February Love Letter to Bread: What is the difference between proofing and rising?

What IS the difference between “rising” and “proofing”? Do you know? Well some of us thought we did, but a short discussion quickly revealed we had no idea! So we went researching!

We found that some recipes have a rise and THEN a proof. Both serve to activate the yeast and allow it to interact with the sugars, moisture and starches. They both allow the yeast to activate, fermenting the other ingredients, creating bubbles and causing the dough enlarge in size. Therefore, they both serve the purpose of increasing the lightness of the dough.

Also - and we think most importantly - they both help develop that unmistakable aroma, delightful flavour, and springy, chewy texture. Oh yum!

The difference seems to be in the timing. But even here, our sources were conflicted! We found one source that said the rise refers to the first time the dough is resting/enlarging and the proof refers to the second. Whereas another source said the proof is the first time and the rise is the second or final time? Maybe they're all just called a rise, but someone decided that it acted as "proof" that the dough is light before you can be confident your bread will turn out wonderfully tasty and pillowy soft?

You can proof yeast, which means to bloom your yeast in a liquid/sugar mixture before adding it to your other ingredients. You can leaven, rise, bloom or proof your dough. You can underproof, overproof, knock down and reproof - no wonder it's confusing! We need a reprieve!

So we've observed bakers have begun to use the terms interchangeably, while some have abandoned using the term proof altogether. If a baker is using two or more rising stages, we now often see terms like "first rise, second rise, and final rise".

However you make your bread, following a recipe or asking an experienced baker always helps. And once you've figured out a system that works for you, it's like riding a bike - you'll never forget, no matter what terms you or any other baker uses.

How about "enlargerate"... do you think that would catch on? How about "biggify"...

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