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If I make a loaf and slow proof it in the refrigerator, I find that sometimes it will collapse in the middle. I know this is happening because there is a large air pocket in the cling film above the bread.

Is there anything I can do to rescue a loaf once this has happened? The objective is to let it rise overnight so that I can bake it first thing in the morning without having to knock it back and do a second rise.

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    There are plenty of answers posted, so I won't tackle that, but did want to make a suggestion, if you are looking for a bread which can readily be left overnights without overproofing ready to bake in the morning... have you explored the possibilities of sourdough? It also has the benefit that it will rise slowly in a cool place without needing refrigeration, so you aren't trying to get oven-spring from a fridge-cold dough. – Spagirl Jan 30 '18 at 15:54
  • I like it, this is a good idea. I love sourdough, but hadn't considered an overnight prove. – antonyh Jan 30 '18 at 16:58
  • Basically i only make sourdough. I am out of the house for about 10 hours in the day which would make getting a round of yeast bread done quite tricky in the week, but I can basically let my sourdough hang around for the best part of 24 hours at this time of years, so I mix it one evening and bake it the next, – Spagirl Jan 30 '18 at 17:14
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Normally, you would not be doing a final proof overnight—that is, the proof that you have done to form the loaf. Instead, you would do the first ferment or proof overnight, then form the loaf, let it have its final proof, and then bake it.

The dough won't be wasted, but you don't want to bake a formed loaf that has over-proofed and fallen. This is because the gluten network will have collapsed and you will have a very poor structure and strange texture. You will need to reknead the dough, form the loaf, and reproof it:

Per The Fresh Loaf, you can almost certainly just punch the dough down, and let it proof again. It may actually have an improved flavor.

Cook's Illustrated concurs:

Using your fingertips, gently punch down the over-proofed dough and reshape it into a ball, then allow it to proof again for the recommended amount of time although it warns your final loaf may be about 20% smaller.

  • Do you mean that I can proof it as normal, knock back, re-knead, shape, then do the proof overnight in the fridge and it should be ok? I'm using fast-acting aka instant yeast for convenience; the recipe provided has only one rise/proof. – antonyh Mar 4 '13 at 23:31
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    One rise recipes are not easily suitable for overnight proofing. Normally, you would do a do two proofs. You would do the initial proof overnight in the fridge, then form the loaf, do the final proof, and then bake. – SAJ14SAJ Mar 4 '13 at 23:45
  • I just tried to rescue an overproofed sourdough loaf, but it was super sticky. The texture was literally like chewing gum--I think more ended up on my hands than in the loaf. I ended up putting a lot more flour into it just to make it workable. – stib Mar 24 at 9:54
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I wouldn't try to save the batch as bread. Really, if it is completely overproofed, the yeast is spent and you can't get good leavening any more.

This doesn't mean that you should throw it out. If it is overproofed, chances are that it spent a long time leavening. In this case, you got some great gluten formation. In case you used a good (=low) amount of yeast, you also got some great fermentation taste*.

So the best you can do is to use the overproofed dough as a preferment. Make a second batch of the same proportions, and mix the old dough (cut in pieces) into it. Do it at the beginning of the mixing process, the way you would do it with a biga. Then proceed with the new, double batch as usual. You will have better gluten and more taste than if you used no preferment.

*There is a caveat here. If the overproofing is due to too quick a fermentation (which seems to be the case), then the tastes produced will not be as pleasant as if it were a slow-but-too-long fermentation. It can be that using the preferment in this case actually makes the taste of your dough a bit worse, rather than better, in relative terms (as compared to no-preferment). Still, you have good incentives to use it if the absolute taste is good enough for your palate: you don't waste the materials and the time you invested, and you get a better texture due to the good quality gluten in the preferment. But if you think that your fermentation was too quick, reduce the amount of yeast in the new mixture.

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You can easily rescue overproofed dough if you just feed it, knead it, and let rise.

But OP wanted to rescue it "without second rise". That's not possible - unlikely to fix any dough without some flour, kneading, rising, etc.

  • Rescue: easy! Add new dough to overproofed and let rise (details bellow).

    • Use overproof like a starter (preferment) - it adds great taste and texture. Highly recommended. Thus, a mishap turns into an advantage.
  • Prevention: collapse is likely due to weak gluten mesh:

    1. Knead more the night before, make the dough harder and rubber-like.
    2. I add a bit [more] oil pre-kneading, it helps stabilize structure and traps microscopic bubbles, works quite well.

Yeast/starch are unlikely issues given the slow single rise; rather yeast bubbles up, but dough too weak to hold. Well developed gluten mesh is required, e.g. poorly kneaded doughs collapse with a slight shake.


For those who just want to rescue overproofed dough (which is how I reached that question):

I once forgot the dough outside 21C (70F) for 30 hours, covered. That's over-overproofed. It smelled like strong liquor but otherwise fine.

I've added a fresh mixture of just white flour and water (⅓ of original overproofed) to the overproofed dough, kneaded manually 7 minutes, 30 minutes rise, 1 hour in oven - and to my surprise it was delicious.

No need to add sugars, presumably enough starch in added flour. Nor yeasts, presumably enough left in the overproofed batch. Yeast inactivity would be an issue had the dough not risen at all, but a collapse signals a weak dough.

Noticeably, the dough rose rather well and its final texture was superb: firm build but fluffy inside, pores of even size and distribution, nice crust, and melts-in-the-mouth feeling when you take a bite. I had honestly feared it would be a waste of time (would flatten or have aftertaste). I've since done it successfully many times.

Nowadays I often 'neglect with intent'.. (overproof later add flour and knead)

Overproofed dough acts like a pre-ferment or bread starter, which is actually good and makes the bread better (overproofed dough is not a starter but similar in function)


I based my experiments on answers here, which were crucial to my rescue attempts. This just affirms the basic notions here, and expands on them: a rescue operation is easily possible even in dire conditions, provided second proof.

  • The overproofed dough was made with simple white flour, water, and minute amounts of black molasse, canola oil, and yeasts.
  • Obviously never use dough that was left outside if you have incorporated ingredients that may spoil (dairy eggs etc)
  • I was trying to find a lazy way of waking up to fresh bread so overnight prove seemed like a good idea. I've not tried since (it's been 6 years) but this all sounds good to me particularly the advice about perishable ingredients. As for 'without the second rise' I was hoping for some advice on how to prevent the collapse in the first place :-) particularly as it was a 5c prove for 12 hours, which didn't seem excessive. The discussion here has been very enlightening on strategies for recovering from an overproof situation, thank you. – antonyh Mar 7 at 21:28
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    yeah I got that 'leave-it-bake-it' take ;-) Did not answer that b/c u asked rescue not prevention, but it's easy to prevent collapse. I'll ammend answer so future generations will know. – Daniel E. Klein Mar 9 at 15:38
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I agree with the other responses - yes, you can resurrect over-proofed dough. I have done it many times! Just lightly knead, reshape, and wait for it to rise again. You could knead in a bit of yeast (the bread machine type) but I have found this is not usually necessary and could result in uneven results if the yeast is not distributed evenly throughout the dough.

Given that you are using a single proof recipe, your loaf will probably not be any smaller and you may find that it has better flavour. Another option is to cut back on the amount of yeast you use in your recipe. This will buy you some time (as in the no-knead technique) so that the chances of over-proofing in the overnight hours are less. Overnight retarding in the bulk fermentation and the final proofing stages yield different results. I prefer a bulk fermentation overnight. Just take the dough out in the morning, shape, proof while the oven is heating up (mine takes at least an hour to get to 450) and then bake.

Good luck and happy baking!

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I make whole wheat bread and like to do a long slow initial proof - to enhance the flavor, as seasoned bakers advise.
Unfortunately, I also often don't get it right and over-proof it. Typically my over-proofed loaves do not recover; they do not get an oven-spring, and they end up either collapsed or very dense, not rising at all well for a final proof.

I have tried adding vital gluten, and that certainly helps with my home-ground WW flour, and, because I thought that maybe the yeast was consuming all the sugar in the dough during the first proofing, I have started adding a pinch of diastase (it doesn't take much!) to the ingredients.
Diastase is the enzyme that converts starch to sugar, and by adding it, I hope to ensure that the yeast will never run out of food and/or die.

That works.

I make my bread in a bread machine on a program that does two knead and rise cycles, and I add 1/2 the yeast (SAF) at the beginning of each cycle. I'm not done experimenting, but I can say that the diastase (and gluten for the WW flour) has yielded some superb bread that survived over-proofing. If you want to try it, don't get a lot: an ounce should last you a lifetime.

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Overproofed dough makes a great thin crust pizza.

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    Could you explain why? On its own, this isn't much of an answer, since it doesn't elaborate or explain what "great" means (i.e. how it's different from pizza made with regular dough). – Aaronut Apr 27 '14 at 13:38
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I have resurrected my over risen dough by simply making another batch and including the over risen dough in it. And, as others mentioned, it tasted a lot better. I just let it rise again, and the texture was a bit thicker - though I quite like it. The next batch, which I allowed ample time to rise, was nice and fluffy. Soooo good.

Thanks for your comments, Bv

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    Welcome to Seasoned Advice! Please don't add "thanks" as answers. Invest some time in the site and you will gain sufficient privileges to upvote answers you like, which is the Seasoned Advice way of saying thank you. – rumtscho Sep 3 '16 at 7:05
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No problem...Punch it down,knead it and it it doesnt rise add a 1/4 tea spoon of sugar and yeast to it, and knead it again. cover and let proof.

  • It's going to be much harder to mix additional yeast and sugar into dough that's already developed. – SourDoh Jan 21 '14 at 23:34

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