Over-proofed dough: How to save an over-risen loaf

A question posed by a reader in a recent issue of Sift magazine covers familiar territory for many of us yeast bread bakers: how to deal with over-proofed dough. “Every once in a while I have over-proofed dough. So what can I do with it? I just hate waste and don’t want to throw it away,” writes Colleen Guertin.

Thankfully, there’s no reason to throw away a batch of yeast dough that’s simply risen too much.

Sift food editor Susan Reid writes, “Most yeast doughs have a third rise in them, as long as the yeast used in the recipe is either active dry or a type of instant yeast that isn’t designed for one quick rise (such as rapid-rise yeast). If you come back to your rising loaf and see that it’s oversized and puffy, turn the dough out of the pan and reshape it. Return the dough to the pan and set a timer for 20 minutes (each rise goes faster than the last). Put the bread in the oven when it’s no more than an inch above the edge of the pan, so there’s some energy left in the dough for nice oven spring.”

Let’s put that advice to work here. We’ll make two loaves of bread using our Classic Sandwich Bread recipe. Note: This technique generally doesn’t work with sourdough bread, which has usually already undergone quite a long fermentation process before its final rise.

Can your over-risen yeast bread be saved? How to turn over-proofed dough into a lovely loaf. Click To Tweet

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

How to save over-proofed dough

Here’s the risen dough, ready to shape and put into the pans.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Notice there’s a lot of room for the dough to expand here. If your log of shaped dough fills the pan full or nearly so to begin with, you need a larger pan.

Broadly speaking, any recipe using 3 1/2 cups of flour or less can be baked in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan; more than 3 1/2 cups of flour, move up to a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Let the loaves rise.

Wait — you don’t use a plastic shower cap (or bowl cover) to tent your rising yeast loaf? Get with the program!

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Perfect. The loaves have risen 1″ over the rim of the pan. Pop them into your preheated oven and they’ll continue to rise into nicely domed loaves.

But wait — what if you space out on Facebook, or have to make an emergency run to school to deliver your kid’s basketball uniform?

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Whoops. This loaf, towering a good 4″ over the rim of the pan, is severely over-risen.

What would happen if you baked this bread as is? We’ll see later on. But for now, let’s perform an emergency rescue.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Deflate and reshape your over-proofed dough

First, deflate the dough. It actually feels kind of satisfying to press all that air out; you know, like you’re breaking the rules and getting away with it.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Next, reshape the dough into a loaf.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Place it in its pan.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Let the dough rise again, then bake

Let the loaf rise no more than 1″ over the pan’s rim before popping it into your preheated oven.

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

Success!

Here are our two baked loaves, side by side. On the left: the “remembered” loaf, baked at the proper time. On the right: the forgotten loaf, deflated and allowed to rise again before baking.

Notice the loaf on the right, with the extra rise, actually rose a bit higher — thanks to the extra yeast activity inherent in two rises rather than one. And the flavor? No discernible difference between the two.

Is it possible to build an extra rise right into your recipe? Sure; but it’s easier to let the dough rise twice in the bowl, rather than twice in the pan.

And what about that over-risen loaf that went right into the oven without being deflated and reshaped?

Over-proofed dough via @kingarthurflour

How the mighty have fallen!

Because the bread had risen so much before it hit the oven’s heat, there was no more capacity for additional expansion in the oven. It rose; it fell; it collapsed. Still tastes good, but not a pretty picture.

So, can over-proofed dough be saved? Absolutely. Simply follow the steps above, and you can turn this potential culinary disaster into a perfectly lovely loaf!

Interested in more great baking advice from the experts — along with incredible recipes, great writing, and breathtaking photography? Find our Sift magazine at your local Costco, Whole Foods, Barnes and Noble, Wegmans, Sam’s Clubs or other retailers. Or purchase it online.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Donna Chavez

    My problem isn’t over risen dough. It is a loaf that virtually mushrooms over the top of the loaf pan in the oven. I’m using the recipe for Buttery Sourdough Rolls to make a loaf of bread. My starter is VERY active in the jar so I cut down on the yeast (from 2.5 tsp to 2tsp). I’m careful not to let it proof too high in the pan. But when I take the bread out of the oven it can rise as much as three to four inches over the top of the pan. I have to trim it to fit in the toaster! What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You might try using a 9″ by 5″ pan as opposed to an 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ pan to give your dough enough room to rise high. Also, try cutting back the yeast to 1 teaspoon since your starter is so active. Lastly, use water that’s slightly cool to the touch (not cold) rather than lukewarm. All of these adjustments will help slow down the rate of fermentation of the dough, which means more flavor and a better structure in the final loaf. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Becky Roudebush

    I teach a culinary class and would like to work with yeast dough. My problem is that we only have an hour class. Is there a recipe that could call for a long proofing period, like 24 hours? This way we could prep dough on one day and bake it the next.
    Thanks for the advice!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Becky. There are a couple of ways you can teach about bread in a short period. One, you could use a no-knead bread. That way you could make the dough one day, shape it the next day, and depending on your allotted time, either bake it that day or put it in the fridge for another night once the loaf is shaped, and bake it on the third day. Two, find a recipe that uses a rapid-rise yeast. Unfortunately, we don’t have any so they would have to come from another source, but they do exist. Rapid-rise yeast, available in many grocery stores, allows your bread to rise very fast, usually under 30 minutes. This means less flavor development, but people love the convenience. The third option, which is the one that may give the best experience, is to do something that we do in our baking schools, and make up a batch of dough either the night before or that morning. That way, your students can still make a dough in class so they can get a feel for the measuring and kneading, but you’ll have a dough that’s already risen and ready to shape on hand. They can shape it and let it have its final rise. Depending on the temperature of the room or if you have a proofer to speed up that final rise, you could potentially bake off those loaves in the same day. If you’re in a cooler environment or don’t have a proofer, it may be necessary for you to make up two batches before class; one made a little earlier that’s shaped and almost ready to bake, and one batch to just be dough for the students to shape. You’ll wind up with a lot of bread from these three batches but the remaining dough (from what the students mixed up in class) can be baked the next day after being stored in the fridge overnight. If you have any questions, we encourage you to reach out to The Baking School at 800-652-3334. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Terrie

    Thanks for this good information! I’m generally a sourdough baker, and you mention that this method isn’t the best for sourdough because of the lengthy fermentation. Is there another feasible rescue method for the sourdough oopsies that happen from time to time?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can try this method, Terrie, but it’s pretty likely that the finished loaf will be on the denser side. Still delicious though! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jim. That sized pan will likely hold a 1 1/2 pound to 1 3/4 pound loaf. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Laura

    I normally do my regular (not sourdough) recipe in the breadmaker (Dough setting). Sometimes I forget about it. It seems to go through 2 proofing. Anyway the question I have is this, if I take it out and re-shape it, do I wait for another proofing? I haven’t been – just reshape and bake straight away.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Laura, if this method has been working for you, then feel free to use it going forward. However, if you let the dough rise (or go through a final proof) after shaping, the loaf will have a more open crumb and rise higher than if it’s baked straight away. The final loaf will be slightly more tender as well; we bet the loaves you’ve been enjoying have been tight-crumbed and slightly dense. Choose whatever method makes sense for the kind of loaf you’re hoping to bake. Kye@KAF

  5. Peggy Ward

    Slicing the bread is hard. It squishes up and cannot slice it. Why? I can get the first chunk but then when you try to cut it it bends in the middle.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you’re working with some soft, delicate bread, Peggy. The first thing to make this task as easy as possible is to ensure you’re using a very sharp, serrated bread knife. Next, try using a sawing motion rather than exerting downward pressure, which can make soft loaves collapse. Lastly, you can consider using bread flour and/or baking your loaves slightly longer next time. These two things will both give the bread more structure, which might be helpful when trying to make even slices. Practice makes perfect, so just keep at it. Slightly smushed bread still tastes delicious! Kye@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Cynthia, you mean the final shot of the over-proofed loaf? It’s partially nice natural lighting; the inherent satiny sheen of the crust really comes out. And partially the recipe itself: the touch of sugar promotes browning. I think if you make the recipe (linked from the top of the post, right under the photo), you’ll get that same crust. Try it — PJH@KAF

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