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When I'm baking regular white bread: wheat flour+water+yeast. I often find my first rise to do well, but my second rise halts prematurely. It does not double.

I think/guess the reason is mostly because of a drying out effect on the outer layer, impeding the rise. I don't think it is the yeast running out of steam; when I cut the loaves before the oven, the cuts makes a significant change in the rise.

Would the drying out effect be lessened if I added oil or butter to the mix?

If so, how does this effect the wetness of the dough?

This is the result of 2 hours for the first rise, 50 minutes for the second.

2 hours first proofing, 50 min second proofing

Update: Following the advice provided gave me a wonderfully light and smooth giant loaf of bread. I used oil and cling wrap instead of kitchen towels for both proofings.

  • If you can provide a closeup picture, around one of your cuts or slashes, I am sure that would help identify if you are having drying issues. – SAJ14SAJ Nov 27 '13 at 22:18
  • @SAJ14SAJ Just thought of that. I'll try and upload a pic from my phone. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:33
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    The paleness of that crust makes me think it's quite dry (unless it just appears that way from your flash?). You could also mist it with water a few minutes before it goes in the oven. – SourDoh Nov 27 '13 at 22:58
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Oil or butter are dough enrichments, and they will change the quality of your loaf. This may be a positive change in flavor and texture, as well as making it stale more slowly, but it is a change. They will also slow the action of the yeast slightly.

Instead, if the cause of your failure to get a second proofing is that the outside of the loaf is drying out (which from the edited in picture appears to be the case), coat just the outside very lightly with oil or butter, then cover loosely with cling wrap. I like to spray cling wrap with spray oil, then lay it over the surface of the loaf.

You may also want to improvise a proofing box with your microwave, by boiling some water in the chamber for a few minutes, then using the cavity as the proof box. You still want to oil and cover the loaf while it rises.

This will keep the outside from drying out and losing its elasticity, so that the proofing can continue.

A second possible cause is that the yeast are running out of readily available sugars to digest, and so their action is just slowing down considerably. You might try adding a teaspoon of sugar to the liquid when you are first making the dough to provide some extra food for the yeast.

  • I have only used cling film with the first proofing. Will try. My last attempt was a 2 hour 1:st proof, 50 min 2:nd proof, the surface seemed really stiff by then. Some good cuts before the oven showed me, the bread had a lot of rise left in it. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:23
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No, the oil/butter won't really help with the rise of the dough. But it WILL affect your oven spring if the skin is dry. You may be expecting too much of the second rise, it's not supposed to be a bunker-buster like the first one.

A reputable baker told me the following:

You get double or more with the first rise, if you punch the bread, the second rise will be give you another 30% and the once more third rise will be another 10%.

If you get a 20% spring in the oven, you're doing great.

You want to avoid the hard skin, but keep in mind that yeast growth is much stronger than the skin and if it is growing, it will simply crack the skin and push open. In the oven on the other hand, the hard skin will stop the spring dead in its tracks. This is one reason bakers use humidity controlled ovens.

Finally, unlike fermentation in wine, as the yeast produces more the CO2 it is trapped in the bread and makes it acidic and less hospitable to the yeast. Even if you feed it more, you won't necessarily get the yield you'd imagine.

  • I never punch the bread, I try to be gentle. Yes the oven spring is about 20%. I guess because of my plentiful cuts. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:30
  • I usually spray water into the oven when I put it in. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:32
  • It helps. if you put a rimmed cookiesheet and pour boiling water, in it helps, as well. No match for a commercial oven though. – MandoMando Nov 28 '13 at 0:57
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If your second rise halts prematurely, it's probably due to the yeast running out of nutrients. You could try starting with less yeast, adding a bit of sugar, or giving it a shorter first rise.

If the outer layer is actually drying, it will crack, but keep rising. To prevent this drying, the dough ball is usually coated in oil or butter and then topped with plastic or a damp towel. Adding butter or oil to the mix won't significantly prevent the dough from drying, but it will make it more supple (to a point) and make the finished bread softer.

  • If I cut it before the owen, the owen rise does alot. That's why I'm so hung up on the drying issue. Let me add that to the question. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:10
  • I do find very small long cracks. Fine white lines. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:13
  • Please substitute owen for oven in the above message. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:16
  • If it is drying, adding oil or butter to the dough won't help much. Instead you want to COAT the dough in a very thin layer of oil or butter, and then cover it with something to prevent contact with air. That's where the plastic or cloth cover comes in. Dough with oil may take a few more minutes to dry out, but it's not going to help that much (and especially if it's drying so much that the dough can't rise beyond it). – SourDoh Nov 27 '13 at 22:43
  • Your username inclines me to tell that I do not have this problem with sourD'OHs, only yeast based ones. – Captain Giraffe Nov 27 '13 at 22:45

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