My Recipe Box
Food Science

The Second Rise

By Brian Geiger, contributor

December 10th, 2009

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.

posted in: Blogs, food geek, baking, bread, gluten, flour, dough, glutenin, gliadin, no-knead, yeast, kneading
Comments (14)

SecondProof writes: 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? Posted: 8:51 pm on January 6th

Sherryssweets writes: 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? Posted: 11:41 am on June 22nd

JustanotherGuy writes: Thanks so much for the explanation! I've been desperately trying to make a true whole grain bread (milled myself) but loaf after loaf has not turned out. With the knowledge gleaned from you I soaked the flour overnight and prepared the best bread dough I've ever made, white or whole wheat!

Seriously, I was killing myself over this! Thanks so much! Posted: 12:01 am on January 29th

Vermaunty writes: Question for you about freezing cinnamon rolls.... These are yeast rolls, and even a half a recipe makes enough to challenge our pastry-and-afternoon tea-over consumption tendancies. But they take some effort to make so it would be lovely to have a pan in the freezer ready to go whenever I wanted them. When in the process should I freeze? Once they're formed, should I let them rise fully and then freeze them (and if so, do I thaw before baking?) Or should I freeze them before the final rise (which would mean I'd thaw/rise/bake)? Thanks! Posted: 2:02 pm on February 12th

TheFoodGeek writes: Barina,

That is great to hear. Nothing makes me happier than when you can take the basic ideas and incorporate them into your cooking in a new way to fix a problem or to make something better. Thank you. Posted: 10:47 pm on October 8th

barina writes: I wanted to say thank you for your information about the second rise when making bread.
I have a home bakery and I make all kinds of bread.
One off my specialties is a sour dough, 100% rye bread with no sugar, eggs or fat added. People either love it or don't like it at all. I have tried so many times to make the same bread with dry yeast. It never comes out eatable.
I let my sour dough sit in the fridge between one and two days and it always come out great.
When I read your explanation about leaving the dough in the fridge instead of kneading to get the gluten, I understood that, that’s what I have to do.
Yesterday I made a rye-polish and let it rise for 4 hours, made the 100% rye dough and put it in the fridge. To day I made the loafs and baked them.
It came out perfect!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much!
A part from having great fun baking and making a living. This is so very important for a lot of people who have limited diets for different reasons. So now I can help more people eat tasty bread with no wheat.
Posted: 12:07 pm on October 6th

TheFoodGeek writes: angiecbrown, since you're going to freeze it, you're going to need to thaw it. The best way to know if a dough is thawed is to wait for it to expand in size, which shows that the yeast are active again. Because of that, I think that you can safely skip the second rise. You'll have to do another rise anyways, so no sense having the yeast try to do all that extra work.

The other option is that you can par bake (or partially bake) the loaf. In this way, you get it set to its basic shape, but you don't do the browning. This will not necessarily yield the most flavor from the loaf, but it is reasonably convenient. Posted: 11:13 pm on January 29th

angiecbrown writes: Can someone tell me: The recipe I use to make a basic white bread dough yields two loaves. If I only want to bake one and freeze the second, should I let the dough rise both times before putting it in the freezer? Thank you! Posted: 5:40 pm on January 28th

BasementBaker writes: To piratek - The process of kneading, as foodgeek talks about above, is not to encourage rising. It is crucial for gluten formation, which gives structure to the bread. Your bread will definitely rise without kneading, it will just not have the same chew, which, as you already know, is just a matter of personal preference. Cold fermentation - proofing in the refrigerator - just slows down the yeast activity and provides for a slow fermentation which contributes to flavor. This process also takes the place of kneading by encouraging gluten formation.

This is one of those great posts that really encourages discussion. Thanks foodgeek!

Andy Posted: 10:00 am on December 17th

BasementBaker writes: Downerscook - I can speak from experience on the cinnamon rolls. Here's my advice. Make your dough on Christmas eve morning. Let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature, then wrap the bowl in plastic and let the dough retard in the refrigerator until the evening. Then roll the chilled dough out, fill your rolls, roll up and slice. Prepare the rolls in their baking pan as you normally would, wrap in plastic and chill overnight. This way the yeast will not be quite as active and you can avoid over-proofing. Remove the dough the next morning and place the pan in a warm oven to proof until the rolls have crested the top of the pan. Bake and serve. Let me know how this works out for you -

Andy Posted: 9:41 am on December 17th

piratek writes: I have baked bread for years and I don't kneed nor do I put the dough in the fridge. My bread is as leavened as any I've tried.......and no kneading!! Posted: 1:37 pm on December 16th

Downerscook writes: Thanks for the info on rising. I have another question on rising yeast dough; if you are making a dough and choose to let the second rise occur in the refrigerator, what happens if the dough is refrigerated for longer than 8 hours? I would like to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. I will make the rolls the afternoon of Christmas Eve. This means that they will be "rising" in the fridge close to 18 hours. Will that affect the end product? Posted: 10:23 am on December 16th

BasementBaker writes: Rye flour definitely has less of the gluten forming proteins than wheat flour, so that could have something to do with it. Whole meal flours tend to absorb less water than sifted flours, so if you are using whole rye flour you will want to use a little less water than you would for white bread. You also need to knead these doughs longer. Without seeing your recipes I can't know exactly what's going on. You can email me your recipes and I can see if I can help - I'm no food geek, but maybe I can be of some use!

Andy Posted: 9:39 pm on December 11th

GramaTortoise writes: Thank you for this super post! What an Idea, making gluten formation by leaving the dough in the fridge for eight hours! I make all our bread, and am quite happy with my whole wheat and white. However, I am perpetually challenged by making pumpernickel, or rye. Any good reason gluten formation/ rising is so difficult with these recipes? Mine kneads like oatmeal (never achieving smoothness or elasticity,) and rises as much as a cracker. Posted: 8:54 am on December 11th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.

Cookbooks, DVDs & More