Why Does Dough Need To Rise Twice?

Why on earth does your dough need not one, but two rises? If you’ve ever followed a bread recipe closely, you’ve likely encountered this intriguing step.

It might seem like unnecessary extra effort, but let us assure you, there’s science and artistry behind this process that transforms mere ingredients into a tantalizing symphony of flavors, textures, and aromas.

Baking is more than just mixing ingredients and popping them in the oven. It’s a dance of chemistry, physics, and patience.

The double rise, also known as the “first rise” and the “second rise,” is a cornerstone of many bread-making techniques, and it holds the key to achieving that delicious loaf with an irresistibly soft crumb and a beautiful, golden crust.

A dough that has been allowed to rise twice produces a finer gluten structure than one that has only been allowed to rise once. Your bread will have a smaller crumb and will not have huge airholes.

Due to the kneading you did to develop that gluten structure, all the air was pushed out. You need to let it rise again.

In addition to redistributing the yeast and giving it fresh food to work with, a second knead can also help fortify the dough.

Even if I wanted to knead twice, I’d probably punch down and fold the bread in thirds before calling it good.

By allowing the yeast to rise again, not only is the texture improved, but the yeast is also able to grow longer as well.

Making the flour more sugar-rich and giving you more yeast flavor. This adds a nice level of flavor complexity to your food.

As far as I’m concerned, you can achieve the same effect by having a much longer (like overnight) cool rise first.

Why Do Some Bread Recipes Call For a Second Rise?

The key is texture. Before baking, dough should be given a second rise to achieve the best texture and flavor typical of leavened bread.

When yeast is allowed to rise a second time, more fibers are formed within the dough as a result.

During the second rise, the texture becomes lighter, chewier, and the flavor is more complex. It is not necessary for dough to rise twice. In some recipes and varieties, only one rise is allowed, while others require two or more.

Allowing Yeast More Time to Work

Amateur bakers quickly learn that making bread is a waiting game. Depending on the recipe and type of yeast used, rising alone can take anywhere from three to 24 hours.

Meaning that a lot of baker’s energy goes toward watching towel-covered dough.

The entire process results in something delicious but can potentially overwhelm first-timers who aren’t prepared to spend the afternoon worrying about whether their loaves have doubled in size.

Understandably, home bakers might wonder why some breads take so long to rise.

Second Rise’s Impact on Texture and Flavor

More to the point, why do some loaves need to rise twice? The answer has a lot to do with how bakers achieve the desired texture for different types of loaves.

Rising, or proofing, is the process by which yeasted breads achieve structure and height. When active, yeast converts sugar and other foods into gas, which is trapped in the dough.

The same process can be observed in a sourdough starter, which rises in volume after it’s been fed.

Transforming Gas Bubbles into Craterous Holes

The gas bubbles created during the first rise create loaves known for their craterous holes.

Breads like this focaccia, for example, are usually only given one rise; English muffins, too, derive their nooks and crannies from a single rise.

Breads with a tighter, smoother crumb structure require a bit more help from the baker, however, which is why the chef is next instructed to push out all the gas that the yeast has just put into the dough.

Smaller Bubbles, Heartier Bread

By deflating — or punching down — the dough after the first rise, the baker is allowing the yeast to move to areas where more sugars are available.

The yeast can then repeat the same process during the second rise and create more gas to be trapped in the dough.

Because the yeast has already exhausted some of the dough’s food supply, it won’t be as energetic and will create much smaller air bubbles.

Those smaller bubbles will allow for a texture more suited to sandwich bread, however, and will result in hardier bread. After a second rise, bakers can finish up beautiful loaves.

A Third Rise?

Some recipes demand a third rise. This white bread, for example, credits its softness to its additional proof. Most recipes stop at the second, however, so as not to fully exhaust the yeast, which continues to contribute to rising while in the oven.

When going through the rising steps, it’s important not to overproof your bread. After the first rise, most experts recommend pressing a finger into the dough.

If it holds its shape, then it’s ready for the next step. After the second rise, however, a baker is looking for the dough to spring back at her slowly when she pokes it.

The second proving has given the bread more elasticity, and made it harder to deflate the air.

Second rises may add significantly to the total time it takes to complete a loaf of bread, but the step can be essential to achieving the taste and texture inherent to a number of popular breads.

By understanding how the rising process affects dough, bakers can better choose whether they want their bread to rise, and how many times it will need to do so to achieve the end result.

If Two is Better, Then Wouldn’t Three Be Even Better?

Given the fact that a second rise, if all goes according to plan, will produce a better structure and in some situations flavor, should we go for a third rise? Or four? Well, yes and no. Some breads do call for a third rise.

However, for your basic loaves a second rise is probably all that is practical. This is true for a couple reasons:

The Benefits Diminish Over Time

The third rise just simply does not add enough of a bonus in order to continue the process and risk having flat bread because the yeast ran out of food.

It probably took a couple of hours to get to the end of your second rise; an additional hour or two at this point needs to have a bigger reward than a little bolder flavor.

If we try to compensate for this by adding more yeast, we could run into other issues. Too much yeast can begin to taste a little too much like alcohol and have an unpleasant sour flavor.

The Yeast Will Run Out Of Food

Yeast will only keep working as long as it has food to consume, and there is a limited supply in the mix of ingredients.

Each time you punch down the dough, the yeast will have less food to feed on to continue to rise. Which means at some point it will no longer rise, or it will rise at an extremely slow rate.

My Experience With a Single vs Double Rise

I must admit, with a second rise being such a common practice the differences were not as drastic as I had anticipated.

Visually, the differences were definitely noticeable, especially the texture of the crumb. As you can see in the picture, the top loaf has a more dense texture.

However, when I actually tasted the bread, those textural differences weren’t polar opposites.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting more of a scone or biscuit-like texture In the single-rise. I know technically why it wouldn’t end up like a biscuit, but I was still expecting it.

Also, the differences in flavor were surprisingly subtle. Remember that this was just a basic loaf of plain artisan white bread.

How different can it really be, after all?

But, overall, the biggest differences between the dough only risen once versus the dough given a second rise were the shape and size which ultimately impacted the texture of the crumb.

The second rise loaf had a more even shape, airy texture, and larger size.

How Much Yeast Should I Use To Raise Dough Twice?

To slow the rise enough to allow it to rise twice instead of once, it’s a good rule of thumb to reduce the amount of yeast used by 25%.

The rate of yeast activity roughly doubles every hour. During the second rise, a dough that is slow to rise at the start can rise fairly quickly. Keep your eyes open!

How To Convert A Single Rise Bread Recipe To Rise Twice

It is necessary to slow down yeast activity in order to convert a single rise recipe into a double rise recipe. Sugars shouldn’t be used up too quickly during the first rise. You can do this in two ways:

  • Less yeast is better
  • Lower the temperature for proofing

It is relatively easy to grasp the second point. Cooling the dough prolongs the rising time so that the yeast doesn’t eat up all the sugar too quickly. 

Yeast is more active when it’s warm. Dough proofing temperatures are more complex when you get into the details. 

No matter how you cool the dough, you will probably need to reduce the yeast (even slightly) to make a double rise. It’s best to use less yeast since it’s quite stinky.

Can I Double Rise Any Bread Dough?

Using a hand mixer or domestic dough mixer will not be able to knead dough well enough for a single rise. It is likely, therefore, that home kitchens will produce better results by using the double rise method.

The recipe should not be double risen if it was designed for a single rise! Even if you’re lucky, your dough won’t rise fully the second time since the yeast will consume all its sugars too early. You could convert your recipe if you wanted to do this.

Should My Dough Double In Size Before Shaping?

In many recipes, the dough is asked to rise twice before being “punched down” and shaped into its final shape. 

Most bakers find a 100% rise to be too gassy and difficult to handle. It is also possible for the yeast to run out of sugars and not fully rise the second time around. 

The standard rise of 50% is sufficient in most cases, but if you’re unsure, follow your recipe.

My Final Verdict On This One

You probably guessed it, but I preferred the loaf that was given a second rise. However, the single rise produced an acceptable loaf of white bread.

The second rise produced a superior bread, so I will continue doing it.

In the event that I am pressed for time, I will put a single rise dough in the oven and live with the result.

At the end of the day, I just like knowing that I have more options when it comes to baking bread to accommodate a busy schedule.

It was remarkable to find out that I wasn’t required to take a week off of work just to make one roll for dinner if I proofed the dough in the fridge overnight.

It just makes fresh bread all the more accessible knowing that I can bake after the first rise.

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