The simple answer is yes you can.
We lead busy lives, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make great bread at home – every day if we want to. We can do this by pressing pause on making our bread.
How can I pause bread making?
The fridge is your friend when you are making bread. If you suddenly find that you need to go out but your bread is rising then pop it in the fridge.
Yeast works faster in a warm environment. If your bread is left in a warm room it will rise quickly. The yeast will eat the sugars available to it and expel carbon dioxide. the carbon dioxide will fill the air pockets in the bread and the dough will expand. This is what we want to happen. But if left too long in a warm room the yeast will eat all of the sugar and will exhaust itself. The gluten network which acts like a lot of tiny balloons filled with air, will become overstretched and start to pop and your dough will become a sticky mess rather than a lovely inflated pillow of dough. To prevent this happening you can pop your dough into the fridge. Yeast slows down when it is cold so it takes ten times longer for dough to rise in the fridge than it does in a warm room.
When can I pause bread making?
You can pop your dough in the fridge as soon as you have developed the gluten network through kneading or the stretch and fold method or in a stand mixer or bread machine. Make your dough into a ball, place in a large bowl and cover well with plastic wrap or a shower cap or place a large plate on top. Make sure it is sealed well as the air in the fridge will cause your dough to form a crust. You can then happily go back to doing what you need to do and safely leave your dough for several hours or overnight in the fridge. If you only need to delay it for a an hour or two that is fine too. Just pop it in the fridge then when you are ready to come back to it, pull your dough back out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature and finish rising.
You can also put your dough in the fridge after shaping. You can shape your dough, cover it well with oiled plastic wrap or an oiled shower cap and place it in the fridge. It will happily stay there overnight slowly rising. You can then turn your oven on as soon as you get up and when it is up to temperature take your dough straight from the fridge and into the oven. It will have lovely oven spring this way.
Benefits of a slow rise
Putting your dough in the fridge helps to fit making a loaf of bread into your day. It also helps boost the flavour of the baked loaf. The longer it takes for your bread to ferment the more flavour your dough will develop. Over time enzymes and bacteria can get to work in the dough and these release aromas and flavours in the dough, making the final loaf taste more complex and delicious. Placing your dough in the fridge also slows the yeast down so it won’t have chance to exhaust all the sugars in the dough. This will mean that when the dough is ready to bake there will be some residual sugars left that will contribute to the flavour of the bread, the colour and sheen of the crust.
So not only can you easily pause bread making but your loaf will taste better for it. Next time you make a loaf pop it in the fridge for a while and let it ferment more slowly and for a longer time and see if you notice the difference.
Ready to learn more?
Why not take one of my online bread courses to take your bread making to the next level. There is a course to suit everyone.
Or take our free online course to get started on your bread journey.