How to Tell When Bread is Proofed
Ease the burden of proof(ing).
By Leah Brickley For Food Network Kitchen
The hard labor of mixing and kneading bread dough is done. Now it's time to passively wait for it to rise/proof — and watching won't make it grow faster! Don’t let all that effort go to waste by baking under-risen dough (or by letting it overrise). Here's how to ace the rising/proofing process.
Rising and Proofing — is there a difference?
Although the terms rise and proof are often used interchangeably, they are different. Dough undergoes an initial rise (after it’s been mixed) and sits in a cozy, warm place where the yeast feeds on broken-down flour starches and belches out carbon dioxide bubbles — hence the growing dough. Flavor is formed during this fermentation process. Proofing —sometimes referred to as the second rise — happens after risen dough is worked into its destined shape, like a loaf, braid or rolls. Good news, doneness cues are the same for rising and proofing.
Before we progress, here are some key points to successful rising/proofing:
Is your yeast alive?
There should be an expiration date on the yeast package, but here's how to test if you're unsure (for both active dry and instant): Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water (105 to 110 F). Sprinkle a packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) of yeast over the water and let it sit for 10 minutes. It should be foamy and bubbly. If it isn’t then you have a dud — time for new yeast.
What vessel should your bread dough rise/proof in?
Like most, you probably throw a kitchen towel over dough in a greased bowl. We're looking for a tighter seal for success. A 2-quart plastic clear food storage container with a lid creates the perfect warm environment. You can also cover a bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
What's the ideal temperature for rising/proofing?
The optimal ambient temperature for rising/proofing is 75 to 78 F — that's warm enough to rise, but cool enough to develop flavor. That can be hard to achieve in hot summer or winter, but it’s important. Too cold, and your dough will take forever, too hot, and you risk overrising. Here's how to find a sweet spot: Try putting your dough in the oven with just the light on (Don't turn the oven on!) or in a microwave that just zapped a cup of water for a few minutes — that creates a nice balmy hideout for dough. If there's a warmish spot next to a radiator or pipe, your dough can hang out there, too. Or set up a cooler with a heating pad for a DIY proofing box. If you suddenly find yourself in a rush, then dough can rise/proof in the fridge: Wrap it up tightly (it will grow) and refrigerate overnight — let it come to room temperature the next day and proceed with the next steps of your recipe.
How much time does it take to rise/proof?
Total time for rising/proofing will vary by recipe and by the atmospheric temperature. Use your recipe as a guide, but feel empowered to move dough around if you feel like it's growing too quickly or slowly.
How to tell when your dough is done rising/proofing?
The signs are the same for both rising and proofing:
Look: Your dough should be about double the size it was when it started. If it's in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, then use a marker to trace an outline of the dough on the plastic — the dough is done rising/proofing when it stretches beyond that mark by about double. If you're checking on shaped dough for the second rise/proof, then it should also be about double in size.
Feel: Bread dough that has successfully risen/proofed will spring back slowly when poked and leave an indent. If it snaps back too quickly, it needs more time.