How Final Dough Temperature (FDT) makes fantastic bread
The final dough temperature is the temperature of the dough after mixing. Getting the best final dough temperature (FDT) gives your dough the best start in making fantastic bread.
After kneading, a temperature reading of the dough should be taken, this is the Final Dough Temperature (FDT). The temperature of 28C (82F) is best for fast doughs, for artisan bread a temperature of 24C (75F) should be achieved.
To achieve this temperature, readings should be made beforehand of the flour and room temperature. Using a formula, the desired water temperature is calculated. To change the final dough temperature the water is cooled or heated.
In extreme heat, the other ingredients can be cooled in the fridge.
Why is cold dough a problem?
If the final dough temperature is low the alcoholic fermentation of the yeast slows down. Cold dough takes longer to produce enough gas to proof the bread sufficiently for baking. A long proof can not only be infuriating for the baker (home or commercial) but excessively long fermentation causes some detrimental issues to the dough:
Oxygenation of the flour is the action of oxygen getting absorbed by the flour. In small amounts oxygenation is handy to give the dough strength but over oxygenation is not good for the bread. During a long fermentation stage it is possible that too much oxygen can be absorbed into the flour causing bleaching.
Bleaching is especially common when a heavy or intense mixing period has been implemented at the start of mixing. The visible effect that bleaching has on the dough is the colour turning white. The loss of colour indicates a loss of minerals and therfore much of the flavour and aroma of the bread has departed.
Long fermentation also causes a higher amount of lactic acid to be created. A lower PH value, caused by the increase in lactic acid has many benefits but a big negative is it causes the extensibility of the gluten to decrease.
A dough that is too cold will take longer to get into the oven and as the rate of fermentation will be slower is at risk of over fermenting and excessive oxygenation.
Can dough be too warm?
If the dough temperature is higher, alcoholic fermentation rises too. Alcoholic fermentation is responsible for gas production. If becomes too active, too much gas is created forcing the bulk fermentation and final proof time to be reduced.
Accelerating the time the dough develops excessively is not welcomed in high quality bread production. The gluten structure needs time to develop into a strong structure and other areas of fermentation need to occur to generate enough organic acids to mature the dough properly.
A lack of dough maturity creates issues in gas retention and diminishes flavour and colour.
As dough is kneaded it warms up which makes the dough hander to work with. Many bakers that hand knead often cut their kneading because the dough is too sticky to continue. To get a nice, light and airy crumb it is necessary to knead the dough for the correct amount of time (12-20 mins). Dough which has been under-kneaded will be dense and bricklike.
If we can adjust the temperature of the ingredients so that after kneading the dough is not too hot or too cold, we will be able to knead for the correct amount of time and have a dough that is ready for the next stage of fermentation.
The aim for bakers is to achieve a final dough temperature that is not too warm, and not too cold.
Is final dough temperature and the bread proofing temperature the same?
Bread proofing temperature is the temperature the dough proofs or bulk ferments in. The final dough temperature is the temperature of the dough after mixing.
Both are related to each other, for example, if it is really warm we can decrease the final dough temperature to slow down the rate of fermentation after mixing.
Generally, we don’t do try to change the dough proofing temperature for each dough that we make unless we really have to! We try to achieve the right final dough temperature at the end of mixing.
We don't always get it exactly right, especially when kneading by hand but getting close to the final temperature is much better than being miles off!! The more you practice getting the desired final dough temperature, the better you will get at it.
Maintaining final dough temperature and the breads proofing temperature so that they are consistent throughout bakes will lead to a uniform product which is ready to be baked at the right time.
Essential tools for the perfect bread proofing temperature
A thermometer is essential for taking readings when baking bread. Thermometers that read surface temperature can be used. These are slightly less messy but I prefer the ones that can be poked in to get the core dough temperature.
I usually use one that you can poke right into the centre of the dough for an accurate reading. A thermometer with quick read functionality is a good idea so you are not waiting for the reading for ages.
This is the one I recommend, it's an affiliate link to amazon so if you click the link and purchase, I receive a small commision which helps me to continue working on the site.
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!
How to get the final dough temperature right
To achieve the ideal bread proofing temperature we use a formula which includes the temperatures of the ingredients and the room. The easiest of these temperatures that we can change is the water. So we take the temperature of the other ingredients and adjust the water temperature to fit the formula.
There are a few different formulas here that can be used to achieve the optimum final dough temperature. Some are more accurate but more time consuming, I recommend the common formula.
If the area you are proofing in is extremely hot or cold, you might choose to increase or decrease the final dough temperature slightly to help compensate. This should be done before baking - and your temperature readings are enacted.
We aim for the standard 24C(75F) for slow proof and 28C (82F) for fast proofed bread.
Final dough temperature formula
Key for the formulas:
WT = Ideal Water Temperature
FDT =Final Dough Temperature
RT = Room Temperature
FT = Flour Temperature
Basic formula to find the desired water temperature
This basic 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 temperature that I can work out in my head.
(RT + FT) - FDT = WT
RT = 21C
FT = 18C
FDT = 28C
(21 + 18 = 39) - 28 = 11C
Simple and effective, though it doesn’t take into consideration how the dough warms up during mixing.
Introducing the friction factor
When kneading, the friction factor should be taken into consideration. This is the friction created during the action of kneading. Friction will raise the final dough temperature.
When kneading by hand, the friction factor comes into play with higher influence. Warmth from the hands transfers to the dough. Hand kneading warms the dough more than machine kneading.
FF = Friction Factor
Without extensive testing of your mixing, the friction factor is not known, so we have to make an assumption. The factor will increase or decrease depending on how long and at what intensity the dough is mixed.
For a light mix used in a no knead bread, it will be 0C (32F). For a standard mix 4C(40F) and for a long mix around 7C (44F).
After a few trials, you can rearrange the formula shown below to discover the amount of friction factor created.
Standard formula for working out the water temperature of the dough
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 FDT) - RT - FT - FF
The 240 Factor method for measuring dough temperature
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
So it’s a little simpler.
Finding the friction factor
If you want to work out the friction factor of your dough kneading process, you can rearrange the equation to generate this figure.
Ff = (3 x FT) - RT - RT - WT
Water temperature when using a preferement
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 final dough temperature.
PT = Preferment Temperature
WT = (4 x FDT) - 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.
How can I cool the water for bread making?
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. 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 get cooler. Add some ice to water and allow the temperature to drop to 0C (32F).
Be careful to not pour any ice cubes into the mixing bowl as this might break the mixer!
Managing final dough temperature when hand kneading
When hand kneading, the dough gets considerably warm, even when using ice-cold water. For this reason, when hand kneading for long periods 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 whilst naturally fermenting. Kneading the dough for a bit and then placing it in the fridge to cool for a bit helps manage the dough temperature.
Further reading: How to hand knead bread dough
Other ways to determine the final dough temperature
Using the base temperature to work out dough temperature
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).
The formula for working out the water temperature is slightly easier to work out:
BT = Base Temperature
(FT + RT) - BT = WT
If you do not have the base temperature as part of the recipe, use 55C.
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.
If baking in the same environment each day you soon learn how much change is needed. If a dough method requires a longer mixing time, again the water temperature can be lowered.
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 the final dough temperature of the dough is going to be a little warmer due to the friction factor.
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.
For more information on how temperature plays a role in bread baking, check out the sister article:
Further reading: How bread proofing temperature works