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We have found it difficult to make bread at the same time as making a full dinner. We do not want to bake the bread ahead of time, as we want it to serve it hot. Is there a way that it can be made partially and refrigerated and then finished? After which step or rising period can it be set aside? I think it would be much easier to be able to do all the preparation earlier in the day and then put it in the oven at the appropriate time to be served with the rest of the food. Thanks in advance for your help!– Karen

Thank you, Karen, for a great question! Bread dough can be made ahead of time and then baked when you are ready to eat. Bread is improved in flavor and texture after the dough rests in the refrigerator.

Many people look at a yeast bread recipe and think, “oh, no, I don’t have three hours to make bread.” You don’t need three hours — at least not right now. Take 15 minutes to mix the dough, then refrigerate. Come back tomorrow — or even the day after tomorrow — and the bread has completed its first rise, slowly, in the refrigerator.

Shape the dough, let the second rise occur, and then bake. If you shape the dough into pizza or small rolls, the second rise is very fast. If you shape the dough into a large loaf, the second rise will take a full hour before baking. Since a loaf of bread will stay hot for 30 minutes after baking, you have time to get dinner on the table and still serve hot, fresh bread.

For more information about baking delicious homemade bread from scratch, join us for these upcoming yeast bread baking classes:

“Crusty Breads” on Tuesday, March 27 at 6 pm with Josh Allen and Price Barrett of Companion Baking.

“Doughnuts are on the Rise” on Wednesday, April 18 at 6 pm with Margi Kahn.

“Buns and Noses” on Wednesday, May 9 at 6 pm with Margi Kahn.

“A Day in the Kitchen: Bread Basket” on Saturday, May 12 at 10 am with Anne Cori.

“On a Knead to Know Basis” on Wednesday, June 13 at 6 pm with Margi Kahn.

Get started making bread with this basic white bread recipe. The dough can be made into a loaf or dinner rolls. And, like all yeast doughs, the dough can be mixed and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two before shaping and baking.

A Loaf of Bread

1 ½ cups warm water

Pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Approximately 4 cups all-purpose flour

Oil for coating bowl and bread pan

Mix together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let rise until foamy. Add the oil, salt, and 1 ½ cups flour. Use a dough whisk to stir until combined. Gradually add enough flour to the dough, stirring after each addition, until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Lightly flour the counter, turn the dough out onto the counter, and knead the dough. When needed, sprinkle more flour on the dough to keep the dough from being too sticky. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a bowl or plastic bag. Place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to coat with oil Cover and let the dough rise for 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size. (Alternatively, place the dough in an oiled plastic bag and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.) Deflate the dough. Shape the dough for loaf pan or rolls. Let rise for a second time, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf) or until nicely browned and hollow-sounding when tapped. Remove the dough from the pan and cool on a rack before slicing.

(For a richer dough, use milk instead of water and/or add 2 eggs to the dough.)