Dough recipes often call for two rising periods, but what happens if you leave it to rise only once?
Important and complex processes take place during the mixing of the leavened dough: the flour and yeast hydrate, the gluten develops, and the enzymes in the flour convert the starch into sugar. This is when the first rise of the dough begins.
Skipping the second rise of the dough can adversely affect the quality of your bread, which will likely have less volume, less flavor, and a dense texture. During the shaping of the dough, some of the gases formed during the first rise are expelled, the gluten network is strengthened, and the yeast cells are rearranged. During the second rise, the yeast, having access to fresh food, continues fermentation, thereby producing additional carbon dioxide and flavoring substances. As the gluten relaxes again, the volume of the dough expands further.
It is always best to stick to the instructions for each recipe. Some recipes call for a single rise, which will be sufficient for that particular dough. However, if the recipe calls for two rising phases, it’s best to do it that way for the best results.
The importance of the first rise, also known as bulk fermentation
Important things happen in the dough during primary fermentation: the yeast starts to ferment the sugars, the gluten relaxes, and the lactic acid bacteria produce acids.
1. Gluten becomes extensible.
When flour absorbs water, the proteins glutenin and gliadin develop into gluten strands and form a complex network. Gluten is a very important element of dough, which gives it its structure and strength and ensures elasticity and stretchability. The gluten structure allows the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to be trapped inside the dough.
Immediately after mixing, the gluten network is tough and too elastic, which is why the dough cannot be stretched and shaped. By resting the dough, the gluten relaxes, its elasticity decreases, and its stretchability increases. Gluten needs about 20 minutes of rest to become stretchable.
While on the subject, you may be also interested in my article on why should you rest the dough after mixing.
2. Fermentation begins
Once hydrated, the yeast begins to feed on the sugars that are formed in the dough as a result of enzyme activity. As a result, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. Carbon dioxide gas causes the volume of the dough to increase, and alcohol contributes to the development of flavors.
3. Flavors develop in the dough
Most of the flavors develop in the first fermentation phase of the dough, due to the presence of lactic acid bacteria, which also feed on the sugars from the flour. As a result of their activity, lactic acid, and acetic acid are formed.
If we keep the dough in a cool place and thus extend the fermentation time, we can achieve much better flavors than if it rises quickly. The optimum temperature for both yeast activity and good flavor development is 24-25°C/75-78°F.
How long should the first rise of the dough take?
According to most recipes, bulk fermentation lasts roughly until the volume of the dough doubles. However, this cannot always be determined precisely. For products with a short fermentation time, this may only take 60 minutes. However, for doughs made with a long fermentation time, the first rising period can be up to 36 hours, with the dough having to be folded periodically.
The length of the first rise of the dough is influenced by the ambient temperature, the amount of yeast, the degree of hydration, and the type of flour.
More precisely, you can tell if the dough has risen well by gently pressing it with your finger. If the indentation remains, the dough has rested enough. However, if the dough springs back, it must be left to rise longer.
Degassing and folding the dough
By the end of the first fermentation phase, the yeast consumes the available food. However, by folding the dough, the yeast cells and the sugars are rearranged, so that the yeast can continue fermentation once it has access to fresh nutrients.
As a result of folding, the relaxed gluten realigns and becomes tight, which increases the strength of the dough. However, we must note that only doughs made from gluten-containing flours need to be folded.
To fold the dough, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface, then use your fingertips to gently squeeze out some of the accumulated gas from the dough, but not all of it. Gently pull the dough from one side and fold it over the top, then repeat this on the remaining three sides.
However, you must make sure that no flour is incorporated into the dough when folding. Then put the dough back in the bowl, seam side down. If you oil the bowl a little, you will be able to remove the dough more easily.
Folding and degassing must be done at least once for doughs with a short rising time of 60-90 minutes. However, during prolonged fermentation, it may be necessary up to three times.
Dividing and shaping the dough
At the end of the bulk fermentation, the dough is divided into pieces of the desired size and shaped into bread or other products. The division must be done gently, not by tearing it, but by clean cutting, so that the structure of the dough is damaged as little as possible.
Do the shaping gently so that the formed gases remain in the dough. After the dough has been shaped, the second rise follows, which is also the final fermentation before baking.
The second rise, also known as proofing
The length of the final fermentation mostly depends on the ambient temperature and the type of dough. Dough proofing can be completed in just one hour at room temperature, and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Dough made with rye flour ferments faster because it contains more sugar than wheat flour.
The dough will undergo another increase in volume during proofing and will approximately double in size again. Properly proofed dough, when gently pressed with your finger, springs back slowly and not completely. If the dough no longer shows any elasticity and the indentation remains, there is a good chance that it is over-proofed.
For a high-quality final product, it is important that the dough is not under or over-proofed when you put it in the oven. Underproofed dough will grow too much in the oven, which will cause the crust to crack. On the other hand, the over-risen dough will no longer have the capacity to grow during baking. If you wish to find out more on the subject, I recommend my article on what happens if you bake the dough before it rises properly.
In order to make high-quality bakery products, the dough needs two rising phases, partly in order to increase the volume to the right extent, and partly in order to develop the flavors. However, it is always best to work according to the recipe.
• During the first rise, the gluten in the dough relaxes, the yeast performs the fermentation, and flavor substances are produced. • When shaping the dough, part of the carbon dioxide is squeezed out, the structure of the dough is strengthened once more, and the yeast gets fresh nutrients. • In the second fermentation phase, the refreshed yeast can continue to work, so we can achieve a further increase in volume and even better flavors in the dough.