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How to Make and Store Bread Dough in the Refrigerator

Cygnet Brown currently lives in the Missouri Ozarks. She loves writing, researching history, and gardening.

Make the dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Make the dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Making Bread From Scratch Is Easy

Making bread from scratch doesn't have to be difficult, and you don't need any fancy equipment, either. You can have bread made from scratch more than once in a while!

Always start from fresh ingredients, especially fresh yeast. This bread dough can be made one day and then stored for up to three days in the refrigerator. Take out as much as you want, shape it into loaves or rolls, raise it for an hour or so, and then bake it. In a few minutes, you will have freshly baked bread or rolls on your table.

Prep timeReady inYields

2 hours

2 hours

Approximately 42 rolls or 3 loaves


  • 2 cups lukewarm water, potato water, or reconstituted dry milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast (one package)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup liquid vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups general purpose flour
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  1. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water or potato water (left over from the last time that you boiled potatoes) or dry milk (that you reconstituted with warm water). Add sugar and let set for about 5 minutes. If you get little bubbles on the surface of the mixture, the yeast is good. If you don't see any bubbles at the top of the mixture, start over with new yeast and throw the package containing the yeast that you used away. It is no longer any good. This process is what is called proofing the yeast.
  2. Add salt, egg, and oil.
  3. Pour 6 cups of the flour (2 cups wheat flour and 4 cups general purpose flour) into the mixture 2 cups at a time, and then add the final amount of flour until the dough makes a soft ball that doesn't stick to your fingers.
  4. Put the bread dough into a large bowl, spread a layer of vegetable oil over the surface, and cover with a towel. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size. Doubling occurs when you are able to press your thumb gently into the bread dough and the imprint remains.
  5. Punch the dough down and knead on a bread board or clean counter and reshape it into a ball. Divide out 1/3 of the dough to use right away. Reshape the remainder of the ball and place it into a container with a tightly fitting lid in the refrigerator. I find that a 1-gallon plastic ice cream container works great for this.
  6. Shape the dough that you saved into a bread loaf or shape it into dinner rolls and place into an appropriate pan. Allow the bread to rise until light (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
  7. Once the dough is shaped and raised and ready for the oven, the length of time needed to bake depends upon the size of bread that you are baking. Rolls take between 12 to 15 minutes to bake. Loaves of bread take about 45 minutes to bake. Bake until golden brown. For a soft crust, brush butter onto the crust. For a crisper crust, do not brush it with butter.

Refrigerate or Freeze

If you're a weekend cook who doesn't have time to bake fresh during the week, you have several options.

  • You can partially bake the bread and store it, then store the dough in the refrigerator.
  • You can take the loaves or rolls and shape them however you like, then put them onto a cookie sheet or glass pan as I have done above and have them ready for the next time.
  • You can even take the rolls out of the freezer in the morning before work, let them thaw and rise all day, and have them ready 8 hours later to pop into the oven and bake.

How Long Can I Keep Yeast?

Yeast will keep in the refrigerator for about one year. However, I have found that yeast will keep in the refrigerator freezer at 0°F for at least two years. The yeast that I am currently using to make bread was in the freezer sealed in Mylar for two years, and then I have had it in the refrigerator for about six months in a glass jar with a screwtop lid.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Cygnet Brown

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