The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Proofing a must?

MBaadsgaard's picture

Proofing a must?

Hey, yes, another question by me, you'll be seeing plenty. Sorry, but that is what you get from being so friendly and helpful...


I was wondering about proofing. To me it seems the idea comes from professional baking, where you had to make a bunch of dough, bulk ferment it, then shape it, and then wait for more fermentation for it to be ready for baking.

Yet, I really don't come across recipes where the proofing is excluded from. Is it a must to proof? What are the benefits? Does it relax the proteins and allow for better rise or something?

The reason why I am asking is because I want to mix a dough in the evening, let it rise during the night, get up 1 hour before I have to leave the house, preheat oven, bake, let cool for lunch.

And just want to know if I am losing some quality of the loaf by not punching it down and letting it rise again.


mwilson's picture

If you don't give the dough some proof time allowing it to grow in size (usually until double) the bread won't be as light as it could be. 

dabrownman's picture

make bread the 'no knead' way.  That is the best way to make bread without doing much of anything except mixing shaping and baking and would seem to fit the schedule you want. 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

in almost all cases, and for the reason stated by mwilson above.  It may be a long proofing time, or it may be very short, but generally, for yeasted (wild or commercial) it is necessary in order to give the yeast time to create enough CO2 gas to lift the loaf.  Otherwise you get a brick.

Proofing, however, is not "punching it down and letting it rise again".  That would be additional "bulk fermentation".  Proofing, to me at least, is what you do with an already shaped loaf.  The shaping process unavoidably releases gas from the loaf.  More or less gas is lost depending on how roughly or gently the dough is handled during shaping.  The proofing then does as stated above.

For your purposes though, you should look into proofing already shaped loaves in the refrigerator.  By shaping the loaves the night before and proofing them longer and slower in the fridge you can do exactly as you wish:  get up in the morning, pull the loaves from the fridge for a little bench time while the oven preheats and bake them.  You can also bake them direct from the fridge in most cases, without any bench time to take the chill off.  This technique is used by many to help control the timing of baking to fit into busy schedules.  It sounds like just what the baker-doctor ordered in your case.

Good Luck

DavidEF's picture

Well, your question kinda morphed from top to bottom. so, here are your two answers. Final proofing is a must, but punching down isn't. If you want to let the overnight rise be the only rise, you'll need to shape the loaf that evening, and put it into whatever form, or cloth, or banneton that you want it to rise in. If you're using sourdough, an overnight rise at room temperature is easy to obtain. Just make sure your inoculation of sourdough starter is the right amount for the dough to take all night to ferment and rise. There are some recipes available that use a long rise at room temperature, so the easiest thing is to just use one of those recipes. If you're using commercial yeast, you will either have to figure out how much yeast to subtract from the recipe, so it takes all night to rise, or you could put your dough in the fridge for the overnight ferment. If refrigerating it, you will still want it to spend some time at room temperature before refrigerating, and maybe again after removing from the fridge. All of those timings will have to be figured out.

AFAIK, the reason for punching down is to give the dough more fermenting time in order to develop more flavor. It is definitely more useful when using commercial yeast, for at least two reasons, which kinda work together. For one thing, the yeast doesn't impart much flavor itself, except for just a yeasty flavor. The other thing is that the yeast raises the dough very quickly. With those two things in combination, the dough doesn't get a chance to develop a good flavor profile before it is fully risen. Punching it down, then, starts the rising time over, which gives the dough longer to continue fermenting. Some recipes even call for multiple times punching down. If you're making an enriched dough, where you have other flavors being imparted directly from the various ingredients added, then punching down may still not be needed.

With sourdough, the starter usually has some flavor profile to add to the dough as soon as it is mixed in, and it continues to develop the flavor profile of the dough while it ferments. Also, the sourdough takes longer to raise the dough, so fermentation already happens over a longer period of time compared to commercial yeast. So, punching down is not really necessary for sourdough bread. But, some recipes call for it anyway, and if you want the flavor profile that particular recipe is supposed to produce, you will want to do what the recipe says do.

MBaadsgaard's picture

Quite extensive answers!

I had to reread my post, because I think i miscommunicated something. Sorry about that.

I actually rise the dough in an oiled bowl, then slip it into a preheated clay pot for baking, so it is kind of already shaped.

So proofing is really just to get the air back, after shaping, and only necessary if you don't shape it before bulk fermentation.. ok..

I just assumed the shaping was a manipulation of the dough instead of necessarily punching it down, which was meant to give some improvement of some kind.

Well, thanks guys.