Fresh breads, pastries, cookies and pastas are always a treat, but they often require a significant amount of time to shape, rise or bake. To get a head start, you can mix the dough ahead of time and store it overnight in the refrigerator. As an added bonus, most types of dough develop a better texture or flavor when they chill overnight.
Make yeast dough in advance by letting it rise overnight in the refrigerator. The low temperature slows the rising time, which also gives the yeast a chance to develop more complex flavors in the dough and produces a final product that is more resistant to staling. Chilling the dough overnight slightly reduces oven spring -- the dough’s last burst of rising as it bakes. Allow chilled dough to come to room temperature before baking.
Pastry dough, such as pie dough, is easier to roll out and more consistent in texture when it chills in the refrigerator for several hours. The extended chilling time allows the moisture in the dough to distribute evenly, eliminating sticky or dry spots. Biscuits and scones also rise higher when the dough rests overnight, with ample time for the gluten to relax. To store the dough, shape it into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
You can make drop, cut-out or slice-and-bake cookies ahead of time if you store the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Chilling the dough overnight helps the cookies retain their shape as they bake. If the dough is cold when it goes into the oven, the fat stays firm longer, which prevents the cookies from spreading. If you prefer cookies that spread and flatten, let the dough come to room temperature before baking.
Store balls of fresh pasta dough in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can roll and cut the pasta first, let it dry slightly, dust it with flour, and store it between layers of parchment paper in the refrigerator. Egg pasta dough sometimes develops a grayish-green color over time, due to a harmless reaction between the iron and sulfur in the eggs. If you need to store the dough for more than 24 hours, keep it in the freezer to preserve the color.
- Cookwise; Shirley O. Corriher
- On Food and Cooking; Harold McGee
- Cooks Illustrated: The Benefits of Resting and Refrigerating Dough for Scones
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