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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Which Ingredients Can Slow the Rise in Bread Dough and Why That Mattered This Weekend

Last week, I wrote about  my success in using half the yeast in homemade bread by "growing" the dough in multiple stages of a sponge. The sponge is the loose dough that usually has just yeast, water, flour, and small amounts of sugar and salt. After the sponge has developed into a bubbly mass, more flour and other ingredients can be added to make a stiff bread dough. My new-to-me method grows the sponge 4 or 5 times over the course of a long day. I keep the sponge warm in the oven with a light on and the door closed, and it takes about 1 to 2 hours to get the sponge super bubbly and ready to add more flour. The post in the link above gives more detailed info on how I've been doing this.

I indicated that one should add some ingredients to the sponge/dough at one of the last stages in mixing, to allow for better growth of the yeast. Today, I thought I'd share all of the ingredients that could slow the rise in the sponge and growth of the yeast.

  • fats -- fat coats the gluten particles in dough, making it difficult for the gluten to combine with the rest of the dough. The gluten is what gives bread doughs that stretchy texture to hold bubbles of gas without collapsing on themselves. Too much fat in a recipe will cause a denser, less high loaf. Fat introduced in the sponge period can slow the yeast activity in the dough.
  • sugar -- too much sugar can slow yeast activity, according to King Arthur Flour, sweet doughs with more than 1/4 cup of sugar per 3 cups of flour will have slower yeast development
  • salt -- if too much added or too early -- too much salt "dehydrates" the yeast, starving it of necessary water for development
  • milk -- I've read several explanations why milk may impair yeast activity, from proteins and enzymes, to bacteria present in the milk. Old-time recipes called for scalding the milk before use in yeast dough to counter bacteria. Enzymes and proteins are also changed when heated, resulting in a better bread when milk is scalded. Despite modern pasteurization, many bakeries prefer to use dry milk powder in breads. Dry milk powder also has reduced bacteria and altered enzymes and proteins, simplifying milk additions in the large-scale bakery process.
  • whole wheat, specifically the bran in whole wheat -- the bran in whole wheat interferes with gluten development and can impair or slow a good rise in bread dough.
You can still use these ingredients in a reduced-yeast bread. It just may be better to add the bulk of these ingredients toward the end of growing sponges.

Over the weekend, I made our family's favorite holiday bread. The recipe called for 2  1/4 teaspoons of yeast, but I used only 1 teaspoon. This recipe makes a sweet, rich bread, using many of the ingredients on my list above. This is how I mediated those complicating factors and produced a good loaf with less than half the yeast.

I "grew" the dough over several hours with multiple steps of a sponge. I began with only the yeast, water, flour, salt, and a small amount of the sugar. I added the flour in portions, allowing the sponge to rise thoroughly in between each addition. With the particular rise-inhibiting ingredients, I made a few adaptations.

sugar -- I used less sugar to begin the dough, adding more in the last addition of flour.
fats -- I added the oil immediately before the last addition of flour instead of with the flour and sugar at the beginning.
milk -- I used water to soften and activate the yeast, then added dry milk powder with the final addition of flour with oil and extra sugar. The recipe had called for adding cooled, scalded milk for softening the yeast.

Here are two photos to show how much the sponge grows between additions of flour.

After about 1  1/2 to 2 hours after
the second flour addition,
all bubbly.

Just after stirring the sponge down.
It's still a little bubbly, but the level in the bowl is
about an inch lower than before stirring the sponge.

Time, warmth, and holding off on the addition of rise-inhibiting ingredients resulted in a loaf of a family favorite bread, using less than half of the yeast.

(Just a note -- for the last couple of months, I've had some significant issues with my aging computer. I think I downloaded a virus and it messed up my storage disk. In my attempts to fix this, I somehow deleted a bunch of stuff related to my various Google accounts. This blog, and a lot of other blogs you may visit, is a Google product. Well, one of the end results is I can't always access my own Google accounts. It's as if Google "forgot" who I was. I even have trouble with my own blog, especially with responding to comments. I was locked out of the comments for one of my posts for several days this past week. I've read that I should uninstall, then reinstall some stuff on my computer, but I need to back everything up first. I'm still at that point in fixing my issues. Anyways, if I were to "disappear" for a few days, it could very well be that my computer died and I can't use public library access during this pandemic. It's frustrating not having the skills to fix this, as I seem to only make things worse with each attempt. But I am working on it.)


  1. Good luck with you computer. From experience,I know how frustrating it can be.

    I'm curious why you add the salt at the beginning since it can impede the yeast? Is it to make sure that it gets mixed thoroughly throughout the bread?

  2. Try this no-knead bread!

    3 cups flour
    1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
    1 1/3 cups water
    1 1/4 tsp salt

    Mix all ingredients together. It will be somewhat wet. Cover and let rise for 12-24 hours.
    Lightly flour a surface. (I use parchment paper.) Lift up corners of dough and fold onto itself. Cover and let rise 2 hours.

    This bread is baked in a heavy Dutch oven. Put empty pan in oven at 450 degrees and preheat for 30 min. Then remove pan (Carefully! It is hot) and place bread dough in. I just lift up the parchment paper with dough on it and place in pan.

    Bake 30 minutes at 450 degrees covered and 10-15 minutes uncovered until a golden brown.

    This bread is gloriously simple and delicious with about 5 minutes of hands on. I sometimes like to add raisins or a raisin/nut combo. You can see it uses almost no yeast, but the long rising time does the trick.

    Midwest Gal

  3. I also made a traditional Easter bread this weekend. My recipe is from a church cookbook dated 1974. It incorporates the steps you mention Lili . I do scald the milk, what an old time step it seemed. I have been adding “ tips” to making my bread through its steps . Thank-you Lili I’m going to copy out this and the previous post and tuck it in with my directions.
    I used to wonder about the yeast. I think the original recipe precedes modern quick rising yeast. I remember my mother purchasing yeast in large blocks, cutting them into cubes and freezing it. I think I might have mentioned that I had a friend who was the recipient of food bank donations. The group she was with had received this type of yeast and it would have been thrown out. I gladly took it , cubed it ( directions for size of cube online) and froze it.
    I’m using a pound container of yeast from Costco I froze a few years ago in a jar. I take out a small amount and fill a tiny old dark brown yeast jar in my fridge.
    My daughters and I talk on FaceTime about the meals we make, one daughter was finding slightly expired items like packages of yeast and asking about using it. We gave the thumbs up which started a discussion on best Bedford dates and what they mean.
    P:S: I have a proof setting on my oven. It is amazing!! If you have to replace and this is an option when you are looking it is quite nice!

  4. Hi Live and Learn,
    Thanks on the computer issues.
    As for the salt, I've read that salt tempers the sugars/starches in the sponge, so it doesn't rise too quickly. It's just an excess of salt that will inhibit the rise. But mostly, I add the salt along with the sugar and flour because that's how my mom's 1957 recipe calls for making the sponge for bread dough.

  5. Hi Midwest Gal,
    I'll try to figure a way to make this. I don't have a Dutch oven that is oven safe. Mine has a lid with a knob that is not safe for the oven.
    Thank you for the recipe.
    I plan on continuing to reduce the yeast in my sandwich bread each week to see just how little I can use and still make good sandwich bread. I'm currently at 1 scant teaspoon yeast to 8 cups of flour. Next time, I'll try 3/4 teaspoon yeast per the 8 cups flour.

  6. Hi Teresa,
    I have been keeping my 1-lb bags of yeast in the fridge, double-bagged, and filling a small jar. But I've also read that a lot of people freeze the big bag, as you do. I will give that a try with my next purchase of yeast. I have never seen yeast in large blocks, but have read that's how it used to be sold. Interesting that your mother would then need to cube it herself. I guess I thought it came pre-portioned in cubes.

    I haven't really explored all that my oven can do. I guess I should read the manual. I do have a Sabbath mode, though and have always wanted to try it.

  7. Such a yummy bread for Easter!! I love fancy dressed breads. Recently my husband experimented with adding hemp seeds (Costco item). I love the flavor and smell of the bread. More than adding flax or chia seeds, hemp is very aromatic.

    On a another note, last night we suddenly realized that our car safety check expired in February. Because we have been distracted thinking and preparing for the pandemic, we totally forgot. I need to add that to my calendar going forward, usually my husband is good about keeping track of any car related issues. I then thought, I'm sure this virus, and all the life altering changes caused as a result, has been a distraction to everyone's usual routine and focus.

    Yikes, I totally can relate to your computer stress. In an effort to fix a problem, I unfortunately create more problems since I don't understand the full scope of the problem and how best to fix it. For the past two days, we have suspected a big clog in our drain further down in the pipes, that is causing a backup to every water source in the house. Normally we would call a plumber but not in these times. Luckily we have a spare toilet and shower that was installed using a different connection to the main. In the process of trying to unstuck the clog, we have made some horrible messes. I'm thinking, we should just wait the clog out. Sooner or later it will go away. Until then, we will adapt and change our water use habits. This is what the virus has done to us, left us crippled without experts.

    On the mask front, my daughter came to pick up more masks, seems she needs much much more. I want them to share and give to anyone who needs it. I think Ive finally tweaked the mask making to a point I'm satisfied, so now is production time.

    Be safe everyone,

  8. Sorry about your internet issues. So frustrating.

    I have the same bread recipe as Midwest Gal. I don't typically make it in a Dutch oven. I line my baking pan with parchment paper and bake it on that. I cut slashes before baking to release the steam. Turns out fine. The crust isn't as soft. If you add raisins you need to bake it in an enclosed container as the sugars from the raisins will burn. Good luck!


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