Left the dough on the counter overnight! Can I still use it?

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After mixing the dough, our recipes only require two hours at room temperature for their initial rise (assuming you’ve used lukewarm water); then the container goes into the refrigerator where it can be stored for up to two weeks (depending on the recipe). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the answer to this question depends on whether there were eggs in the recipe. Their website says that eggs should be refrigerated after two hours at room temperature (see their website, scroll down to relevant section).

For our doughs without eggs, when we’ve occasionally forgotten a batch and left it on the counter overnight, we’ve found that this has little effect on the final result, maybe just shortens the batch life by a day or two.

So, what would USDA recommend if you’re doing a long rise with dough containing eggs? Sounds like the first two hours are safe at room temperature, then into the refrigerator to complete the rising. We leave it to our readers to decide about how to handle egg doughs in light of USDA’s recommendation.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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142 thoughts on “Left the dough on the counter overnight! Can I still use it?

  1. OK, so the unrefrigerated resting time is half that of the refrigerated resting time when using fresh, unrefrigerated dough. That’s very helpful. The fact that you’re still involved answering emails and helping your fans speaks volumes about your commitment to helping people make healthful, fresh, non-processed (not to mention delicious) food, and not just selling books. Thanks for being available to all of us fans!

    • I left the traditional artisan dough recipe on the counter over night! Can I still use it? There are no eggs in it just water,flour, salt, and yeast.
      Thanks,
      Kristie

      • Hi Kristie,

        Yes, I have done the same thing many times, it is still perfectly fine. You may want to refrigerate it first, so it isn’t so sticky.

        Thanks, Zoë

  2. Hello! Does this also apply to brioche dough, which has raw egg in it? I’ve left a batch out (because it has risen, but hasn’t fallen yet) for about 3 1/2 hours. Is it still safe to use?

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, the dough will be just fine to use. You don’t want to leave brioche out overnight, but an extra hour or so will not ruin it. I know this, because I have done it on several occasions. For next time, you can put it in the refrigerator after the first two hours and allow it to finish rising in the refrigerator.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. I don’t know if this is the right place to ask, but feel free to delete my message and email me or send me a facebook message.

    I have a very small refridgerator and the bucket just WON’T fit. My first floor is basically the basement with minimal heating. Off of the living room, I’ve got an unheated furnace room with one small window and some space to spare. If I don’t think it will go below freezing (or for not very long if it does) can I put the bucket of dough during the autumn and wintertime? I’ve got four kids and being able to make full (or double!) bathes of dough would help me a whole lot!!!

    Thank you so much,
    Sandra

    • Hi Sandra,

      it will really depend on how cool your room gets. If it is too warm the yeast will stay too active and lose rising power quickly. If it is too cold it will freeze, but then you can just defrost it. You really shouldn’t do this with any dough that has eggs or dairy!

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Okay so I mixed up this pesto roll dough and didn’t put it in the fridge….oops! It has milk, eggs, and butter in it. Can I still use it?

  5. How and when do I replenish the first batch of dough after having used part of it, say half. Do I just add flour and water like in sour dough or doI add yeast as well?

  6. i’m trying your recipe for the first time (whole wheat bread in 5 mins book),and in my rush – I misread the directions. I let my dough sit in a room temperature kitchen from Friday evening to Sunday evening – about 2 days — not two hours or overnight. I did put the dough in the refrigerator and headed to your blog to find out what to do. Do I need to toss – add more yeast – or what? Laughing Out Loud in Texas! Please tell me what you would do. Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,

      If the dough has eggs or other dairy then I’m sorry to say that you’ll need to toss it. If the dough is just flour, water, yeast and salt, then you can still use it. The yeast has probably been very active over that time, so you may have lost some of its rising power, but it should still work. Even if you just stir a bit of flour into the dough, just a tablespoon or two, it will feed the yeast and get it going again.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Thanks Zoe! No eggs in this batch, so I’ll just add flour and see what happens. One more question — sorry. If I want to make a sub sandwich roll for my son’s lunch – how many ounces (or size equivalent) should the piece I take from the master batch be and could I still shape it basically the same? Thanks so much for your assistance. Love, Love your book – and am ready to do try several of your recipes.

      • Baked some of the batch tonight. It tasted great. Dense but not overly dense. Was moist. Made three small torpedos for my son’s lunch. He’ll have the final say on taste and texture. Thanks for help.

    • If you didn’t have eggs in it I think your fine. I have left mine out and seen recipes where you are supposed to leave it out for 24 hours. I don’t think the extra time will hurt it. It will probably be a somewhat sour taste like sourdough.

  7. LOVE your books! I feel like I’m cheating! I’ve been baking my way through the Healthy Bread in 5 book (much to the enjoyment of my friends and family!) and am always trying to keep things as ‘light’ as possible – yes you can follow Weight Watchers and eat delicious bread!

    I recently made the Maple Oatmeal Bread in the Health Bread in 5 book but omitted the oil (truth be told it wasn’t really on purpose) but having baked up one large and one small loaf of it, I’m wondering if I’m really missing anything – what was it’s purpose?

    The bread was a bit dense – but pretty lighter than other recipes with soaked oats that I’ve made in the past – and other than having the plastic wrap stick the first time around (the 2nd time I sprayed the wrap w/ canola oil while it was rising) I really don’t think we’re missing anything, other than a few hundred calories & fat grams… just curious as to it’s need…

    Thanks again for the great books – after my first batch I was pretty sure I’d never be buying bread again! :)

    • Hi Mary Lou,

      So glad you’re enjoying the recipes. If you enjoy the oat bread without the oil, then who are we to say it has to be in there. ;) The oil will change the texture of the bread, its a bit more tender. But, if you prefer to reduce the calories from fats, then by all means keep on making it this way.

      Cheers, Zoë

      • Thanks!! I do like to make it as directed first – especially when I give a lot of it away – often without testing first (that’s how much I trust you! ;) but in the end it seemed no harm no foul…

        And sorry for posting on the wrong thread – got to clicking around and lost track of where I was …

  8. I’m making Stromboli. I was wondering if I could pre make them. Normally after the dough rises I punch it down roll it out fill it with the meats and cheese then bake them. Could I do all of the above except bake, store them in the frig over night then bake them the next day?

  9. For the Master Bread Recipe, I have been using a flour mixture of 3 cups 7-grain bread flour, 1.5 cups cups whole wheat, and 2 cups unbleached. I go heavy on the gluten at about 1/3 cup. On baking day, I found that even though the dough feels wet, it did not shape that well…almost ‘breaking’ or separating in to what might seem like layers as I would gently work it into a shape as directed. The solution came about accidentally. One day, I had forgotten the rising loaf sitting on the counter and by the time I got to it, it was pretty flat. I simply reshaped it (it felt so stretchy and perfectly wonderful, I just had to have flour on my hands to reshape it) and let it rest another 20 or 30 minutes. Then I popped it into the hot oven. Fabulous! That 2nd rising makes for a fantastic loaf and I’ve been doing it ever since. For my heavy flour blend, this works perfectly!

      • I forgot to mention my favorite addition… I paint the unbaked loaf with water and sprinkle a blend of dark and light flax seeds on it before slashing. Once baked, this bread is so light and delicious with all of the various grains hinting their flavors….and the toasted flax seeds are a big plus!

    • May Liz, Feff or Zoe help me out on this?

      I am baking the Master Recipe from ABi5. I am using exactly the same ingredients as suggested (3 cups 100F water, 6.5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (the package says protein content 10.1))

      I still find the dough very wet & sticky. I cannot shape it at all. It just collapses onto the plate.

      Once done, the bread is chewy & gummy. Plus, it has a very very dense texture with small holes.

      So, I tried adding around 1/6 cup more flour to it. And let it rest for a couple more hours. The density is improved a lot. Now I can see big holes.

      But, the wetness issue persists. Still does NOT take shape, still chewy & gummy.

      Any suggestions? (our room temp is 26 celcius, humidity 80%, 37th floor on the shore=100m above sea level)

      • What brand of flour are you using? Where are you located? Which version of the book do you have (U.S., U.K., China)?

      • 1) Now that I’ve paid a good look at the flour package. It says it’s “TRIPLE SIFTED, UNBLEACHED”. Would the sifting be the main culprit? The link to the flour is:

        http://www.whitewings.com.au/our-range/flour/plain-flour

        2) As for the book, I do not have it at my home right now, (I have already taken into account of any book correction you listed online.) but the front cover looks like this:

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312362919?ie=UTF8&tag=arbrinfimiada-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0312362919

        3) I am sure I was very conscious NOT to knead when mixing up the ingredient. I mixed with ONE WET HAND. It took me ~2 minutes. I tried to mix it faster. But it was so sticky I could barely move my hand in it. I don’t think I can give you a uniform mixture in under 1 minute.

        4) I used warm tap water. Temperature was accurate.

        5) I saw from your video (and a few from others) that when you take your dough out for 2nd rise & gluten cloak, the dough won’t stick to your hand any bit. But mine keeps gluing to my hand (even though I’ve dusted it with flour). I had to literally SCRUB off the leftovers off my hand afterwards. That’s how sticky it is! :)

        6) I am from Hong Kong. You been there before?

      • Never been to Hong Kong. Someday.

        Well… I think we’re running into differences with flours. We tested strictly with US products, and my guess is that the flour you’re using simply absorbs water differently. Just adjust the water (downward) until it looks like the consistency you see in our videos, and you should be able to use this flour.

  10. I have a question, my husband was attempting to make cinnamon rolls and left the dough out for 8 hours – it has egg in it. He baked them as soon as he got home but is now worried – will it make him sick? Should he throw them out??

  11. Several questions:
    1) why do we have to cover up the container during dough rise?
    2) Why does it have to be NOT airtight?
    3) Once I left my dough (master recipe ABin5)to sit overnight during 2nd rise, it gives off a strong “sour” smell, but then I went ahead to bake it & ate it. Nothing bad happened to me. Was I lucky or was it normal?
    4) If I ever incorporate sugar &/or raisin/oatmeal into the dough, how should I adjust my water content to give the same consistency. Likewise, how does it affect my rise time and baking time?
    Thanks for answering my question!

  12. One more question:
    5) in the recipe for OATMEAL BREAD of ABin5, in step 6, the instruction for 2nd rise is: “just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough”
    Why do we have to perform 2nd rise anyway, after shaping & gluten cloak, if using fresh, unrefrigerated dough? Isn’t it supposed to have been fully risen already after having been rested for hours in room temp?

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