The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Do you HAVE to punch down your dough? What happens if you don't? Is there a specific or best way not to?

Chandler114's picture

Do you HAVE to punch down your dough? What happens if you don't? Is there a specific or best way not to?

I love how soft and fluffy dough is after it rises and you punch it down. About 75% of the time I make Italian bread if that matters, normally I let it rise, deflate it, shape it, let it rest for about 30 minutes or so then bake it at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes (on average, theres a couple other breads that vary in temp and time). However I I was wondering if I HAVE to deflate it? What would happen if I DON'T deflate it?? I just gently shape it into a ball or loaf or whatever shape I'm doing, then rest it and bake it? I understand deflating is supposed to make a better crumb. But I LIKE large air holes! That's half the reason why I eat bread, lol. Also, is there a "best way" to gently shape it while not deflating it? And is there a "best" way to get air holes? I appreciate it, thanks!

*also I often bake a non knead Dutch oven bread that has large air holes but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for an Italian with large air holes.

**also also, I'm sorry it's so many questions. I just like to be thorough!  Thank you again!

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

"Punching down" dough as fallen so deeply out of fashion that I suspect some readers are reluctant to weigh in on your query because they fear it's a joke or a scam.  But maybe not.

No, you don't "have" to "punch down" your dough.  In fact, in the current era of open crumb and holier-than-thou breads, nobody "punches down" their doughs anymore, in general.  Exceptions:  Some uber-gentle deflation can be desirable during or after bulk fermentation to reduce accumulated CO2's inhibition of further fermentation.  And indeed there may be some particular breads out there whose process requires a vigorous flattening to achieve a traditional (and inevitably dense) crumb structure.  But the current fashion is to treat dough as gently as possible so as to preserve and protect gas bubbles within it so that they may grow and produce an airy crumb.  The "best" way to do that is be extremely gentle.  Extremely gentle.  Of course, the dough's hydration, the chemistry of your flours, the vigor of your starter and the efficiency of your monitoring fermentation progress also impact ultimate crumb structure. 

I did a search in the box at upper right for "punch down", thinking that perhaps getting very few hits would be  evidence that the practice is no longer even discussed here.  But in fact there are pages and pages of hits (though very few are recent).  So the terminology is at least still in use. 

Finally, it is often desirable at the shaping stage to very gently flatten your dough to reduce or eliminate any very large bubbles and enable the dough to be folded properly into its final pre-banneton/brotform shape.  But that manipulation cannot be considered a "punch".  More of a light, even "press", depending upon how much the dough needs it.  If it has over-fermented during the first rise, then a firmer overall "press" can promote a more even distribution of the internal gases during the final proof and an opening up the crumb structure of the baked loaf.

Hope that makes sense, and helps. 


David R's picture
David R

Or, to oversimplify, just eliminate the few bubbles that are too big. A certain amount of unevenness is fine, maybe even good - but the really huge bubbles get in the way.