Freezing Yeast Dough

The frozen yeast dough products available at the supermarket are a nice convenience.  But, did you know that yeast dough can also be prepared at home and frozen to nearly duplicate the convenience of a ready-to-use product?

Fleishmann’s Yeast introduced home bakers to freezing yeast dough in their 1972 publication, Fleishmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book.  Included in the book were the very first recipes for frozen dough one could make at home, freeze, and bake later.  The recipes introduced were specifically developed for freezing and to this day, they remain the standards for freezing yeast doughs.

It should be noted that freezing dough at home may not yield the same results as commercially frozen dough but is still a means to delicious, freshly baked bread when time is short. Frozen dough manufacturers have access to superior dough stabilizers and freezing equipment that freeze the dough very quickly, allowing doughs to freeze with minimal damage to the yeast and dough structure. Dough freezes slower in home freezers increasing the risk of damage to the yeast and dough structure.

Tips for Preparing Yeast Dough for the Freezer  

  • According to Fleishmann’s Yeast, only yeast dough recipes specially developed for freezing should be used for best results. Freezer dough recipes usually call for more yeast and sugar and less salt and fat. The most success is achieved with roll or pizza dough.  The method of preparation is not limited; dough can be made by hand mixing and kneading, mixer, food processor, or bread machine.
  • Original freezer-dough recipes used all-purpose flour.  Today, it is recommended to replace all-purpose flour with bread flour as it helps to maintain better structure.   
  • Active dry yeast should be used instead of fast-acting yeast. Fast-acting yeast is not ideal for recipes that require a long rising time. 
  • To compensate for the yeast that will inevitably die in the freezing process, King Arthur Baking suggests increasing the yeast by ¼ to ½ teaspoon per 3 cups (360 grams) of flour.
  • Dough may be frozen at two junctures: 1) after kneading and before the first rise (proofing) OR 2) after the first or second rise.  American Test Kitchen tested both junctures and found “freezing the dough between the first and second proofs was the best strategy. The first proof ensured that enough yeast had fermented for the dough to develop complex flavors and for some gluten development for better baked size. The remaining viable yeast cells then finished the job as the dough thawed and proofed for the second time.” 
  • Form the dough into balls for rolls or flatten the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick for pizza crust or dough to be shaped later. French bread, loaves of bread, braids, and cinnamon rolls can be shaped prior to freezing; loaves should be frozen in greased loaf pans and cinnamon roll slices placed on their sides on a lined baking sheet. Tightly wrap the dough with plastic wrap.
  • Flash freeze the dough in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
  • When the dough pieces have formed a hard shell around the outside, transfer to a zipper freezer bag or air-tight freezer container.  Return the dough to the freezer.  Freeze up to 1 month.
  • When ready to use, remove needed dough balls, loaves, rolls, or disks from the freezer and allow to thaw covered in the refrigerator, a warm location, or combination until doubled in size.
  • Previously formed dough can be thawed in a greased baking pan until double. Disks should be allowed to thaw and then rolled or shaped (pizza crust or any shape or specialty desired), placed in a greased baking dish, and allowed to rise until doubled. (Rolled dough for pizza crust does not need time to double unless desired.)  When dough has reached the desired size, bake as directed.
  • Do not over proof.  Since the yeast and bread structure have been compromised during freezing, over proofing may cause the dough to collapse on itself.
  • Thawing and rising times vary according to the temperature of the dough, the size of the dough pieces, and where thawing takes place.  Use these times as a guideline for thawing [1]:
    Refrigerator: 8-16 hours
    Countertop:  4-9 hours
    Warm location:  2-4 hours
    Dough balls for dinner rolls take about 1½ -2 hours to thaw and double before baking in a warm location.  Loaves of bread may take 4-6 hours at room temperature.
  • Dough should be tightly covered during flash freezing, thawing, and rising prior to baking to prevent the dough from developing a dry crust.

Recipes for freezer dough can be found on the Fleishmann’s website. Some examples include: pizza dough, bread dough, and dinner rolls.   If one is so lucky to have a copy of Fleishmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book, 1972, a variety of yeast doughs developed for freezing can be found therein.

Fresh-baked bread is always more delicious than reheated. If you plan ahead, you can freeze yeast dough to save time provided you remember to pull it from the freezer in time—that’s the hardest part! 


References: 

Almost Pop ‘n’ Serve Dough, Cook’s Illustrated
(https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6065-almost-pop-n-serve-dough

Fleishmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book, 4/1972.

Fleishmann’s Yeast Best-Ever Breads, Specialty Brands, 1993

Can Dough Be Stored in the Refrigerator or Freezer?, Fleishmann’s Yeast, (https://www.fleischmannsyeast.com/frequently-asked-questions/ )

Can I Freeze My Yeast Dough?, King Arthur Baking Company®, 2021, (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2021/07/06/freeze-yeast-dough-make-ahead-bread)

Yeast Dough, Purdue University, 2002 (http://www.four-h.purdue.edu/foods/yeast%20dough.htm)

Kneaded Notes:  Holiday Baking Guide, Red Star® Yeast, (https://redstaryeast.com/blog/holiday-baking-guide/)

How to Freeze Yeast Dough, Taste of Home, 2020, (https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/freezing-yeast-dough/)

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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