The taste of homemade bread fresh from the oven is special. Partnered with a cup of fair-trade coffee or tea, it is the perfect guilty pleasure. The question is, when does the dough enter the oven? Here is how to tell if your bread is ready to bake.
A lot of hard effort comes into making a beautiful bread. Baking a bread that tastes good is all about putting your heart and soul into it. Some people might strongly believe that for too long we have been sold bread that is lacking in nutrients and flavor. The time for change is now, and we are glad to see more people taking initiative to bake their own bread in their own time.
And when all the mixing and bread dough kneading is done, all that is left for bakers to do is patiently wait for the dough to rise and proof. The process of waiting for the dough to proof can both be a blessing or a curse. It is a blessing because, for one, you can finally take a break and do something else while it slowly rises because just keeping your eyes on it will not make it rise any faster. And the curse is, well, if you are not too careful, your dough might be under-risen or over-risen. In any case, both are bad and makes all your effort go to waste when you pop the dough into the oven.
Reading this article, we are eager to teach you how to tell if your bread is ready to bake in the oven. But before that, some things take a while to understand. And it is best to understand the difference between rising and proofing dough.
The Difference between Rising and Proofing
While pastry cooks tend to interchange both terms in dough making, both rising and proofing do not mean the same thing. For starters, a dough that has been mixed, then seated in a cozy, warm place where the yeast feeds on broken-down flour and emits carbon dioxide bubbles, will go through the process of rising. We call this the initial rise. It is also during this fermentation process that flavor is formed. Then we have proofing, which is sometimes referred to as the second rise for the dough. Proofing happens after the risen dough is worked into its final shape whether it is shaped like regular loaf, a braided bread, or swirly rolls.
Before we start baking...
Understanding this, we still need to know what the criteria for a successful rising and proofing process are:
Naturally, your yeast is a living being. Every yeast package comes with an expiration date (they should). If you are unsure about your yeast’s rising capabilities, you can find that out by using this test. This works for both active dry and instant yeast:
- Have 1/2 teaspoon of sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water (40.56 – 43.33°C).
- Then have 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast sprinkled over the water.
- Let it sit for 10 minutes. It should be foamy and bubbly.
- If it does not turn foamy and bubbly, time to buy new yeast!
Like most people, it is a whole lot easier to just place the dough in a greased bowl and toss a kitchen towel over it. But here, we want you have a tighter seal for a successful rising and proofing. That said, get yourself a plastic wrap and cover the bowl where your dough is resting, tightly. The keyword is ‘tightly,’ as tight as you can get.
Like most, you would throw a kitchen towel over dough in a greased bowl. We are 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.
If you are wondering what the ideal temperature for rising/proofing is, we strive for a temperature between 23.89 – 25.56°C. It is a temperature that is warm enough to allow the dough to rise and cool enough for flavors to develop within. It is key to understand that too cold of a temperature makes it difficult for your dough to rise, making you wait far too long. Meanwhile, too hot of a temperature might make your dough run the risk of overrising.
Luckily, we have a method that helps you find the sweet spot!
Put your dough in the oven with just the light on; remember not to turn the oven on. This creates a nice and cosy shelter for your dough. In fact, if there is a warm spot next to a radiator or pipe, your dough can relax and chill out there too (with some Jazz music playing in the background for added cosiness). Another method is to set up a cooler with a heating pad for a DIY proofing box.
Suppose you find yourself in a hurry to be somewhere, just let the dough rise and proof in your refrigerator. Here is how you can do it: Wrap it up tightly (it will grow) and refrigerate overnight—allow it to reach room temperature the next day, then only proceed with the next steps of your recipe.
There is no definite time interval to know how long it takes for your dough to rise and proof, as it is affected by external factors. It varies according to the recipe and by the surrounding temperature. In such situation, it is advisable to use your recipe at hand as a guide. Sometimes, your gut feeling plays a part in this too. How would you know it? You feel it in you.
So, is it ready to board the express train to the Oven?
To answer that question, you got to use your eyes and hands.
What to look out for: Your dough should be about double the size it was when it started. If it was in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, use a marker to trace an outline of the dough on the plastic. When the dough stretches beyond that mark by about double, that means the dough is done rising and proofing.
What to feel for: To check that your dough has risen to its full capacity, gently press a fingertip into the surface – if the dough springs back straight away, it means the gluten still has some stretch in it, so you can leave it for a little longer. If the indentation left by your finger does not move, the gluten has stretched as much as it can, and the dough is ready to bake. Do not leave it any longer or the air bubbles will start to collapse, as the gluten will be unable to support them.
You are ready to bake Bread.
In the meantime, here is a bread recipe that you might love. We had such an amazing collaboration with Chef AG from Adrian Heat Asia. Known as the dough master, he is charismatic and no stranger to cameras. The man shows passion and love through the stories he regales us with. We could not be more delighted when he shared his Focaccia from Heaven.
Oh, about the name? To know why its name such, you must try this recipe. Featuring our Rich’s Double Cream, this focaccia oozes creamy goodness. Some even say it tastes cheesy. But here’s the thing… there is no cheese in the recipe! The richness and satisfaction all come from a great baked bread and amazing double cream. Indeed, it is a focaccia fit for all occasions.
Bread-baking is a thing some of us have a passion for, or just picked up along the way. Whether it was fated or not, no one starts off great. The more you pay attention to the details and mistakes you make, the better you get, and the more fun baking becomes. And that is why we love to share our stories and ideas with you. When you become a fantastic baker, the things that you make will soon stand out in their own right—you are free to make up your own recipes and tweak things around. We want just that for you. To be bold, creative, and experimental. But first, you must learn the rules before you can break them in your own artistic way.