How come I always have problems with bread dough rising? I’ve heard this question a hundred times.
Some yeast doughs don’t rise because they have too much sugar, salt, flour, or fat (take your pick).
The environment where you put the bowl of dough can make a difference.
Especially in a chilly winter kitchen, knowing where to place dough to rise is key to your yeast’s happiness.
The good news is yeast WILL grow, divide reliably, regardless of how experienced you are or how new you are.
Unless there are extreme conditions of stress: high or low temperatures, old age, or a severe imbalance in the ingredients, make bread dough rise.
It may take your sweet dough forever to rise, but yeast will eventually work its magic. Bread dough takes a while to rise, so most of us don’t like waiting for it.
Will you rearrange your schedule to let yeast have the exact amount of time it needs – both in dough and on the counter?
Yeah, I didn’t think so. You can control the rising time of your dough pretty easily if you make a “healthy” dough with the right ingredients.
You just have to know where to put the dough to rise.
The Best Dough Rising Places
Warm places are best for letting dough rise. You should be able to use your counter on a warm day. It’s actually okay to use your oven if it’s cold in your kitchen.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees for 1-2 minutes, then turn it off. You need to grease a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the oven to double in size (about 45-60 minutes).
You Can Let The Dough Rise In Your “Steamed” Microwave
For years, savvy bakers have used this technique. Put a couple of cups of water in your microwave and bring it to a boil. It takes me 3 minutes.
Replace the bowl of water with your bowl of dough (uncovered), and quickly close the door after four to five minutes (for the microwave to gradually cool down).
Within an hour or so, your microwave’s interior temperature will drop down into the 70s, making it an ideal rising environment.
Just use a smaller amount of water and barely boil it if you forgot to boil the water ahead of time.
(Though it won’t stay in that zone as long) the microwave’s temperature will drop more quickly into yeast’s comfort zone.
A word of caution: hot water is dangerous, so be careful when taking it out of the microwave. Don’t mess with it until it stops bubbling and calms down!
You Can Put Dough To Rise In Your Oven That’s Turned Off
Putting dough in the oven after warming it briefly and turning it off is popular among bakers. It’s just that I forget and preheat the oven way beyond what’s necessary, then I have to wait until it cools down.
To get the temperature up, I just turn on the oven light. My oven temperature is right around 76°F if I turn on the oven light an hour ahead of adding the bowl of dough in the winter (when my kitchen is cold).
After I put the dough in, I let the light shine for another 30 minutes or so, then turn off the light to let the temperature inside come back down.
Different ovens and kitchens produce different results. However, I urge you to take the time to see how efficiently a lightbulb heats your oven, so that the dough rises like a dream.
Use A Closed Container For Dough To Rise
Like your great grandma used to do, why don’t you drape a towel over your rising dough? You’re trying to make an environment that’s not only warm, but humid too.
Humidity? The skin of the dough stays soft and supple due to moisture, so it rises better. If you use cotton towels, moisture will escape, but if you use plastic (or a Snap-On lid) it will stay in.
It’s best to use a food-safe plastic dough-rising bucket. I use it not only for moisture-trapping, but also to gauge when the dough has doubled.
A Foolproof Solution
Electric dough proofers are the home baker’s version of the pro’s retarder, which is a countertop device that controls temperature and humidity.
It is safe to use when you’re not around, since it keeps the dough, bread, or rolls warm as you walk away without any cold drafts or temperature swings to upset the apple cart.
I highly recommend this tool if you’re passionate about baking bread (and also use it for tempering chocolate, making yogurt, and proofing sourdough starters).
You can easily store it because it folds down. Despite its convenience, a countertop proofer is not required to raise yeast dough.
Warm, humid environments are ideal for yeast, and there are many ways to provide them for your rising dough.
In order to get the best flavor from your dough, you must raise it at the right temperature. As the dough rises (up to a point), it develops a stronger flavor.
On the other hand, dough that rises too quickly produces bread that is bland. Once you hit the sweet spot – warm enough so the dough rises quickly, but cool enough so the flavor develops – you’re golden.
It has been shown that yeast grows and tastes best between 75°F and 78°F.
While keeping the whole process within a manageable timeframe, this temperature range allows yeast dough to develop flavor.
It can be difficult to maintain a kitchen temperature between 75°F and 78°F. As for my kitchen, it’s usually 62°F to 65°F in the winter.
Whether it’s winter in your area or you’re running the AC, your kitchen might have trouble staying in the 70s if it’s too hot outside.
It is common for bakeries to use temperature-controlled “cabinets” called retarders for letting the shaped loaves rise.
Likewise, rolls rise first at a cool temperature (often overnight), so that flavor can develop, and then at a warmer temperature just before baking, so that everything proceeds smoothly.
In order to control the rising environment for your dough, you should use a retarder.
Putting Dough To Rise: More Options
It can be placed on top of your refrigerator or water heater. Generally, major appliances that run continuously generate a bit more heat than their surroundings.
Low-heating pad on top.
To prevent the bottom of the dough from “cooking”, wrap the heating pad in a heavy bath towel.
Near a source of heat.
The best place to stay warm is somewhere nearby, regardless of whether you have a wood stove, radiators, or baseboard heat.
Unlike other solutions, this one does not provide foolproof protection because the heat may cycle on and off.
Preheated in a cooler with boiling water. In effect, it’s similar to using a microwave oven, though it’s not quite as convenient because there isn’t a window to see the dough rise.
For several minutes, place a bowl of boiling water inside your closed cooler. Add the uncovered bowl of dough to the cooler after removing the bowl of water.
You can let your dough rise in your sun room if you happen to have one. Your bowl of dough should be placed next to a window when the sun comes in through the windows and heats up the room.
Above the refrigerator
You can let your dough rise on the top of the refrigerator. It is a favorite spot for many people! I don’t have space on top of my refrigerator for a bowl of dough, but if it works for you, go for it!
Next To A Window
If you have a window in your house that gets a lot of sunlight, that can be the perfect place to let your bread rise. To keep your dough warm, you can place it near a sunny window while the window is closed (to avoid drafts).
It’s all been about the dough’s first rise in the bowl so far. How will it turn out once it has been shaped and placed in a loaf pan?
It doesn’t matter if the dough is shaped or in the bowl, most methods work equally well. Your oven is an exception.
Even though you swear you won’t forget and will remove your loaf pan before turning the oven on, you don’t want it inside the oven while you preheat it.
There have been multiple times when I have been in that situation.
Identify another warm spot and place the pan there. You can seal moisture on your pan with an elasticized shower cap (or bowl cover) if you’re not in a humid environment (e.g., your microwave or cooler).
Let your dough rise, bake your bread… and eat it!