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Ask a Foodie: Why Does Bread Dough Need to ‘Rest’?

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Today’s ‘Ask a Foodie’ is  by baker Steve Wegner. Wegner is a chef-instructor at the Central Market Cooking School who has worked professionally as a pastry chef and baker for the last 13 years.  Although he loves cooking of all kinds, baking is his true passion.

Q. I see this direction in baking recipes, like pie dough, and almost always a bread or pizza dough. I am wondering if you can tell me why dough needs to rest? — S.T.

Steve Wegner teaches at Central Market Cooking School.

Steve Wegner teaches at Central Market Cooking School.

A. Dear S.T.  Bread recipes may call for “resting” the dough at two different times.  In each case the rests are for different reasons.

We’ve all heard of gluten.  When water is added to flour certain proteins in the flour become hydrated and start to realign themselves.  As they do a stronger, more elastic network of gluten strands is formed.  The newly formed gluten gives bread its texture and allows it to hold its shape as it bakes.

Dough is rested after mixing but before kneading to give the proteins more time to rearrange and sets the dough up to form more gluten more quickly.  With that head start, the kneading step is shorter and easier.  This is especially true for doughs mixed and kneaded by machine because over-kneading can rob bread of flavor and color

Once the dough is ready to shape into its final form, short resting periods may be necessary.   As the dough is handled the gluten network is reactivated and may contract, causing the dough to shrink back to a smaller size.  Working as quickly and gently as possible helps prevent this, but if the dough does start to shrink back when rolled or shaped, just cover it and walk away for a few minutes.  The gluten will relax and become more elastic again and you’ll be able to shape the dough the way you want.

Here are two bread recipes from SavorSA files

Kalamata Olive and Parmesan Bread, rich in olive flavor.

Kalamata Olive Parmesan Bread


Kalamata Olive Parmesan Bread

No-Knead Bread: A Crusty Loaf

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