Proper resting time is a crucial step in bread making that allows the dough to relax and take on its final form before baking. When dough is kneaded, the gluten strands are developed but remain tightly coiled and tense. Resting gives the gluten time to unwind, distribute moisture evenly, and set up the internal structure of the dough. This results in better oven spring and an evenly shaped loaf. So how long should bread dough be allowed to rest? Here is an overview of recommended resting times for different doughs.
Basic Resting Times
Most bread doughs need at least one rest period of 30 minutes to 2 hours after mixing and kneading. During this rest, the dough will relax and lose some of its elasticity. The initial rest allows the gluten to begin unwinding and hydrating. Here are some general guidelines for initial resting times:
- Quick breads (like soda bread or pancakes): 30 minutes
- Basic yeast breads: 1-2 hours
- Enriched yeast breads (with milk, eggs, etc.): 1-2 hours
- High hydration doughs: 1-2 hours
After shaping, most doughs also need a second rest period to allow the gluten to relax again before baking. This pre-bake rest is usually shorter, between 20-40 minutes.
Long Fermentation Doughs
Some artisan bread recipes call for extra long fermentation times. This extended resting time allows complex flavor compounds to develop in the dough. It also allows the gluten strands to unwind completely for a super soft, stretchy texture. Doughs made with long fermentation may rest overnight or up to 24 hours. Some examples include:
- Sourdough: 8-12 hours
- Rustic country loaf: 4-18 hours
- Focaccia: 8-24 hours
- Pizza dough: 24-48 hours
The long rests are broken up into intervals, with periods of folding or reshaping done periodically.
Factors that Shorten or Lengthen Resting Time
While the above guidelines provide approximate resting times, the exact duration will vary depending on several factors:
- Dough temperature: Warmer dough rests faster as the yeast are more active. Cooler dough may need longer rests.
- Fat and sugar: Enriched doughs with milk, eggs, fat, or sugar require longer resting times to hydrate the gluten strands.
- Whole grains: The bran particles can slice gluten strands, so dough with lots of whole grain flours may benefit from longer resting periods.
- Hydration level: Wetter, high hydration doughs take longer to hydrate the gluten and require longer rests.
- Number of rises: Each rising cycle extends the total rest time.
Bakers need to take these factors into account and adjust resting times as needed. With experience, you can tell just by looking and touching when dough is properly rested. The dough will have a smooth, elastic texture yet still retain some plumpness.
Tips for Proper Dough Resting
To ensure your bread dough gets the rest it needs, follow these tips:
- Cover the dough as it rests to prevent drying out. Plastic wrap or damp towels work well.
- Let it rest in a slightly warm spot around 75°F. The warmer temperature speeds the resting process.
- Minimize handling of the dough during rests to avoid disturbing the gluten strands.
- Check for dough relaxation by gently pressing two fingers into the surface. If the indentation springs back slowly, it’s rested.
- Resist the urge to shorten the resting time, even if you’re in a hurry. Proper rest is vital.
Getting the resting time right is essential for creating that perfect loaf with an airy crumb and sturdy crust. While rest durations vary based on the dough type and ingredients, most bread doughs need an initial 1-2 hour rest after mixing. Additional rises and pre-bake rests continue to relax the gluten. Fermentation flavor and texture develop during extended rests over 8-24 hours. Mind the temperature, hydration, and enrichments to adjust resting times as needed. With well-rested dough, you’ll have artisan quality bread at home.