You’ll see in virtually every bread recipe that the dough needs to be covered and allowed to rise, but what’s the reason for this?
Fortunately, there is a perfectly good reason for this. If you weren’t to cover your dough, there’s a high chance that you’ll end up running into at least one issue that can ruin your dough.
Bread and pizza dough are covered when proofing to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out. A dry surface becomes tough and difficult to stretch, which can ruin the texture of the bread. It’s also covered to keep the dough free of contaminants by preventing dust and debris from getting on it.
You absolutely need to keep your dough properly covered before allowing it to sit and rise. You can use whatever you want to cover your dough, but you need to make sure that it’s creating a good barrier between the dough and the air surrounding the rising container.
Another reason for oiling your dough is to prevent it from drying out. So many recipes call for coating the dough in a thin layer of oil to both make it easier to take out of the container once proofed and to act as a barrier against the drying air.
What You Can Use To Cover Your Dough
You can use all sorts of different things to keep your dough covered properly, and there are plenty of household essentials that can do a perfectly good job at it.
Here are some great options to consider when it comes to covering your dough:
The go-to cover that the majority of people use is a layer or two of plastic wrap. This cover is cheap and easy, but it does create a lot of waste if you’re regularly making dough.
To use this properly, simply take enough to cover the container and wrap it over the top to act as an airtight barrier. You may need to wrap it a few times depending on the material of your bowl, but the aim is to make it as airtight as possible.
An easy option is to simply cover the rising container with something that’s somewhat flat, like a dinner plate.
Just put it onto the container to act as a lid and make sure that it’s a good fit. There shouldn’t be any air spaces between the container and the plate, so you need something that fits well.
Using plastic carrier bags around the dough is a great way of creating an airtight environment for the dough to rise in.
All you have to do is take a plastic bag that’s large enough to go around the dough’s container and put the container inside it. From here, the plastic bag needs to be inflated slightly (in order to prevent it from drooping onto the dough) and sealed. It can be sealed with a clip, a rubber band, or just tied together tightly.
Damp Kitchen Towel
You’ll have most likely seen plenty of recipes use a damp kitchen towel to cover the dough during its rise. This works well since it prevents the air around the dough from becoming too dry due to the moisture in the towel.
For this method, you should soak a kitchen towel in water, squeeze the excess water out of it, and lay it over the top of the container. Ensure that’s there’s enough space for the dough to rise or there’s a chance that it will stick to the towel.
Food-Safe Ziplock Bag
A very easy way to keep the drying air away from your dough is to use a sealable ziplock bag.
You just need to oil up one of these bags, throw the dough into it, and let it rise. These bags can also be cleaned and reused plenty of times.
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to make sure to get the majority of the excess air out of the bag before sealing it. You need to do this so the bag doesn’t fill with too much gas and burst.
Using glass or plastic containers that have airtight lids are perfect for allowing your dough to rise properly.
Any food-safe works, but you need to make sure that the lid is tight-fitting in order to get the best results.
Remember to oil the container before use so you have an easier time getting the dough out of it.
Stainless Steel Cooking Pots
This isn’t an ideal first choice, but it’s a good option if no other methods will work for you.
You can take a large stainless steel cooking pot, add a good coating of oil, drop your dough in, put the lid on, and leave it to rise until it’s ready.
Although it’s not very practical to use a pot, it definitely works and it’s great if you’re in a pinch. Just make sure that the lid fits properly and that there are no air gaps.
Plastic Shower Cap
An ideal reusable solution is to just get a decent shower cap and put it over the dough’s container. These are readily available in plenty of places and you might be able to find one at the next hotel you visit.
It’s the same process of oiling the container and the dough, but you just need to put the shower cap on top. The elastic should tighten around the container to create an airtight seal.
The great thing about this is that it can be used plenty of times before the elastic eventually wears down and breaks.
What To Do If Your Dough Dries Out
If you didn’t cover your dough properly and it ended up drying out on the surface, don’t worry too much about it as you haven’t lost it yet.
It happens to the best of us at times, so people have figured out ways to work around it.
Fortunately, there is a very simple solution that can really save your dough after this has happened.
What you need to do is rehydrate the dry area of the dough so it can become elastic again.
Luckily for you, rehydrating the dry patch of the dough is very easy, but it does require some patience. All you need to do is take some water and gently brush it onto the dry surface of the dough. From here, you need to let it rest for 30-90 minutes (or longer if needed) and you should come back to dough that’s rehydrated and as good as new.
More water may need to be brushed onto the dough every 30 minutes if it’s very dry.
This will work for dough with a light layer of dryness on top, but if your dough has developed a thick, dry crust, it’s going to need more time. Even after giving it plenty of time, it’s still not guaranteed to work. With that said, it’s always worth giving it a try if your dough ever dries out.