Monday, May 5, 2008

The "Magic" Bread Solution - Refrigerator Bread Dough

Baking your own bread is one of the best ways I know to stretch your food budget. Our family can easily go through a loaf a day, and at over $2 a loaf even for the "cheap" bread, that eats up a major percentage of our monthly grocery budget. While making your own bread on a regular basis *can* be quite time consuming, there is a way to make from-scratch homemade bread without a lot of time or effort: Refrigerator Bread Dough! This is one of those golden recipes that feels like it changed my culinary life. I can easily have bread ready-to-go whenever I need it without feeling like I'm chained to the kitchen. If you've never tried making your own bread before, rest assured that it's actually pretty simple as long as you attend to a few key details. This dough is incredibly versatile and forgiving. I will be sharing lots of different ways to use it in the future, but let's get started with the basic recipe:

Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough

15-20 minutes

5 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until yeast is thick and foamy. (Note: This is the most critical step for beginners! If you don't get a thick, foamy solution after 10-15 minutes, your yeast is not active - either it's too old or the water temperature was too hot or cold. You'll need to try again!)

2. Add mashed potatoes, oil, egg and salt. Mix well.

3. Gradually add the whole wheat flour, stirring until well combined.

4. Slowly add all-purpose flour as you begin to knead the dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic (it should no longer feel sticky).

5. Place dough in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in fridge.

It's all done until you're ready to use it! The dough will complete its first rising in the fridge and will keep for about a week. There is enough dough for 3 loaves of bread.

To make loaves:

Time: Hands on prep:5 minutes shaping
Waiting: 1 hr rise, 25 minutes baking

1. Divide dough into three equal portions. You don't have to bake all three loaves at once, so if you only want to make one or two loaves, return the remaining portion or two of dough to the bowl, cover and store in the fridge; dough will keep for up to a week from the day you made it. For each loaf you're making, roll out a portion of dough into a rectangle, approximately 9"x12".

2. Roll up, starting at longer edge of dough. Pinch seam together to seal. Turn seam side down. Tuck edges of loaf under (so that the loaf is the same length as the baking pan).

3. Place loaves in greased loaf pans. Place in a warm location and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

5. Cool on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.


-Buy yeast and flour in bulk to keep the cost as low as possible (bulk yeast can be stored in the freezer)

-This is a great way to use up those leftover mashed potatoes you might have in your freezer if you've been keeping up with your Sunday Night Fridge Cleanout

-I don't usually have enough leftover mashed potatoes to keep up with the demand for bread dough, so I'll cook up a big batch of potatoes, mash and freeze in 1 cup portions to have on hand for dough making


  1. This sounds great!! I have yet to have good luck with whole wheat bread.

    Unfortunately, I definitely can't eat 3 loaves of bread before they go dry. Any way you can scale the recipe down to just one loaf?

  2. Hi Leslie! You don't need to bake all 3 loaves at once, since the dough will keep for up to a week in the fridge (I think I'll go edit the recipe to make that clearer). You could make up the dough the night before you want to bake the first loaf, let it rise overnight in the fridge, make the first loaf the next day, another one 2-3 days later, and the final one 2-3 days after that. You can also freeze the dough in one-loaf portions if you want to keep it for longer than that. Just thaw a portion out a day or two before you're going to use it!

  3. Thanks so much! This sounds great- I love the versatility. The hardest part for me will be setting aside a cup of mashed potatoes- they're my husband's favorite and there are never leftovers. Ha!

  4. Angela, I rarely have leftover mashed potatoes from a meal either, as they're very popular here, too! I will cook up a whole pot of potatoes specifically to mash and freeze in 1 cup portions for bread dough. Then, I just take a container out and put it in the fridge the day before I plan to make a batch of dough.

  5. What's the best way to freeze the potatoes? Also, what's the best way to freeze the dough and for how long can it be frozen?

  6. I freeze the mashed potatoes in 1 cup portions in plastic freezer bags or reusable plastic storage containers. They will keep in the freezer for at least 2-3 months, probably longer but I usually go through them by then :) The night before I'm going to make bread, I take out a portion of potatoes to thaw overnight in the fridge (you could also thaw them in the microwave, we just don't have one!)To freeze the dough, divide it into 3 equal portions after kneading and package in zip-top freezer bags, squeezing as much air out as possible. Put them in the freezer right away so they don't start rising. I would take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge at least 24 hrs before you're going to bake it, so it can thaw and complete its first rise in the refrigerator. I don't often freeze dough as we go through it so fast around here I don't need to! Most sources say 1-3 months is the maximum length of time you should freeze yeast dough; more info here:

    If you have the freezer space, I think it's actually easier to bake the loaves and then freeze them, rather than freezing the dough.

  7. Thanks, I'm putting this on my "to try list"...which grows longer and longer everyday!

  8. Does the recipe absolutely have to include the potatoes?

  9. Sharon, yes, the potatoes are necessary when making refrigerator dough. They help keep the dough moist while it's being stored in the fridge and also act as a food source for the yeast so the dough will rise properly.

  10. Thanks Karen, I appreciate your response.

  11. I've noticed that your whole wheat bread isn't 100% whole you include almost half white flour as well.

    Do you have a 100% whole wheat recipe too ?

  12. My experience is that it's difficult to make a really good loaf of bread using entirely whole wheat flour, if you're using red wheat (the "normal" type of whole wheat flour). The texture gets too dry and dense for my liking. If you have access to hard white wheat flour, it can be substituted for the white flour in the recipe and give you a good quality whole wheat loaf. King Arthur sells white wheat flour in the US; it's not available where I live.

  13. I hear that Karen
    Its not available here in Canada...sure wish it was. IF I ever find it, I'll let you know.
    Thanks for the advice

  14. Karen I found a Whole wheat recipe that might just work out well. I haven't had a chance to try it to go shopping first.

    It states: "It is tasty, and so light and fluffy, it could be store bought. And it’s a cinch to make"

    I figure its worth a try & thought perhaps you might like to try it too

  15. After the initial rise in the fridge do I need to do anything with the dough (like punch it down or anything)? Do I also need to tightly cover the bowl with the dough in it? I'm an amateur bread baker but want to do it regularly. Thank you for the help!

  16. I usually give it a light punch down, then knead it very briefly (just for a minute or so). I cover the bowl with plastic wrap - the top will dry out too much in the fridge with just a tea towel over it. I've found this dough to be very forgiving, so it's a good one for new bread bakers to try.

  17. When I was reading through the recipe and comments I was envisioning mashed potatoes that included milk and butter, but maybe that isn't necessary. Do you simply boil potatoes, mash them up, and then put them in your dough?

  18. Hi Kari, sorry to take so long to reply, I've been out of town and just catching up on things in cyberspace. If I have leftover mashed potatoes from a meal (with milk and butter) I'll use those, but if not I just boil and mash plain potatoes (I usually make up a large quantity at once and freeze in 1 cup portions to use in this recipe). Either way works just fine!

  19. I just baked my first two loaves of this recipe and wow!! It's so light and fluffy and since I used Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour (from Oregon, I don't know if you have that in Canada), no one would ever know that it has whole wheat in it. It was very easy. ( I've only been baking yeast breads about 1-1/2 years so I don't consider myself an expert by any means.) I have been using The Frugal Girl's white sandwich bread recipe (substituting the whole wheat pastry flour for part of the white flour)and I have to say, I love yours much better. No offense to the awesome Frugal Girl, believe me! ;-) Thanks so much for posting this.
    Your fan in Seattle,

  20. p.s. it's 4:45 pm and my son (10) and I both just finished our 2nd pieces of bread and we've happily spoiled our dinners. ;-)

  21. I'm so glad you found the bread recipe! I really don't know what I'd do without it :) If you haven't discovered this yet, clicking on the "refrigerator bread dough" label will give you a few other recipes I make with this dough - it's very versatile! We do have some Bob's Red Mill products here in Canada. I wouldn't have thought to use whole wheat pastry flour in bread dough. I wish we had King Arthur's White Wheat flour here, I'd love to use it in place of the regular white flour in this recipe.

  22. Can you use instant potatoes

    1. Brandy - yes, you can use instant potatoes if that's more convenient for you!


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