How To Keep Dough From Drying Out While Rising

Dough drying out when you leave it in a large bowl at room temp to double in size is a common baking issue you’ll face

The effect is that the yeast struggles to raise the bread if the dough ball dries on the surface during the second rise and forms a skin. Cooking this results in bread that doesn’t look or taste good. One of the most common questions is should you cover your dough or not? The second question could be how to fix dry dough after rising.

In our guide, you can learn the best way to do this to retain enough moisture in your dough balls when baking bread. By the end, you’ll know what to do to stop this; also, you’ll see more about working with a high hydration dough, in which you leave the dough exposed to aid the moisture-wicking. (Learn How Long Do Uncrustables Last In The Fridge)

Best way to Keep Dough From Drying Out While Rising

Should Dough Be Covered When Rising?

Bread bakers learn things every time they bake bread. Your dough balls drying is one area where there are many things to learn.

Several alternatives are available during the initial bulk fermentation.

  • You can store it in a dough rising container with a tight-fitting lid. Yet, ensure your plastic containers have enough space for your dough to double in size.
  • In a clean bowl, pour some cooking oil (olive oil gives a better flavor) or room temperature butter. Roll the dough ball until it is well coated, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist dish towel.

Spraying plastic wrap with oil, according to experts, reduces sticking.

If you use any of these techniques, the rising dough will not produce a crust when it rises.

You can cover the loaves with a towel once they’ve been shaped for secondary proof.

When baking sourdough or no-knead bread that rises in a bowl or brotform, the traditional method is to flour liberally and cover with a cloth.

Brush enriched doughs like brioche or croissants with an egg wash. Leave them uncovered while they rise, then brush them again before baking.

Different doughs need different techniques, although the fundamentals work for most baked products.

How Do I Cover Bread Dough During A Rise?

Much of this depends on the type of bread you’re baking, as the fermentation time will differ.

For a slow rise, you want the container to be airtight and can hold around 1000 grams of flour for about two loaves of bread.

The clear sides let you see how much your dough has risen during your bulk fermentation of over three hours.

For shorter rises, roll the dough in a little olive oil or vegetable oil before putting it in a clean bowl and covering it with a kitchen towel or cling wrap.

Dough's hydration levels

Why Dough Hydration Matter?

The reasoning for covering or not covering follows the dough’s hydration levels. With high hydration dough, some good reasons for letting dough dry out and wick moisture away. But low hydration dough doesn’t really benefit from it. (Learn Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Greek Yogurt)

Low Hydration Dough

Often used for doughnuts, sandwich bread, bagels, etc.

We consider anything less than 70% hydration to be low hydration dough.

That means water equals 70% of the flour weight, so 1000 grams of flour needs 700 grams of water.

Most low-hydration recipes need to keep as much moisture as possible and often use oil as an ingredient. Covering your dough during proofing keeps the moisture in, resulting in a soft, moist loaf.

When kneading dough, leave it exposed for a few minutes. Covering is especially important if using commercial yeast. These doughs rise swiftly, showing a lot of activity going on.

When we cover this dough, we want to prevent a dry crust that limits the dough’s expansion and affects the crumb of the bread.

We want the dough to rise to its full capacity and the yeast’s gas to spread throughout the dough for the best outcome.

High Hydration Dough

Most often used on sourdough or no-knead loaves of bread.

Anything with a hydration level of over 70%, but notably dough with a hydration level of 75-78 percent or higher, is considered high hydration dough.

With sticking to bowls or proofing baskets during proofing, those higher hydration doughs might be challenging.

You can find many techniques to stop dough from sticking, one of which is to keep it uncovered.

The best recommendation is to leave the dough uncovered in the fridge for final proof.

However, your exposed layer can dry out even in the fridge, yet not fast enough to prevent the rise.

Besides this, a fridge keeps dough protected from contamination.

Even with high-quality tea towels and proofing baskets, leaving your dough uncovered can be beneficial.

When proofing dough upside down with baking, the top is wet and pliable, which is vital to get the optimal oven spring and stop your sandwich loaf from drying out. Therefore, it is recommended to cover your dough at all times.

Assume your recipe specifies whether your dough should be covered or uncovered, and follow those instructions.

If that information isn’t included in the recipe, assume it’s something you’ll have to figure out.

In a nutshell, you can leave dough uncovered to dry out a little. However, cover it up if you want to keep as much moisture as possible.

How Do You Fix Dry Dough?

Brushing the surface of a drying dough with water is the best way to mend it.

You can use a pastry brush or your hands to apply the glaze. First, brush the dough’s dry regions lightly with water, set aside for 15 minutes, and repeat until the dough is soft.

If you do this right before baking, some water will sit on the surface, steaming the bread as it bakes.

If you spray the dough with water, it’s best to wait 30 minutes before baking it. After that, you can cover it and put it in the fridge to slow the rise.

Rehydrating the dough may or may not be the best solution, depending on when it needs to be rehydrated.

Removing the dry parts with a dough scraper may be easier if the dough is dry during bulk fermentation. (Read Rice Burning in Rice Cooker — What To Do)

Should I add flour to prevent the dough from drying up?

As the dough proves, do not add flour. Any accessible moisture will be absorbed by the flour, which will suck moisture from the dough surface. This will cause the dough to dry out, preventing the bread from rising properly.

What is the best way to rehydrate pizza dough?

Rub water on the surface of the pizza dough if dried to produce a crust. If it’s tough, quickly run it under the tap.

Cover the dough with a bowl or a tea towel and set it aside on a work surface. The pizza dough will be ready to use in 30 minutes!

What To Put Over The Dough While It Rises?

The options are varied, but ultimately, moisture and hydration determine which one you choose.


Towels are preferred because they wick moisture. However, too much moisture might yield a flat loaf, especially if the dough adheres to the bowl.

A towel will absorb enough moisture without pooling, which is problematic. Towels expand if dough hits them during the rise.

When dough proofs for long periods, towels can be a problem. After 4 hours of proofing, towels allow too much wicking and dry out dough. Some bakers counteract this by using a damp cloth; however, these dry out, and you can still find they let dough dry.


Lids might keep too much moisture in. Some recipes don’t advocate it if they fit too snugly and don’t allow moisture to escape.

Short proofing probably doesn’t require them, but they won’t hurt, yet lids won’t expand, so ensure the container is large enough to support your rise.

Lids are ideal for extended proofing, especially with rice-flour-dusted high-hydration dough. Keep moisture in, but don’t worry about sticking.

Plastic Wrap To Put Over The Dough While It Rises

Plastic Wrap

It’s popular for a good cause, it’s simple and inexpensive. However, plastic wrap causes the most moisture and water accumulation, so don’t wrap too tightly to allow moisture to escape.

Consider your environment when choosing from these possibilities. In a wet climate, a towel may suffice. Lids and loose plastic are helpful in a dry climate, especially when leaving dough out for long periods.

What Happens If Dough Dries Out?

A dough can occasionally be left uncovered to final proof during shorter rises in draught-free environments or your refrigerator.

This is not the case because a change in humidity or the amount of moisture in your bread dough can cause it to dry out.

Proofing environment isn’t humid

The dough is protected from drying out in a humid environment, but if your dough is proofing uncovered, it can dry out.

Warmth will help the dough rise faster, reducing the chance of drying out, but it will not prevent it from becoming hard and dry.

Proofing too close to a draught

Let your dough rise near an open window, an air conditioning vent, or anywhere else with a draft is never a good idea.

Even though the dough is covered in a bowl tightly, the draught always seeps under the tea towel and dries it out.

Perhaps proofing bread in an airtight lid will help, but it’s best to proof bread in a draught-free environment.

Why does dough needs rehydrating?

Dry parts of dough will either be incorporated into the dough or extended around the outside to form the crust when shaping a dough that has dried up during its first rise.

This can cause an uneven crumb or an unsightly crust with a low rise and oven spring. Most likely, this will cause dry, rubbery bread.

The dough cannot rise properly because of the hard surface if the bread dries up during the final proof time.

The energy from the oven spring drives the gas to escape the dough at the weakest area when bread baking. This can cause “crust ruptures” or a space between the crust and the crumb at the loaf’s top.

Instead of oiling the dough, it is preferable to coat the proofing bowl, including the sides, when bread-making.

Then smear oil over the dough and flip it over to present the oiled side up.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in a draft-free environment.

The dough will glide up the sides of the bowl unhindered if the bowl is oiled, although your dough will stick to the dry bowl and not rise properly.

Instead of fighting with cling wrap or a plastic bag not sticking to the bowl, you can bulk ferment using a shower cap solution or place a damp towel across the wrap as your lid.

How To Keep Dough From Drying Out While Rising

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