The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When to start counting raising and proofing time?

jenato's picture

When to start counting raising and proofing time?

In some recipe raising and proofing time indications (only indications I know) are given.

Do you start counting raising time at the moment you put the levain in contact with the flour? or at the moment you finished kneading?

The same for proofing. Shall I start counting after shaping or before? 

I ask because sometime it takes me 25min to knead and 25min to shape... so that s a significant difference.

DanAyo's picture

Hi Jen, The following are my opinions and others may see things differently.

I see the Bulk Ferment time starting when the dough is put into the container. The proof time starts after the dough has been shaped and set aside. BUT regardless of when these times commence it is best to gain enough experience to “watch the dough, not the clock”. With that said I realize that until this experience is aquired, the times given in the recipe can be helpful. Both the temperature during fermentation and also the activity of the starter have a large affect on the dough.

I hope this helps. 


Additional thought... the general consensus as of late is to allow the dough to bulk ferment until the dough volumn increases by 30-50%.  For proofing, check this video out. It may help.

David R's picture
David R

... is to be consistent with yourself, by always starting your timer the same way, and not constantly switching methods.


My gut feeling is to start the timer after you're finished kneading or finished shaping, and to gradually hone your skills to reduce the time those steps take.

davidg618's picture

Fermentation begins when flour, water and yeast are mixed together, and once started it continues until either the dough is frozen, or baked, which basically is all the control you have over the time of fermentation: you can slow its rate down or speed it up (chemically, physically, and temperately), but you can't stop it except at the afore mentioned extremes.

Hydrating time, mixing time, resting time, bulk fermenting time, shaping time, proofing time, baking time and cooling time are your's to plan, execute, and change for the better along the way. 

Like Danny, I time my baking steps logically:  Hydrating time: I plan "X minutes" and stick to that interval; I Watch the Clock".

 Mixing: timer interval "when I'm done"."Done" is defined for me "when the dough looks and feels done".  At the beginning of the second year I worked at improving my baking skills I covered my stand-mixer and, for the following year, mixed every dough I tackled by hand to learn the "feel" and the "look" of the dough. Late in the second year I went to Norwich, VT to a weeklong baking course at King Arthur. When asked "why did I go?" I replied, "Because I wanted to "feel" other bakers' doughs.

Resting time(s): I stick to a ridged time interval, and I "Watch the Clock". When I do Stretches & Folds I start a new Rest interval after each one, and :I "Watch the Clock".

Bulk fermentation: I've already noted the time I introduced the water, flour and yeast to each other. I subtract all the minutes since--while I was doing all this other stuff--from the planned "Bulk fermentation" time. Then I usually set the alarm and go to bed. The alarm "Watches the Clock" for me.

By this time I've probably p**sed you off with all these words, so I'll quite here.

The point is baking bread is a process. Depending on how you chop it up the process consists of a few or many steps. And the number of steps may vary from dough to dough. For many of those steps the Clock is your friend. For the rest of the steps, it ain't your enemy, but it doesn't help. 

Those critical steps are up to you: mixing, shaping are literally 'in your hands" your job is to teach them. Sometimes they take a seemingly long-time (shaping your first baguette is a good example), but you'll notice that your 50th baguette takes only seconds. You'll teach yourself Hydration has to be at least 20 mins, so for that step, you'll Watch the Clock.

My recommendation is acknowledge the process, master the steps. (I think resting, and overnight bulk fermentation are the easiest.

Happy baking

David G