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. Michele

    I notice on the second rise that the cover is not on. Should it not be covered for the third rise? Love the interesting facebook posts and, especially, Flourish!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good eye, Michele! The loaves were covered with the shower cap, it was just removed to get a clearer photo of the dough. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. Beth

    I sure could have used this comment yesterday 😂 because I left a bowl of ciabatta dough much too long and it was overflowing. I didn’t know about the deflating and a new rise like I do now haha so I just used it. Lucky for me it baked right I think because it was my first stab at biga and ciabatta.

    Reply
  3. james freeman

    Would someone please explain how putting a pan of boiling water in with rising bread in a proofing box, oven, or microwave other than temperature help the bread if it’s covered and the steam cannot get to the bread? i have heard it said that the steam makes for a softer loaf.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi James. The reason steam is helpful when bread is rising is to simply warm up the environment that your dough is in. This will help it rise faster than if it were on the counter at room temperature. Steam in the oven is what causes loaves to get a nice high ovenspring, a crisp crust, and a wonderful crackly, crunchy exterior. Steam in the oven is either created by baking your bread in a pan with a lid, or pouring boiling water into a hot skillet at the bottom of your oven. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Maria

    I was taught by my mother to use a clean, flat weave, kitchen towel. It doesn’t stick to the dough. I’ve never had a problem even with the supposed lack of moisture. Mom was born in 1923. No such thing as plastic wrap. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Penny Kneeland

    Why do you put plastic over the loaves while they’re rising? I cover the bowl with greased Saran Wrap for the first two rises in the bowl. Then I form the loaves and cover them with a damp dish towel for the last rise in the bread pans. That’s the way my mother did it, and it works wonderfully. I’ve made all our bread for years, generally 2-3 loaves a week. We eat one fresh out of the oven, I cool the other two and freeze them. When we need a loaf I defrost one in the microwave, it comes out just like warm fresh baked.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your tried and true method, Penny! We like the plastic for ease of use. It doesn’t need to be sprayed, (though it can be of course) and it’s reusable. We like the elastic as well to keep it in plastic and fit snuggly on almost any pan. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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