If you’re anything like the majority of casual home bakers, you most likely follow a dough recipe without questioning or understand exactly why you’re doing certain things. A lot of recipes call for the dough to rise twice, but do you really know why it’s important to have a second rise?
Sure, it’s possible to bake dough after only a single rise, but the results you’ll get will be inferior to what you would get from two rises.
If a recipe calls for the dough to rise twice, it would be wise to follow those instructions as that’s what’s going to give you the best results.
Dough that’s allowed to rise twice will have a better crumb structure, oven spring, and flavor. Dough that’s only risen once is more likely to have an uneven crumb and a more simple flavor. A second rise always produces more optimal results.
If you’re making homemade bread, it’s definitely worth putting in the extra effort to make it as tasty as possible, so you don’t want to skip steps in the process purely to speed up the process. There’s a big difference between homemade bread that’s just okay and homemade bread that’s actually tasty.
With that said, let’s take a deeper look into the science behind a second rise and why it’s so important.
What Makes A Second Rise So Important?
Allowing your dough to rise two times does a few things to improve some key aspects of your bread. Any good professional baker knows how important a second rise is for a great loaf of bread, so these really do make great bread.
These components of bread are what make it so good, so you’re sacrificing quality when you don’t allow for a second rise. Without these, you will still get bread, but you’re missing out on making your bread extra tasty
Here are the benefits you get from a second rise:
Improved Gluten Development
You want a strong gluten network in your dough so it has the ability to contain enough gas to rise as much as possible.
Without sufficient gluten development, the gas wouldn’t be held in the loaf properly, so you’d be left with either a flat loaf of bread or one that has large uneven holes around the crumb.
During the first rise, the gluten in the dough is stretched by the gas production, which slightly strengthens it. As the dough is allowed more time with an additional rise, this gluten can strengthen slightly more, which allows for a larger rise, oven spring, and texture.
A Better Crumb
What you don’t want in your bread is a crumb that’s uneven with both open and tight areas. This will make the crumb look messy, unprofessional, and awkward to use as sandwich bread.
By allowing the dough to rise for a second time, the gas produced by the yeast can be more evenly distributed by the developed gluten network, which allows for a better crumb.
Whether you’re aiming for an open crumb or a tight crumb, you can achieve a better version of either simply by rising the dough twice.
When the dough is only allowed to rise once, there’s a higher chance that the crumb will be uneven and messy, which doesn’t make great bread.
The secret to developing a more flavorsome loaf of bread is to simply allow it more time to do its work, so if you’re trying to prove your dough as fast as possible before baking, you’re really missing out on a lot of potential flavor enhancement.
The longer you can let the yeast do their thing, the better your bread will get overall, so having a second rise allows the yeast a longer period of time to do their job.
Since we’re talking about getting better flavor, I’d recommend refrigerating your dough for a day or two before baking so the yeast can really get busy and develop more complex flavors in the dough.
The cold temperature of the fridge slows the rising of your dough. You should aim to make your dough in advance so you can allow it to have a very long prove and be able to bake it when you’re ready.
To do this, just knead the dough and store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. A few hours before baking, you should take it out to let it warm up, shape it, prove it, and bake it.
With all this said, you may not actually notice these differences much. Unless you’re comparing a loaf of bread that’s risen once against one that’s risen twice, there’s a high chance that it won’t have an obvious difference.
You’re only likely to notice a substantial difference if the rising times are very different between the two breads. If you normally opt for a long rise in the refrigerator and instead go for a quick single rise in an hour or so, the flavor and texture will be different, and you’ll be able to tell that it’s an inferior loaf of bread.
Can You Bake Bread After Only One Rise?
For those bakers that aren’t interested in developing more flavor in their bread and just want to make it fairly quickly, you can try baking your bread after its first rise, but I can’t guarantee that the results will be consistent or even that good.
Bread can be baked after its first rise, but doing so will sacrifice certain aspects of the bread and you won’t get the same flavor, crumb, or texture. You will, however, still get fresh bread even if you do bake it after only one rise.
There are plenty of benefits from allowing your dough to rise twice, but if you’re in a rush, you can still get away with baking after the first rise.
If all you’re wanting is fresh bread and you’re not bothered much about the depth of flavor, there’s little reason to not at least try baking after the first rise. It’s much easier and often faster to bake after the first rise, so it’s a great option if all you want is to make bread in an hour or two.
Most people won’t know the difference between bread that’s risen once or twice and you definitely won’t get anyone complaining about it since it’s still fresh bread.
Can Dough Rise Three Times?
Almost all bread recipes call for letting the dough rise twice. This is simply because it gives you the best results.
Let’s say that you find yourself in a situation where you can’t bake your bread after the second rise, so you’re stuck for what you can realistically do. You’ve already risen it twice, so is a third rise out of the question?
Dough can be allowed to rise three times as long as it isn’t overproofed. If it has risen faster than you expected, you can punch it down and reshape it again without sacrificing quality. Rising three times won’t do much to improve your bread though.
Although it’s not necessary or even optimal to rise your dough three times, it can certainly save your bread if you’ve run into some problems.
If it’s rising in a strange shape or quicker than you need it to, you simply reshape it and rise it as normal.
One thing to consider on a third rise is that your yeast is more likely to run out of food (flour), so the chances of overproofing are higher. If you’re planning on rising it three times, make sure to cut the yeast back to around half of what you’d normally put. This will slow the rise but also lower the risk of overproofing.