Dough Types, Procedures, and Properties

Terminology and definitions for bread types, bread ingredients, bread making and baking.

© 2011 by KV5R — Rev. April 15, 2011.

6. Dough Types, Procedures, and Properties

Autolyze (AH-toh-lize), Rest, Relax

To undergo autolysis: self-digestion by enzymes. In yeasted recipes, a short rest called an autolyze comes right after mixing the flour, yeast, oil, and water. It cuts down on kneading time and allows the dough to bake into a lighter bread with a more open crumb. Here’s how an autolyze works:

  • It allows the flour time to fully absorb the water, so the dough is less sticky when you knead it;
  • It helps the gluten to both bond and break down, resulting in a dough that’s quicker to knead and easier to shape;
  • It gives the yeast time to rehydrate fully so you don’t end up with yeast bits in the dough.

The salt goes in after the autolyze. This is because salt causes gluten to contract and toughen, preventing the gluten from absorbing as much water and thus fully benefiting from the autolyze.

When kneading bread, the gluten can get very stiff. By allowing the dough and the gluten to relax for a few minutes, it becomes easier to knead the bread, and the risk of tearing the gluten is reduced.

A short period (10-20 minutes) after kneading and before shaping when dough is allowed to relax to make shaping easier. This rest time is typically found in bread making methods that involve only one rise.

Most recipes avoid the term and simply say, “Let dough rest for 10 minutes.”

Coolrise Dough

A kneaded and shaped dough that is formulated especially to rise in the refrigerator over night.

Doubled In Size

The point to which most doughs are allowed to rise. When a dough has doubled, it is full of gas pockets and the gluten has become strong and elastic. The fermentation has generated heat and moisture and has allowed flavors to develop. To test if a dough has doubled in size, use the “finger-tip test.”

Elastic, Smooth Elastic

When dough has been kneaded and the gluten matrix has formed, it becomes elastic. It can be stretched without tearing, and when released will spring back some. “Smooth” is when the moisture is right, and the surface of the dough has a silky feel—not sticky and not dusty.

Finger-Tip Test

A method used to test if a dough that has sufficiently risen. The tips of two fingers are pressed lightly and quickly ½ inch into the risen dough. If the dents stay, the dough has doubled in size, or risen all it will.

Freezer Doughs

Doughs specially formulated to be frozen for later use.


A process that develops and strengthens the gluten in dough. As the gluten molecules move past one another, they link up into long, elastic chains. It’s important to knead bread dough well in order for it to rise well, assuming that the bread in question isn’t a quick bread or a no-knead bread. There are many ways to knead dough. The traditional kneading motion is to flatten into a disk shape, fold it toward you, using the heels of your hands, push dough away with a rolling motion, turn dough one-quarter turn and vigorously repeat the fold, push, and turn steps. If the dough is tacky (sticking to the hands and work-top), it is sprinkled with flour during kneading.


Bread that has risen too long. It may not hold its dome top or shape and may develop “off” flavors. An overproofed or over-risen dough will have a floppy, flimsy top that will likely collapse or droop way over the edge of the pan during baking.


In bread production this term refers to the rising step in bread that is generally done in a climate-controlled “proof box.”


The term proof in bread baking has two meanings — one having to do with yeast and the other having to do with dough. (1) Yeast is proofed in water and a small amount of sugar to determine whether its active before using. Fill a small glass with 110 to 115 degree F water (subtract the amount used from the recipe), add ½ teaspoon sugar for each tablespoon of yeast, and mix until combined. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and whisk again. If active, the yeast should begin to foam and swell in 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesn’t, it’s time to throw it out. If it does, it’s safe to proceed with the recipe. (2) Proofing also denotes a stage in the rising of the dough. After its first rise, the dough is punched down and shaped in its final form. It is then set out for its final rise, known as “proofing”.


“Feeding” a starter, adding nutrients in the form of flour and water to re-activate the starter and bring its leavening and flavoring microbes to peak levels of activity.

Refrigerator Dough

A dough that is not kneaded and is similar to a batter bread except it is risen in the refrigerator. During this time, the flour absorbs the liquid to form a batter/dough. The refrigerator dough makes a soft textured, light bread.


A stage in the process of making yeast breads where the dough is set in a warm, draft-free place for a period of time (usually an hour or so) while the yeast ferments some of the sugars in the dough, forming carbon dioxide. This causes the bread to rise. A rising period usually lasts until the dough doubles in size. The surface of the dough must stay damp so that it can easily expand as the dough rises, so rising dough must be covered to prevent drying of the surface. The first rise is usually done in a deep mixing bowl or proofing basket, covered with plastic cling-wrap. The second (or only) rise takes place in the baking pan, which is also covered during rise. The covering must not be tight, as gases must escape; it must not stick to the dough; and it must not be too heavy (as a wet towel, for example).

Room Temperature

For sourdough breads, a room temperature is usually 70–80°F.

Slashing, Scoring, Docking

Slitting a loaf with ¼–½-inch cuts in the surface of risen dough that allows it to bloom (expand) during baking. It also allows the crust to have more crisp folds of dough and lends aesthetic appeal to the loaf by the design of the cuts. Slashing was traditionally used to identify “your” bread when many people were baking in a communal dome oven, as each family would have their own particular style of slashing.

Slow Rise

A method for bread baking that uses several slow rises at room temperature. Fans of this method say it allows for the most flavor development in the bread.

Straight Dough

A single step method of mixing a dough in which all the ingredients are mixed into a single batch and mixed to develop dough.

Window Paning

This is a test to determine whether or not gluten has developed. Stretch a small piece of dough until it is very thin, thin enough to hold together and light can pass through.


The dough is workable when it can be handled, kneaded, and shaped without being either a sticky or crumbly mess. Most wheat bread doughs are workable when the liquid weight is around 63% of the flour weight.

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