When you make homemade bread, you already know that you have to follow the directions to the letter if you want it to come out perfect. But sometimes, people who make bread like to put the dough in the refrigerator for a while before starting to bake. Why? It could be because they don’t have the time to do the baking at that point, or it could be because they simply want to wait until later for one reason or another. Whatever the reason, just know that baking your dough straight from the refrigerator is perfectly acceptable and won’t harm the bread in any way.
The Advantages of Refrigerating Your Bread Dough
Although people refrigerate their bread dough for various reasons, the process makes sense in more ways than one. For starters, refrigerated dough slows down the yeast activity, which in turn improves the overall flavor from fermentation. The fermentation process is slowed down, so the bread tastes better because certain ingredients are allowed to enhance that flavor, including the alcohols and acids in the dough. In addition, the texture of the bread improves because the gluten breaks down, resulting in bread that’s softer and has a better texture.
You often get small “bubbles” on the crust when your dough is refrigerated first, which adds to the bread’s aesthetic appeal. In fact, good sourdough bread is often placed in a cold environment before being baked for this very reason. Finally, when the dough is cold, you can make those deep cuts a lot easier. This process, called scoring, helps bread bake the right way, and it’s much more difficult if you score the bread when it’s at room temperature or when it’s warm. Cold dough simply scores much easier and much faster than other types of dough!
In fact, if you check out recommendations made by experienced bread-makers both online and in cookbooks, you’ll notice that a lot of them mention how beneficial it is to bake bread dough as soon as you take it out of the refrigerator. So, if you think your dough has to be at room temperature before placing it in the oven, think again. Bread dough doesn’t have to be at room temperature to bake right, and it can even benefit from being baked right after it gets out of the refrigerator.
How to Bake Dough Out of the Fridge?
Most bread dough has to rise twice, and it’s best if you let the bread rise at room temperature the first time, then place it in the refrigerator for the final proof. Once you know it is fully proofed, you can take it out of the fridge and bake it. If you heat your oven for roughly 30 minutes before putting the dough in, your oven will be hot enough to bake the bread evenly. Also, make sure you never let the bread wait too long before you put it into the oven. In other words, bread should be taken out of the fridge and immediately put into a warm oven to bake. Otherwise, the yeast could reactivate itself and the dough might over-ferment, which might change the flavor of the bread.
If you know the proofing time is going to be long because you’ll be taking breaks in between the steps of the baking process, try a good proofing basket, and cover it with an airtight bag to prevent the skin of the dough from getting too dry. Again, there are many different reasons why you may want to wait hours between the proofing time and the baking time, but keeping the dough in the fridge during this timeframe works well, even if it’s in there for 8 to 10 hours. If you’re not sure if the dough is proofed enough, poke it with your finger about half an inch. If the indentation stays after the poke, the dough is proofed enough to move onto the next step.
It Really Works!
In many ways, it doesn’t make sense that baking bread right after it’s been in the fridge for awhile will work, but it does! In fact, if you’re proofing two loaves, you should either bake both loaves at the same time or keep the second loaf in the refrigerator while the first one is baking. Always keep in mind that over-proofing is a distinct possibility if the bread is left out of the fridge for too long before you put it into the oven. You’ll want the time between taking it out of the fridge and putting it into the oven to be as short as possible – ideally no more than 30 minutes.
Baking the perfect loaf of bread doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you follow a few simple rules. You can indeed take refrigerated bread dough and place it into a hot oven to bake. It doesn’t have to be at room temperature and, in fact, there are numerous advantages to keeping the dough cold before you bake your bread.