How long can the dough for the no-knead bread recipe sit?
January 15, 2009 3:04 PM   Subscribe

How long can the dough for the no-knead bread recipe sit? I made a batch of the dough last night thinking that I would bake it tonight as part of my dinner. But I won't be able to make it home until very late and know for a fact that I will be working late tomorrow night as well so I actually won't be able to bake it until Saturday evening possibly. Will the dough be ok or should I just throw it out and start a new batch later?
posted by tealeaf522 to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I let one sit for two nights and then baked it and all was well.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:11 PM on January 15, 2009

Dough that rises slowly in the refrigerator for several days tastes wonderful. Don't worry!
posted by fritley at 3:14 PM on January 15, 2009

I've let it sit for >24 hrs. Throw it in the fridge and let it warm up before your use it. Depending on your recipe you might have to dose it with a little sugar or flour and let it sit for an hour or two so the yeast begin growing again. But really, throw it in the fridge and slow those yeast down, while at the same time enhancing the flavor.
posted by Science! at 3:15 PM on January 15, 2009

Can always punch down and re-knead if it gets too big (but this is if you are letting it sit and ferment).

The flavor gets better over time anyway.

But def should be ok. I work at a scratch bakery so.... er... that's my bakery advice.
posted by HolyWood at 3:23 PM on January 15, 2009

Oh, and no matter how you store it expect a longer rise time as the yeast will have consumed more of it's food (flour, possibly sugar) and generated more waste (ethanol, plus acid from bacteria) than the recipe is meant to take account for. Apart from longer rising times you really shouldn't run into an issue.
posted by Science! at 3:25 PM on January 15, 2009

It will be fine. Refrigerate it if you're worried and just let it warm up. I wouldn't bother trying to add anything to the dough - it will be hard to work in and defeat the whole "no-knead" angle. The flavour may even be improved.

I have done exactly this - left dough for 24 hours, then biffed it in fridge, then baked a day later - with satisfactory results.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:28 PM on January 15, 2009

I'm going to have to disagree with I guess everyone above. I have not had much luck when going beyond 18 hours. Yes, it will bake, but it becomes what's called "tired". This occurs when all the available gluten that feeds the yeast is used and the cells get smaller and the slight rise that occurs when cooking doesn't really happen.

So technically I agree that you can bake it and it will be edible, but it will be pretty flat and dense. Now if you put it in the fridge when you first made it, you could retard the growth of the yeast and it would have probably been fine, but if you left it out at room temperature as the recipe suggests, it will be tired after 18 hours.

I would compost this batch. But I don't suffer a tired bread gladly.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:38 PM on January 15, 2009

I'm going to have to disagree with Toekeesan. Yeast do not consume gluten to any real extent during a few days of sitting. The abundant simple sugars in flour are consumed by the yeast, then they go about breaking down more complex and even more abundant carbohydrates in the flour into usable sugars. It would be a very very long time at room temp or in the fridge before yeast began breaking down gluten over the carbs available. This is why you can keep a dough starter in the fridge for weeks and it remain perfectly happy.

However, if the yeast have been placed in an inhospitable habitat (too cold, too acidic, not enough carbs) for too long they won't quickly kick up and start producing CO2 for bubbles and rising. So, if you throw the bread in fridge, let it come to room temp, then let it rise for longer than normal. If need be you might need to spike it with a bit of fresh dough, but probably not. And still you could even forget this whole thread and just bake it. It's bread, not heart surgery. I, you, and everyone else learns by doing.
posted by Science! at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2009

Do you mean at heated-room temperature? I keep my high-moisture dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, baking a lump of it every few days. However, as toekneesan says, it would exhaust itself at room temp.

You could try kneading in some more flour and then refrigerating it - even with flour at nearly a dollar a pound where I am, it's still a cheap experiment.
posted by catlet at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2009

I regularly let mine sit for 2 days, and I get a good second rise pretty much every time. I actually think this makes for a better loaf than the 24 hour rise I used to use.
posted by Killick at 4:04 PM on January 15, 2009

You might end up with sourdough. Which might not be a bad thing!

I vote try it. It's not going to kill you.

(Or you could put it in the fridge as Science! suggests and take it out to rise again later. A friend of mine freezes homemade pizza dough, and when she brings it to room temp after freezing, it still rises a little, amazingly.)
posted by peggynature at 4:12 PM on January 15, 2009

Response by poster: I left the dough on my nightstand which is next to my radiator (I live in NYC, so the radiator gets hot - but it's turned down a bit so not too hot). I guess since the dough will have to sit for more than 48 hours before I can bake it, I should throw it in the fridge tonight.

Then, based on everyone's advice, let it get back to room temp for a few hours before I bake it.
Is this correct? My bread will be ok? I'm not opposed to starting a new batch, but it pains me to waste a perfectly good batch of anything.

oh, and thanks so much for chiming in everyone!
posted by tealeaf522 at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2009

From my pastry-chef girlfriend: Throw it out and start over. If this is a yeasted dough, the only way to slow fermentation is to refrigerate and/or freeze. Most likely you've refrigerated the dough up until now, which only slightly retards fermentation. For optimal flavor, "rise-ability", and overall quality, your average yeasted dough, even if refrigerated, should be baked within 24 hours and at the very maximum 48 hours. Dough fermented any longer than this is considered "old" dough, meaning that it still may have flavor but is likely to lack the ability to rise, therefore creating a tough, dense, undesirable texture.

YMMV. You can always bake it and give it a shot. Just depends what you're looking for! Have fun!
posted by karizma at 4:44 PM on January 15, 2009

karizma: the no-knead strategy starts off with very little yeast; far less than a standard dough recipe. So I think fermentation speed will be commensurately slower.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:01 PM on January 15, 2009

Science! is right about my confusing gluten with the simpler sugars. But my experience has consistently has been that letting this specific recipe sit too long will result in a flat, dense bread.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:27 PM on January 15, 2009

You don't necessarily have to let it get back to room temperature before baking it. The difference in temperature between the refrigerator and the kitchen (~30° max.) is not going to make much of a difference to dough that's being thrown in a 500° oven. In my experience, the degree of proof is the important factor.

You're talking about retarding it after the 12 hr fermentation, but before the 2 hr final proof, right? I would say go for it. You'll be fine.

I realize I'm probably a little late to the party, but I would shape the loaf and then retard it. Then, once you pull it out of the refrigerator, just give it an extra hour or so of proofing time and pop it in the oven. Even if you don't shape it first, you're probably still okay. I would give the dough some time to come up to temperature and get pliable and then shape it and proof as directed. Maybe 30-40 minutes, unless your apartment is way warmer than mine...

Good luck.
posted by clockwork at 7:07 PM on January 15, 2009

A lot of people have good information on this thread. Here's my two cents: don't throw it away, put it in the fridge and then bake it when you can. Why not try it? If you get a brick, then you know something: you've done a little experiment and you have that as part of your knowledge for next time. If not, you've got a good loaf. No problemo either way, methinks.

The fact is, there are so many variables when making bread that the best strategy (in my opinion) is to try a bunch of things until you get a feel for the dough itself, and what works for you. Nothing beats experience when learning about making bread. This is not to say that people aren't giving you factual information in this thread, but that it may be more useful rather than analyzing the data to just try it and see what happens.

Good luck! Let us know what you do.
posted by dubitable at 7:45 PM on January 15, 2009

I own Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day - it's the other no-knead recipe that not nearly as many people went crazy about as they did for Jim Lahey's. Their technique is to mix a very wet (but not quite soupy) dough and then let it sit in the fridge for up to two weeks. Admittedly, they recommend making flatbreads or pizzas with dough that's nearing the end of the 2-week period.

So yes, put it in the fridge. As for getting it back up to room temperature, an hour is plenty.
posted by O9scar at 1:12 AM on January 16, 2009

Response by poster: Great advice everyone. Thank you!

I guess all I can do is throw it in the oven and give it a whirl.

If it turns out terribly, I can always turn it into croutons and breadcrumbs...
posted by tealeaf522 at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2009

Response by poster: So, uh, in case anyone was wondering how it turned out, I've got some anti-climactic news for you. Turns out I had to work all weekend (including late into the evenings) and knew that the following week was more of the same so I ended up throwing the dough out and have yet to start a new one.

But I do thank you for all the great advice and, as my work schedule is always a bit unpredictable, I'll be putting it to good use soon.
posted by tealeaf522 at 4:35 PM on January 22, 2009

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