The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How long can you let dough set?

Cougsfan's picture

How long can you let dough set?

After experiment with some of the things suggested in a previous thread, I have found I like my bread better if I just only mix the dough in my bread machine and bake it separately in the oven.  I can get a more uniform loaf shape that I prefer.

My still limited skills in bread making have progressed enough to where this weekend I am taking a couple of my loaves of my favorite recipe to a neighborhood potluck.  So I have some entry level questions that will further expose my inexperience in basic bread making techniques:

Do I have to bake them just as I make them as I have been doing, or can I make two loaves of dough in advance on Saturday and store them in the fridge overnight and bake them both together on Sunday morning?   Will they hold that long without doing something I am not expecting?? Do I have to do anything different if I do that?  Do they even have to be refrigerated?

I can't help from remembering a Donald Duck comic book that I read way back when I was a kid.   Donald was making some bread and got distracted after he made the dough.   The dough kept rising and eventually filled his whole house, bulging out the windows and doors until his house exploded.  It made me chuckle as that memory came back to my mind after all these years when I decided to ask these questions.



jimbtv's picture

When you make a loaf of bread you start with ingredients, add leavening, manage time and temperature through the fermentation stages, then bake the bread in a hot oven. Large commercial bakeries use additives and processes that produce bread in the shortest amount of time so they can produce the most bread. Their bread is very uniform and usually quite bland.

Artisan bakers typically make bread quite differently, slowing down the process dramatically, handle the dough gently, and using few to no additives. If we want to develop flavor or sourness, we might reduce the temperature of the fermentation for many hours - even days. 

The reason I bring this up is that you will start with ingredients then end up in a hot oven. The time it takes to make this transition can be as short as a couple of hours or as long as a couple of days. You are solely in control of this process.

If a recipe calls for a pack of yeast and the bread is going into the oven in two hours, drop back to less yeast, reduce the fermentation and proof temperatures a bit, and slow things down. Eventually place the proofing bread in the refrigerator overnight, then take it out the next morning and bake it.

How much yeast? What temperature? How much time? These are things that you can only learn on your own if you are going to stick with the recipe you are using. If you are willing to experiment with the recipe (formula) search this forum for recipes that incorporate retardation - the act of chilling the dough, either in the fermentation or proofing phase - to delay the bake and improve the flavors.