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Suppose that I have made bread dough and it is supposed to be degassed around 90 min after kneading (t+90). Suppose that I have to leave home at t+30 and will be back sometime between t+120 and t+150.

What is better for the dough, to degas it too early or to degas it too late? I know I can try to influence the duration of the first rising by changing the temperature (I could either put it in the fridge or in an oven preheated to 50°C, turned off and cracked open). But I doubt that the dough's internal temperature will change substantially during these short times.

So, what is the better strategy? Warm it and degas early, or cool it and degas late?

For the record, I am talking about a high-hydration bread (86%), with sugar, but no fat, 2.8% yeast. But if the hydration, leanness and yeast amount have an influence on the decision, I would like to hear about that too. (Assume that for any yeast amount, the time period before degassing has been calculated to be correct for it).

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In my experience (and I'm only an amateur baker), you could leave this until you get back and knock it back then. If you leave it really long (e.g. 24 hours), you might find it just doesn't have enough life left in it to rise again properly after, but an extra hour or so will probably improve it - I've always found that recipes err on the side of speed.

For a 2 hour prove time, I'd keep it slightly cool but not fridge-cool. Since you're using a very wet dough, you will find it gets a little stickier the longer you leave it, so might need slightly more flour when shaping.

Having said that, I've recently been experimenting with really long rise times (12-24 hours, for ciabatta) - I just haven't found a happy medium yet that suits me.

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This is a Reinhart recipe, I don't think it errs on the side of speed - that's why I listed the yeast percentage, as you see it is low - I have seen recipes with up to 9% yeast. –  rumtscho May 20 '12 at 18:14
    
I'm not familiar with Reinhart. I see that it's a wet recipe and with sugar, which is probably why you need less yeast? –  Mick Sear May 20 '12 at 20:31

I find it's best to judge by texture and dough volume rather than by rising time, because it's so variable with temperature.

There is a trade-off for when to degas & shape your bread, and where you draw the line depends on what you're aiming for with that particular batch. If you shape earlier, the loaves are easier to shape, and you get tighter, taller loaves. Shaping later yields a lighter, fluffier, more open crumb.

The reason this trade-off exists is that the gluten stretches out during the initial rise as it traps gas. If your first rise is brief, then the dough is more dense and has additional stretch, which aids in getting a good amount of tension on your formed loaf. The tension in the loaf's skin directs its expansion upward, rather than spreading outward.

Conversely, when the dough rises further, there is more incorporated gas, and the gluten has less elasticity. It is more difficult to correctly shape the loaf, but the additional trapped gas bubbles act as nucleation sites to grow into larger air bubbles during the second rise. This gives a less dense crumb, and may yield additional rising.

Note that all of this is assuming you make free-form loaves, with a rise-shape-proof process. If you're doing bread-pan loaves, punching down can wait a little later. For high-gluten flours, you'll want to rise and proof a bit longer, since they can hold more gas. Sourdoughs need to be shaped earlier because they tend to turn into puddles otherwise.

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