Why Does Dough Need to Rest?

If you look at almost any bread recipe, you will notice that it says to let your bread “rest.” Is your bread just being lazy, or is there a purpose behind letting bread dough rest

Bread dough needs to rest for various reasons. One reason is that it makes the dough infinitely easier to knead and shape. Another important reason is that resting will allow the bread to rise correctly, ensuring a sky-high, light, fluffy, and delicious result.

Hey! I’m Michelle, a bread baker with over ten years of experience. I’ve enjoyed making bread of all kinds, from regular white sandwich bread to Artisan options like sourdough. I’m here to share why letting your bread rest before baking is essential.

All rise! It’s time to discuss why do you let dough rest after kneading and how long should dough rest.

3 Reasons Why Dough Needs to Rest

Your bread recipe likely says that your bread needs to “rest,” which can sound odd. What’s the deal with letting bread dough rest? Well, there are actually three key reasons why resting your dough is necessary for a successful loaf.

1. Easier to Knead/Shape

Everyone knows that kneading bread dough is a critical part of the bread-baking process, but it’s not always the most enjoyable part. Kneading (and shaping) can be tricky, especially if you’re working with dough that’s not quite ready.

Bread dough that has not rested long enough will be impossibly elastic. It will snap back while working with it, so much so that kneading in your bread machine may also be unfeasible.

That brings us to reason number one why your bread dough needs to rest. A proper resting period will allow the gluten to expand and absorb water in the dough, making it more flexible and easily kneaded.

So, if you’re struggling with a tight and stubborn ball of dough, the simplest solution may be to allow it to rest for a little longer.

2. Higher Rise

One of the most critical ingredients in a bread recipe is yeast. Yeast is living microorganisms that feed on the sugars of the flour (and added sugars, if used), releasing carbon dioxide for the bread to rise. Without yeast, you will end up with a flat, dense loaf.

How does this correlate to the resting period, though? Well, yeast needs enough time to feed on the sugars and expel CO2. If you quicken or skip the resting period, your yeast won’t have enough time to produce carbon dioxide, leaving you with a flat and unpleasant loaf.

At the same time, the gluten strands will relax and reform into long protein chains that will ensure a picture-perfect structure.

How long should you rest your bread? That mostly depends on what type of bread you’re making and where you’re letting bread dough rest. 

In a warm environment, most bread rises within a few hours. However, some people place their loaves (especially Artisan loaves) in the refrigerator to slow the process and allow them to rise for up to 24 hours.

Regardless of where you’re planning to let your bread dough rise, it’s essential to give it enough time so that it can bake and rise beautifully with a pleasant texture. Most of the time, your bread will need at least an hour.

3. Improved Texture and Flavor

There’s a reason why bread bakers allow their loaves to rest in the refrigerator for extended periods; it improves the texture and flavor of the loaves drastically.

This all comes down to what’s happening while the dough is “resting.” During this time, the gluten chain is relaxing and restructuring while the yeast is creating CO2. These two processes ensure a better crumb, texture, and flavor. 

So, the next time you think about rushing your bread’s resting period, think again. Allow it to rest a little longer, and you will notice some impressive changes.


Okay, so now we know why the rest period for bread dough is critical. Now we need to learn a little bit more! I’ve hand-selected some commonly asked questions that go hand-in-hand with our interesting topic. Let’s check them out!

What happens if you don’t rest dough?

If you don’t allow your bread to rest for the required amount of time, a few things can happen. For one, it will be challenging (if not impossible) to knead and shape. The loaf may also come out dense, flat, and lacking flavor. That said, always let your bread dough rest!

How long should the dough be left to rest?

That really depends on the type of bread you’re making and where you’re letting the bread dough rise. For the most part, bread only needs about 1 to 3 hours at room temperature. If it’s in the fridge, you can let it rise for up to 24 hours.

Can bread dough rest too long?

Unfortunately, yes, you can let bread dough rest for too long, otherwise known as overproofing. Overproofing will cause bread to collapse and have an odd flavor and texture. The best thing to do is follow the recipe closely and keep an eye on your bread while resting.

Always Make Sure Your Bread Dough Rests!

A resting period is critical for success. Allowing the dough to rise will make it much easier to work with (kneading and shaping) while also ensuring the loaf rises properly with a wonderful texture and flavor.

How long do you let your bread dough rest? Leave a comment below.

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Phyllis Watters

    I live in high altitude, 8500 feet. I volunteered for a bakery in the first few years I lived here. After we mixed the dough, and prior to adding the final bit of flour, we covered the mixer and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then we added any additional flour needed. I continue to do that with my dough at home. I have better luck if I do this as it seems the flour has hydrated, is less tacky and I don’t need to add much more flour. I have never seen doing this on a recipe but I’m wondering if this is more of a high altitude thing. Any comments.

    • Michelle

      Hi Phyllis,
      I’m not sure, but it sounds like a great trick that’s making some superior bread. I may give this a try.

  • BTKY

    What about gluten free baking…should the dough still be left to. rest?

    • Michelle

      Hi BTKY,
      Yes, gluten-free dough still needs to rest.