The Ultimate Guide to Proofing Bread Dough

If you've ever asked yourself how to fix overproofed or underproofed bread, you've come to the right place! Here's everything you need to know about proofing your dough.

It’s time for a little bread baking 101! Baking homemade bread is a joy, but plenty of questions can pop up after you’ve combined your flour, water, yeast and salt.

The question that looms largest in the minds of both amateur bakers and seasoned pros is, “how long does it take for bread to rise?” Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you here.

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What is the best temperature for proofing bread?

The best temperature range for proofing bread is between 75 and 80ºF. A humid environment is also good for proofing bread.

How long does it take for bread to proof?

The short answer is that it depends. Factors like the temperature of your kitchen, the freshness of your yeast, humidity and water temperature can all affect the proofing time of your bread dough.

In a toasty kitchen, your dough may proof in as little as an hour (or less!). When the temperatures dip, it can take much longer—upwards of two or even three hours. Here are a few other essential tips for proofing bread when it’s cold.

How do you get dough to rise faster?

Try letting dough proof next to a heat source, or in your oven with just the light on. Since heat rises, on top of the fridge is a good spot, too!

Test Kitchen tip: Don’t forget, both sweet doughs and whole-grain loaves take longer to rise, so plan accordingly!

How do I stop my bread from proofing?

You can stop bread from proofing by putting the dough in a cold place, like your refrigerator. Colder temperatures will slow down the proofing process.

What’s the best container for proofing bread dough?

The best bread proofing container is a glass bowl. If you mark the outside of the bowl when you put in the dough ball, you’ll easily be able to tell when it has doubled in size. You can also use a proofing basket (perfect for sourdough), or a bread tin if you want to create a specific shape.

One of the best things for covering your dough while it’s rising is a damp cloth or paper towel. If your bowl is deep enough, use cling film. If working with a particularly sticky dough, rub the tiniest amount of oil onto some cling film to help prevent my dough from sticking (a spritz of cooking spray works too).

How do you know when bread is done proofing?

Dough that’s risen for the right amount of time will have a full, puffed appearance. Your loaf should have expanded to roughly twice its size. To test if your dough has proofed long enough, gently poke it. It should feel soft and supple, and your finger should leave an indent in the dough.

If your bread doesn’t see enough proofing time, it won’t rise properly. You’ll wind up with a flat, dense doorstop rather than a lovely, fluffy loaf.

On the flip side, bread can rise for too long. If you overproof, your dough will wind up collapsing. If you have a problem with overproofing, try letting the dough rise for a shorter period of time or at a cooler temperature.

What should you do if your dough is underproofed?

If your dough isn’t rising, the yeast might be past its prime or your water may have been the wrong temperature (too hot and the yeast will die; too cold and the yeast won’t grow). Always use fresh yeast and invest in a thermometer to help your yeast get the job done. You’ll be on your way to a perfect loaf of homemade bread in no time.

Test Kitchen tip: Place your bread on an oven rack (while off) and place a pan of hot water underneath the rack. The warm steam will wake up the yeast and help it along, especially if your kitchen is cold.

How do you fix overproofed dough?

You can fix overproofed dough by kneading and pushing the air out of the dough. Then, reshape and place your bread back into your desired proofing container. Allow it to proof as normal and bake.

Can I leave my bread to rise overnight?

Yes, you can leave your bread rise overnight in the fridge! Keep in mind, though, you’ll want it to come back up to room temperature before baking. If you want your dough to develop a slightly sour flavor, you can leave the dough at room temperature to rise, but you’ll need to punch it down, reshape and allow to rise again before baking.

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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.
Christina Herbst
Christina is an Assistant Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in content creation and SEO optimization. She enjoys trying out local foodie restaurants and coffeehouses and adding copious amounts of garlic and cheese to any recipe she can get her hands on.