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Jun 21, 2012 06:14 PM

Baking Challah [moved from Kosher board]

I'm on vacation this week so I'm baking challah. Recipe says to let dough rise for an hour. Can I let it rise overnight in my fridge? I'd rather sleep and bake in the am.


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  1. When I teach challah making, there isn't time to rise and bake all the challah. So I leave it in the frig overnight, take it out in the AM, let it come to room temp and rise and then proceed from there. Good luck!

    1. two things will kill the yeast in the dough: too much heat, or too much cold before it has a chance to get started. So it's fine, in fact better to let dough rise in the fridge, but ONLY AFTER IT HAS RISEN ONCE. So you can let it rise for an hour or so, then punch it down and put it in a container (plastic zip lock if it's big enough is fine) to contain it when it rises again. If it is all flat and not risen in the morning, you have killed the yeast. This can be repaired. Just re-proof the amount of yeast in water originally called for and mix it back in and start the process again. It will take a lot longer to rise than an hour, but you'll still have time. For years when I worked I made my dough on Thursday night, let it rise, then put it in the fridge until I arrived home from work. I then punched it down and let it warm up and baked it. By the same token, if you follow the usual method of adding warm water to yeast, be sure the water isn't too hot. If you don't see bubbles and foam, start over with water not quite so warm or so cold. You can actually omit this step and add yeast and liquid at the same time, but the danger is that you'll forget the yeast (yes it happens) . Also it's better if you use eggs, to have them at room temp. Hope this helps. Baking Challah is a satisfying process. The more you do it, the better the results and the easier it will be.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lburrell

        I agree, but don't think that it has to rise for one hour before going into the frig. I haven't done controlled tests, but I've never killed the yeast by putting it in the frig . I think that even a brief rise/rest before going into the frig will likely suffice.

        1. re: iris

          You could be right, but as one who has killed yeast by putting it in the refrigerator, I find it preferable to err on the side of caution. In any event, for centuries women put out their dough the night before without refrigeration and baked the following morning. I've done this for years with very satisfactory results and no risk of killing yeast, especially during the months with short days when starting dough early in the morning is less practical. You need to be sure the dough is oiled to prevent a crust forming (simply covering doesn't prevent this), but the crust is not as fatal as dead yeast.

          1. re: lburrell

            Saying you kill your yeast if you leave it in the fridge over night, is just fact many bakeries do this for 2 reasons - one it allows them to prepare the dough the night before, and have it ready to be shaped the next morning, and two allowing the dough to rise for an extended period of time allows the yeast to develop the fermented flavors, however if you just leave it outside of the fridge, then it can technically over-rise, and with out "punching down" (which is really a way to re-distribute the oxygen, so the yeast can live) and you can even "kill" the yeast if you don't...
            so bottom line - if you have to pick between leaving it out over night, verses putting it in the fridge, i would definitely say put it in the fridge

            1. re: koshergastronome

              I've done both, although I wasn't happy about accidentally leaving an eggy dough on the counter overnight. The resulting challah looked fine, but tasted almost beery, it was so fermented. You may like this, but it's not my preference. I find that challah that overnights in the fridge is a little more sourdough-y than I like, and it needs to rise for an extra 45 minutes, but it works fine.

              1. re: koshergastronome

                I know you can put it in the fridge, but you have to give it a chance to get started before you do that. And, I know the dangers of over rising, which is why we pay attention to the overnight temperature and generally make the dough late. Where we live nights are cool all the time. I've been leaving out and refrigerating depending on various factors for almost 25 years and the only time I've had trouble is when I've rushed the dough to the refrigerator before it's risen a bit first, been punched down and then refrigerated.

                1. re: lburrell

                  I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but the only thing the fridge does is slow everything down, it doesn't make a difference if you let it rise first or not

        2. First - the answer to your question is yes. You can ferment your yeasted dough in the refrigerator over night. When you return it to room temperature, remove the cover you had over it in the fridge and use a clean room temperature towel to cover it as it returns to ambient room temperature. Use a whisk (or similar tool) to blend all of your dry ingredients before adding water to your bread formula. That'll ensure the best possible distribution of yeast throughout your dough. Try to get your dough to about 80 degrees at the end of the kneading period so that your yeast has a good start. For the first rise, your dough should increase in size (mass) by about 50%. Don't let it double in mass.
          Second - if you could kill the yeast by placing the dough in the refrigerator "too soon" then storing the unused packaged yeast in the refrigerator should be expect to kill it. Storing packaged yeast in the refrigerator does not kill it; therefore when you elect to place the dough in the refrigerator isn't going to affect the end result. It may require a bit longer for the dough to rise, but it isn't going to kill the yeast.
          Third - when bread making instructions include rising times, the time period is relative. In a 70 degree environment the rise time for a Challah (or any other bread) will be different than for the same bread in an 85 degree environment. Learn to read your dough and, as a bread making friend of mine likes to say, "watch the dough, not the clock".

          1 Reply
          1. re: todao

            Nice comprehensive answer, todao. I like to let the dough sit at room temperature just to give the yeast a start but it works fine either way, just takes longer if I refrigerate right away. If refrigerating kills the yeast then it would kill the yeast whether there was a rise or nice. I've also found that making bread is very forgiving--you might not get exactly what you want if you deviate but you'll still generally end up w/ something delicious.

          2. good call, craigcep! it's even better that way. Yes, let it rise overnight in the fridge. But be sure to give it enough time to come to room temp before braiding your loaf.