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No-knead bread... problem with 2nd rise...help!

I've made this bread (the one from the NYTimes) a couple of times and can't seem to get the bread to double in size during the second rise. I let the 1st rise sit for 18 hours or so, it rises then falls, and then transfer it to a cotton towel, shape it, and let is sit for an additional 2 hours. It doesn't seem to rise at all...anybody have a suggestion?

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  1. Your problem is that you let the first rise go too long. When dough goes to a full drop like that, it won't rise again. I suspect your room temperature is significantly above 70 degrees, so that the yeast is growing like gangbusters and consuming all of the nutrients in the dough. You can control that by cutting way back on the yeast or, better, doing a lot of that rise in the refrigerator. Or you can simply shape the loaf much sooner.
    The dough is not a total loss. You can use it as a poolish or pre-ferment for another loaf. Or cut it into four pieces and use each piece instead of yeast for a new Lahey loaf. It will rise very quickly, so it might be ready to shape after only a few hours. Watch to see that it is well risen and bubbly.(Freeze the pieces you don't use and thaw them out completely later before incorporating them in a new batch. I am told this will work. I've never actually frozen a poolish.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Father Kitchen

      Thanks so much for the advice Father Kitchen. Lot's of good options. I'm going to give them a try!

      1. re: bostonveg

        My first try it didn't double in size on the second rise either. I baked it anyway and it still came out fine. I have one doing it's second rise now, so we'll see how this one comes out.

      2. re: Father Kitchen

        The loaf is not a total loss. It can be resurrected by the addition of a teaspoon of yeast proofed in water and then the addition of a 1/2-3/4 cup of flour to supply the nutrients for the yeast to eat. If the breads falls, that is a sign that the yeast died of starvation and you need to add fresh yeast and then supply them with the nutrients in the flour to grow.
        Lehay-Bittman bread has plenty of moisture, so you might be able to just knead in the unbloomed yeast, but it will take some flour, and you might need a bit of extra water to counteract the flour addition.
        Father Kitchen is correct that chilling the bread will slow down the activity of the yeast, but there is a time limit on how long the yeast can be allowed to grow before it has to be baked.

      3. Could someone explain the theory of a second rise? Why is it better for the bread to rise twice?

        Also, why a towel? Why not just fold the bread over a few times in the bowl after the first rise and let it do the second rise in the same bowl?

        3 Replies
        1. re: david kaplan

          The second rise does a couple things. #1 it redistributes the air bubbles. While large air bubbles are a plus in this style of bread making, you don't want to over do it - you may end up with a loaf looking like a horribly warted frog ;-) The folding (really just a mini-knead) redistributes the air bubbles and #2 along with the flour and folding under of the "sides" creates a smooth skin over the top of the loaf. Think blowing a pretty bubble with bubble gum.

          As for the towel, it's really up to you. I personally use a clean oiled bowl for the second rise covered by a plate. You want a clean, oiled bowl rather than the one you just used so you don't have release problems when you're ready to drop it into the oven. It's a little tricky getting the dough out and not collapsing the loaf though. A towel and a board may be easier.

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            That makes sense. Sounds like the 2nd rise is important even if, as Father Kitchen describes above, it rises fully in the first rise and won't rise any further.

            I will try the oiled bowl. The oil won't have any negative effects on the loaf?

            How big a risk is collapsing the loaf when turning it into the pot? I think I've been kind of rough with the dough at that stage and it hasn't seemed to matter.

          2. re: david kaplan

            Also a second rise, or rather, enough time, helps the yeast change flavor. Rushing bread often gives you a strong yeasty taste. The extra time mellows out the yeast flavor.

            The refigerator is a good way to go. I also wonder if your dough a little shy on flour, which will make the dough less stable.

          3. I agree that if the loaf collapses on the first rise, it's gone too long. But I'd just add that a number of people, myself included, have found that two hours isn't long enough for the second rise. I usually go closer to three, and I think Bittman said the same (though he said that it might go faster when the weather's warm). It can depend on how cold your kitchen is.

            During the 15-minute rest, I wash the mixing bowl with hot water, then dry. The bowl is still nice and warm when I put the dough back into it for the second rise (wrapped in the tea towel with flour). I think that the warmth definitely gives the dough a boost.

            1. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. I am grateful to David Kaplan for his pointer on adding some flour and yeast to an overproofed wet dough. But his answer raises a related theoretical question: Is the collapse of the dough caused only by exhausting the food supply? Or has the activity of protease gone so far that the integrity of the gluten is also compromised? I bake mostly sourdough, which is further complicated by acidity, which weakens gluten. So I don't think I would try to rescue an overproofed sourdough by adding a small amount of flour.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Father Kitchen

                It was Kelli2006 who taught you new tricks, old dog. I'm just asking novice questions.

                1. re: Father Kitchen

                  Father Kitchen, the acid breakdown of a sourdough is much different than the previous problem of yeast consuming all the available food in a over-proofed dough, and then having a mass die-off.

                  You can bake a overly acid sourdough, but the results will be closer to a ciabatta than a nice open loaf that you had hoped for.
                  The overly acidic sourdough starter must be corrected with just a bit of the existing starter and then fed flour for approx 1 week before you can bake a proper loaf that wont destroy the gluten.

                2. A few things I learned baking a few loaves...( I live in the bay area and use a wonderful slightly sourdough starter, and alternate King Arthur and Guisto's, thanks for the tips, Father Kitchen) the dough doesn't need to be so wet, a slightly stickier version of what you would knead is just right, if it's too loose and wet, you have trouble handling it, and you don't get a nice oven spring. Plus, when it rises, it gets looser with yeasty action. I do the second rise on a thin, flexible plastic cutting board (a silpat would be too flimsy) dusted with semolina or coarse ground whole wheat. Flour seems to get absorbed by the dough, thus it sticks. I put the board ontop of my range while the oven heats up to get a nice warm environ for the 2nd rise. You can just slide the dough into the hot pot. Yesterday I made a chocolate/cherry bread and baked in a corning ware casserole and I seemed to get a thinner crust on the bottom than I had been getting with the all-clad pots I have been using.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: peppatty

                    I'm prefering it on the wet side, that is making the best loaves for me.