Dough Dries Out During Proofing

Joined Mar 2, 2010
I notice that when I let my dough proof in a bowl for more than 1-2 hours, the top of it becomes thick and dried out, while the bottom (the part touching the bowl) becomes particularly moist. I used a formula for French bread with roughly 70% water, 2% salt, 1% yeast (relative to flour content);  I coat the dough in a bit of olive oil before proofing; and I cover the bowl with plastic, though it doesn't seem to help.

Since the book I bought on bread-making (Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective) suggests proofs of around 4 hours, this is posing a big problem. I also tried making a poolish once and that ended up being a thick, dried out mess too. 

Could it be that the air in the bowl is causing the exposed part of the dough to dry out?
Joined Dec 4, 2001
That sounds odd indeed. Assuming your formula is correct, there should be enough moisture in the dough. Is the bowl covered tightly with plastic? No gaps that can let air in?

Rather than oiling the dough, it is better to oil the bowl, including the sides. Then smear the dough around the bowl to coat it with oil and flip the dough over to present the oiled side up. Then cover the bowl tightly with plastic. Finally set the bowl in  a draft free area.

Oiling the bowl will allow the dough to slide uninhibited up the sides as it rises. If the bowl is dry it the dough will tend to stick to it and not rise properly.
Joined Mar 2, 2010
Hmm...I guess the bowl must be poorly covered them. Thanks for the tip on the oil.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I found that odd, too. With 70% hydration you shouldn't be having trouble.

Sometimes plastic film doesn't want to stick to a bowl. If it turns out that's your problem, just drop a towel over the film. Or use a damp towel in the first place.
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Does you proofing bowl have sides that are vertical or highly slanted.  Checkout these Winco mixing bowls from Kerekes supply; they feature a verticle wall.

Unless the dough proofs at a rather low temperature, a proof time of 3-4 hours sounds a bit long for that amount of yeast used in the recipe.

And yes, cover the dough while it proofs.
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Joined Jan 18, 2007
How big is the bowl? If you have a small ball of dough in a huge bowl, you might be trying to "humidify" too much air. The container only needs a little over 2x the volume of your dough (maybe 3x if you don't check it soon enough :cool: )

Also, as the others said, it's likely the cover isn't sealed tight. When I make Pizza dough or Ciabatta (also about 70% water), I let it proof in a polycarbonate container with a good snap on lid and have never had any problems with it drying out.

FWIW, I don't use any oil at all. Have you tried it without the oil?

Joined Feb 24, 2010
Where do you live? Somewhere generally quite dry? Where are you proofing the dough? Have you considered covering the bowl with a moist cloth instead of plastic?
Joined Aug 13, 2006
I sort of remember once or more times making the "no knead bread" recipe that though the dough was very wet, it got hard on top.  I think it was because it wasn;t mixed enough.  Does this make any sense?
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