Freezing no-knead bread dough: good idea or not?

No-Knead Crusty White Bread, our 2016 recipe of the year, brings three special benefits to the table:

  • It’s easy to make, requiring just flour, water, salt, and yeast;
  • It’s endlessly versatile, going from a simple loaf to pizza crust to cheddar-jalapeño bread, or the flavor of your choice;
  • It works with any schedule, no matter how hectic.

Let’s focus on that final perk for a moment. The dough for no-knead bread is stirred together, rises for a couple of hours, then retires to the refrigerator, where it happily rests for a week or more, just waiting for you to pull off a hunk and shape and bake a loaf.

Now, you can’t get any more flexible than that, can you? Make the dough, then 2 days (or 5 days, or 7 days) later — whenever you want fresh bread and have the time — bake up a loaf.

Still, there are those of you who’ve asked, “What about freezing no-knead bread dough? Is that a possibility?”

Since I invariably use up my no-knead dough rather quickly on hard rolls or baguettes or focaccia, I’d never thought to freeze it for later. But it’s a reasonable question: is freezing no-knead bread dough a good idea?

Let’s try it out.Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Start by making your no-knead dough.

You can stir this up using a bowl and spoon, or mix it in a stand mixer. Remember, there’s no need to knead; simply mix together flour, water, yeast, and salt. See our No-Knead Crusty White Bread recipe for the details.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Let it rise.

Place the dough in a lightly greased large bucket or bowl. Cover, and let it rise for 2 hours.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Refrigerate. Or divide and, yes, freeze.

Your choice. If you freeze the dough at this point your final loaves will be a bit more golden brown than if you freeze them later, after the dough has been refrigerated for a couple of days. But those extra 2 days in the fridge don’t inhibit its rise, and also enhance the bread’s flavor. So as I said — your choice.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

To freeze immediately: deflate the dough.

Gently deflate the dough by plunging your hand into it and briefly stirring it around. Look at the significant gluten development that happened in just those couple of hours!

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough into four pieces.

If you have a scale, each piece should be about 14 ounces. Round the pieces into balls as best you can; the dough will be quite sticky and slack.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Freeze the dough.

Wrap, label, and bag the dough pieces, then place the bag in the freezer.

What if you decide to freeze the dough after it’s been in the fridge for a couple of days (or longer)? Follow the same process. Divide, wrap, freeze.

When freezing no-knead bread dough, how long can you keep it in the freezer?

We’ve found, in previous experiments, that anything over 2 weeks starts leading to deterioration in its rise. So best to bake frozen loaves within a couple of weeks.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Get ready to bake bread.

About 4 hours before you want to bake bread, take a piece (or two) of frozen dough out of the freezer.

Note: You can save yourself at least a couple of hours’ rising time by transferring dough from freezer to refrigerator the night before you want to bake bread.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Place the dough on a baking sheet to thaw.

Unwrap, and place it on a parchment-lined (or lightly greased) baking sheet.

Notice the different doughs I’m testing: zero rise before baking, and 2-hour rise before baking. I also tested dough that had been refrigerated overnight; for 48 hours, and for 7 days. In the end, all of the loaves worked OK; though the dough at each end of the experiment (no rise at all; 7 days in the fridge) produced lower-rising or less-browned loaves than the other options.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Let it rise.

Cover the pan, and let the dough thaw and then rise. This will take 4 to 5 hours, perhaps even longer if your house is cold. It won’t rise so much as spread.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Spray the bread, slash it, and put it into the oven.

Spray the loaf with warm water. Give it three diagonal slashes using a lame, or the sharpest knife you have; or if you doubt your slashing ability, use a pair of scissors.

Quickly put the bread into the hot oven. It may deflate a bit when you slash it; no worries, it’ll pick itself up once it hits the hot oven.

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

Bake the bread until it’s golden brown.

Bake the bread for 20 to 30 minutes, until it’s a deep golden brown. If it’s still pale after 25 minutes, take its internal temperature; if it’s over 200°F, the bread is done and you can take it out of the oven, brown or not. Leaving it in past about 205°F may result in a drier loaf than you like.

So at the end of the day, is freezing no-knead bread dough a good option?

Freezing No-Knead Bread Dough via @kingarthurflour

On the left, dough that was chilled overnight, then baked the next day. At right, dough that was chilled overnight, then frozen for a couple of weeks, then baked the next day. As you can see, the difference between freezing and not freezing your dough is mainly one of rise.

Yes, freezing no-knead bread dough is definitely an option. If you’re departing on a trip with some of your no-knead dough still left in the fridge, or supremely busy — go for it. The bread you make will be crusty and delicious, albeit denser and not as tall. Caveat emptor: dough that’s been refrigerated 7 days or longer before being frozen will bake into a loaf that’s only about 1 1/2″ high. Tasty, but quite heavy.

Got some no-knead bread dough in the fridge right now, with no prospects for baking bread in the near future? Freeze it! You’ll thank yourself a couple of weeks from now.

What else can you do with your no-knead bread dough? Turn it into pizza crust, for one. And if you’re looking for other tasty transitions, check out our suggestions for savory (and sweet) add-ins.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Very well, Amie, as far as rosemary and similar herbs. But yeast isn’t fond of either garlic or cinnamon; so if you want either of those flavors, they’re best applied as a topping once the loaf is baked. Enjoy – PJH

  1. meedee

    I did not know yeast , did’t like garlic or cinnamon mixed in ,, topping it is !! Love this info. What else , yeast doesn’t like?? What about onion rolls ?? KAF you are the BEST!!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Just those two, far as I know. It’s OK with onion, so pack those onion rolls with as much as you like! PJH

  2. Deanne

    I go ahead and bake mine as usual, let cool, put in bag, and freeze. When ready to eat it, remove from freezer and let defrost. Put directly on oven rack in preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or til heated through.
    It tastes just as good as the day it’s originally baked.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You sure can, Jan! You’ll want to make sure your bread is fully cooled and wrapped airtight — aluminum foil or plastic wrap AND a ziplock bag makes for fairly fool-proof wrapping. Keep in mind that the more surface area your loaf has, the faster it will stale, so a long, thin baguette won’t last as long as a larger round. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pam,
      Making gluten-free bread can be a bit tricky; it’s not as straight-forward as just swapping the flour. You’ll want to use a recipe that is designed to be gluten-free. We have lots of gluten-free bread recipes on our website to choose from. We’ve found that gluten-free bead has the best taste and texture if you freeze it after it’s baked rather than freezing unbaked dough. (If you slice the loaf before freezing, you can take out individual pieces and pop them right into the toaster for fresh, warm bread when you need it!) Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Stephanie,
      If you want to make this recipe with whole wheat flour, you’ll need to make the dough a bit differently. We recommend replacing up to half of the total flour with whole wheat, either our Premium or white whole wheat flours. Add an additional 2 teaspoons water per cup of whole wheat flour to prevent the dough from being too dry. Freeze as directed in the blog post, and enjoy! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You sure can add some sourdough starter to your No-Knead Bread Dough if you like, Kate. It’s not essential since the entire batch gets a slightly sourdough-like flavor if you let if rest in the fridge for a few days. However, if you’re looking for ways to use up your sourdough starter and you’d like to give this a try, check out our blog about adding sourdough to a recipe and it will show you the way! Kye@KAF

  3. Lulu

    The pictures show dough that looks like ordinary bread dough. When I make no-knead bread the dough is so wet it can’t possibly be formed into balls or loaves. If I were to freeze it, it would need to be literally poured into a container. I use Jim Lahey’s New York Times original recipe for no-knead bread. Are you using a different recipe? If so, I would like to have it because I would like to be able to form loaves with it as you have done.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lulu, yes we’re using a different recipe. The one shown in the photo here is our No-Knead Crusty White Bread recipe. Feel free to give it a shot. One thing that may be causing some of the trouble is the flour you’re using. Be sure you’re using a high-protein content flour like King Arthur All-Purpose Flour, for example. Some other brands tend to have lower protein contents, which mean they aren’t as strong and can’t absorb quite as much liquid. This can make wet and sticky dough. Try giving this recipe a try with our all-purpose flour and see if that improves your results! Kye@KAF

  4. Jan Jancis

    What if I use bread flour (not King Arthur brand) instead of all purpose flour in your NO-Knead Crusty White Bread? I have several bags of bread flour in my freezer that need to be used up.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your baking and freezing success will depend on the protein content of the flour you have, Jan. Other brands tend to be more variable than King Arthur Flour, so it’s hard for us to say how you’ll need to adjust the recipe. The best advice we can give is to adjust the consistency of the dough by adding additional flour or water as necessary to make a wet, sticky dough that looks like the photos above. Once you have that perfect-looking dough, you can freeze it the same way described in the blog here. I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  5. Elaine King

    Can I bake it in a regular bread pan, so I can slice it for sandwiches? I need to be able to tell how many carbs, so I need uniformity.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Elaine,
      You’re welcome to bake this bread in a loaf pan. Just be sure to portion off enough dough to fill your sandwich loaf about halfway before it rises. Check out this video on shaping a sandwich loaf to ensure you’re giving your dough the treatment it needs to turn into a lofty loaf. Use the same temperature and time, but the key is to test the inside for doneness using a thermometer. 190°F is what you’re looking for. Happy baking!

  6. Lucy

    Perhaps this is a silly question, but can I split this recipe in half? 3-4 loaves is quite a lot for my small family, and even though I could freeze some, it seems like a waste of a lot of flour if for some reason it didn’t come out. Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It would be fine, Karen, just keep in mind it will be a thicker, softer and more doughy crust versus a thinner, crispier crust.
      Bryanna@KAF

  7. Karen sievertson

    Will a no knead recipe work with your Gruyere cheese bread recipe? It’s the recipe that is cut and stood on end to bake like a volcano. I make several of these each week and could use the short cut. I’m afraid it might be too slack to hold up.
    I also make a fantastic rye no knead but have had to add extra flour so it doesn’t flatten so much. Comes out great. But too much flour is just that, I appreciate the feedback.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Karen,
      No-knead bread makes dough that is really quite slack, and for the gruyere-stuffed bread you need a bit of strength in the dough to help the loaves hold their shape. However, if you’re looking to add some cheese to this no-knead dough however, you certainly can. Check out our blog post for making No-Knead Bread Three Ways. Try gruyere and scallions together for a tasty loaf! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nancy, if you’d like to add herbs to the No Knead Crusty White Bread recipe, I would add them in towards the end of the mixing period. If you want to herbs to just one loaf, you can gently fold them in when you shape the loaf. Barb@KAF

  8. Joan

    If I cut the recipe in half, do I also reduce the amount of yeast, or keep yest amount the same as in the original full size recipe?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joan, with a well-developed recipe like this, you should be able to cut all of the ingredients, including the yeast, in half and see the same results. Anything beyond halving or doubling tends to get much trickier. Mollie@KAF

  9. Mary

    The first time I made this recipe I couldn’t believe it came out of my oven, because it was extra crusty I thought I baked it too long 35 min. I made again yesterday. I baked for 25 min. Crust was more ok chewy side and more dense. I did forget to slash the bread and opened the oven after 18 min. A big blast, of steam came out, bread was formed to proper size. I closed oven and then thought maybe I should add a, little more water. I also pierced the crust to let some steam escape from loaves. This batch I had two loaves in instead of one . I know I made some errors, but which caused bread to not get as crusty? Forgetting to slash? Shorter bake time or opening during bake time? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mary, not slashing the top of the loaves is not a critical error. It just helps to prevent the loaves from bursting on the sides, and it also helps to give the loaves an artisan look. The crispness of the crust comes from the steam and length of time the loaf (or loaves) are in the oven. If you want a crispier crust, try baking on a pizza stone if you’re not already, and spritz the loaves with water periodically during the first five minutes of baking. Opt for the longer baker time (around 30 to 35 minutes), and tent the loaves with foil if they’re getting brown too early. I hope that helps and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  10. Alan

    I have baked this before a few times and I never get the large airy holes in my crumb. I have usually gotten a crumb like white sandwich bread, any ideas what I am doing wrong? I usually err on the side of a sticky dough which I thought would also benefit airy crumb.

    Thanks,
    Alan

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alan, we’d be happy to talk technique with you if you give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE. Our bakers are here seven days a week and happy to chat. Mollie@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      No, once you’ve let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature, it’s not going to rise much more/give off much more gas, so no pinhole needed. Also, I think while plastic snap-on covers are fairly secure, they’re not airtight. PJH

  11. Reneé Slazinski

    Hi! How could I make rolls from the frozen dough? Should I shape then freeze? Would I wrap each roll, or place the shaped balls of dough in a container, then wrap and freeze?
    Or would I wait until the 1 lb. round of dough is partially thawed, then divide into rolls?
    Thanks for all of your help!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Reneé, if you’d like to freeze no-knead rolls, you can bake them entirely and then freeze. Or if you’d like to freeze the unbaked dough, you’ll want to shape them into rolls and place them on a baking sheet. Put the whole pan into the freezer for about 30 minutes so the rolls solidify. Then you can put them in a zip-lock bag and freeze for 1-2 months. Let them rise for a few hours as shown here, slash and bake. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

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