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


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

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!


  1. Tanya Scott

    I have made the whole wheat no knead bread twice now, and both times overproofed it (I was checking at 60 minutes per the recipe, but it looks like 40 minutes is when it was probably ready). Can I use this method on the no-knead bread, since it seems to be such a wetter dough?

    Also, my bread is falling apart after I slice it. Is this due to the overproofing? Thanks for your help! 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Tanya! You sure could use this method if your no-knead bread over-proofs. If you live in a warmer or humid climate, then we’d suggest checking on your sooner then listed in the recipes, as those two factors will increase the rate of fermentation.
      The crumbling could be caused by over-proofing but it is also commonly the result of a dough that is too dry. To ensure you’re using the right amount in the recipes, we recommend checking out the “Recipe Success Guide,” link next to the ingredients header on the recipe page. You’ll see that either measuring your flour by weight using a scale, or fluffing and sprinkling the flour into your measuring cup are the best ways to ensure you’ve got the right amount. We hope this helps and happy baking! Morgan@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there! In this article, we used 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  2. Beth

    I was wondering about this just the other day! Glad to have the information. Thenks for the shower cap tip, too – I was not with the program.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Jackie! This technique doesn’t typically work out with sourdough bread because the dough has already gone through a longer fermentation period before the final rise. Kindly, Morgan@KAF

  3. Cindy

    My whole wheat bread looks beautiful going into the oven but many times come out lopsided with 1 side higher than the other. Is this caused by not letting them rise enough, overcrowding, uneven temp, or some other reason? Thank you

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Cindy! We wonder if it is how the loaf is shaped? If the dough isn’t shaped tightly enough it will expand in whatever direction it would like, which can result in a loaf that rises higher on one side than the other. We hope this helps and happy baking! Morgan@KAF



    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sarah, for recipes that call for “fed” or “ripe starter, you’ll feed it, then wait for it to double in size (usually about six to eight hours) before using. If your recipe is for “unfed” or “discard” starter, you can just measure the appropriate amount of starter from your discard jar and use it right away. Hope that helps! Kat@KAF

  5. Debra L Saxton

    Hi… I’m wondering if I can use coffee creamer instead of powdered/dry milk…would I need to account for the extra sugar content…Your thoughts? Debbie

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Debra. We don’t see why that would be a problem. You can reduce or remove any added sugar if you want but it’s usually such a small amount that it might not make a noticeable difference. Annabelle@KAF

    2. Doug Downie

      I don’t keep powdered/dry milk on hand. I leave it out and use whole milk in place of the water.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *