Sometimes, you do everything right – you’ve weighed and/or measured, kneaded, patiently waited the appropriate times and the outcome fails. There are things you just can’t control, like the weather. The thing that makes your bread alive, yeast, grows best in a warm and humid environment. Rainy and hot humid days have an impact on your dough and baked bread.
While you can’t control the weather, there are some things you can control that can help lessen the effect of a rainy or hot and humid day like:
- Using ice-cold water
- Proofing in the fridge
- Running a fan/air conditioner
- Cooling your tools (i.e., bowls)
- Moisture-free storage of ingredients
- Reducing the amount of water used
- Longer baking time
Yeast & Humidity
The yeast used in bread baking, referred to as ‘baker’s yeast,’ works as a leavening agent causing the dough to rise and expand, influencing the texture as well as by becoming softer and lighter. The yeast converts the sugars available in the bread dough into alcohol (ethanol) which gives taste, and gas (carbon dioxide) which provides the texture.
So, How Does Humidity Effect Yeast?
The more humid and warm the environment is, the more active the yeast becomes. While you might think a hot muggy day would then be an ideal day to bake some bread, it doesn’t always work out that way. Yeast that is essentially hyperactive can cause an unpalatable fermented odor and flavor, as well as influence a less than desirable texture to the bread.
Moreover, the amount of water needed in a recipe might require a reduction in, particularly high humidity conditions.
Keep it Cool
Although yeast grows best under warm and humid conditions, you don’t want it to grow to fast otherwise it can compromise both the flavor and the texture of the baked bread. While you’ll want to avoid over proofing bread (which can lead to a flat bread), the longer you allow your bread dough to rise, the more flavor is developed. A longer proof also allows the gluten to expand, producing that unique bread texture we all want and crave. So, if you’re facing humid conditions, keeping things cool is where it’s at.
- Temperature Control – Room temperature (an ideal temperature to proof your bread) is generally between 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C). If you have a cold spot in your home (i.e., cellar), an air conditioner or even a fan to turn on, and it will help slow down the yeast.
- The Fridge – If A/C isn’t an option, you don’t have a cold spot and a fan just isn’t cutting it, stick it in the fridge.
- Ice Cold Water – You can try slowing down the proofing process by using ice-cold water, either adding some ice cubes or if ice cubes are scarce in your home sticking a bottle or pitcher of water in the freezer is another quick way of getting icy cold water.
- Sticking your water in the freezer before getting started requires a little bit of forethought, but really aids in retarding the proofing stage. Simply adding ice just before, is another quick way of getting icy cold water.
- Chilling your Tools – Stick your bowl, and any other metallic tools you’ll be using (i.e., kneading hook)
Keep it Dry
Have you ever left your flour out on a humid or rainy day? If you have, you probably noticed how it clumps up. This also happens to other ingredients commonly used in bread, like salt and sugar. The reason for this is that these ingredients are sucking up the moisture in the air. How do you avoid this? Simple, store your dry good ingredients in airtight storage containers. Rather than storing your flour in the pantry where you simply cannot control the humidity, storing in the fridge or freezer can also help with humidity control. Make sure you keep it covered in between use, and ideally buy what you can use quickly to avoid moisture getting in and the flour going stale.
Make a Few Tweaks
While you won’t want to make too many adjustments to your bread dough recipe, there are a few things you can try to combat the effects of humid weather.
To counteract the added moisture in the air, you can try reducing the amount of water the recipe calls for. Reduce your water by ten percent. Add a tablespoon at a time if the consistency is too dry.
Up the Baking Time
Another way to thwart the effects of humid weather on your bread dough is to increase the baking time. Have you ever followed a recipe to the T and found the middle a little soggy? It’s likely due to humidity. Adding a little more time, about 3 to 5 minutes, to the baking stage can help. Monitor, and add in small increments if needed.
Reduce the Yeast
A smaller amount of yeast on a humid day will still allow the bread to rise without compromising the flavor and makes-up for the otherwise quick growth of yeast.
Did you know that salt hinders yeast growth? Well, using about twenty percent more salt in your bread receipt will slow down the fermentation process, which can help avoid over-proofing. If you want to know which salt is best for bread baking ( yes, some types of salt are better then others) check out this great article here.
To slow the growth of yeast down, you can try reducing the amount of sugar your bread recipe calls for. Flour has enough naturally occurring sugar in it, so unless it’s a sweet bread, you should be good to go.
Switch Up the Flour
If you normally use bread flour, you may want to try switching to all-purpose flour. Bread flour normally has more gluten in it, which will absorb more moisture.
Depending on where you live, you may want to make more than one adjustment to your recipe and bread dough process but it’s probably best not to make too many adjustments to the recipe at the same time.
So, there you have it, while humid weather can be an annoyance when making bread, there is more than one way to combat its impact. The more you bake, the more familiar you will become with how your dough and bread reacts to changes in weather and seasons. Knowing a few little tricks of the trade helps in knowing how to solve any issues that may come up.