... Or How to Freeze Yeast Dough
First of all, this entire post should be prefaced with words like "theoretically," "probably," "should," "someone smarter than me says it will," "I understand that," and "might." You see, I am about to blog (somewhat definitively) about a subject with which I have very little practical experience. :) Awesome. Here goes.
Yes, you can freeze yeast bread dough. Cool temperatures slow the development of yeast and allow for a great state of suspended animation (or arrested development). The key is temperature. You want to suspend yeast growth - not kill the yeast - so ideally bread will be frozen at or above 20 degrees F - think home freezer, not a cryogenics lab.
Most recipes should do fine. King Arthur Flour advises against freezing doughs with a lot of ingredients like cheese, fruit, or veggies. According to KAF (people smarter than me) these doughs get watery when thawed. Doughs high in milk, eggs, or sugar (again, according to KAF) do okay in the freezer but should only be kept a few days in the fridge (more on fridge baking later). I also believe that doughs high in sugar, eggs, and/or milk will keep a shorter time in the freezer than straight yeast dough, but that is pretty anecdotal.
Okay. So, all that said, the question becomes "how do I do it?" The answer is a little murky. I have consulted with my two favorite sources, KAF and CI, and they disagree. Or rather, they have two different methods for two different types of breads. Confused yet? Awesome.
Mix. Rise. Deflate. Shape (place in loaf pan if it is loaf dough). Place pan inside ziplock baggie. Freeze for 24 hours. Remove from pan, wrap with plastic then aluminum foil. Return to freezer. When you want to bake it, let come to room temperature then rise for an hour (takes about 5 hours total). They say you can also thaw in the fridge overnight and then let it have its final rise in the morning.
That is probably the method to use for the whole wheat sandwich bread. It is also the method I would use for free-form loaves.
In one of the best cookbooks around (The Best Make-Ahead Recipe), CI developed a few recipes for muffins, rolls and biscuits that could go straight from the freezer to the oven. Pretty slick for a desperate dinner. In order to accomplish this feat, they let the dough rise fully (complete its second rise) before freezing it. Muffins and biscuits aren't yeast doughs - they were shaped and frozen for a few hours, then bagged and returned to the freezer. The narrative doesn't mention any ingredient failures (e.g. can't freeze muffins that contain yogurt). Soooo... that is probably the method I would try for cornmeal yeast rolls and perhaps even the beautiful burger buns.
If I was going to go totally balls out on this one, I would make a batch of cornmeal yeast rolls and freeze some after shaping them but before allowing them to rise and also freeze some after the shaped rise to see what worked the best. But I think I will leave that for you to do!
More on refrigerating dough later - this post is too long as it is! I will leave you with one more paragraph though.
I was intrigued by the idea of make-ahead cooking shortly after Ava was born. So, I checked out a bunch of freezer cookbooks. Most of them talk about getting together with friends and cooking all of your meals for an entire month at once. Not quite what I was looking for. I wanted something that would allow me to put together a few dishes for nights where I was desperate and didn't want to cook. The best cookbook I found for make-ahead cooking was Cooks Illustrated "The Best Make-Ahead Recipe." My cousin Michelle, who is an amazing baker, seamstress, and cook says it is one of the best books she owns. Since I want to be her when I grow up, I will take her word for it. Check it out at your local library!!!