration that dough lasts at room temperature depends on the amount of yeast or starter in the dough and what the temperature is like around it. Lower amounts of yeast and a colder room will lead to a slower rise. Even after proofing, basic dough should be safe to bake and eat for at least 12 hours.
Using a small amount of yeast or a sourdough starter drastically increases the amount of time you can leave your dough out for without it deflating. This extends the amount of time it takes for your dough to proof, so you can afford to leave it out for many hours more than a standard recipe.
If your room temperature is relatively warm, the rate at which the dough proofs also increases. The yeast responds well to the heat, so it’s activity rises and it produces gas more quickly. If you need to store your bread at out of the fridge, try and find a colder area so you can slow the fermentation down.
It’s still possible to overproof your dough even if you are using a small amount of yeast or starter. Overproofing yeasted dough will cause it to deflate whilst over fermenting sourdough will cause the gluten to break down, leaving you with a wet and sticky mess.
If you’re including dairy ingredients such as milk, yogurt, or sour cream, you need to be more careful with the duration you leave your dough out as these can quickly grow bacteria and go bad. A lot of the bacteria that are produced by leaving the milk-based ingredients out for too long will be cooked off during baking, but it’s better to be safe rather than sorry by keeping the dough refrigerated.
How Long Does Dough Last In The Fridge?
Putting your dough in the fridge is a great way to impart more complex flavor as well as drastically slowing down its rise. If you’re busy or just don’t feel like baking your dough today, you can keep it in the fridge for a while before you need to bake it.
Storing dough in the fridge will extend its life for at least 3-5 days, but you should check on it regularly. Yeasted dough should be knocked down and allowed to rise again once it’s close to double in size. Once you’re ready to use your dough, leave it at room temperature until it warms up again and use it as normal.
The cold temperature in refrigerators drastically slows the proof of your dough rather than stopping it completely, so you can still get a great rise. Plenty of people store their dough in the fridge because it improves the flavor and texture of the bread.
Most people store their dough in the fridge during the first rise so they can knock it back if it proves too much, but it’s possible to store your dough in the fridge during the final rise.
If you’re doing the final proof in the fridge, it’s riskier, but it can be a great way to have fresh bread later without putting in too much effort. Simply make your dough as normal and place it in the fridge after the shaping process.
Be sure to keep an eye on the dough to make sure that it hasn’t overproofed. If it does overproof it causes more of a problem since it’s already shaped.
I personally like to do this with loaves as they turn out great. I mix the ingredients and proof my bread in the early afternoon before shaping it and sticking it in the fridge to proof overnight. By the time I get up, the dough has risen sufficiently and it’s ready to bake as fresh breakfast bread.
How Long Does Dough Last In The Freezer?
Being able to make some dough in advance, take it out of the freezer and bake it the next day is great for saving time and effort. You’ll be able to bake fresh bread at any point in the day.
A basic dough consisting of flour, water, salt, and yeast can last up to three months in the freezer with minimal effect on the quality of the dough. Dough containing other ingredients such as dairy products are best used within a month.
Making bread after taking the dough out of the freezer is easy. All you have to do is defrost it, let it proof, and bake it.
With that said, you can’t just throw a ball of dough into the freezer straight after making it. You need to make sure that you’re putting your dough in the right container and at the right point in the process.
To freeze dough, you should knead it and let it go through the first rise as normal. Once it has risen sufficiently, you can shape the dough and store it in the appropriate container in the freezer.
The container you use depends on what you’re freezing. For a loaf, you should line the tin with greased/oiled plastic wrap and put the dough into it. Once the exterior of the loaf is frozen, you can wrap it tightly in plastic, place it into an airtight freezer bag and freeze it completely.
For any kind of ball or roll, you can lightly coat the dough and an airtight freezer bag with oil to prevent it from sticking and place it into the freezer.