Do I Need To Cover My Dough?

Covering your dough is essential. By doing so, you not only shield it from drying out but also prevent dust from settling on its surface.

To ensure optimal rising, it is advisable to place the dough in a warm and draft-free area within your kitchen.

Be mindful, however, as excessive heat can accelerate yeast activity, while an abundance of cold air can slow it down. Given that kitchen temperatures vary throughout the year, your rising times may be affected accordingly.

To maintain consistency regardless of the season, many experienced bakers opt to place their dough in the oven with the light switched on.

It’s crucial to exercise caution and ensure that the heat remains off during this process, as accidentally baking the dough would be counterproductive.

Do I Need To Cover Dough When Proofing In Oven?

Yes, you generally cover dough when proofing in the oven to create an ideal environment for rising. Proofing dough involves yeast activation, which thrives in a warm and slightly humid environment.

Covering the dough helps trap moisture that would otherwise escape during proofing, preventing the dough from drying out and forming a tough skin.

Remember, don’t completely seal the dough. A little air circulation is helpful for proper proofing. Once the dough has doubled in size, it’s ready for baking.

What Can I Use To Cover My Dough While It Rises?

When it comes to covering dough, you have various options available to create an airtight barrier between the dough and the surrounding air.

While there are several covers you can use, some are preferable than others. Here are a few suggestions for covering your dough and how they compare:

1. Plastic Wrap

Plastic wrap, also known as clingfilm, has been a popular choice for covering dough for many years. It forms a tight seal and is commonly used to wrap small batches during bulk fermentation.

It is easily accessible and serves as the standard for covering dough. However, its environmental impact has led some individuals to seek alternative solutions.

While it remains a viable option, many are transitioning away from plastic wrap due to its disposable nature and the accumulation of plastic waste.

Reusable alternatives are increasingly preferred, although some people still keep plastic wrap on hand for specific situations.

2. Reusable Covers

Opting for reusable covers is a fantastic solution for both bulk fermentation and protecting preferments during their development.

These covers can include silicone covers, fabric covers, or even specialized dough-rising containers with built-in lids. By using reusable covers, you can significantly reduce waste and minimize your environmental footprint.

These alternatives provide a sustainable and practical option for covering your dough while still ensuring proper protection and sealing.

3. Dough Resting Trays

When it comes to baking multiple batches of dough simultaneously, efficient use of space becomes crucial. Professional bakers often rely on plastic dough resting trays to store their dough during bulk fermentation and divide pieces of pizza dough.

These trays can be stacked on top of each other, with the top tray left empty and used as a lid.

This stacking method optimizes space and allows for easy organization. However, dough resting trays are most suitable for medium to large baking quantities and may be considered bulky if you only bake a few loaves at a time.

4. Towels

Towels are a commonly used and preferred option when covering dough, as they offer some moisture-wicking properties.

They strike a balance between retaining sufficient moisture in the dough while preventing excessive moisture that could lead to a flat loaf or sticking to the bowl.

Towels are also flexible and can expand if the dough pushes against them during the rise, accommodating the dough’s needs.

However, extended proofing periods of four hours or more can pose a challenge with towels, as they may allow excessive moisture-wicking and potentially dry out the dough.

5. Egg Wash

Using an egg wash involves brushing beaten egg over the surface of proofing brioche and viennoiserie dough. This technique provides moisture and protection from drying out during the proofing stage.

The higher fat and protein content in eggs contribute to achieving a rich, dark, and shiny crust when baked.

It is important to note that egg washing is typically not used for bread intended to be baked in a hot oven, such as traditional sandwich loaves.

To prevent burning, it is advisable to use an oven temperature below 210°C (410°F) when egg washing bread. While egg washing works well for certain bread types, it may not be suitable for all recipes or bread varieties.

6. Oil the Dough

Applying a few drops of oil in a mixing bowl and coating the dough with it creates a protective barrier that helps shield the dough from external elements.

This technique is particularly effective for bulk fermenting dough batches, ensuring the dough remains adequately protected.

However, it is not suitable for the final rise. It’s worth noting that French bakers typically omit oil from their bread-making process.

7. Flat Object

If you find yourself in need of a makeshift cover, various flat objects can serve the purpose. A dinner plate, chopping board (although not ideal), or any level item that fits over the mixing bowl can be used.

While these objects may not provide the tightest seal, they offer sufficient protection for proofing dough. When using this method to cover dough rising in a banneton, be cautious not to let the dough rise above the basket’s edge.

Personally, I have employed this method for bulk fermentation multiple times without encountering any issues, except for occasions when I needed the chopping board for dinner preparation!

8. Shopping Bag

An old plastic carrier bag, provided it is clean, can be a convenient covering option for both bulk fermentation and the final rise. These bags can fit over most bread tins and bannetons.

By reusing the bag, you contribute to environmental sustainability to some extent. However, keep in mind that most bags are relatively small, making them suitable for protecting smaller batches or individual dough portions.

9. Inverted Mixing Bowl

Using an inverted mixing bowl as a cover is a method I frequently employ. A well-fitting mixing bowl can effectively cover a rounded banneton, creating a seal that, while not perfect, is adequate for the purpose.

This approach saves on plastic waste and reduces dishwashing. However, it does occupy a significant amount of space, especially when placing it in the refrigerator for overnight rising. You can use this method for bannetons, bench resting, and bulk fermentation.

10. Greaseproof Paper

Many bakers opt for placing a sheet of greaseproof or silicone paper over resting dough. While this solution does not provide complete protection from the elements, it makes a noticeable difference over short periods.

It is important to note that this method is not airtight but does offer some level of protection. I find silicone paper especially useful during bench resting to prevent the dough from drying out and forming a skin.

11. Rack Covers

For larger quantities of bread production, bakeries often utilize bakery racks to store their dough. These racks serve as a space-saving solution, allowing easy mobility during the baking process.

Purchasing a box of rack covers is a relatively inexpensive option that can be reused multiple times, making it a cost-effective choice.

However, it’s worth mentioning that lower shelves may experience some drying out, as the covers do not provide an optimal seal.

This solution works well in small bakeries where investing in a proofer may not be financially feasible. Remember to occasionally mist the dough with water when using rack covers.

Why Cover Bread Dough As It Rises?

Allowing bread dough to be exposed to airflow leads to the evaporation of moisture, resulting in dryness.

The extent of this effect can range from rendering the dough’s surface tough and resistant to stretching, to the outer perimeter becoming excessively dry, impeding further rise.

Failing to cover the dough not only compromises its texture but also invites unwanted guests such as bugs and insects. Needless to say, these uninvited visitors would undoubtedly detract from the pleasurable experience of enjoying your bread.

Covering bread dough at various stages of the bread-making process is important to ensure optimal results. Let’s take a closer look at each stage:

Preferment: Yes, it is recommended to cover the preferment to protect it during the fermentation process.

Autolyze: If the autolyze period is shorter than 10-15 minutes, covering the dough is not necessary. However, for longer autolyze periods, it is best to cover the dough to prevent it from drying out.

Bulk fermentation: It is essential to cover the dough during bulk fermentation to maintain moisture and prevent the surface from drying out.

Bulk fermentation in the fridge: Even when fermenting the dough in the refrigerator, it is still important to cover it to retain moisture.

Between pre- and final shaping: In most cases, it is advisable to cover the dough during this stage. However, if the dough is excessively sticky, leaving it uncovered for a short period can help it dry out slightly.

Final rise: It is recommended to cover the dough during the final rise. Alternatively, you can create a humid environment using a proofer to promote optimal rising conditions.

Final rise in the fridge: When allowing the dough to undergo the final rise in the refrigerator, it is still necessary to cover it to prevent moisture loss.

It is advisable to cover bread dough when it remains unattended for more than 10 minutes, especially during the period between when the dough is removed from the mixing bowl and when it is placed in the oven for baking.

How To Protect Dough From Drying Out If I Can’t Cover It?

If you find yourself unable to fully cover your dough, there are still measures you can take to prevent it from drying out.

Regular monitoring is key in this situation. Check on the dough every 30 minutes and observe if the surface is starting to harden or dry.

If you notice signs of drying, you can remedy the situation by using a water mister to spray a fine mist over the dough. Alternatively, gently wipe the surface with a wet hand or pastry brush if a mister is not available.

However, if the dough is still wet, it’s important not to mist it unnecessarily. Wait another 30 minutes and reassess.

It’s best to avoid wetting the dough when it’s nearing the point of being ready for baking. Excessive moisture on the surface during baking can hinder oven spring and result in blistering on the crust.

What Do You Do If Dough Dries Out?

In the event that the dough has already dried out or developed a skin due to inadequate covering, there’s no need to worry. You can still revive the dough by rehydrating the dry areas.

Simply take a cup of water and gently brush or mist the dry surfaces of the dough. You can use a brush, your hands, or a water mister for this purpose.

After 15 minutes, the dough should regain its moisture. If it’s still dry, continue applying water every 15 minutes until it becomes soft and supple again.

Final Words

It’s worth noting that the decision to cover or not cover dough often depends on its hydration level. High hydration dough may benefit from some drying and moisture-wicking, while low hydration dough doesn’t require it.

In most cases, covering the dough during proofing is considered the best practice as it helps retain moisture and promotes proper rise.

Failing to cover the dough can lead to surface drying, limiting the desired rise during proofing and potentially affecting the quality of the crust.

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