Temperature plays a massive role in dough fermentation. At warmer temperatures, yeast activity increases and the dough fermentation process speeds up. When the dough's cold the yeast activity slows down and the proofing process must be extended.
The desired dough temperature (DDT) is the temperature of the dough after mixing. Selecting and achieving the correct desired dough temperature makes bread with consistency and quality.
To determine the desired dough temperature, a baker uses a formula. Continue reading to understand the importance of DDT and a selection of formulas you can use.
What’s the difference between Desired Dough Temperature and Final Dough Temperature?
The DDT is the temperature you want to achieve which is calculated with a formula. The Final Dough Temperature (FDT) is the temperature that is actually reached. Ideally, they will both be the same which is why the Desired Dough Temperature and Final Dough Temperature are often used interchangeably by bakers.
Some will call it one thing, others will use the other phrase. Either way they both mean the temperature that dough will be at the end of mixing, intended or not.
Are Desired Dough Temperature and Bread Proofing Temperature the same?
The Desired Dough Temperature and the Proofing Temperature are similar, though they are different. Bread proofing temperature is the temperature of the environment that the dough proofs or ferments. The Desired Dough Temperature is the temperature of the dough after mixing.
If one of these temperatures is not ideal the baker can sometimes compensate the other for the bread to proof correctly.
What is the ideal Desired Dough Temperature?
The industry-standard Desired Dough Temperature is 24-26C (75-79F) for artisan bread and 28-32C (82-86F) for quick bread.
The perfect dough temperature can also be set individually for the type of bread in production. This method uses a Base Temperature (BT) measurement, we'll cover this later on.
How to calculate the Desired Dough Temperature for a dough
To achieve a Desired Dough Temperature of 24C (75F), readings are made before the inoculation of ingredients. The flour and room temperatures are measured and entered into a simple formula that is used to work out the perfect temperature of the water. The easiest temperature to change is the water which is why we use it to reach the DDT.
The water is then cooled or warmed so that it reaches the temperature. In extremely hot weather, some ingredients can be cooled in the fridge.
How to check the right temperature has been reached
After kneading, a temperature reading of the dough is taken with a probe to check that the dough's temperature is correct. If the reading is above or below 24C (74F) actions can be taken to the dough in the first rise stage. Reasons why the temperature might be different are detailed below.
Why is dough temperature a problem?
Temperature is essential for fermentation. Not managing the temperature will lead to bread that looks, behaves and tastes different every time. For consistency, the perfect dough temperature is vital. Here are the key impacts poor temperature management can have on bread dough:
If the FDT is too cold, the alcoholic fermentation of the yeast slows right down. The cold dough will need a longer time in order to produce enough gas to rise.
A long proof is not only infuriating for a baker at home but can cause massive issues with oven bottle-necking in industrial situations. It will also affect the flavour and behaviour of the dough.
Oxygenation of the flour is the action of oxygen getting absorbed by the flour. In small amounts, oxygenation is handy as it gives the dough strength. Though too much oxygenation is not good. During a long fermentation stage it is likely that too much oxygen will be absorbed into the flour which deteriorates the breads qualities.
Bleaching is especially common with heavy or intense mixing and at dough that is mixed at 28C (82F). The visible effect that bleaching has on the dough is the colour turning white. The loss of colour indicates a loss of minerals along with much of the bread-like flavours and aroma.
Long fermentation causes higher levels of lactic acids to appear. A lower PH value, caused by the increase in lactic acid has can have many benefits but will adjust the flavour of the bread.
Over fermenting due to high temperatures can cause the extensibility of the gluten to decrease. This is where the lactic acid bacteria and the enzyme protease increase too much which destroys the gluten strands.
If the dough is too warm, the first rise and/or proofing times will need to be reduced. Doing this decreases the development of the gluten structure and the generation of organic acids.
A lack of dough maturity creates issues in gas retention. This diminishes the rise and oven spring of the bread which causes a dense crumb,
How high temperatures effect kneading
As dough mixes the kinetic energy passed forces it to warm up. This occurs when using a dough mixer but is especially noticeable when kneading by hand. Many bakers hand kneading are forced to end kneading when the dough gets too sticky. This means if the dough is too warm, the gluten development gains from kneading will be reduced.
To get a nice, light and airy crumb it is important to knead the dough for the correct amount of time (12-20 mins). Dough which has been under-kneaded will be dense and like a brick.
When hand kneading it is important to control the temperature to prevent it from getting too warm and sticky. It is also common practice to lower the Desired Dough Temperature when hand kneading. We'll incorporate this into our advanced dough temperature formulas below.
Essential tools for the perfect bread proofing temperature
To take temperature readings of your dough your going to need a decent thermometer. This probe has a quick read functionality and is pretty durable. If you are looking for a low cost probe I recommend it!
A decent tub for bulk fermentation is also recommended. One big enough with a sealed lid, and strong enough to withstand plenty of use. I have just bought this tub and it’s working a treat so I thought I'd recommend it too!
These are affiliate links to amazon so if you buy I'll receive a commission - Thank you!
Desired Dough Temperature formulas
There are a selection of formulas to choose from. The first few are really basic but the rest are more complicated which improves accuracy. Much as I prefer accuracy, if I need to be quick I'll make use of the basic models.
Key for the formulas:
WT = Ideal Water Temperature
DDT =Desired Dough Temperature
RT = Room Temperature
FT = Flour Temperature
1) Basic formula for the water temperature
This simplest way to work out the water temperature is the one I used for years. It is not as accurate as the following examples, though it does give a simple desired temperature that I can work out in my head.
(RT + FT) - 2*DDT = WT
RT = 21C
FT = 18C
DDT = 28C
(21 + 18 = 39) - 28 = 11C
Simple and effective, though it doesn’t take into consideration how the dough warms up during mixing.
The Friction Factor
When kneading, the Friction Factor (FF) should be taken into consideration. This is the friction created during the action of kneading. Friction will raise the final temperature of the dough.
When kneading by hand, the kinetic energy for friction will be more significant. Warmth from the hands transfers to the dough causing it to warm faster.
FF = Friction Factor
Without extensive testing of your mixing action, the friction factor cannot be known. It will increase or decrease depending on how long and at what intensity the dough is mixed.
Friction Factor for dough mixers:
Light incorporation: 0C (32F)
Standard mix (8 mins): 4C(40F)
Long mix (14 mins): 7C (44F).
Friction Factor when hand kneading:
My research has indicated that:
Light incorporation: 1C (32F)
Standard mix (10 mins): 7C(40F)
Long mix (20 mins): 14C (44F)
But it depends heavily on how you knead your dough!
If a dough method requires a longer mixing time, the water temperature should be lowered.
For an accurate Friction Factor:
To discover the friction factor of your hand kneading or mixer, you can rearrange the formula shown below after you've prepared a dough. I recommend you do this a few times and use an average.
FF = (3 x DDT) - RT - FT - WT
2) Formula using the Friction Factor
By taking readings from the flour and the room. Including the friction factor of the dough mixer and knowing the final dough temperature we want to achieve we use this formula to get the ideal water temperature:
WT = (3 x DDT) - RT - FT - FF
3) The 240 factor method
The 240 factor is commonly used in the US, where readings are taken in Fahrenheit. It works using the same formula as the previous when aiming for a desired final dough temperature of 80F:
WT = (3 x 80 = 240) - RT - FT - FF
The 240 factor simplified looks like this:
WT = 240 - RT - FT - FF
4) Formula using a preferment
If using a sourdough starter or other preferment, follow this formula to work out the correct water temperature. This allows for the preferment temperature to be taken into account when finding the desired water temperature.
PT = Preferment Temperature
WT = (4 x DDT) - RT - FT - FF - PF
As you can see we now multiply the final dough temperature by 4, before taking away the preferment temperature as well as the other known readings.
5) The base temperature formula
Another formula for calculating the water temperature uses the base temperature (BT). The base temperature is given with many advanced bread recipes.
The base temperature changes between recipes for example for bread that we wish to cool proof it is lower than fast proofing dough. It also takes into account the expected friction factor produced from mixing.
The base temperature is usually between 55-60C (130-140F).
BT = Base Temperature
(FT + RT) - BT = WT
If you do not have the base temperature with a recipe, use 55C.
Dough temperature tips
How to cool water
The best place to start is the cold tap, which in cooler weather can be fine. To drop the temperature further I often fill a jug of water and place it in the fridge overnight. This dramatically cools the temperature, to 3C (37F) if left overnight.
If you are in a very warm climate you are going to need to cool the water further. Add some ice to a bowl or jug of water. The temperature will drop to 0C (32F).
Don't pour ice into the mixing bowl as they might break the mixer!
How to work out the dough temperature without a formula
Simply take a FDT reading after the first mix of the day. If it reads too high, the water temperature is dropped for subsequent doughs. Of course if it’s too cool you can raise the water temperature with warmer water.
Keep taking measurements and correcting your water temperature. A difference of +/-2C is to be expected.
If baking in the same environment each day you'll soon learn how much change is needed.
How to control temperature when hand kneading
When hand kneading, the dough gets considerably warm, even when using ice-cold water. For this reason, when hand kneading it is a good idea to use a technique that transfers the minimum amount of heat from your hands into the dough.
Hand kneaders can also make use of autolyse to develop flour fermentation naturally. I often use the fridge in between slow and fast kneading to cool the dough too!
What if the Final Dough Temperature and the Desired Dough Temperature different?
We don't always get it exactly right, especially when kneading by hand. But getting close to the expected temperature is much better than being miles off!! The more practice you get in achieving your desired final dough temperature the closer you will get it.
What happens if the dough is too warm?
If the dough is too warm I have some great tips on the bread proofing temperature page.
What should I do if I forget to take a temperature reading?
Do not sweat, this happens all the time. Whilst you are not going to get a reading as accurate as you would normally, we can get a good estimate.
If it is just one reading that you are missing can you guess it? For instance, fill up another jug of water and test that, or probe another bag of flour? Then continue with the formula.
If you have forgotten to take any readings and realise midway through mixing, take a reading as soon as possible of the dough. You know that roughly the final dough temperature of the dough will be a little warmer due to friction.
Taking a reading will allow you to prepare the temperature for bulk fermentation. Creating a warm or cool environment to get the best bread proofing temperature possible.
If the room you are proofing in is extremely hot or cold, increase or decrease DDT further to compensate!