About a year ago, I started making my own bread to save money. I found a couple of recipes I liked and would make one or two batches every other weekend or so, baking the loaves and putting them in the freezer. But we have limited freezer space and bread takes up considerable room. Since bread dough before the final rise is only approximately half the volume of a baked loaf, I started trying to figure out how to freeze bread dough that could be baked as needed.
My first resource is always my network prepper friends, but no one had any advice to offer on the subject. My research online was somewhat successful, but a few sites said any bread dough could be frozen before the final rise and others said you had to double the yeast in the recipe as some of the yeast would die off in the freezing process. Yeast is relatively expensive and doubling any ingredient in a recipe increases the cost of the final product. Since I was making my own bread in the first place as a money saving measure, increasing my cost didn't appeal to me. So I decided I would experiment with my usual recipe, using just the normal amount of yeast.
For my first experiment, I made a batch of Pepper Bread dough just as I always do and, before the final rise, I put the dough in a loaf-size baggie and placed it a loaf pan, then put the pan in the freezer. I patted the bagged dough flat after it was in the pan so it was no more than an inch thick as some websites suggested it would freeze and thaw more evenly at that thickness. About three hours later, the bread dough was frozen solid so I removed the loaf pans and just left the frozen dough in baggies in the freezer. The baggies of frozen dough took up only half as much freezer space as one loaf of baked bread ...my first objective of saving freezer space was looking successful!
At 6:00am the next morning when I was ready to leave for work, I put one of the baggie of the dough in the refrigerator to begin thawing. When I got home from work at 4:30, the dough was soft and pliable. I placed it in a greased loaf pan in my dehydrator to begin the final rise. An hour and a half later, it had doubled in size and was ready to bake. When Yeoldfurt got home that night, he had fresh-baked bread with his supper.
For my second experiment, I decided to try freezing the dough in two- to four-inch balls so I could make individual or cloverleaf rolls. I froze the two-inch dough balls two to a sandwich-size baggie and the four-inch balls one to a sandwich-size baggie. Then I put all of the sandwich baggies of dough balls in a larger loaf-size baggie. When I wanted hot rolls for a meal, I put however many sandwich-size baggies I needed in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, then let them rise and baked them fresh the day I was serving them. I used a muffin tin to bake the four-inch balls and a mini-loaf tin to bake the two-inch balls (two balls per mini-loaf slot). If you want cloverleaf dinner rolls, place three two-inch balls to a muffin slot.
Use your imagination. Remember pull-apart loaves of bread? Just use the four-inch balls, pat them flat and stack them vertically in a greased loaf pan. When the loaf is baked, the individual segments will pull apart easily into slices.
Making bread dough can get messy, especially in a small kitchen. Being able to make a double or triple batch and just freeze the dough for when you need it means you only make and clean up one mess instead of two or three. I'm all for saving clean up time!