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While making some focaccia this afternoon, my wife said, "sure the house is 'warm'; it'll be fine." One hour later, no rising. It may be worth noting that our house is 66F. So we stuck it in a warm oven and it rose just fine. It turned out fine, I'm just glad we weren't trying to get it done for a meal.

So the question is, how warm does dough need to be to rise properly?

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I live in the Northeastern part of New York State in the Adirondacks, near Vermont. I play havoc to get my dough to rise this Winter. I think I'll make the dough before I go to bed and let it rise throughout the night. –  user9198 Feb 19 '12 at 14:05
    
Don't worry about a long rise - a long, cool rise is actually better for the bread. Autolyse is a process where starches are converted to sugars and other flavors, but which takes time to proceed. –  Sam Ley Feb 19 '12 at 17:41
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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Optimal yeast growth happens at around 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but dough will rise at any room temperature. As the temp rises, the yeast becomes more active, which is why you'll sometimes see recipes call over overnight rests in the fridge, where activity slows or stops. Yeast dies at anything above 50 C (122 F).

The important thing is knowing the temperature and, if you're really particular, the humidity in the air around your proof. This information is used for the sake of timing consistency, more than anything else.

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I should add that there's really no "proper" temperature to rise. Rise is caused by yeast converting sugars into gas (and alcohol), but a lot of warm rises shoot for about 25 to 30 C. Some people say that a slower, cooler rise makes for a more complexly flavored bread, but that hasn't been my experience with straight doughs. (Older yeasts in starters like levain or sourdough, though, definitely change the flavor.) –  zacechola Dec 20 '10 at 2:41
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I believe that the usual quote for rising temperature is between 24-29C (75-85F), though a little warmer than that I tend to use.

It's important that there are no draughts on the area, or you can have problems. My personal preference is to leave it in an airing cupboard, providing it is not too warm.

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When making dough, The Bread Baker's Apprentice says to knead it until the dough's temperature (which those of us who are obsessive will actually take) reaches 77-80 degrees F. What you do from there may depend on what you are trying to accomplish.

For a consistent, speedy rise, your warm oven trick is perfect. This works well with sandwich breads and loaves which aren't intended to have big, crusty holes.

For hole-y crumb breads such as Italian bread, you want a cooler rise than a warm oven. This is because those big holes are encouraged by a long, slow rise, a light tough, and another long slow proof. In this case perhaps sticking it on top of your warm oven where it will get some heat or in a corner of the house near a vent where it is in the low 70s is ideal.

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Traditionally, doughs 'rose' (or proofed as is the professional term), in proof-boxes, which were nothing more than a set of big wooden drawers just like the ones you keep your underwear in. They are at room (shop) temperature, and have no special temperature or humidity controls. So if you can replicate that, you're on your way.

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But is that in a kitchen with oven(s) going? Room temp in my house, 66F, wasn't sufficient to get the dough to rise. –  yossarian Dec 19 '10 at 23:26
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@yossarian 66F is not really warm enough to get it to rise at the speed you want. 75F should be considered the minimum generally, unless you want it to raise very slowly. –  Orbling Dec 20 '10 at 1:15
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I proof my dough at 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 26 Celsius).

To keep the temperature constant, I place my dough in a large cooler with a 10 to 15 watt light bulb and a thermometer. I can then prop the lid open to various degrees to get the right temp.

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the question was not how to keep the dough at the desired temperature, but which temperature is the best. Please add this, or I will have to delete your post as not an answer. –  rumtscho Oct 20 '13 at 14:08
    
75 to 80 degrees –  William G Oct 20 '13 at 14:18
    
Thank you. I edited the info into the answer body for you. We are not a discussion forum, but a Q&A site, and specialize in answering the question just as stated, I understand if this is a bit puzzling to you at the beginning. You can find more info on our help page, cooking.stackexchange.com/help). –  rumtscho Oct 20 '13 at 14:39
    
@WilliamG Trust me, I can relate to the aggravation of being new here. If you stick around the rewards start to become evident. For what it's worth, you gave me some useful info today. –  Jolenealaska Oct 21 '13 at 9:31
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I grew up on a farm, and when it was sunny, my grandma always placed the bowl containing the dough, covered with a damp towel, into a sunny window. That's the method I've been using for a long time, works without problems for me. Putting it in a warm oven may be your best bet if the sun's not shining or you're in a hurry.

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