Bread baking has some lengthy steps and it can be tempting to rush the rise and get the dough in the oven. We’ve all been there, pushed for time, and wondering if you can bake it without letting it rise properly. I wanted to see some results for myself so I did some tests where I cut the rising times short. There are some pictures of the outcomes later in the article.
What happens if you don’t let dough rise long enough?
If you don’t let dough rise long enough then the bread will be dense, rubbery and less flavorful. As the yeast ferments, it fills the dough with gas and gives the bread its airy texture. The flavors also come as byproducts of fermentation.
By not giving your dough long enough to rise, you will, unfortunately, make disappointing bread. Leaving it a little longer, it will be much tastier and better textured. I’ve included a fool-proof tip below on how to tell when it is fully risen and ready to bake.
If your bread has failed, you can always check out my post 12 things to do with failed bread.
My Experiment Results
I decided to run two experiments with different doughs. The first dough I would bake straight after kneading and would have no rising at all. The second dough I would allow it to have a first rise, shape it and then bake soon after – so effectively rushing the second rise. I think everyone has rushed the second rise when they don’t have much time!
To make the two dough balls, I kneaded 1000g of flour for about 8 minutes until smooth, and then split the dough into two balls. I gave them 5 minutes to relax and then shaped them into rounds.
First Dough – Baked After Zero Rising
I wanted to answer the question – what happens if you bake bread without letting it rise?
After kneading and shaping the dough, I put the round onto a baking sheet and slashed it with a razor blade. I placed straight into a hot oven for 25 minutes. Here were the results.
As you can see, the bread barely rose at all and made an unappealing loaf. The doughy center burst out of a weak spot on one side as it looked for somewhere to rise – a classic result of under proofing. When it was picked up, it was dense and heavy – probably because it couldn’t release steam very well. When it was cut open, the bread inside was so dense it was cake-like and rubbery. Nothing like the airy crumb we look for in bread. The taste was so bland that it was horrible – it tasted like raw flour.
So what happens if you bake bread without letting it rise? It makes extremely dense bread which will blow out of the side as it bakes. The taste will be very bland and have no bready aromas.
I also did a whole other article on why your bread blew out the side.
Second Dough – Only A First Rise Before Baking
The second dough which was cut off the first batch, was left to rise for just over an hour. This dough had a fair amount of yeast in so had ballooned to about 2.5 times the size. I gave it a few folds to knock the gas out, shaped it into a round and gave it 10 minutes of proofing before baking in the oven.
This bread was at least edible but it was still a pretty poor bread. It was a larger and lighter loaf but it was quite dense in parts and didn’t have a nice texture. The taste and smell was noticeably more bread-like from the extra fermentation. If the dough had a full hour or more on the second rise then it would have been a half decent loaf.
It still blew out of one side because it was under proofed. Because the dough is still too tight but needs somewhere to rise, so ends up breaking out of a weak spot.
So all in all, we can see that the first rise gave it some better flavor and texture. But the second rise – the proof – is still an extremely important step to achieving a great loaf of bread.
Properly Risen Bread Example
I’ve included a third bread which I baked with the same ingredients, but gave the full amount of proofing. You can see the loaf is larger and hasn’t blown out in one direction. The crumb is full of small holes, and has some larger ones in there too. This makes a much lighter, airy bread which makes so much better for eating sandwiches and toasts. Hopefully now you can see the differences in rising the bread for the full amount of time.
Why The First Rise Is Important For Bread
The first rise starts to build flavor in the dough from fermentation of yeast and sugars. We see the release of CO2 gas, alcohol and acids which all add to the flavor. Secondly, we start building the texture of the dough from the gas pockets trapped inside the webby network of gluten.
Once this phase is done we usually give the dough a few folds which knock out some of the gas and make the dough tighten up again. This disperses the large bubbles and also moves the yeast around for more available food to ferment. This sets up the next rise.
Why The Second Rise (Proofing) Is Important For Bread
One of the main functions of proofing fully is to let the dough relax and expand so it is not a tight ball. This allows the dough to have an oven “spring” which is where the dough evenly rises to its maximum when baked. Without a long enough proof, we get cracks and “blown out” bits of bread because it was too tight to uniformly expand, but still had pressure inside.
This rise also continues to add flavor and lighten the texture from more volume in the dough. The flavor is determined by the combined time of the first and second rise.
How To Tell When Dough Is Perfectly Risen
With yeasted dough, the bread is usually fully proofed and ready to bake after 1 – 1.5 hours, depending on temperature. This is assuming you’ve already given it a first rise and shaped it.
You can use the “poke test” to find out if the dough is risen enough. Use a floured finger and press into the top of the dough. If it springs back very quickly then it needs more time. If it partially springs back then it is ready. And if it doesn’t spring back then it is potentially over proofed.
Other characteristics are that the dough looks airy and light. It wobbles when you shake it, and it feels like a marshmallow to the touch. This is the result of expansion from the gas, and the gluten in the dough relaxing. You want to take the proofing step (rising right before baking), as far as you can take it. This gives maximum volume and taste.
What happens if you let dough rise too long? The dough becomes over proofed and will become weak. The gas bubbles that built up might get so large that they burst, and you end up with dense bread because it collapses.
If you see large bubbles on the surface then you know its time to bake.
How To Speed Up The Rise
Warmth speeds up rising because the yeast is more active in warmer temperatures. That is until it starts to die around 130F/55C. So placing the dough in a warm spot will speed up the rising period. In a boiler room or in front of the oven work well.
You can also speed things up by using warmer water to mix the dough. Try using water around baby bath temperature – 100F/38C or higher. Increasing the amount of yeast will also speed up the rise.
Remember that slow risen dough actually makes better bread because the fermentation builds flavor. You will notice the bread tastes floury and bland if you speed it up. With that in mind, only speed things up if you have to.
Swap Yeast For Baking Soda For Speed
Another option to make bread faster is to use baking soda instead of yeast. With this, you don’t have to let the bread rise and there is no kneading. Instead, the sodium bicarbonate (an alkali) and the buttermilk (an acid) will react to create the carbon dioxide. A bit like the science experiment where you mix baking soda and vinegar and watch it fizz. This reaction can happen in the oven and not while rising outside the oven like yeasted bread.
You can get this bread ready in about an hour, so its a great choice to use when in a rush. Here is a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
From my tests you can see what happens if you bake bread without letting it rise, and also if you don’t let it rise long enough. Plain and simple – it makes pretty bad bread! It’s best to allocate enough time to bread making as its a lengthy process. By using the poke test described above, you can ensure that the dough is perfectly proofed every time.
The best breads are made from lowering the yeast quantity and rising over extended periods. You can slow down the rise further by putting the dough into the fridge to cool. This is what creates the complex and tangy flavors of bread like sourdough and good country loaves.