If you’ve made a pizza or two from scratch in your life, you likely don’t have too many questions about the whole process. Since we make pizza on a regular basis, we rarely have questions either. But not long ago, a situation came up and I thought I’d share what happened. First I’ll let you in on the question that popped into my head…
Is it possible to re-freeze dough that has been previously frozen, and expect good results?
After a day of experimenting, my findings concluded that the answer to that question is yes, pizza dough that has been sitting out on the counter or stashed away in the fridge, completely thawed, can be refrozen.
The results of my experiments are in no way exhaustive. There was no double-blind study with 1000 people. Just me in my kitchen!
So let me share the results with you and a few thoughts along the way.
To start, let’s clarify what we mean by refreezing pizza dough. What I’m referring to is pizza dough that you’ve purchased frozen, and it’s currently sitting on your counter at room temperature, or perhaps it’s in a bag in your fridge, and it’s waiting to be made into a pizza crust.
The question is, is it okay to freeze it at this point?
I never gave it much thought until this happened…
We had company coming over and I wanted to do a fun “make-your-own-pizza night”.
I didn’t have time to make up the dough so I purchased some from my favorite pizzeria. It was freshly made, not frozen.
I popped the bags of dough into my trunk and left the shop. After a couple of quick stops, I was home about an hour later.
I popped open my trunk and was a bit caught off guard by what I saw. The dough had risen and each bag was nearly bursting with its ever-expanding contents.
Between the time it took me to get home and the warm weather outside, my pizza dough, like it or not, had done what I didn’t want it to do until pizza night.
Essentially at that moment, it was ready to stretch out and be made into a pie! The problem was I wasn’t ready! Our pizza dinner was still a few days away.
Initially, my thoughts were not so positive on the outcome because I felt like I was essentially asking the dough to stop its herculean rising action, deflate itself, hibernate in my freezer for a bit and then, after thawing it out later, begging it to rise again without any trouble or intervention from me.
I likened it to an expired coupon…once it’s done, it’s done.
But then, my mind started processing the situation… I’d made lots of bread before and knew that it could handle several “risings”. Why couldn’t pizza dough too?
Nerdy Stuff for Those Who Like the “Sciencey” Things of Life
Warning: I’m going to get a little nerdy on you here!
Making pizza dough is very similar to making regular bread dough. They both go through the same fermentation process.
When yeast is added to flour and water, it becomes an active micro-organism that feeds on the simple sugar found in flour.
As it feeds, it produces carbon dioxide and that gas is what forms the tiny air bubbles you see inside bread. The air bubbles are held inside the bread by gluten, which gives it structure.
So, when bread dough begins to rise and ferment, what’s actually happening is that a gluten matrix begins developing, allowing the structure to develop, and like two by fours in your house, it keeps the bread from collapsing.
In traditional bread-making, bakers will often let their dough rise once, punch it down, and let it rise again.
The reason for doing this is three-fold: it builds better flavor, structure, and texture.
Allowing the dough to rise again creates a stronger structure, better crust, and better flavor.
After being punched down, the yeast continues to feed on the sugar, producing more carbon dioxide, which in turn produces the air bubbles, but now the structure is stronger, the flavor more pronounced and it is less likely to collapse when baking because it has risen twice.
So my thoughts were this…if pizza dough has essentially the same ingredients as bread dough, then it could easily handle the same fermentation process…and a second rising wouldn’t be a problem at all. But would the freezing part of the process affect it negatively?
To get an accurate answer I thought I’d conduct a little experiment and see if there was any difference between pizza dough that had been frozen, thawed, frozen again and re-thawed versus regular fresh pizza dough.
For my experiment, I started with two bags of pizza dough.
Both bags of dough started off frozen.
However, one bag of dough I thawed completely and let rise on my counter for two hours. The dough rose up beautifully, in fact so well that I thought the bag it was in would burst. I then popped it back in the freezer. In the photos, you’ll see that I call this my “R” dough – R for REFREEZE.
Next, I took both bags of dough out of the freezer two days later and let them come to room temperature on my counter.
You’ll see in the photo that after two hours of sitting on my counter, they’ve both risen.
Then, I weighed out 14 ounces of dough from each bag in order to make them into 12” pizzas.
Each piece of dough was then stretched and placed on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.
I kept the toppings simple – sauce and cheese, the same amount on each pie.
Each one was then baked on a pizza stone for 5 minutes in our Wolf range.
The results? Identical pies. No one in my family could tell the difference…not in taste, texture or appearance. By all accounts, refreezing the dough had not made any difference to the end result.
Now, of course, I could’ve done further testing on leaving the dough out for longer periods of time, but my experiment wasn’t meant to be exhaustive. I simply wanted to have some basic answers. I thought I might see a little difference but there was none.
Conclusion? Yes, you can refreeze pizza dough!