Desired Dough Temperature: The key to achieving consistently great results in your bread baking

When the seasons change it’s not uncommon for our Baker’s Hotline to hear from frustrated bread bakers who can’t understand why their favorite bread recipe has suddenly turned on them.

“I’m doing everything exactly the same, but my bread is falling in the oven.”

The problem is that while you’re doing everything the same, the conditions in your kitchen have changed.

As warmer weather arrives, your kitchen (and the ingredients stored in it) are heating up. These changing temperatures affect how your dough performs, even when you keep faithfully to your baking routine.

So, what’s one thing you can do right now to improve the rise, appearance, and flavor of your yeast breads?

Learn to control the temperature of your dough, from mixing through kneading.

Bringing your yeast dough to what professionals call the desired dough temperature (DDT) helps ensure consistently great results — winter, summer, or anytime during the year.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

What professional bakers know

Professional bakers are expected to provide consistent results each and every day. They know that being able to control the temperature of their dough is the key to achieving consistency.

They also recognize that there are ideal dough temperatures for different types of dough, and maintaining temperatures within a specific range will lead to the best flavor and rise in their breads.

For wheat-based yeast breads, professionals have determined that the ideal dough temperature range is 75-78°F.

The Desired Dough Temperature Formula

How do you achieve an ideal dough temperature day after day — despite changing conditions?

There are several main factors that impact dough temperature:

•Room temperature
•Flour temperature
•Water temperature
•Friction factor

Friction factor — what’s that? It’s how much your dough temperature rises during mixing and kneading. This figure is an approximation because many variables affect how much heat is generated during the mixing and kneading process, and it can change significantly from one dough to the next. A future blog post will examine how to calculate the friction factor, but for now I’ve determined two friction factors:
For mixing and kneading in a stand mixer (7-quart KitchenAid mixer using the dough hook on “stir” for 3 minutes, then speed 2 for 4 minutes): friction factor = 22-24°F.
For mixing and kneading by hand (8 minutes total mixing and kneading): friction factor = 6-8°F.

So, back to DDT. Of these four factors, which one can the baker easily adjust? You guessed it—water temperature.

The Desired Dough Temperature Formula offers a way for bakers to calculate the factors that influence dough temperature, in order to determine the one factor they can easily control: water temperature.

How the Desired Dough Temperature Formula works

First, pick the temperature you want your dough to be at the end of mixing and kneading. For this example, our target dough temperature is 78°F.

Desired Dough Temperature (DDT) = 78°F

Next, multiply the DDT by 3 (the number of variable temperatures other than water temperature that affect dough temperature: room, flour, friction).

Note: If you bake with an overnight starter or pre-ferment, multiply your DDT by 4 instead of 3, and include the temperature of the pre-ferment as another factor to subtract. 

78°F X 3 = 234°F. This is the Total Temperature Factor (TTF).

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Starting with 234°F, the TTF, subtract the actual room temperature and flour temperature, along with the predetermined friction factor:

234
-72°F (room temperature)
-71°F (flour temperature)
-22° (friction factor)
= 69°F (water temperature)

By subtracting the factors we’re less able to control that contribute to dough temperature, we can determine the correct water temperature to use in order to achieve our ideal dough temperature.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

“But 69°F is so cool; doesn’t yeast have to be dissolved in lukewarm water?”

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflourOne of the great advantages of using instant yeast is that not only can you stir it in with the flour, you can also use cool water!

It’s not recommended that you expose instant yeast directly to water cooler than 70°F; so mix the flour and instant yeast together before introducing the cool water in order for the yeast to activate properly.

Active dry yeast users take note: Normally it’s fine to combine active dry yeast (ADY) and flour without dissolving the yeast in liquid first. But when using cool water, ADY may not activate properly. We recommend dissolving ADY in a small portion of the recipe water (about 3 tablespoons) that’s been warmed to 110°F. Allow the yeast mixture to proof for 10 to 15 minutes before adding to the remaining cool water and flour.

Adjusting the water temperature in your dough opens up a whole new avenue of bread baking that can lead to much more consistent results. Click To Tweet

Testing the impact of dough temperature on your bread

How do different dough temperatures affect dough development and the flavor and rise of yeast breads?

Let’s find out by mixing three different doughs: one with very cool water (50°F), one with very warm water (120°F), and one with “just-right” water using the DDT formula.

I’ll use our King Arthur’s Classic White Sandwich Bread recipe, substituting our Organic White Whole Wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour (just because I like some whole wheat flour in my sandwich loaves).

I’ll stick to a 60-minute first rise, as well as a 60-minute shaped rise. (Of course, in real life you want the dough’s progress to be your guide, not the clock.)

Dough #1: cold water (50°F)

When using cool or cold water, mix the flour and instant yeast together first, before adding to the water. If you store your yeast in the freezer, allow it to come to room temperature when working with cold water.

When mixing with 50°F water, my final dough temperature after mixing and kneading in my stand mixer is a surprising 72°F — not nearly as cold as I expected!

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Dough #1 (50°F water), after first and second rise

The dough’s first rise (in the bowl) is definitely sluggish (though apparent). After an hour in the pan, the loaf is ready to bake.

Dough #2: very warm water (120°F)

After mixing and kneading in my stand mixer with very warm water, the dough is a toasty 94°F.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Dough #2 (120°F water), after first and second rise

Predictably, the first and second rises are much more dramatic than the dough mixed with cool water. But see how the top of the loaf is starting to bubble up and sag? This loaf is definitely over-proofed.

Dough #3: Desired Dough Temperature formula

Finally I use the desired dough temperature formula to determine the water temperature for my last mix.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

I aim for a desired dough temperature of 75°F. Because my kitchen has warmed up over the course of my baking day, the calculated water temperature is only 59°F!

After mixing and kneading in my stand mixer, the dough is exactly 75°F.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Dough #3 (DDT 75°F), after first and second rise

75°F dough almost doubles in size after the first rise, and after the second rise it’s looking just about perfectly proofed and ready for baking.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Baking results

Dough #1 (50°F water) bakes into a slightly smaller loaf, but it’s still a nice size with an even crumb structure.

Dough #2 (120°F water) doesn’t fall in the oven, as I feared it might. However, the bubbles are still evident on top of the loaf. And as it cools the surface collapses, resulting in lots of wrinkling. A little isn’t uncommon, but this loaf shows significant wrinkling and a large gap beneath the top crust.

Dough #3 (DDT 75°F) wins with the nicest rise and crumb structure, although Dough #1 is a close second. This isn’t too surprising, since the difference in dough temperature between these two is only 3°F.

Flavor and texture

Dough #1 and #3: loaves have a moist crumb and a rich, slightly sweet, wheaty flavor. 

Dough #2: loaf dries out more quickly than the other loaves, and has a bitter, acidic flavor.

Desired Dough Temperature via @kingarthurflour

Tips for using the DDT formula

  1. The ideal dough temperature range for wheat-based yeast dough is 75-78°F. While this blog post is focused on yeast breads, the same ideal temperature range applies to wheat-based sourdough breads, and the DDT formula can be equally helpful when baking sourdough.
  2. Instant yeast is a great choice when working with cool water and the DDT formula, but be sure to combine the yeast with the flour before adding water cooler than 70°F.
  3. When using cool water and active dry yeast, “proof” the yeast in a few tablespoons of water from the recipe, heating it to 110°F first. Allow the mixture to proof for 10 to 15 minutes before adding it to the flour and remaining cool water.
  4. Even if you don’t want to do the DDT math, using cooler water when baking bread in hot weather can make a big difference.
  5. Because home bakers typically work with relatively small amounts of dough, the DDT formula doesn’t completely account for the effect of room temperature — especially if your baking environment is very cool or hot. Try aiming for a cooler dough temperature (say 73°F) on a hot day; and a slightly warmer temperature on a cool day.bread proofer can help here.
  6. Even though the DDT formula can help you achieve more predictable rise times, always let the dough’s progress be your guide, rather than the clock.

Stay tuned for a future blog post covering the friction factor. Meanwhile, we hope you’ll put the DDT formula to the test in your own bread baking, and share your comments and questions below!  

Barbara Alpern
About

Long time professional artisan bread baker, caramel maker and member of our Baker Specialist team, Barb grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has four grown sons. She has baked in Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Texas (if you count baking cookies for her son's wedding!).

comments

  1. Q Alcantara

    hi, what can you do to ‘save’ the dough if you were not able to hit the DDT after the mixing and kneading? what do you do if the dough temp is above or below the DDT?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi there, if your dough comes out too warm it’s fine to stick it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so to cool it off. Give it a fold when you take it out of the refrigerator to even out the temperature. If the dough is a bit too cool, but your house is in the mid-70’s, it will likely come up to temperature gradually. Otherwise you can find a warm spot to help it along; check out this blog post for some ideas about where to let your dough rise.
      Barb

  2. Kathy

    Thanks for this great information. I’m curious if I’m perhaps overproofing my yeast dough during the first rise. I moved from Missouri to Arizona and have not been able to get my granny’s yeast roll recipe to work out here. My kitchen is usually about 80 degrees and the dough definitely rises faster year round. When I bake the rolls, they get the initial rise in the oven like they are supposed to, but then they fall and end up about half the height they should be. Does this sound like a symptom of overproofing?

    I feel like it is fairly easy to estimate when the formed rolls have doubled in size in the pan. But maybe during the first rise in the bowl, I’m letting the dough rise a lot more than double? The bowl is smaller at the bottom than the top so I feel like I am totally guessing at what double is. But they do a second rise just fine in the pan. Any guesses or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Kathy, if your kitchen is usually 80 degrees, I imagine your dough rises fairly rapidly. Using cooler water will definitely help slow things down and give you more control over the proofing process. It may also be beneficial for you to allow the dough to rise less than double, especially for the second rise when the rolls are in the pan. To me it sounds like your rolls are getting a little over-proofed at this stage, and putting them in the oven when they’re not quite so high in the pan may lead to a stronger and more stable oven spring.
      Barb

  3. Lorraine in Florida

    I’ve been baking bread for nearly 50 years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen an article on the science of bread making. Absolutely fascinating! I sure knew my bread behaved differently in summer than in winter. Using my oven light in winter helped, and I did automatically change the water temp based on the season but didn’t realize why it worked, lol just dumb luck. When I started making bread it was with cakes of yeast! Thank goodness for the granules now.
    Any way, thank you for an informative, understandable article. This old dog learned some new tricks !

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      We’re so happy to hear that this article was helpful to you, Lorraine, although it sounds like your baking intuition was pretty spot on! Learning new tricks helps us stay young, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. And that’s one of the things I love about baking — there are always new things to learn!
      Barb

    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Sarah, if you’re talking about gluten-free bread recipes containing yeast, yes, I think the general dough temperature range of 75-78 degrees should still be a good temperature range to shoot for. However, gluten-free bread recipes often call for mixing in a stand mixer at a higher speed, and the “dough” is more like a batter, so the heat generated during mixing (friction factor) will likely be different.
      Barb

  4. David Armstrong

    I just made my first loaf of Rustic Sourdough. I overproofed the first rise (the timer didn’t go off and it rose for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature). I shaped it into balls and then checked your blogs. In overproofing I found out that my idea of an extra rise wouldn’t work for Sourdough. Then I found the DDT blog and checked the dough temperature and it was 72 so I heated the oven and baked it with perhaps a 5 min. second rise. I was surprised–it came out great! Thank you for the blogs and troubleshooting. And thanks for the idea of keeping a sourdough journal to note all the factors–the DDT is my first entry.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi David, we’re glad to hear that your bread turned out great, in spite of the accidental over-proofing! If your dough was only at 72 degrees, you probably could have let it rise longer in the pan, but I’m not one to argue with a successful outcome! It’s usually worth a shot reforming the loaf and letting it rise again and bake, especially if the recipe contains some yeast along with the sourdough starter. Even when over-proofing an entirely naturally leavened loaf, I probably wouldn’t throw the dough away. If your over-proofed sourdough doesn’t have the rising power to pull off a lofty loaf, you might consider repurposing it for pizza. I’m also excited that you like the idea of keeping a sourdough journal, and will be eager to hear about your future baking adventures!
      Barb

    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Amber, the desired dough temperature refers to the temperature of the dough after mixing and kneading is complete, but ideally you do want the dough to stay in the 75-78 degree range as it rises as well.
      Barb

  5. Maggie

    My kitchen is always cold and my countertops are all granite and cold as well. My oven has a proof setting. I have had my best results since using this feature. Is there anything I should know about using that feature? After reading the over proofed section I’m concerned that maybe it may be working too rapidly.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Maggie, it depends on the recipe, and there are no hard and fast rules. But really, if you’re getting fabulous results, don’t worry about what any “experts” like us think! You’re 100% the expert on what goes on in your own kitchen, and should keep doing what works. Kat@KAF

    2. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Maggie, I totally agree with Kat that you should do whatever works best for you and your bread, but if you find your dough is showing some of the signs of over-proofing, you might want to consider placing an oven thermometer in your oven and checking to see what the temperature is when you’re using the proof setting. If it’s reading higher than 80 degrees, especially if it’s in the 90-100 degree range, you might want to use it more as a “preheat” setting, and turn it off and let it cool down a bit so that it’s keeping your dough more in the 75-80 degree range as it rises.
      Barb

  6. brian Pittman

    Thank-you, Barbara, for your splendid treatise on controlling
    dough temperature, confirming my own experiences with
    whole grain bread-making using machine mixing and high hydration doughs. (85%).
    Using a digital thermometer I was staggered by the temperature
    rise in a 4 kilogram dough batch after a 6-8 minute mix. That
    explained the over-proofing experienced after only 20 minutes
    in the baking tins and subsequent cave-in of the loaves after
    a few minutes in the oven.
    Thank-you for bringing some science to bear on this aspect
    of bread-making. Shall use your formulae from now on!
    Brian Pittman, Toronto, Canada.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Brian! I hope this helps you achieve more consistent results in your bread baking!
      Barb

  7. Geri McGladrigan

    I would buy more items from KOF, but you should have free shipping. Your shippprices are way too high.
    Why should I have to pay 6.00 shipping for three cookie cutters!!! Ridiculous

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Geri, thanks for your note. To best help our customers, we currently calculate shipping based on cost of merchandise rather than by weight. Since King Arthur Flour is primarily a flour company, many of the orders we fulfill are quite heavy and would incur prohibitively high fees if weight were the standard. You can be sure that we will continue to monitor related costs and best practices in order to meet the needs of our community. We also offer a couple of programs, including electronic promotions and our Baker’s Rewards Plus program, which can both offer help with the cost of freight. Hope that helps you get the baking goodies you’re looking for! Kat@KAF

  8. Fred C. Dobbs

    WOW! Thank you so much for this info. I’m new to baking bread (about a year now) and I’ve read 3 going on 4 bread baking books and about a gazillion baking blogs and websites and always felt there was something or somethings being left out or not being communicated. In my more irritated frustration I figured bread bakers were peevishly jealous of their skills and didn’t want to give away all of their secrets. In my more relaxed state of mind I accepted I probably just lack the experience to fully understand all that I’ve read. But, this is the first time I’ve heard about DDT though and it really opened my eyes. Thank you very much.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern, post author

      Hi Fred, we’re all about sharing our “secrets,” although it feels wrong to even use that word because it’s our mission to share tried and true baking methods and recipes that will help you achieve the best possible baking results. We love baking and want you to share in the joy, while experiencing as little frustration as possible along the way!
      Barb

Post a comment

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