How to Quickly Proof Bread Dough

It’s been so cold and rainy in San Francisco, and my apartment is at a constant chilly 60 degrees. It’s not the best temperatures for humans to be happy and warm, and it’s definitely not the best temperature for yeast to be happy and busily helping my bread dough rise. If you’ve ever baked bread, you know that the most time-consuming part is simply waiting for your dough to properly rise and proof. If you’re inpatient, your bread will come out dense and crumbly instead of airy and fluffy. Cold temperatures make it harder for yeast to be active, which will further extend the rise time needed to create a perfect loaf of bread. And even if it’s not cold outside, sometimes we’re just in a rush to get that loaf of bread in the oven!

I made a delicious and hearty oatmeal cinnamon loaf on a soggy SF day. The recipe is from Bread Baking for Beginners, which has some helpful tips and recipes for the novice bread baker. I happened to choose a recipe that needs 3 hours of rise time and 1.5 hours of proof time for a total of 4.5 hours of patience. I needed to catch a train at 4 and it was a particularly chilly day, so I decided to do some research on how to speed up the rising process.

Of course, if you have the time, I would strongly recommend waiting for your dough to rise – it really does make a difference!


Dough Rising 101

So what actually makes dough rise? Air bubbles are created when the yeast turns the sugar in the dough into carbon dioxide. This causes gas to trapped in the dough, creating a fluffy loaf of bread. In order for your bread to rise faster, you need to create an ideal environment for your yeast to work hard at consuming the sugar. Yeast like two things: warmth and moisture. Therefore if you can create a toasty, humid environment, your yeast will be more active, and your bread will rise more quickly. I used two main methods to help my dough rise.

Oven rise

Your oven can be an ideal environment because it is warm and closed off. I used this method for the first rise of my dough, since I did not need to preheat my oven during this time. This method helped cut my first rise time from 3 hours to 1.5 hours.

  1. Preheat oven to lowest temperature setting (mine is 175 F)
  2. Open oven door for 2 min to make sure it’s not too hot
  3. Dampen a kitchen towel and place over your bread dough. This will help create humidity.
  4. Place your dough in the oven, making sure to use an oven-safe bowl.
  5. Periodically check on your dough. Reheat your oven and redampen your towel as necessary.

Before and after:

Microwave rise

Like your oven, your microwave can heat up quickly and retain heat and moisture. I used this method for the final proof. I was able to proof and preheat the oven at the same time. This method helped cut my final proof time from 1.5 hours to about 45 minutes.

  1. Fill a glass with water and microwave on high for 2 minutes
  2. Place your bread dough in the microwave along with the glass of water

Before and after:

At the end of the day, I had a fragrant loaf of cinnamon oatmeal bread that was a beautiful golden brown color. No problems with it tasting overly yeasty from the sped-up proofing. It tasted delicious with a pat of butter and a warm cup of tea – there’s nothing like a fresh-baked loaf of bread to cheer you up on a gloomy day! 🙂52327094_1115193545325727_7575453567109038080_n


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