covering yeasted dough

Any recipe I’ve ever seen for bread dough always instructs you to cover the dough when you put it aside to rise. Does anyone know why you cover it? I have been tempted to let it rise without covering it in order to see what happens, but I don’t want to risk losing a batch of dough. Thanks for your insights.

It will get dried out if you don’t cover it - especially during longer rises. I just use a pot with a lid, since I hate using plastic wrap more than necessary.

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I put the dough in a sealed plastic bag. Afterwards the bag is repurposed to line a waste bin.

I cover mine with a clean kitchen towel.

thank you for the 3 relies, they are appreciated. But, I was hoping for input as to why you cover it, as opposed to how you cover it.

I think corneygirl said it- the purpose was to prevent drying of the dough. Yeast needs water as part of the fermentation and rising process.

Right - the dough gets dry & crusty (not the good kind) on top if you don’t cover it.

Don’t you need some air exchange? I always poke a few holes in the plastic wrap. Kitchen towel always gives me dry/crusty dough, not sure why.

Try it once without poking holes, and see if you like the result.

From BBC: Yeast can undergo aerobic respiration or anaerobic respiration. In bread-making, the yeast starts off respiring aerobically, producing water and also carbon dioxide to make the dough rise. When the air runs out, the yeast begins to respire anaerobically. Any alcohol produced boils away during baking.

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Thanks for all the replies, they are sincerely appreciated. I confess that I am still scratching my head over this…grappling with how covering dough with paper towels or a kitchen towel (both absorbent) helps prevent drying out. I am thinking specifically of the second rise, where I use paper towels to cover the dough. At any rate, your thoughts were helpful.

Where did you get the idea to use paper towels? I have never seen that recommended. A cloth towel should be wet and wrung out so it is slightly damp.

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I would never use paper towels or anything dry to cover a yeasted dough, either during the first or second rise. A damp towel or plastic wrap are much better suited to keeping the dough from drying out.

As for the “why” behind not wanting the dough to dry out - the skin that forms when a yeasted dough dries will keep the it from rising freely/fully. This type of skin won’t taste bad when cooked (although it could make the crust thicker than it otherwise might be), but the inhibition of proper rising is undesirable.


Thanks very much, The fact that the “skin” would inhibit the rising, that clicks with me. Thank you.

I’m not sure where the idea came from…I’ve been doing it so long that I can’t remember how it started. I certainly appreciate your input.

Side note, has anyone tested rising breads under a wet towel vs plastic/lid? This probably wouldn’t matter much for some breads, but for long ferment naturally leavened (sourdough) I’d be curious to know if the bacteria and yeast fare better with the towel. I wonder if you’d get a different taste.

Make sure your towel is wet enough.

I learned to make sourdough from Maggie Glezer’s books. I think that I got the idea to enclose the container in a plastic bag from her.

So I did this, and I got an odd result. The dough was mostly fine, but there was a puddle of liquid at the bottom and it made the bottom 20% of the dough unusable. It’s so strange, I think it has to be something else I did and not the absence of holes.

Wow. I never saw anything like that You used the same flour/water ratio that you always do? And you mixed/kneaded the same as always?

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
Credit: CiaoHo