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I was trying to make cinnamon rolls but noticed that I’m missing two cups of flour and it’s too late in the night for me to get more. I’ve already made the mix (yeast, milk, and sugar) and added two cups of flour (I need 4 cups for the recipe).

Is it okay for me to refrigerate the mixture and just continue my buns after tomorrow when I get more flour? They have not been through their first rise yet since it’s not full dough yet, just a lumpy mixture. I’m hoping the fridge won’t kill the yeast.

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  • Do you have bananas? One can substitute bananas for flour in sweet foods.
    – SF.
    Mar 28, 2023 at 13:26
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    @SF. I don't know if that suggestion will work with cinnamon rolls, since they're yeasted and (should be) shapeable as dough. Currently this mix is (presumably) an extremely high hydration (>100%) dough which will be sloppy and difficult to work with. I doubt bananas would fix that since they won't absorb any water.
    – stanri
    Mar 28, 2023 at 18:15
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    Very related: We already have a q on refrigerating bread dough. So please only add answers here about refrigerating a mixture that still needs more flour added the next day. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/63071/…
    – rumtscho
    Mar 28, 2023 at 19:03
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    How did it turn out? Mar 29, 2023 at 22:12
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    @Aruralreader Any cinnamon roll is better than no-cinnamon roll. I'm sure they were edible, and probably delicious.
    – Criggie
    Mar 30, 2023 at 2:15

2 Answers 2

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The refrigerator won’t kill your yeast, but it will also merely slow down, not stop its activity.

Yeast is most active (multiplying and producing CO2) at temperatures around 30°C - that’s why most recipes suggest letting your dough rise in a warm place. However, the tolerance range is way wider and yeast will still be slightly active at refrigeration temperatures (but perhaps not in the extra cold zones). Bakers use this effect for specific preparations where they rest their dough for sometimes days (no-knead bread is a prime example) or convenience (preparing buns in the afternoon or evening and baking them in the morning).

For your case, simply make sure that the dough mix doesn’t have dry lumps, but a shaggy dough is fine - I would even recommend you don’t fully knead the dough. Then place it in an airtight container with enough headspace or cover it well to prevent drying out and leave it in the refrigerator. A few hours won’t matter and if you leave it longer, you should see activity in the dough.

Proceed with your rolls when you have time, but I would recommend you use visual and haptic clues (e.g. increase in volume and the way the dough feels and springs back) over resting times in a recipe. You may also need not the full amount of flour if your dough had this initial phase in the refrigerator, so add the new flour slowly.

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    Do be sure to bring everything up to room temperature before baking. When I refrigerated a big tray of Chelsea buns (very similar to cinnamon rolls) overnight and only took them out of the fridge an hour before baking, the middle ones were barely cooked through when the outer ones were as dark as I wanted them to get. In this case you'll be kneading in more flour; both the process and the time it takes will help
    – Chris H
    Mar 28, 2023 at 12:18
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You have functionally made a biga!

You'll end up with a kind of sloppy dough mess, that'll look deeply unpromising. This is fine. See biga in Wikipedia.

It's fine to refrigerate, with some caveats - mixing this up and letting it sit in the fridge is a fairly common technique. The fridge will slow but not stop fermentation, so you'll have all of the changes associated with a long ferment - more acidic dough, more developed flavour, a little sourdoughy. This can still work super well.

Caveats:

  1. Yeast eats sugar. You may need to add a bit more
  2. This will be foamy, but doesn't count as a first rise - the proper gluten structure won't form until the rest of the flour is mixed in
  3. your dough will be a little sharper, but the extra flour should help
  4. Once everything comes up to room temperature, the first rise is likely to be fast - so, taking it straight from the fridge, it'll do nothing for a while, then expand like crazy.
  5. If you've not added eggs or butter yet, add them once you've mixed in the extra flour.

Once it's done the first rise, treat it as normal.

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  • Note for who wanted to edit - I think biga is accurate here - with half the regular flour, it'll be a stiff, relatively dry pre ferment, which fits with biga. Plus, it's a fun word to say. You're right about it being a pre ferment, but I think biga is more descriptive here, and I'd sort of handle it like one
    – lupe
    Mar 28, 2023 at 23:11
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    If you are missing half the regular flour (dry ingredient) then you will have a wet dough. Adding more flour will make it drier. As such this is definitely closer to a poolish than a biga
    – ljden
    Mar 30, 2023 at 0:33
  • Absolutely. I have to imagine @lupe meant the opposite of what came out. An off-day, maybe, bot-gen otherwise. Mar 30, 2023 at 3:34
  • @Ijden - sorry, I meant dry for.a pre ferment, which can be pretty liquid - I'd guess this would be like a very wet dough, or a very dry pre ferment - I'm sort of used to pre ferments being almost pourable
    – lupe
    Mar 30, 2023 at 8:37

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