The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rise your dough in the microwave

AnnaInMD's picture

Rise your dough in the microwave

A quick proof hint for the microwave as seen in a magazine:

Yeast doughs that normally take an hour or more to rise at room temperature can be proofed in the microwave in about 15 minutes. Place the dough in a very large bowl and cover with plastic. Place an 8-ounce cup of water in the back of the microwave with the bowl of dough in the center, and set the power as low as possible (10 percent power). Heat for 3 minutes, then let the dough rest in the microwave for 3 minutes. Heat for 3 minutes longer, then let rest for 6 minutes. The dough will double in bulk.

ehanner's picture

I don't think I would put the dough in the nuke and run it for 3 minutes.

Yesterday I boiled 1 cup of water for 3 minutes to warm and moisten the oven. Then I removed the hot water and places 4 loaves of WW raisin and cinnamon in pans. The MW oven is located above the baking oven so there is a small amount of heat support rising I suppose. While the oven was pre heating, the dough was proofing. I find that there is no need to cover the dough due to the humid conditions in the MW. The timing works out well for this bread. When the oven is ready so is the dough. I checked the interior temp of the MW was 81F after the 45 minute proof time.

I also leave the water in, to provide extra heat energy on occasion for longer proofing times.


nicodvb's picture

I wonder what effect will this treatment have on enzymes and lactobacilli. Equally accelerated as the yeasts?

mrfrost's picture

"Method 8:  First check the microwave owner's manual to see if proofing is
recommended.  (Yeast dough rising is not recommended in low-wattage microwave
ovens.)  If so, follow their directions.  Or try this test: 

        Place 2 tablespoons cold stick margarine in a custard
        cup in the center of the oven.  (Do not use corn oil
        spread or shortening sticks.)  Microwave, uncovered, on
        10% power (low) for 4 minutes.  If the margarine doesn't
        completely melt, your microwave can proof yeast dough. 
        (But, if the margarine does completely melt, your micro-
        wave oven puts out too much power at this low setting and
        will kill the yeast before the bread has a chance to rise.)

        If your oven passed the test, place 3 cups water in a 4
        cup glass measure.  Cook on 100% power (high) for 6 to 8
        minutes or until boiling.  Move water to the back of the
        oven.  Place kneaded dough in a greased microwave-safe bowl,
        turning once.  Cover with waxed paper and place in the
        microwave oven with hot water.  Heat dough and water on 10%
        power (low) for 13 to 15 minutes or until dough has almost
        doubled.  Punch dough down; shape as directed.  Place shaped
        dough in microwave safe loaf "pans".  Heat on low for 6 to 8
        minutes or until nearly doubled.  For round or long loaves
        that are shaped on baking sheets or rolls that are shaped in
        muffin tins, you'll have to do the second proofing

nicodvb's picture

What's a safe top limit to the MW power? 100W?

mrfrost's picture

May be hard to say but that could be about right, in a certain sense.

I don't really know how all mw ovens work, but my 28 year old "deluxe" 1000W(?) oven moderates it's power levels essentially by controlling the time the magnetron is turned on. At power level one, it takes it a long time(well over 5 min) to soften cold butter.

Basically, when the magnetron is on, it is always putting out it's full power, but at power level 1(of 10) it is only on 10% of the total cooking period. You can hear the magnetron cycling on and off for various periods depending on the power level set, never turning off at level 10(full power). So I guess you could say that it was effectively putting out about 100W.

Pretty sure my newer, but broken, 9 year old oven worked the same way.

Speaking of funny, the suitability for proofing test got me to wondering about the melting point of margarine compared to butter. I came across this funny and informative article: (link)

ehanner's picture

I have learned more about MW ovens AND butter that I expected today.  Thanks mrfrost for that link on fats.


rodentraiser's picture

 I did too and I am happy about it, as I try to make my own butter when I can afford it. I do know that in shortbread cookies, there is definitely a taste difference depending on whether you use butter or margarine. Recently I made a trip to one of our stores that stocks all sorts of organics and they have about three different heavy creams for sale, some that are from local farms. As soon as I can afford it, I would like to buy all three and have a taste test and also see which cream makes the most butter.

 You can tell I don't get out much. LOL

flournwater's picture

If the microwave is deamed "safe" using the described formula, and the raw dough is covered, what's the purpose of the water except to absorb some of the microwave energy?  Unless that's the intended purpose for the water there's no scientific purpose for the water.

patrick.h's picture

Hi, in reply to flournwater yes, spot on the money, the purpose of adding water is to"soak up" some of the microwave power. Microwave ovens distribute their power more or less evenly throughout the cavity, and the greater the "load" the slower the cook. or in more basic terms the lower the apparent power. Not true exactly but it equates to our understanding.

For the others guys and gals out there, microwaves are most active on fats, sugars, and water, and the action of heating or warming any product, is as direct result of this affinity. the action that produces warmth, is quite simply the agitation of the molecules in food. It is just like rubbing you hands together on a cold day, friction makes heat. When your hands are warm, you stop, same more or less with microwaves.

I confess I do not use mine to proof, its still quite warm here in southern england, but, having a combi microwave I do use the convection side to bake my bread. (including steam)

AnnaInMD's picture

oven sounds wonderful !

Caperchick's picture

Isn't the object of baking bread  that we are doing something in the time-honoured tradition of baking?   We should never have to rush it to the point of zapping something in the microwave.  It somehow lessens the experience in my book.  "Hurry up and wait" shouldn't be part of this magnificient process we call bread baking. Bread baking grounds me.  It's like going home, a meditation, a sacred part of life.

I do however use my microwave in a different way, without nuking, as a rising box.  I have a built in microwave above my stove top.  When the light is on that illuminates the stove top, it heats the inside of the microwave nicely, voila, a warm cozy environment to let dough rise in the normal way.


rayel's picture

Proofing in microwave is an old idea, it goes back to the earliest micros . I agree with caperchick, why hurry, also if it's all about flavor, then the longer proof time is the way to go. I think the earlier microwaves were as mrfrost ponts out, on for 10% of the time at power 1 or 10, it's a convenient way to hold warm a food item for late arriving guests. The newer genre of microswaves I believe,provide power a bit more evenly than the cycling on & off. I am not sure of the mechanics, if that is the right word. The water is to safe guard the microwave oven as well as to absorb energy. Ehanner, I use the microwave to proof, after humidifying with boiled water, but don't leave hot water in. I also brovide a blanket of pot holders between the pans and the heated spot left behing by the hot bowl. I put a thermometer on the pot holder amid the pans, and that drives my use of hi or lo light, or off. Just some thoughts..Ray

Janknitz's picture

I'm not comfortable microwaving the dough to proof it.

In the colder winter months our house is only heated to 63 degrees and that's a bit chilly for the bread unless I have the extra time to wait.  I heat a cup of water in the microwave, and then stick the dough in there to proof--it's insulated and makes a very nice proofing chamber, holding a warm temperature for all the hours in need (as long as some kid doesn't come along and want to make popcorn in the microwave!). 

And I don't have to worry about accidentally turning the oven on and baking my proofing dough!

hanseata's picture

We are trying to coax the best flavor out of our bread ingredients by retarding the fermentation. I fully agree with Caperchick and Rayel - though I have a great oven with "proofing" function I do not use it very often - and never on "rapid proof".

Why would I sacrifice flavor in favor of saving time that is not hands-on, anyway.


bnom's picture

If I do want something to proof at around 75 degrees, I will do as others suggest--heat a cup of water to boiling in the microwave and then put the dough inside.  When I take the dough out after 50 minutes to do a stretch and fold, I reheat the cup of water before replacing the dough. The dough seems quite happy in the warm and humid environment.  

patrick.h's picture

Hi Guys,


Love the website and read it every evening, much to the concern of my better half. Right now I am too tired to join in the discussion in depth. Briefly, there is far too much suspicion where the microwave oven is concerned. It comes from lack of adequate and reliable information and is fuelled by urban myth. Suffice it to say, if you use the device to speed up the production of wholesome family bread, then good for you, better that than the bland supermarket white pap most families get.

Anyone making real bread by any method is to be encouraged, if you feel the need to adhere to the absolute techniques regardless of circumstance, feel free, that’s what makes us all different. Maybe I march to a different band, but I never subscribe to Mantras.  The end result is a journey of exploration, not a dictum.


As far as microwave ovens are concerned, feel free to ask,


Kindest regards


qahtan's picture

Whats all the rush to proof bread, don't you know you get the better flavour, texture when it is slow and easy, let  it take it's own time, it is not an exact science.

If you are going to rush it you may just as well buy your bread...

                         my 2 cents worth..... qahtan

 I know I have said all this before. ;-)))))

berryblondeboys's picture

Not everyone bakes bread for an art form or even to make it taste the best possible taste it can be.  Flavors of bread can be so subtle - as long as it is fresh and has a good consistency, people will love it.


And not everyone has hours and hours to make bread. Busy lives, kids, jobs, realizing you're out of bread and it's 10 pm, so you'll have nothing for breakfast tomorrow, etc. Finding shortcuts help.


And then, there's cost savings (as long as you don't go crazy with equipment and gadgets). Store bought bread is expensive. I can make 2 white loave of bread (with electricity/heating included in the price) for under 60 cents a loaf. Can you find that in the store? Even generics are $2 and like flavored breads with a good crust are $4 and up. (at least around here).


So, while i've never used a microwave, I'm glad someone shared this tip, because maybe it might come in handy for me some day. I bake to save $ and for better flavor, but I find a plain old white bread down with instant yeast is also still pretty darn tasty compared to the store alternatives.

rhomp2002's picture

I put a big cup of water in the microwave and get it boiling.  Then I put the bread with the bowl sealed with plastic wrap in the microwave with the cup of water and let the dough proof there with the microwave off.   Speeds up the proofing and still works well.

KYHeirloomer's picture

Each to his own, of course. But, frankly, I don't begin to understand why anyone would want to sacrafice flavor for such a limited increase in speed.

It's one thing talking about retarded proofs, like in the fridge overnight. Or even a long rise in a cool room. But the microwave, as per the original poster, shaves all of 45 minutes from the total process.

I find it difficult to imagine any circumstances in which somebody had time to make bread at all, but had such time constraints that another 3/4 hour (time which, of course, could be used for other purposes) would be a deal breaker.

berryblondeboys's picture

I find it difficult to imagine any circumstances in which somebody had time to make bread at all, but had such time constraints that another 3/4 hour (time which, of course, could be used for other purposes) would be a deal breaker.


45 minutes is not a little bit of time in my book and to anyone chronically short on sleep. I bake at night (as many do). 45 minutes shorter, means to bed 45 minutes earlier, and so on...

Plus, why do all homebakers need to be artisan bakers? There is room for all sorts of bakers - and if short, easy recipes keeps people satisfied and from buying preservative laden store bought breads, then all the better. WHile it might not be your way of doing it, sharing hints for everyone is welcome.

hanseata's picture

Berryblondeboys, if you like a more distinct sour (German type) sourdough bread and own a breadmachine, you could try my German Feinbrot (see my post "Karin's German Feinbrot").

Just throw all the ingredients in the evening in the machine, run the dough cycle, shape and place the (risen) dough straight from the machine in a floured banneton, sprinkle it with flour, cover it and let it rise overnight at room temperature. In the morning it is sufficiently proofed and can be baked, without your needing to "hold hands" or lose sleep while it rises.


KYHeirloomer's picture

I bake at night (as many do). 45 minutes shorter, means to bed 45 minutes earlier, and so on...

Seems to me you're actually arguing for retarted fermentation and the like. If you put the dough together tonight, let it sit in the fridge, etc. you can cut less into your sleep time, and produce a better bread as well.

Not everybody has to be an artisan baker. And nobody said they did (although you might look at the section heading for these discussions). All I said was that I don't understand the trade off of time for flavor, and you haven't convinced me otherwise.

I am not philosophically opposed to shortcuts. Maybe they're not something I would do, but if they work for others, each to their own. But a shortcut should make a meaningful difference, and I don't think this one does.

But, hey, if it works for you go to it.

ichadwick's picture

Hmmm. Microwaves work by agitating water molecules, which creates friction: this also tends to bread down cellular structures at a certain point. Microwaves are also absorbed by sugars and fats, heating them, too. You can't leave rising dough for very long before it will kill the yeast.

I'm not sure how well the yeast recovers from being agitated like that - does it function as well after being microwaved, or worse? I suspect there's a fine line between the two how long the yeast can stand the energy.

I wouldn't use it, myself. If the dough it not evenly hydrated, it might overheat some of the hydrated areas. Microwaves penetrate thick foods unevenly, too, so the size of the dough ball might affect warming.

Here's what I do. I have a gas oven (GE Profile) with an exhaust vent at the back (faces the front, over the burners). i put the oven on at its lowest heat (170F), leave for a few minutes, then turn off. I put my dough in the bowl (covered) near the exhaust and turn it now and then to distribute the heat better. It warms the sides of the bowl, which helps warm the dough gently. I do this a few times. Doesn't use a lot of gas, and helps gently warm the baking stone before I heat the oven for baking.

AnnaInMD's picture

I just noticed that I posted this MW nuking three ago. In the meantime I have found that during colder months, I now proof my doughs in the MW by setting two cups of very hot water in a corner. Put my dough into an oiled Rubbermaid bowl with lid placed lightly over it (not sealed down) and turning on the light which is underneath the MW to light up the stove over which it is attached. Works beautiful.Not necessarily super quick but a nice steady rise in a humid environment.