The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can I Refrigerate Tonight For Fresh Baking Early Tomorrow?

abrogard's picture

Can I Refrigerate Tonight For Fresh Baking Early Tomorrow?



I'm new here.  And I'm new to baking.


I have searched and I've seen a number of threads about refrigerating and freezing breads/doughs.

So many it got confusing in the end and I thought it might be acceptable if I raised the question again in a quite specific manner.

I am not talking about freezing.

I am not talking about sourdoughs.

I am talking about simple french bread.

Every day I bake but the problem is my children don't get fresh bread for their sandwiches in the morning. They get left over bread from yesterday. Which was baked at about midday. So by the time they eat their sandwiches the bread is about 24hours old.


What I want to know is if I can somehow refrigerate the dough at some stage or other so's I'll have enough time to bake in the morning before leaving for school?

I'm usually up at 6a.m.  We leave for school at 8.30, latest. Actually I'd like to have the lunches made well before that. Currently they're made by 7a.m.

I will practice. Tonight I'll prepare a dough and let it rise for an hour before refrigerating it.  Then 6.a.m. tomorrow I'll take it out and leave it (hopefully) rise for an hour and then I'll bake it.

I'll tell you what happens.


But I'm posting the question because my testing and trying may not return good results for the longest time. Posting the question may  bring me an answer in a day.


I realise that I probably should make a different bread - one with better keeping qualities than the simple french bread. And I will. But I'll start here.  I've started with french bread, we like it, I'll see what can be done with it and I'll slowly branch out in other directions.




 ab  :)




dghdctr's picture


Yes, you can certainly do that, but with the additional factor of chilling the loaves and letting them slowly proof overnight, you'll likely run into a few snafus.  Don't get upset about it when you do -- there's no other way to figure out what yeast quantity, bulk ferment time, or ideal retarding time will work in your particular situation. 

I'd say you'll have to reduce your yeast quantity considerably (maybe start with 0.3% instant yeast), and you might not want to go beyond 30 minutes of bulk fermentation at first.  Adjust that yeast level or time (the next time you experiment) to accomodate whatever happens afterward.  If the loaves collapse overnight in the 'fridge, you might cut back on ferment time or yeast next time.  You can do the opposite if the loaves don't rise much.

Temperature control is critical.  You'll have to familiarize yourself with strategies used to control dough temp, which probably shouldn't exceed 74 degrees in this case.  Jeffrey Hamelman wrote a great book that can help you with that calculation, and it's a valuable source of information about bread baking.  Also, Nancy Silverton's bread book talks a lot about retarding loaves.

If they've proofed properly, you can score and load the loaves into the oven right out of the 'fridge.  If they're a little underproofed, you might need to let them sit out at room temp a while to finish rising.

Good luck with it.

--Dan DiMuzio

bassopotamus's picture

I do our baguettes with a no knead recipe that I kind of modified from a couple others. Mix it, do a couple stretch and folds, stick it in the fridge, and bake the next day. Having time to bake on you schedule could be tough though. I bake short baguettes in a chicago metallic baguette pan (each loaf is about 315g of dough). They don't need to proof super long to still get oven spring (maybe 30 minutes) and I bake at 500 for about 15-18 minutes. Works fine, but for you it may be tough to get the oven preheated, the loaves shaped and proofed, the loaves baked, and then cooled enough to make lunch. You could save a little time by shaping baguettes the night before and sticking them in the fridge.

Janknitz's picture

I have three ideas.  

I really only have time to bake on the weekends especially in warm weather (hot in Northern California this time of year), so I bake bread, slice it, and freeze the slices 2 to a zipper sandwich bag with a piece of parchment or wax paper between.  On school mornings my kids zap them in the microwave for about 20 seconds, and the bread tastes freshly baked.

When the weather is cooler (and I'm not worried about heating the house first thing in the morning by firing up the oven) I often  make up a batch of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough.  First thing in the morning I take some dough out of the bucket, roll it into a loaf pan, turn the oven on to preheat while the dough is proofing, and bake.  It's about an hour from fridge to cooling rack  (your bread would be just out of the oven around 7 a.m. and that's too hot to slice and make sandwiches yet).  

Finally, a bread machine might meet your needs.  You could set it up before bedtime so a fresh, cooled bread would be ready in the morning.  I've dug out my old machine and used it this summer when it is just too hot for the oven.  I just find that there is a lot of waste with bread machine bread because of the shape and the hole at the bottom, but it comes in handy sometimes.  

One more suggestion.  If you add some sourdough starter to your dough, it will have better keeping qualities.  I think the ratio is to add about 30% of the total flour weight in 100% hydration sourdough starter.  It's enough to help the dough stay fresh but doesn't necessarily add a sour flavor.  





Nancyeve's picture

At night Form loaves in baking pans and place in fridge, ready for baking in the morning.  Overnight Cold will allow a slower rise.  Bake straight from the fridge in the morning.  If they rise too much - accordingly cut back the amount of yeast. I agree with Dan DiMuzio - this may take some experimenting, but worth the smell of fresh bread baking in the morning. 

abrogard's picture

Thank you all very much for your suggestions.

My experiments have all failed.  I've actually only experimented four times since I posted.  I tried putting the dough in after the first rise, I tried after the second rise, I tried later at night (less fridge time) and I tried longer rise in the morning.

Nothing worked.

It simply took too long to recover in the mornings. It never recovered. The finished product was too flat, not sufficiently risen.

Since putting those attempts on the shelf I've discovered 'bread improver' and have been experimenting with it and my day time baking.  I've actually got a thread here somewhere talking about that.

I'm keen to try the 'two slices frozen' system (with microwave, never thought of that) and the  'artisan bread in five minutes' dough, whatever that is.

For the sake of anyone following this thread hoping for an answer to the same question I can report the first poster was apparently right, it is not an easy thing to do and requires much trial and error.

So far I've failed. Too convincingly for me to want to continue down that track. I'll try those two I've just mentioned.




 ab :)



dghdctr's picture

Temperature control is critical.  You'll have to familiarize yourself with strategies used to control dough temp, which probably shouldn't exceed 74 degrees in this case.  Jeffrey Hamelman wrote a great book that can help you with that calculation, and it's a valuable source of information about bread baking.  Also, Nancy Silverton's bread book talks a lot about retarding loaves.


You didn't seem to address the temperature issue here, but it is very, very important.  If your dough is more than about 74-75 degrees before or after shaping, then placing shaped loaves in the refrigerator may not slow down the proof quickly enough.

And Marc is right about yeast levels as well.  I hope you're taking notes as you go, and recording all temperatures for dough and times for fermentation (refrigerated or otherwise)at each stage, or whenever you change things.  That can help you from feeling as if these mishaps aren't teaching you anything, and it enables you to answer specific questions from other members who are trying to diagnose what's going wrong.

--Dan DiMuzio

marc's picture

For my baguettes I place the bulk dough immediately into the fridge for an overnight proof—takes up much less space.

Then in the morning, divide, form and allow for final proofing while your oven comes to temp. I find that the cold dough is much easier to work with.

Word of caution: Double check the amount of yeast you are using though. A recipe might not necessarily be compensating for a long overnight proof. It really takes very little yeast for an overnight proof and you certainly don't want the dough to overproof. 

abrogard's picture

Well the short answer is that I'm not taking notes, not doing anything scientifically enough.

I take the point. I fully understand, I appreciate it.  When I get set up for it - I don't even have a thermometer at the moment - and have the time - everything I do gets done in a welter of incidents, ever seen a 'harassed mum' comedy, well it's like that except I'm a dad, not a mum - then I will do it.

I will take precise measurements and note everything down.

I will vary only one variable at a time.

I will be very methodical and I fully expect I'll make some real progress.

Right now I'm stumbling around, catch as catch can, as I said.

Witness the bread improver. I researched the ingredients and didn't like what I read about the enzyme, so stopped using it. Now my bread won't rise as much as it did before! I think! Without precise measurements.....

Now I'll get some gluten. All I've been able to find is some high gluten flour sold in 500mg packs as an additive. I'll try it. It might be the right stuff, it might not. Stumble on....

Measuring the yeast accurately, for instance, is something I need to do...  I just do a vague 'two teaspoons' with a spoon that I'm not sure is a teaspoon or not.


So I'm a bit of a clown, doing a hit and miss thing and promising to do better later.

But I'll tell you what, the bread always tastes lovely  (I even fancy I can detect the improvement in taste when I STOP using the 'improver')  and I'm thoroughly convinced by the guy I read that was saying we should be using stone ground whole meal flour and I'm kinda planning to work  my way there....






dghdctr's picture

You can be as casual or as methodical as you like with bread baking, depending upon how seriously you want to approach it.

It's just that, if you decide that you want to manage the dough consistently, then you will need to be more regimented and precise to get that sort of control over the process.  And the more you need things to happen reliably on-time, the need for precision (and maybe even mastery) becomes even that much greater.

There's no sin in buying good bread from your local baker, or getting good par-baked stuff like LaBrea from the supermarket.  Levain breads, especially, can stay reasonably fresh for 2 or 3 days.

--Dan DiMuzio

abrogard's picture

Thank you for those comments. I'm sorry I didn't reply/acknowledge earlier but something went wrong and I didn't get notified.

I've since learned something about the importance of temperature and precision and I'll be taking steps, such as buying a good thermometer for the job, to improve my way of working.




 ab :)

Sourdough Charlie's picture
Sourdough Charlie

Check out Reinharts Artisan Breads every day in which he discusses retarding dough in the frig for days at a time. My first attempts have turned out well.


abrogard's picture


 O.k. thanks. I'll do that.





scientistbaker's picture

I've found a way to get a decent batard that works on a work-day schedule.  I don't have Artisan Breads Every Day, but I do have Bread Baker's Apprentice.  To do it, I modified the recipe for French Bread.

5 oz. KA AP flour

5 oz. KA Bread flour

3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (see note)

3/4 tsp Salt

6.5 to 7 oz of water

NOTE: I do not prehydrate the yeast, doing this slows down the initial pre-ferment and allows me to autolyse, see the discussion here:

The night before: mix dry ingredients (yes, even the yeast), then add water.  Let sit to autolyse for 1-2 hours.  Knead just a few times (5-10 stretch-and-folds, like 1 minute or less).  Spray oil (I use EVOO) in a bowl, toss in the dough and spray more oil over the top.  Cover and refrigerate.

When you wake up: Take out the dough (it should have risen in the fridge).  Degas and Knead the cold dough for another minute (I know most people think it's sacrilege to knead cold dough, but I swear this works for me).  Spray more oil in a bowl, add the dough, spray oil over it, cover and leave sitting on the counter.

While you're at work: for 8-10 hours the dough will come to room temp and ferment.  Since it's such a long day, finding a cool place in the house to do this step is a good idea.

When you get home: Put a broiling pan in the bottom rack in the oven, center the other rack and put a baking stone on it.  Heat 2 cups of water in a sauce pan.  Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

By now, your dough will be HUGE, that's ok.  Take it out of the bowl and gently shape into a batard.  I do a batard and not a baguette because I want to minimize the shaping work at this point: it will lose a lot of gas, but you should try to retain as much as possible.  Put the loaf on parchment paper and put it somewhere warm for 20 minutes.

Slit, and transfer dough on parchment to the oven.  Put the hot water into the broiling pan and put a loose tent of aluminum foil over the bread.  Leave the oven at 500 and bake for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, uncover, remove the broiling pan, rotate the loaf 180 degrees, and set the oven to 450.  Let bake another 10-15 minutes (until the center registers 205 to 210 degrees) and the crust is nicely browned.

By now, it's been 50 minutes since you got home and your bread is done.  Let cool as long as it takes to finish dinner (or just for 10 minutes if you can't stand to wait any longer).  So 1 hour after you get home, you have delicious bread.

Give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

Or, for the same thing: you can make the dough early in the morning one day, refrigerate all day, let it come to room temp and ferment overnight, and bake early the next morning.


DJ Brasier