The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Freezing bread dough

wyllow42's picture

Freezing bread dough

I just started a new job where one of my tasks is to keep the restaurant supplied with fresh bread for their bread baskets.  The exec chef and I have decided on a baguette of some type (I'm thinking something like a whole wheat molasses dough), a 7-grain epi, and a sundried tomato fougasse. 

I have other tasks as well, so making fresh dough every day will be impossible.  I am thinking about doing all of my dough production on one day and freezing it, so it can be proofed and baked for service.  I do have a large proof box and three hearth ovens in my kitchen, so volume is not the problem.  I'm trying to come up with some sort of organization that would be best suited to my product.

At what stage can I freeze the dough?  Can I take it all the way to the shaping/final proofing stage and freeze shaped (unbaked) loaves?  How can I defrost and properly proof and bake them?

This is my first time not baking on the same day that I've shaped the dough, so I'm kind of clueless.  At what point would it be best frozen and thawed? 

 Thanks in advance for the help!


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Freezing dough is not really all that easy. Yeast dies when refrigerated or frozen. Not all of it, but a lot of it.


The frozen breads you buy at the grocery store, thaw, rise and bake use a massive overdose of yeast. In your shoes, I'd buy some of that grocery store bread and try it out and see what you think of it's quality. It isn't all that hot.  And then I'd consider how my own dough would fare when treated that way.  I just don't think it's that good an idea.


There are alternatives. Maybe you and your chef are making a mountain out of a molehill. (And far too many chefs don't know much about bread - they'll heat your bread in a steam tray which will destroy the texture and taste of the bread. You might as well have served wonderbread.)  Still, and more to the point, a well made bread will taste good for several days. In France people argue over which day a miche tastes best. Some people feel it reaches its peak 5 days after baking. Bread that is hurried and baked quickly will deteriorate quickly. Breads like most baguettes. In general, the longer it takes to make a bread, the longer it will last. So, try a test bake and see how long the quality remains acceptable. You may be pleasantly surprised.


Bread holds well at room temperature, and frozen. Don't refrigerate the bread as that will tend to accelerate staling.


Another option is to freeze your bread when it is freshly baked and then reheat it.  This works quite well.


Still another option is to bake your bread until it is about 80% done and then freeze it. With a blast chiller if at all possible. And then finish baking it when you are ready to do so. This is how par baked breads are made.


Both freezing options make good breads with a lot less hassle the day the bread will be served, less uncertainty about the rise.  You can play with it and see what you think.  Baked, and partially baked, bread are less fragile than dough. 


Also, and you might see this as selling out to the dark side, you might check with your food service companies to see what par baked breads they have available. They often have a wide variety of very good par baked breads. When the labor costs and costs of equipment are factored in, these are often less expensive for a restaurant than making bread in house.


All of the frozen bread options leave you at the mercy of the person who bakes the bread off.  It is easy to burn and ruin what could have been a wonderful bread.  So, good training is a must here.  On the plus side, you can bake more bread as needed, just pull it out of the freezer and bake it.




wyllow42's picture

Thank you for your response.

If I were to bake off all of the bread on one day, perhaps using preferments to make the dough starting the day before, how would I properly freeze it and not lose quality?

 I am concerned about sogginess in my bread.  I am aiming for a fairly rustic bread, and in my imagination, freezing fully baked bread will end up with a soggy crust and denser crumb.  Do you find this to be true?  I have never before worked in an environment where bread had reason to be frozen for later use.

Also, I have never par-baked bread.   As far as defrosting a par-baked product and finishing the baking process, what would you recommend as the best way of doing that?  Would you just bring the par-baked loaf to room temperature (at room temp or under refrigeration?) and just finish baking? 

I apologize if these are stupid questions.  The whole concept of stopping the process part-way through and resuming is brand new to me.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Par baked bread is typically baked directly from a frozen state.  Out of the freezer, out of its wrapper, and into the preheated oven.


As to freezing bread, why should the crumb get heavier?  With fully baked bread, I'd suggest letting it fully cool, wrapping it carefully, and then freezing it.  Again, I'd suggest baking directly from the freezer.


The best bet is to go to a good library and asking the reference librarian for help.  They should have, or be able to get, reference materials.  SFBI has a class on par baking, you might check if they sell their class materials.


And again, I can not suggest strongly enough that you look into the possibility of not freezing, just holding the bread for 2 or 3 days.  Your bread should be good enough and it's a log less hassle than freezing and rebaking.






bottleny's picture

Mikd said: " Yeast dies when refrigerated or frozen. Not all of it, but a lot of it."

Really? As I recall, it is all right to freeze a jar of instant yeast in the fridge (even up to more than a year!) and the activity of the yest doesn't disminish. I did that when I was still baking but couldn't finish the jar of yeast soon enough. At least, more than half of a year for the freezing time, I didn't have any problem.

Rosalie's picture

Mike was talking about yeast that had been activated in the dough, not the dormant dry yeast in the granules.  I freeze the dry yeast and it keeps forever, as far as I can tell.  But once the granules have been activated in a dough, the yeast is more vulnerable.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Thanks for the clarification Rosalie. You were right on the money. When I used active dry yeast, I froze it. Now that I use instant dry yeast, I freeze it. No problems.


However, when I was running the bakery I used the instant dry yeast quickly enough that I stopped freezing it. When I started baking at home, I forgot to freeze the stuff. And it seems to last at least 2 years at room temperature after it is opened.


Also, I should repeat a warning on instant dry yeast. It is far more fragile than fresh or active dry yeast with regards to the temperature of liquid it is put in. Some bakers use dactivated (or killed) yeast to increase a dough's extensibility. When they don't have any deactivated yeast, they just put the yeast in 40F water. It dies instantly. It has similar sensitivity to hot water. Because of the way instant dry yeast is processed, it is far more sensitive than other yeasts. Kinda like your fingers after you lose a fingernail. (Don't ask me how I know about that.)


Why would you use water that cold or hot? It gets back to the rule of 240.  When we made pizza dough for a pizza joint in our area, we mixed the dough with ice water all summer long so the pizza dough wouldn't blow out of the buckets we used to deliver the dough.


As a result, the yeast companies suggest putting the yeast in the flour and mixing it up before mixing it with very hot or cold water. I prefer to think as little as possible when working, and I prefer to make employees think. So, I ALWAYS add the yeast to the flour and mix them together. That way I don't have to tell employees, or remember, to add the yeast to the water unless the water temperature is below 50 or above 95. Since there is no downside to adding the flour to the water, I just do that all the time. Also, I handle active dry yeast the same way. I never found a need to proof yeast.




pattycakes's picture

Hi Mike,

I've been making the Anis Bouabsa baguette, which requires ice water and an immediate refrigeration after kneading. Granted, it gets heated up when kneaded, but I wondered about the question of killing yeast at 40 degrees...

Any ideas? Do you have any experience with the Anis baguettes?



Rosalie's picture

I don't know anything about the baguette, but if you mean 40 degrees Celsius, that's only about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and well below the maximum temp for yeast.

Edit:  Never mind.  I hadn't read the previous post.  You're talking about it being too cold for yeast.  But 40 degrees is the max temp for a refrigerator.  It won't kill yeast, but it will slow it down.

More edit:  Just ignore me.  I really don't know what's going on.  I'm just rattling off at the keyboard.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

There is a chapter in the new book put out by SFBI that has excellent info about freezing dough.  I would highly recommend it.  There exists yeast especially for the freezer.  In my own experiments, sourdough yeasts do poorly in the freezer, while instant yeast is fine for a day or two.  I defrosted in the refrigerator.  I would shape and then freeze, but I would only use loaves that were fairly thin in one way or another, a focaccia, fougasse, baguette, etc. so that they would respond quickly to the cold.  You could also just preshape and freeze, but you have to defrost in refrigeration, not at room temp.


LindyD's picture

I Googled parbaking bread and found several food service sites, including the following information from La Brea Bakery. Alas, they don't give specific instructions.

maggie664's picture

Every week I make a large batch of bagel dough for 6 days x enough dough to make 20 bagels for my cafe. I freeze the portions in stainless steel containers belonging to our bain marie. I use quick acting dry yeast. The frozen dough is thawed the day before the proofing and the bagels are made a day after that. The dough works perfectly, but then it has been only frozen for 1 week. I didn't have the same success with focaccia dough frozen for a month. It is obvious to me that this type of yeast can tolerate a limited amount of freezing before the quality of the dough is compromised.

apprentice's picture

Great discussion! For more info, see links posted a few days ago by dailybread101 from yeast manufacturer lallemand. Especially vol 1 #18 how frozen dough affects bread quality.

Neil C's picture
Neil C

I've been freezing dough after the first fermentation for years without any difficulties.  My artisan baguette recipe uses Kosher salt, K/A Bread flour, SAF Instant yeast, diastatic malt, non-diastatic malt, and regular tap water.  I bake at 6,300 feet altitude.

Years ago, I compared 3-day old frozen dough with 2-month old frozen dough and found no differences in taste, crumb or crust.  To make the dough 'wake up' during the proofing phase, I use a homemade proofing box to keep the temperatures between 80 - 82 degrees. 

The best advice for any baker is to keep precise notes of all conditions, ingredients, and time intervals . . . and change only one variable at a time. 

As I was learning more about the vageries of baking, I found it useful to develop my own 'design criteria' for crumb texture, crust taste/texture, and taste.  In this manner, I was able to focus on improving one bread characteristic at a time.  After a few years, it finally made good sense.

uberathlete's picture

Preproofed and shaped bread is imo best frozen with a blast freezer. You may want to look into that.