The Fresh Loaf

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When to bake? Looking for strategies

Ronan's picture

When to bake? Looking for strategies

I am a beginning baker and I am trying to get into a rhythm to bake bread for my family.

I am working out of Peter Reinhart's, "Artisan Bread Every Day" and he generally suggests:

Do Ahead:  Mix the bread and put it into the fridge

Baking Day: Take the bread out 3 hours before baking, then bake.

If the goal is to have bread for dinner, I'm stuck. . .   I get up at 5am and leave for work at 7 and I get home at 5pm.

The options seem to be the following:

1) Make bread the evening before I am going to eat it for dinner.

2) Let the bread stay out all night long (7-8 hours)

3) Get up at 3am take the dough out and go back to sleep until 5.  (not gonna happen)

4) Take the dough at 5am and start baking at 6am

5) Throw the dough directly in the oven upon coming home from work.

6) Take the bread with me to work and throw in a refrigerator at work.  (total hassle)

Obviously, week-ends aren't a problem, but I'm seeing if I can weave baking into my daily schedule.  I have LOVED mixing the dough the night before after doing the dishes.  I just need to figure out when to take it out of the fridge and when to bake it.

Many Thanks!



cranbo's picture

#5 is OK, but you also have to remember that your oven needs to heat up, which for 450F or hotter could take 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes bake time (typical minimum), plus 30 minutes cooling, you're still looking at 1.5 hrs till your bread is ready to eat. 

You probably won't get as good oven spring this way, but it's probably your best bet. 

#2 is a good option too, but you'll have to adjust your yeast much lower, because it will be easy otherwise to overferment. There again, you're still looking at 1.5 hrs minimum until you bake and eat. 

Other options? Make breads that can be prepared more quickly: pizza, quick yeasted breads. 

#1 is the most practical if you want to have fresh bread ready at dinner and don't want to wait for it. 


sparklebritches's picture

What about bulk baking on the weekend, freezing when cool and pulling out of the freezer the morning before you go to work?  

I usually slice and freeze the lean dough recipes from that book and it works very well for our needs after a reheating in the oven.

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

I'm not an expert, but I like my breads best after a rest of at least 12-24 hours.

Given your work schedule, and assuming the goal is is to "artisan bake every day" (as the cited title suggests) the process might be:


  • Take last night's bread out of the fridge.
  • Mix tomorrow's batch; shape and rise tonight's bake.
  • Eat last night's baked loaf w/ dinner and clean up.
  • Bake tomorrow's "eating" loaf.
  • Retard the now bulk fermented dough for tomorrow's bake in the fridge.
  • Go to bed.


If you like hot bread, you could heat up last night's loaf for 20 minutes in the hot, preheating oven while making dinner. 

It might work!


Mukoseev's picture

I use Jim Lahey's no knead recipe.  I mix the dough around 5:00-5:30 in the morning and let it rest all day.  When I come home from work at about 4:30 I fold it a few times, shape it and let it rise for about an hour.  The bread is out of the oven and cooling by 6:30.  I do this 3-4 times a week. You can switch it around and mix it at night and have fresh bread in the morning.  It's really painless and you always have fresh bread.

flournwater's picture

The most practical solution, IMO, is #1.  Your bread isn't going to go bad with an 18 hour delay between oven and the dinner table.

Ronan's picture

Thank you for all of your suggestions!  I'll have to experiment with all of those ideas.  My first test will be to compare frozen bread brought up to room temp. and then 18 hour bread.  Thanks for all of the other comments.  Lots to consider.  

I had another thought— the recipe that I am currently using calls to put the bread in the refrigerator after mixing.  What I let it rise for a few hours before putting it in the fridge?  Or, is the reason for the 3 hours prior to baking to bring the bread to room temperature.



BellesAZ's picture

Once your bread has risen, you can't refrigerate it. 

If you're freezing your bread, make sure you wrap it well and try using it within the week.  I bake once a week for our daily loaves. 

You may also consider buying the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book.. some people love it.  I'm not a huge fan of it, but others certainly are.  You make your dough in bulk, cut off your dough for a loaf and let it rest/rise on the counter before baking.  Could be more conducive to a working person.

I have frozen dough that I have thawed out in the refrigerator overnight and bake the next day.  It never takes too long to unchill and rise.. maybe two hours at the most?

cranbo's picture

You can let your bread rise A LITTLE before putting it in the fridge. 

The trick is getting the timings right: rising at room temp is much faster than rising in the fridge, and if you rise at room temp before rising in the fridge, it's possible that you can overferment the dough. 

If the recipe calls for it, by all means do it. However, if you are figuring that you want the dough to be able to sit for a longer period of time overall, then skip the room temp rise and just put the dough right in the the fridge. 

Re: the 3 hours prior to baking, yes, I've found that it can take up to 3 hours to remove the chill from the bread from the fridge and give a final room temp rise. Sometimes you can even go longer with that, depending on how much yeast is in the recipe and how long the dough has been fermenting (fridge or not).