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Baking with yeast & proofing 101

Contents:

1. Brief introduction to yeast & proofing

2. Best warm place to proof my dough?

3. How long does it take to proof?

4. How do I know if my dough is proofed, over-proofed or under-proofed?

5. How is my dough suppose to look like before & after proofing?

6. Why do I need to proof the dough twice?

7. At what stage of the baking process can I hit the pause button & do it another day?

8. If I've performed all the steps up to slicing up the scrolls into the baking tray & then refrigerated them for baking the next day, do I need to proof them a second time?

9. Can I switch from warm proofing & do a cold proof & vise versa?

10. What's the difference between the 'Knead' & 'No-knead' method?

 

1. Brief introduction to yeast & proofing

All you need to know, simplified:

  1. Yeast is a living friendly organism.
  2. They feed on sugar & flour in the dough and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol, which in effect causes your dough to grow in size. This process is called fermentation/ proofing/ rising.
  3. Fermentation is important because this process is what gives the finished baked good its texture and flavour.
  4. You can let the dough rise at room temperature or in the fridge, but it can take a long time! This is called “cold proofing”.
  5. To speed up the process, you can place your dough in a warm area instead, called “warm proofing”. The optimum temperature for yeast to grow is from 27°C – 32°C so you want your warm area to be around this temperature.
  6. Some say cold proofing/a longer fermentation time is better than warm proofing because it lets the yeast slowly do its job and so the flavor is stronger & texture is better. But others say they can’t tell the difference once the dough is baked up.**
  7. When proofing your dough, be careful of “over-proofing” it. This means that your dough has grown too large. Over-proofing can affect the taste and cause your finished baked good to be dense.
  8. Under-proofing” happens when your dough hasn’t risen enough & can also result in a dense finished baked good.

**Note: for July’s kit, please follow as per instructions for proofing.

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2. Best warm place to proof my dough?

You can use your oven! To do that – turn your oven to the lowest setting for only 1 – 2 mins. Then immediately turn it off & place your dough inside.

As a general guideline, proofing can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hrs or even longer. Just be aware that the optimum temperature for yeast to grow is from 27°C – 32°C & the warmer the place is, the faster your dough will grow (which in this case, is not a such a good thing because it’d be easier to accidentally over-proof your dough).

If you’re not sure how “hot” your oven is, we suggest you stay on the cautious side – open the oven to allow some heat to escape prior to putting your dough in & check at 30 min intervals.

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3. How long does it take to proof?

As a guideline, each proof generally can take anywhere from 1 hr to 2 or even longer.

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4. How do I know if my dough is proofed, over-proofed or under-proofed?

First, do a visual examination – you want your dough to nearly double in sized but not completely.  If it has grown more than double its sized, it’s likely to have over-proofed.

[FYI: We did accidentally over-proof one batch of scrolls in the first rise & they did still turn out soft & fluffy! So all is not lost. We recommend kneading it a little to deflate the dough before rolling it out]

Second, do the poke test, where you poke the dough with your finger & if there is no imprint, it means your dough us under-proofed and needs more time. Let it rise for another half hr to 1 hr and check again. If a small indent remains, that means your dough is ready!

Perform the poke test to determine if your dough has proofed sufficiently.

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5. How is my dough suppose to look like before & after proofing?

First rise:

Perform both the visual test & poke test as described above to determine if your dough has sufficiently risen. But remember, it can take much longer than the suggested 1-2 hour period. Have patience & so long as you do see some form of growth - this means your yeast is working & your dough will rise over time.

Cinnamon Scrolls Dough: Before & After pictures of the first rise

Second rise:

Once you have rolled out your dough, sprinkled on the filling & sliced them up into scrolls, you will need to allow your dough to rise for a second & final time. 

After the second rise, if you see liquids forming at the bottom of the tray - don't worry about it. That liquid will evaporate & be absorbed by the scrolls once baked.

Cinnamon Scrolls: Stages of 2nd rising & baking

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6. Why do I need to proof the dough twice?

The first proof (aka. first rise) tells you that your yeast is working but that's also when your dough starts to develop flavour & strength. When you roll out the dough to add the filling, you’re essentially knocking out all the air of your dough. So the second proof (aka. second rise), makes your scrolls not only light & fluffy, but also a stronger flavour too!

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7. At what stage of the baking process can I hit the pause button & do it another day?

There are two stages where you can stop & continue the next day.

Stage 1: Once you've mixed your dough & allowed it proof at room temp. for 1-2 hours, you can refrigerate your dough for up to 3 days prior (ie. the "no-knead method").

Stage 2: After having sliced the log into scrolls, place them in the baking tin & rather than allowing them to proof, cover the tray(s) in cling wrap & pop them in the fridge. When you're ready to bake them up, take them out of the fridge & let it sit on the bench for ~30 mins. After, place them in a warm area to rise for 1-2hrs, & then bake them! 

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8. If I performed all the steps up to slicing up the scrolls into the baking tray & then refrigerated them for baking the next day, do I need to proof them a second time?

YES, you most definitely need to! First thing in the morning, take them out of the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature (~30 mins or so). Then proof them in a warm area for 1-2 hrs until they have grown & puffed up. 

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9. Can I switch from warm proofing & do a cold proof & vise versa?

It really does depend on your recipe, but we'd say it's probably best to follow the instructions to ensure your baked good rises correctly. In our experience, a cold proof works best for the first rise but we wouldn't recommend cold proofing your dough for the last rise prior to baking.

For instance, with our cinnamon scrolls recipe (no-kneed method), for the first rise, we advise you to do a cold proof + overnight fermentation. There wouldn't really be a need to do a warm proof since the yeast will do all their magic overnight!

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10. What's the difference between the 'Knead' & 'No-knead' method?

The only difference is the time factor! Using the no-knead method, you have to let your dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. So, rather than kneading your dough using a stand mixer or by hand, the yeast does all the hard work for you while you sleep!

Some bakers prefer the overnight fermentation method because they swear it gives their dough a richer flavour & better texture. But when we baked up our cinnamon rolls using both methods, we honestly couldn't tell the any difference! So choose whichever method is best suits you. 

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