Can I Leave Dough To Rise All Day Or Night?


Managing dough around your busy schedule is an important part of being a happy baker. Sometimes you might want to leave dough rise all day, and sometimes over night is better so it can be baked in the morning. Learning to control the rise is a key skill to know – and it’s simple to do.

Can I leave dough to rise all day?

You can rise dough all day or overnight by lowering the recipe’s yeast quantity or lowering the temperature it rises at. This slows yeast activity and it will stop the yeast rising the dough too much and over fermenting it.

Now that we know it’s possible, let’s look at ways to go about doing this. I’ve included a table with different yeast quantities so you can pick how long you want to rise. Slowing down the rise makes the dough taste much better because it has more time to ferment and develop deeper flavors – like beer and wine does.

Slow Rising By Using Less Yeast

The yeast ferments the dough when it consumes sugars in the flour. We essentially want the dough to not over ferment which can mean it becomes weak and gassy. It also gets sour flavors from too much acids and alcohols being released from the fermentation. You will know if it is over fermenting because it rises up to triple its size and then starts to fall back down. Here you know you’ve gone too far.

So an obvious remedy is to just use less yeast. This slows down the fermentation process, and with less yeast the more time you need the dough to be fully risen.

Many basic beginner recipes will have lots of yeast so the recipe is finished rising in an hour or two. This needs to be changed because the recipes have way too much yeast. This won’t be able to rise all day because it will over ferment.

To understand yeast quantities better we need to know a bit about bakers percentages. These are ratios of ingredients which are a way to compare recipes. The ratios are always percentages of the flour weight. So if we have 500g flour and 10g of yeast, we have 2% yeast quantity (10 yeast divided by 500 flour and multiplied by 100 to give us the percentage). Always divide the ingredient weight by the flour weight and then multiply by 100.

I’ve created a table below giving an idea of how long you can rise dough with different yeast amounts. Just lower the amount of yeast in the current recipe you are using, or use my example recipe in the table. Use water around 90F/32C and this assumes your kitchen is standard room temperature. Remember this is just for the first rise, and so you will need to give your dough a shaping and a final proof for about an hour or so.

For example, mix the recipe and knead for 10 minutes then give your dough a first rise from the times below. Give the dough a few folds to knock some gas out, and then shape and proof for an hour or so before baking.

Yeast PercentageExample RecipeFirst Rise Time
0.4%2g yeast, 500g flour, 340ml water, 10g salt4-5 hours
0.1%0.5g yeast, 500g flour, 340ml water, 10g salt8-10 hours

Example Schedule

An example schedule could be to mix the 0.4% dough in the morning and have fresh bread by the afternoon. With the 0.1% dough you can mix it in the evening and let it rise over night, then bake it the next morning.

Slow Rising In The Fridge

Alternatively, you can control the rising by controlling the temperature. Yeast activity slows down in cooler temperatures but doesn’t stop fully. This is relative too – a cooler room brings it down slightly, and the fridge brings it right down.

So we need to decide when is best to put it in the fridge. Bread usually has two rises, the first which happens in one piece if you are making multiple loaves – called the bulk fermentation. Then the second rise which happens individually once the loaves have been shaped and placed into a basket or loaf pan – called proofing.

You can slow down the rise at either stage, but it is easier to chill it at the second rise. This way you can take the loaves out of the fridge and bake it straight away – it doesn’t need to come to room temperature (as I wrote about in this article on baking cold dough).

So by keeping the yeast the same, you can do the first rise as normal and then place in the fridge until the end of the day or over night. If you want a loaf with lots of flavor, you can combine the two. Mix a dough with a small amount of yeast in the evening and let it rise over night. Then come morning you can shape and do the second rise in the fridge ready for the evening.

Remember that if they are cold, they still need to have enough time to finish proofing. Under proofed dough will be a bit dense and might blow out the side when it rises so you want to avoid that. Check it is proofed by pressing a finger into the top – if it springs back slowly then its finished proofing. If it springs back quickly then it needs more time. You can finish the proofing at room temperature if it needs an extra lift.

On the other hand, recipes with too much yeast will over proof even in the fridge. Try lowering the yeast quantity to at least something below 0.5% yeast percentage.

Tips On Slow Rising

Make sure the dough is airtight – you don’t want a skin to form on the top of the dough. Using a damp tea towel often isn’t enough because it isn’t air right. Better is to use a plastic bag or air tight container.

Buying a small kitchen scales can help you measure the small amounts of yeast. You can buy these on Amazon, just make sure to buy one that goes down to at least 0.1g. Measuring by weight is much better accuracy than volume such as spoons.

Ensure the dough doesn’t over ferment by being mindful of yeast quantity and temperature. Test the dough is still springy by poking a finger in and watch it spring back. Other signs are that the dough is starting to collapse. Read my tips in my article stop sourdough collapsing.

Conclusion

As you can see, it is very possible to let your dough rise all day or all night. With just a few tweaks of your current recipe you will be able to achieve this. One of my favorites is to make sourdough and put it in the fridge over night for the final rise. If I’m making yeasted dough the same day then I start in the morning and use a small amount of yeast and let it rise for about 5 hours for lovely crusty loaves.

You get the added benefits of better tasting and better textured dough from the longer fermentation. Once you try this once, you won’t go back to bland bread! For some more tips on improving the flavor of your bread check out my article on improving bland homemade bread.

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