Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If you let (bread) dough rise, the recipe always asks to cover it. Years ago, I read to cover it with a wet towel. Nowadays, I see more and more recipes that ask for plastic wrap (aka saran or cling wrap).

The towel lets air through, the wrap does not. What is the difference between the two in the end result? What is best to use and why?

I'm taking about the first as well as the second (proofing) rise. If there is a difference between the phases, please inform me.

share|improve this question
    
Towels have given way to plastic wrap for ease of clean-up. Typically we just put the dough into a metal bowl, give it a lite brush with veg oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap so nothing falls in. As it's sealed AND has a coating of oil it doesn't dry out and life is good. When it's done proofing we grab a paper towl and blot off the extra oil before moving on to the next steps. –  Chef Flambe Feb 22 '12 at 0:15
add comment

6 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The goal is to keep the surface of the bread from drying out.

A wet towel works fine but plastic wrap is cheaper and easier than constantly cleaning wet towels.

I have used both methods and haven't noticed a difference in the bread produced. In very dry climates, when I made bread with multiple rises I sometimes had to redampen the towel which was an added inconvenience.

Lately I have been proofing large batches of bread in a large stock pot and just use the lid of the pot as the only cover.

share|improve this answer
    
I'd like to add my opinion on using towels - multiple times I've had a problem using towels when fermenting / rising using sourdough - since it takes about 4 hours at its fastest, and as much as 8+ hours when fermenting at cold temps. The towel dries and after that the dough dries, creating an unpleasant skin. Using lightly misted plastic wrap instead is IMO much better. :) –  Max Feb 21 '12 at 19:23
    
Ah yes, I also let dough rise in a pot once but the recipe asked for plastic wrap, not the lid (but that was waffle dough, not bread dough). –  Mien Feb 21 '12 at 19:24
add comment

Put a serving plate over the bowl. Normal way up so it doesn't slide off and doesn't need washing. Easy!

A small amount of surface drying is not going to ruin a bread dough. Think of the millions of bread making machines out there, no plastic wrap required with them, just a reasonably fitting lid that stops air drafts, hence why the towel method worked fine

share|improve this answer
    
+1 it really has to dry out pretty significantly to do much harm. –  rfusca Feb 22 '12 at 3:48
add comment

I work with quite wet doughs and bake in a moist environment, but

first rise - in a large Tupperware container, lid on but ajar at a corner to let gases escape.

second rise - simply dusted with flour.

No noticeable skinning at all or loss of oven spring.

share|improve this answer
    
Much the same process I use as well. I often dust with flour or cover loosely with a floured couche. –  rfusca Feb 22 '12 at 7:48
add comment

A good alternative to either a towel (which you have to wash and is prone to sticking) or plastic wrap (which ain't cheap or good for the environment) is a clear plastic shower cap. It does the same job as plastic wrap, but is reusable. The elasticated edge stretches around even big bowls, providing a snug fit.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Personally, I spray plastic wrap with oil, then use that. Doesn't stick, even with very high hydration doughs, and completely prevents the dough from drying.

Another method is to use a food-grade plastic bag. Tie it shut inflated with air (so it isn't touching the dough). The humidity in the bag will stay high enough to prevent drying, and since the dough doesn't touch the bag, the bag stays clean and can be re-used.

The food-safe bag is the most environmentally friendly (washing cloths isn't so environmentally friendly).

share|improve this answer
    
You put the wrap on top of the dough, not on top of the bowl? –  Mien Feb 21 '12 at 21:54
    
@Mien when its doing its second rise, I put it on top of the dough (because its not in a bowl anymore). When its in a bowl, I put it atop the bowl. –  derobert Feb 22 '12 at 1:08
add comment

I just put a sheet of baking paper on top of the mixing bowl (in which I mixed the dough) and rest a wooden cutting board (which I used to knead the dough). I'll use the baking paper in the baking tin later, so nothing got wasted and there's no extra mess :)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.