The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is it possible to overproof?

nicolesue's picture

Is it possible to overproof?


I made the French Loaf using the Lean Dough Recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Everyday (ABED). The recipe said to leave the dough in the refridgerator overnight for fermentation, and it will double/triple in size after 4-12 hours. I took it out the next day, and noticed that the dough hasn't doubled at all (not even an inch). So I decided to leave it on the counter for about 6 hours. The dough doubled in volume and look promising. I know it's not a good idea to abandon the dough for too long, fearing overproofing, but the results turn out to be fantastic.

I've made many loaves in the past (using other recipes), where the dough doesn't "LOOK" doubled according to the recipe time, and I went ahead and bake it - I ended with many dense, gummy and heavy loaves - straight to the bin. This time, by neglecting the dough, I actually achieve a dream loaf with plenty of holes on the crumb, and is at least, edible for once.

So, my question is, is it alright for me to overproof my dough? What is the right way, to trust the recipe and go ahead even if the dough doesn't "LOOK" double, or to ensure it is without doubt, before baking. Should I watch the dough, or the clock?

Any advice is welcome.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

99.9% of the time, watch the dough.  Beautiful Crust color!

…is it alright for me to overproof my dough?

No.  It's not good to overproof dough.  Your dough was not overproofed.  If it was overproofed it would look much different, flatter, disk like, and dense, hard to bake through.   I suspect something is slowing down the yeasts in the dough:  cold room temperatures, old yeast, or something else.  Sounds like earlier loaves were underproofed.  Read thru the threads on "poke test" to check the progress of the dough.  There are a few good videos as well.

I actually like slow rises, but then, it does help to reshape the dough while it is rising. Folding the dough under itself helps to distribute large air pockets and strengthen the dough's free-form shape if the dough is a little on the wet side.  

Mini O


Candango's picture

As others have noted above, it is wiser to trust the dough (and your eyes), not the clock.  There are so many factors which affect the rise that make it unwise to trust the time stated in a recipe too rigidly.  Instead, if the recipe says to let the dough rest for an hour, until doubled, then focus on the "doubled" and not the "hour."

By the way, if you ever "overproof" the dough, you will know immediately as soon as you look at it, as there should be a membrane thin skin of dough on the top of the loaf, supported by a cushion of gas produced by the yeast.  At that point it is so fragile that you could not move it to the oven without collapsing it.  It would be best to punch it down, reshape it and let it rise again and then bake it,

ZD's picture

Your loaf looks like an over proofed high hydration loaf I made one time. Two large loaves from the same batch, first one was good the second one looked like yours. Under developed gluten may have been involved too. Note the horizontal line in the loaf, to me that indicates a liquid like state.

Yes watch the dough not the clock, but if your time is way off from the recipe time it is a learning opportunity.

Greg R.

MapMaker's picture

What is happening when you punch down, reshape and let the dough rise again?  Isn't there less of something that is needed to create the rising?  What is the limiting factor?  How many times could you restart the rising process?  Just curious.

koloatree's picture

I vote 3-4 times. I have been measuring the amount of volume a dough can rise from its original state, and it seems that most recipes that I have tried, ~4 times is what I have seen.

nicolesue's picture

Dear all,

Thank you so much for your invaluable advice. I feel much more informed about the condition of my dough now! Will keep baking & learning...

This is a great site by the way!


hanseata's picture

I once overproofed one of my German sourdough rye/wheat breads by trying to refrigerate the already shaped loaf overnight - it caved in as soon as I scored it, and came out of the oven as a brick.

ehanner's picture

When you introduce cooling to your proofing procedure, you add a vew variables that are hard to control. It matters what your dough temperature is when you do your bulk fermenting. It matters how cold your refrigerator is and how long the dough is in there. When you remove the dough, it matters where the dough sits as it comes up to room temp. When I look at your image, I see a bread that is nicely colored on top and sides but blond on the bottom. The crumb texture in the bottom 1/3 of the bread is more dense than the top 2/3. This means the stone wasn't warmed up or it isn't on the bottom 1 or 2 racks. It is quite a bit warmer in the top of the oven which would explain the difference in color.If you are using a stone, it needs to be preheated for at least 45 minutes before baking.

I don't think I have ever had a loaf triple while being chilled overnight. That just goes against the principle of bacterial activity slowing down in cold temperatures.


nicolesue's picture

Hi Eric,

Wow! good observation skills. I noticed a difference in the texture between the top and bottom of the bread, but was too amatuer to pick up anything insightful. I do admit that the bottom part of the bread was not as hot as the top when bake, hence the difference. Will keep this in mind for the next loaf.

Many thanks.


ZD's picture

One more thought to add to Eric's excellent response is the variable caused by the amount of dough when retarding. Large amounts of dough rewarm very slowly. I have much better bread when I use smaller amounts of dough.

ackkkright's picture


I've been bread-baking enthusiastically for about a year. The length of fermentation, and knowing when the dough is "ready" remains the most mysterious aspect for me.

I like to be able to judge by the time, as I can do other things while the dough does its thing; return to it and then move on. I find that I can get it just about right and have consistent results, and then the season changes!

I had it right last summer, then suddenly I was consistently underproofing. So I began increasing the preferment and lengthening the proofing time until it was right again, only to find that I was soon overproofing!

Levain finds a big difference between the low 60s and the low 80s!


Candango's picture

Given the wide extremes of temps (from low 60's to low 80's), I would guess that you are doing your fermenting and proofing on an unprotected kitched countertop in summer and winter.  If you get a small, inexpensive oven thermometer, you can measure the temp in your oven with only the oven light on for warmth.  It should measure between your two extremes but should be consistent both summer and winter, with not much variation.  This will take some observation on your part in the beginning to determine the ideal "average" rising or proofing times for your various recipes, but with your temperature at a near constant, you should not have to make the great changes as the seasons change.  Hope this helps.