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The Second Rise

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Kitchen Mysteries is a weekly exploration of oddities surrounding cooking and food. They could be recipes that fail when they shouldn’t, conflicting advice from different sources, or just plain weirdness. If it happens in a kitchen, and you’re not sure why, send a tweet to The Food Geek to find out what’s happening.

Friend of The Food Geek snitty asks via The Twitters:

Texture, mostly, though a bit of flavor as well.

Okay, so most bread recipes go something like this: mix ingredients, knead dough, let rise, shape, let rise again, bake. There’s a lot of stuff in-between, usually just refinements of those steps, but those are the big important ones. The second rise is optional, though, depending on what kind of bread you’re making. So, let’s go through each.

  1. Mix Ingredients. This is relatively self-explanitory, but you want to ensure that everything is pretty evenly distributed before you start the real work.
  2. Knead Dough. This is kind of an optional step, although its results are not optional. The goal with kneading is to form gluten. Gluten is a molecule that’s created when you combine two proteins from flour, glutenin and gliadin, with water. The quickest way to form the gluten is to agitate it physically (not emotionally, nobody likes annoyed gluten). If you have a reasonably wet dough, you don’t need to do any physical agitation, you can just throw it in the fridge for eight hours or so and gluten will form on its own (this is what’s behind the no-knead bread craze). Still, gluten needs to form by one method or another.
  3. Let Rise. This step is also called “proofing,” because if the dough rises, you’ve proven that the yeast is alive. The main purpose of this step is to convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide by way of the yeast. 
  4. Shape. Before the dough is baked, you will want to give it a form. This form is probably going to determine if you move to step 5 or just do a quick rest and bake. A thin pain à l’anciennes wants to develop completely in the oven, so its shape is kind of a freeform stick. A sandwich bread is a light and puffy thing in a pan, with its size pretty well restrained, so it wants more time to develop.
  5. Second Rise. If you’ve rolled your bread into a tube and placed it into a pan, you’ll likely want to see the top of the bread crest the pan. “Oven spring”—the rise that the bread gets from the air bubbles in the dough expanding when they hit oven temperatures—will only get you part way up the pan. In order to do a nice, mushroom-shaped slice of bread, you’re going to want to give the dough a chance to get pretty close to the top of the pan before you put it in the oven. A second rise achieves this, and it also gives your bread a chance to be fluffier than if you skipped this step. You’ll get a bit more flavor development as well, as the yeast is still eating the sugar, but the difference won’t be so dramatic compared to the difference between virgin dough and dough after its first rise.

Naturally, there’s a little more to it that the above. Shaping the dough moves around all the yeast, so if by chance the sugars from one part of the dough were depleted, the yeast population got moved around to some place with a better food supply. This will keep yeast from dying during the extra development and causing off flavors. With a single rise it doesn’t matter, but you don’t want the dough just to sit around in its same basic arrangement for the second go around.

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  • SecondProof | 01/07/2016

    I'm a frustrated self taught bread maker. I've had my share of door stops. There is a loaf of dark rye on my counter with the shape of a cow pie, the crust of plywood, and the crumb of a hockey puck. GramaTortoise has made me laugh, and her comments are the reason I've signed on. I have so many questions.
    1. I received a book by P. Reinhart for Christmas. He speaks of pulling and folding the dough. Is kneading a thing of the past?
    2. I have had trouble with a beautiful first rise, and I think I've finally got it, and then the second rise is nothing. Is it possible I let the first rise go too long?

  • Sherryssweets | 06/22/2015

    Because I work during the day, I have to get creative to have supper ready when I invite my grown kids over for dinner. They love my home made French bread that I make with quick rise yeast. I tried something new this morning. After the second rising, I did not beat down, but gently covered the loaf with seran wrap and placed in the refrigerator. I plan on letting the loaf come to room temperature and then bake as it is, when I get home tonight. How will this affect my bread?

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