When letting dough rise for bread, is it necessary to cover it with plastic wrap?

When letting dough rise for bread (in this case, challah bread), is it necessary to cover it with plastic wrap or can I just cover it with a dishtowel? The recipe says to cover it with plastic wrap but I don't have plastic in the house. I'm a beginning baker.

  • Posted by: mira375
  • September 16, 2012
  • 74636 views
  • 13 Comments

12 Comments

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Sam1148
Sam1148 September 16, 2012

Hummm...lots of variables there..if the dough is sticky it could stick to the towel. It's almost always needed to cover dough for rising. But people have been doing it for thousands of years without plastic wrap.

I'd suggest using the damp towel and try not to let it touch the bread..and put some more flour on top of the dough-ball as an added barrier to prevent the towel from sticking. A damp towel is needed as it will hold in moisture and keep dough from drying out.
Also oil the bowl you rise the bread in as that will keep it from sticking to the bowl.

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a Whole Foods Market Customer

Either a damp towel, or a non-terry-cloth towel rubbed with flour will do as well. The goal is to keep the bread dough from drying out and forming a skin. You can also put a bit of oil in your bowl and toss the dough ball around until it's coated; that will also help.

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ChrisBird
ChrisBird September 16, 2012

Remember, it is cover the bowl, not cover the dough. In other words you are leaving some head room between the dough ball and the cover.

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Benny
Benny September 16, 2012

Most recipes also call to "lightly" cover dough with plastic wrap after you have shaped the dough. This can be hard to do for bread that is baked like challah, with no bread pan. I have a large plastic tub that I use for this and also to mock a proofing box. It keeps the moisture in without coming into contact with the dough.

If you have to use plastic, spritz the top of the shaped loaf with spray oil. In your case (no plastic), you will have to be more clever. If you allow a skin to form, your loaf will not rise well

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Benny
Benny September 16, 2012

Most recipes also call to "lightly" cover dough with plastic wrap after you have shaped the dough. This can be hard to do for bread that is baked like challah, with no bread pan. I have a large plastic tub that I use for this and also to mock a proofing box. It keeps the moisture in without coming into contact with the dough.

If you have to use plastic, spritz the top of the shaped loaf with spray oil. In your case (no plastic), you will have to be more clever. If you allow a skin to form, your loaf will not rise well

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mira375
mira375 September 16, 2012

thank you!

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SeaJambon
SeaJambon September 16, 2012

So funny! I started baking bread well before the ubiquity of plastic wrap. Recipes ALWAYS said to place a towel over the top of the bowl or shaped bread. I still do this -- I guess like so many things, I haven't updated to the modern! This whole concept of using plastic wrap with bread rising is relatively new to me (would think it might actually interfere if it created an air lock?). The idea is to keep the dough from drying out and creating a crust which could impede the rising -- that particular step is typically accomplished by putting oil in the bowl and turning the dough a few times to make sure it is properly covered with oil, then placing a towel on top of the bowl. So, to all the bread bakers out there -- in my "sticking with the way things have always been done", did I miss something that actually improves the rise? (i.e., do my practices need updating -- wouldn't be the first time!). Boulangere, care to weigh in?

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boulangere
boulangere September 16, 2012

I'm a plastic user as well, Sea Jambon. It not only prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust (a towel will actually wick moisture away from your dough), but it also helps retain warmth, heat being one of the by-products of fermentation, which helps the dough to rise more quickly. And if sticking might be an issue, as with baguettes for example, I dust the tops of the loaves with some flour. The flour prevents sticking, and I love the rustic look of it. Happy baking, all!

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boulangere
boulangere September 17, 2012

P.S. And I re-use the plastic.

threefresheggs
threefresheggs September 16, 2012

I have found that my stand-mixer bowl takes my med-large all-clad sauce pan lid, AND my stainless mixing bowls, medium & large, take the aforementioned lid, and the lg sauté/stock pot lid. Pretty sweet. No towel error (been there) no plastic wrap. Check your lids against your mixing bowls – this arrangement saves me all kinds of trouble – and my plastic wrap use is absolutely minimal.

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mira375
mira375 September 16, 2012

Pot lids, of course! (smacks head). Well once I understood what the purpose was, that is, retain moisture while not sticking, I used aluminum foil for the first rise as I knew the bowl was big enough that the dough would not reach the top so there was no worry about sticking. For the second rise I took my babies' old burp rags, which are not terry and which are lighter than towels, dampened them, and used those to cover the loaves. The bread came out great so thanks everyone.

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Cookie
Cookie January 9, 2018

And I am Italian. Growing up my grandmother would make Jom come put in a bowl that had been floured, and cover it with a dish towel that was damp. This always work and eight is what I do

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Liz B
Liz B January 14, 2018

if not plastic wrap, then a towel. you need to incubate the rising dough and you don't want a hard crust to form, which will happen if you don't cover the bowl with something

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