There is nothing better than a freshly baked loaf of bread that is coated in melted butter, but sometimes during the process of making the bread, something goes wrong. Over-proofing, your dough can be one of these issues. Thankfully, the over-proofed dough can be fixed!
Remove the dough from the proofing bowl and firmly press down on the dough to degas it. Once all the bubbles of air have been removed, you can now reshape your dough. Place the reshaped dough into a loaf pan and leave it to proof again. Once the dough is 1″ above the pan, it’s ready to be baked.
Over-proofing dough can cause problems with your dough, but what exactly would happen if you baked over-proofed dough? How can you test to ensure that your dough is truly over-proofed? Let’s find out!
How to Tell If Your Dough Is Over Proofed
Before you declare your dough as being over-proofed and try to fix it, you need to ensure that this is truly the case, and you are not trying to fix dough that has proofed perfectly fine.
Luckily, there are methods of telling whether your dough is over-proofed or not. Here are two ways you can determine if your dough has over-proofed.
The Dough Smells Like Alcohol
If you are struggling to tell if your dough is actually over-proofed or not, then a great way to help determine this is to smell your dough. A major sign that your dough is over-proofed is when you smell your dough, and the dough smells similar to alcohol.
Many experienced bakers say that this smell resembles the smell of beer. If your dough has this distinctive odor, then it is probably over-proofed. The reason your dough may have this odor is that the yeast in the dough converts the sugars into both carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Generally, the more sugar your dough recipe has, the easier it is to over-proof your dough as the yeast has ample amounts of sugar to consume. So, if you are making a sweet dough like brioche, you need to ensure you do not let the dough proof for longer than the recipe states.
The Poke Test
The easiest way to help you decide whether your dough is over-proofed or not is to do the poke test. This test helps determine the elasticity of the dough, and the biggest sign that your dough is over-proofed is the loss of elasticity in the dough.
Proofing your dough correctly is immensely important because proofing the dough allows the gluten to develop, which makes the dough stronger and increases the elasticity in the dough. This then affects the bread’s texture, volume, and crust once it’s baked.
If your dough is over-proofed, then the gluten structure begins to break, and the elasticity of the dough decreases. To test if your dough is over-proofed, you can use this simple test that will only take a few seconds.
First, uncover your dough and press one or two fingers into the dough for around 2 seconds. Then remove your fingers and watch how the indentation reacts.
If you notice that the dough does not spring back into place and the indentation stays at a constant depth, then your dough is over-proofed as it has lost its elasticity.
How to Fix Over Proofed Dough
Now that you have tested your dough and have determined that it is indeed over-proofed, you can move on to fixing the dough before you try to bake it.
Fixing over-proofed dough is simple and will not take long, but you need to ensure you do not let it over-proof again as you will not be able to save the dough twice.
This is due to the fermentation that occurs as the dough proofs, and this fermented sour flavor will begin to take over the taste of the bread and become unpleasant to eat if you over-proof the bread too many times. So, let’s see how you can save your over-proofed dough.
Rescuing Over Proofed Dough
Over-proofing dough can happen easily, and many bakers make this mistake, but there is no need to worry as you can still rescue your dough and make a delicious loaf of bread!
However, you need to remember that the loaf of bread resulting from a dough that needed fixing might not come out of the oven exactly how you desired, but it will still be tasty. So, let’s go through the steps you can take to fix your over-proofed dough.
Step 1 – Remove your dough from your proofing bowl or basket
Step 2 – remove the excess gas from the dough (degas the dough) by pressing down firmly on the dough. Ensure you remove all the bubbles that have developed. Your dough should reduce in size back to the size it was before you proofed it.
Step 3 – reshape your dough into the shape of your desired loaf
Step 4 – Transfer your shaped dough into a bread loaf pan, and leaf it to proof again. Set a kitchen timer so you do not forget the dough again. When the dough has risen 1 inch above the loaf pans edge, it has proofed enough for you to bake it. Ensure you preheat the oven first.
Why Is Proofing Important When Baking Bread?
Proofing is an important aspect of the baking process to get right; otherwise, your dough will have issues when your try to bake it.
If you do not allow your yeast dough to proof for the correct amount of time, then the yeast in the dough will not digest the sugar in the dough and release carbon dioxide. And the gluten structure will not be strong enough to hold these bubbles in the dough either.
These air bubbles in the dough are extremely important in developing the volume and texture of the bread when it’s baked. If you over-proof your dough, these bubbles will begin to escape from it, leading to several problems when you try to bake the dough.
One of these problems is that the dough may not rise at all when baking, and you will end up with a flat bread instead of a loaf.
What Will Happen If You Bake Over Proofed Dough?
So, you have done the poke test, and you have smelled your dough, which has all resulted in the decision that your dough is over-proofed. Now, you may be wondering what would happen if you just baked the dough anyway, while it is still over-proofed, without fixing it first?
You may be thinking this as you do not have time to re-proof your dough or you do not want to, which are valid reasons. However, there are some unpleasant consequences to baking over-proofed dough and not fixing it first.
Some people may not be worried about these results, but others may be tempted to throw the resulting bread loaf away. So, let’s go through what will happen to your bread loaf if you bake over-proofed dough.
Texture and Taste of the Bread
If you let your dough over-proof, this will affect your bread’s taste and texture once it has been baked. This is because, with most bread dough recipes, you leave the dough to proof twice, and during both the proofing processes, the dough starts to ferment.
So, if you leave the dough to proof for too long, either in both or in one of the proofing stages, this can cause the finished bread loaf to have an unpleasantly sour taste due to the fermentation that takes place.
If your dough is left to proof for too long and you do not take the time to fix it, this can also affect the texture of the finished loaf. The loaf will be denser and have a crumbly or gummy texture that is unpleasant to eat.
The Bread May Collapse
If you leave your dough to proof for too long, this can cause the bread to collapse, either while it’s in the oven or as the loaf of bread is cooling. This will result in a misshapen loaf, and the loaf will be smaller compared to bread that was proofed correctly.
If you let your bread dough proof for too long, the gluten structure in the dough weakens, meaning that the dough cannot support itself anymore. So, when you bake dough that has been left to over-proof, the bread will rise slightly while baking and then subsequently collapse.
Tips to Help Prevent Dough from Over Proofing
Over-proofing your dough does mean that there will be a few extra steps to follow before you can bake the dough, as you will need to fix it.
However, this is not something you want to deal with every time you want to bake bread, so here are some useful tips that can help prevent your next batch of dough from over-proofing.
Reduce the Amount of Yeast You Use
If you know that over-proofing your dough is something that you struggle with, then an excellent way to help manage the proofing process in the future is to reduce the amount of yeast you mix into the dough.
If you mix in too much yeast into your dough, either by following the wrong recipe or by accident, this can cause your dough to over-proof very quickly, without you realizing it. As a result of this fast proofing, your dough will collapse later.
So, if you know you are not great with keeping the proofing time needed for your dough and tend to leave it longer, or if you are worried about over-proofing your dough, you can add less yeast to the dough mixture.
If you are flowing a recipe, you can use half the amount of yeast required. Ensure that you watch your dough to ensure it does not under-proof either.
Watch the Temperature Closely
When you are proofing your dough, you need to pay close attention to the temperature in the room in which you are proofing your dough. This is because the hotter the environment is, the faster your dough will proof, as the yeast is more active in hotter temperatures.
So, ensuring that your proofing dough is kept at the correct temperature is essential. If the environment is warm, the yeast will develop and proof correctly, but if the environment is too cold, the dough will fail to develop properly, and the dough will be under-proofed.
However, you need to make sure that the temperature is not too hot either, as this can cause the dough to rise too fast, which will cause the dough to collapse later.
So, if you reside in a hot environment, you need to proof your dough in a cooler room, and if you reside in a cold climate, you should try and proof your dough in a warmer room.
You should also check on your dough more as the proofing time needed may vary depending on the temperature, so you may need to proof your dough for a longer or shorter time than the recipe suggests.
Pay Attention to How the Dough Is Developing
When you are going through the process of proofing your dough and you are concerned that it may become over-proofed, you need to pay close attention to the way your dough is developing.
While your dough is proofing, you should check in on it every hour or so to see if it is proofing fast or slow and if there is anything you need to change. Watching how the dough develops is especially important in the dough’s first rise.
However, it is an excellent idea to keep an eye on your dough during the second or final proofing of the dough. This is where the poke test will come in handy. You should use the poke test to see if the dough is ready to be baked or needs to be left more or re-proofed.
Pay Attention to Your Timing
When you are proofing your dough, you need to ensure you do not proof your dough longer than the time stipulated on the recipe unless you have reduced the amount of yeast you mix into the dough.
You should set a timer to help you remember how long your dough has been proofing for. You should also remember to change the proofing time to account for temperature.
Having your dough over-proof is by no means a reason to throw your dough away; you can still make delicious bread if you put in the time to fix the over-proofed dough. Fixing the dough is an easy task and will not take long, but you need to ensure you do not over-proof it again, as this will ruin the dough.
Good luck fixing your dough!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.