How to Bake: How Long Should My Bread Rise?

It depends.  The best way to tell if the dough has risen enough is not by time—though it helps to set the timer so you don't forget about your dough—but by look and feel.  It will look soft and bloated.  When you touch the dough, it will be soft and your finger will leave an indentation when lightly pressed against the dough.  If it is not ripe, the dough will tend to slowly spring back.

If you want light, fluffy bread, the dough should rise until it is puffy.  The more gas incorporated in the dough, the lighter it will be.  Of course, if too much gas is captured in the dough, it may collapse.  The trick is to let it rise until you get just to the edge and then bake it.  In most cases, that means that the dough will double—or more—in volume.  With a free-standing loaf, since the pan can't support the loaf, you cannot let the bread rise as much. 

How long should it take?  A lean, moist dough in a warm kitchen will probably rise in 45 minutes or less.  A firmer dough with less moisture will take longer to rise.  Yeast is very sensitive to temperature; even a few degrees less in the kitchen can extend the rise time significantly.  A change of 17 degrees will cut the rise time in half. 

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It doesn't hurt to let dough rise slowly.  Bread that has risen slowly has a different flavor than fast risers, a more acidic flavor—hence the sourdough flavors in slow rising breads.  Professional bakers use refrigeration to “retard” the rise.  You can use a cool spot in the house or even a refrigerator to slow the rise.  (The bread in the spotlight product picture--New England Herb-- was placed under an open window on a cool day to deliberately slow the rise.  Total rise time, first and second rising combined, was about five hours.) 

While lean breads are deliberately retarded to enhance the flavors, rich doughs or doughs with ample sweeteners or flavors will gain little with an extend rise since the flavors and sugars tend to mask the natural flavors of the yeast. 

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