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Can Bread Rise Too Long?

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Nothing is more homey than enjoying a slice of bread that you’ve freshly prepared yourself.

This, combined with the warm aromas that fill the entire house as bread cooks in the kitchen oven, has pushed many to learn how to make bread at home. However, there’s a catch.

Not all homemade bread turns out great, and one of the main reasons for this is that the bread dough has been left to rise too long.

As an amateur baker, you probably didn’t know you can ruin your bread when you let it rise too long. 

In this post, we will examine what happens when bread rises too long and how to prevent this.

Raw yeast dough resting and rising in large metal bowl with linen towel

The Role of Yeast in the Bread-Making Process

Yeast is a single-celled fungus that does most of the bread-making work. 

After preparing your bread dough, you are supposed to let it rest to allow the yeast to work its magic.

Of course, this is assuming you have followed your bread recipe to the letter and added the ingredients in the right quantities. 

When you leave the dough to rise, the yeast begins to work on it to give the bread its signature taste and texture. It feeds on the sugars in the flour to produce alcohol which matures the dough and adds flavor to it.

This process also produces carbon dioxide, which forms air bubbles in the dough. As more air pockets are formed, the dough rises and increases in size.

It’s at this point that things can turn messy. 

The more the dough sits out, the longer it continues to rise. This damages the delicate structure of the dough, causing issues with the taste and appearance of the baked bread.

All this information has left you wondering how long you should allow your bread dough to sit before baking it in an oven to make bread. 

Well, most bread recipes call for two dough rises. The first rise is called the bulk rise and takes approximately two hours. This initial rise allows the dough to ferment and attain the right volume. 

The second rise is called proofing and takes 90 minutes to 2 hours. The final rise takes place after the dough has been shaped and placed in the loaf tin.

With the first rise, you have some wiggle room and can alter the rise time based on your assessment of the dough. The second rise is much more unforgiving, and you need to get your timing right to make the perfect bread. 

Wait too long or bake your loaf too soon and the bread will collapse or become dense when you bake it. 

That said, bear in mind that the times highlighted above are not set in stone and are estimates based on thousands of bread recipes available online. 

The rise time of bread dough is affected by many factors, such as the size of the dough, air temperature, humidity, and the amount of yeast, among other factors. 

With so many factors at play, think of the times mentioned in this post as a guideline rather than a strict rule. 

Understanding how bread looks and feels will be key to nailing both rises, and this will happen the more you make bread at home.

the hand of a baker holding bread dough on the table

What Happens When Bread Dough Sits Out Too Long?

Let’s now find out how letting the dough rise too long makes the finished bread worse. 

It Ruins the Taste and Texture of the Bread

Bread that has risen too long has a bad taste and weird texture.

This is because the dough is still fermenting as it rises and allowing this process to go on for a long time leaves the finished loaf with an unpleasant taste. 

The texture of the bread also suffers the longer the dough proofs. The baked bread will have a gummy texture and won’t be sufficiently chewy. 

You will not enjoy your bread if it has a sour taste and gummy texture. As such, it’s important not to let the dough sit too long, or your finished loaf will disappoint everyone in your household. 

The Bread Becomes a Crumbly Mess

Dough that has risen for the right amount of time produces firm bread. The bread doesn’t collapse under its weight and retains its shape when sliced. 

Dough that has risen too long produces dry, crumbly bread that’s difficult to handle.

This is because the longer the bread rises, the more air bubbles it produces. The air bubbles not only dry out the dough but also add large holes that make the bread porous. 

When bread gets to this state, it becomes difficult to handle and collapses under the slightest pressure.

It also becomes difficult to eat since you cannot slice it to enjoy with spreads such as peanut butter and jelly. 

Bread in the mini oven ready for baking

The Bread Collapses When Baking

The other disaster that awaits you when you let your dough sit out too long is collapsed bread.

Properly proofed dough remains firm when baked, but dough that has risen too long collapses because the bread structure is in ruins.

The bread will rise as it bakes but will collapse soon after because the bread structure has been compromised. 

For this reason, over-proofed bread tends to be smaller than properly proofed bread. Knowing this, ensure your bread has been proofed the right way without leaving the dough to sit out for too long. 

under a cotton kitchen cloth of a rising home made bread buns

How to Prevent Dough From Sitting Out Too Long

The recipe will tell you how long you should allow the dough to rise.

To prevent your bread dough from rising too long, follow your recipe keenly when making bread. To keep everything on schedule and keep the dough from rising too long, use a timer to track how long the bread has been sitting. 

Sometimes, the recipe may require you to make a judgment call and decide if the dough has proofed enough. For example, the recipe may suggest allowing the dough to sit for 60 to 90 minutes.

In this case, you should examine the dough after 60 minutes and use the poke test to check if the dough has proofed properly. 

You will know the dough is ready when the poked area remains depressed after pressing. If the poked area bounces back almost immediately, the dough is not yet ready and needs more time to rise. 

Another way to determine if your dough has risen enough is to use markings on the proofing container. 

Mark the original height of the dough on the container. You also want to mark the point where the dough doubles in volume.

When the dough rises to this point, it means it has proofed properly and is ready for the oven. 

Fresh dough with rolling pin. On a wooden background

Can You Salvage Dough That Has Risen Too Long?

Should you notice that your bread dough has been sitting for a long time, don’t make the mistake of baking it in the oven right away. 

Everything we have shared in this post will come to pass and the result will be damaged bread that no one wants to eat. 

You can turn things around by deflating the over-proofed dough and reshaping it back into a loaf of bread. Place the re-shaped dough back into the bread tin and cover it so it doesn’t dry out. 

Let it sit for the time suggested in the recipe and then bake your bread in the oven as directed. 

Final Thoughts

Making bread at home is a fun experience. That said, you want to be careful when you allow the dough to rise because it can be too problematic when it rises too long. 

Monitor your dough keenly and use a timer to ensure the dough doesn’t sit out longer than it’s supposed to.