GUIDE: How to Cover Dough While it’s Rising And Proving

How you cover bread dough while its rising may seem like an aspect of bread-making which isn’t that important, but if you’ve ever had proving dough stick to cling film you’ll know this can lead to complete dough collapse and flat and disappointing loaf.

I learned this the hard way when I was starting out, so I want to share with you some best practices for covering dough to keep it moist while it’s rising. So what is the best way to cover bread dough while it’s rising?

The best way to cover bread dough while it’s rising is by using a cloth such as a large clean tea towel or proving cloth to cover the bowl while it rises. This same cloth can also be used to cover dough directly when it’s proving.

Read on to find out more best practices on how to cover dough while it’s rising and proofing, by just keeping things simple and without spending money on coverings which will just go in the bin.

Why is cloth best for covering dough while it rises?

Using a cloth to cover dough is a traditional method used before plastic bags, cling film and shower caps were available!

There’s no waste and if you have a kitchen then chances are you have a clean tea towel or cloth available which you normally use for drying dishes so there’s no need to spend money on plastic which will end up in the bin.

Some bakers advise using plastics because they stop the dough from drying out and avoid a tough skin forming across the dough.

If your bread is rising at normal room temperature and isn’t too warm, then this shouldn’t be a problem.

If the bread is rising in a warm room and you’re worried about the dough drying, spray the top of the dough with water and/or use a damp cloth which will prevent the air from getting through.

I use this method all the time for rising and proving and I don’t have any issues with dough drying out.

How to cover dough while it’s proving/proofing

When I say proving, I mean rising the dough for the second time. During this time the dough will be shaped and either rising on something flat or within a bread tin and either way, the dough will end up touching whatever it’s covered with.

If the dough is covered with un-oiled cling film or plastic it will stick and when you come to take it off it will pull the dough with it and cause it to deflate. I know this because I did it and it’s so frustrating!

So, again I would recommend using the same cloth to cover the dough that you used for the first rise. You don’t want anything too heavy which could reduce the rise, it just needs to be covered.

You can also use a damp cloth at this stage if you need to, or give the top of the loaf a spray of water to keep it moist.

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What if a skin forms on the dough?

Don’t worry if a dry skin forms on the dough, it won’t ruin the bread at this stage and there are a few things that can be done to recover the dough – which I’ll show you next.

Some recipes (especially sourdough) actually advise leaving the dough uncovered during a final prove or rest to firm up the outer skin and produce a thicker and crustier outer crust.

Here are a few things you can do if a dry skin or crust has formed on top of the dough:

  • If the dough is on its first rise and a skin has formed, just give it a spray with water and incorporate the skin back into the dough when you shape it for the second rise.
  • If the dough has proved for the second time, don’t worry – just bake the bread, at worst it will have a thicker chewier crust, but it will still taste good and you probably won’t even notice.

What you can do to prevent a skin from forming on bread dough

  • Don’t leave the dough rising in direct sunlight – it’s tempting to speed up the rising process, but it will cause the moisture to evaporate from the dough.
  • Make sure the room you’re rising the dough in isn’t too hot – for the best flavour a slower fermentation in a cool to normal room temperature is best. Again this will help prevent evaporation.
  • Spray the top of the dough with a little water to retain moisture at the top of the dough.
  • Cover the dough as soon as it’s mixed and once you’ve shaped it during the 2nd rise.

But what if I want to use plastic?

If you want to use plastic to cover your bread, that’s totally fine, but take care not to let it stick to the dough.

A good way to prevent the plastic sticking to dough is by oiling it with olive oil, or if you’re using a large bag, don’t let the bag touch the dough.

It’s worth being aware that evaporation can still happen when you use plastic if the room or place where the dough is rising is very warm.

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I hope this post has helped you find out more about covering dough, you might also like the following posts:

Bread making tips for beginners – everything you need to know

Best ways to keep homemade bread fresh

Rachel Jones

Hi, I’m Rachel Jones, I’ve been baking bread for nearly 20 years now, and I’m excited to share my baking tricks with you at Loafy Bread. In the past, I baked on a professional level, but I no longer do that, because it’s physically exhausting! I still bake and cook all the time for my family and friends and to create new recipes for this site. Bread is in my genes, I was brought up on homemade bread and most of my close family are keen bakers, so my baking skills just happened naturally and have developed over time. Find more from Rachel Jones at where she helps visitors with food weights for cooking and calorie counting.

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