The stage during bread making when dough is left to rise is called proofing—it's when yeast and flour interact to give bread lift, texture, and flavor. Here's a closer look at what goes on:
WATER WORKS: Flour and yeast (a live organism) are the two main elements of bread. When mixed with water (and kneaded to kick-start things), a chemical reaction, called fermentation, occurs and the proofing process begins.
FEEDING FRENZY: The yeast breaks down the flour and eats the resulting sugars, and then it releases carbon dioxide gas, which is captured in bubbles of stretchy gluten strands that were created when the flour got wet. The yeast also releases alcohol and enzymes that contribute to the bread's flavor.
BUBBLE MANIA: As more and more gas bubbles develop, the dough inflates and increases in volume—"proof" the yeast is alive and doing its job. Just before the yeast consumes all the sugars in the dough, it's time to form and bake the bread.
Tips and Tricks:
• NOT QUITE READY: Underproofed dough has few air pockets. It is also dense, with little "give" if pressed.
• PROOF PERFECT: Properly risen bread dough will have many somewhat evenly dispersed gas bubbles and a spongy texture.
Try It Yourself!
View Recipe: Seeded Multigrain Bread