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Leavened Doughs

Leavened doughs include an extensive range of recipes, from bread to pizza and pastries.

The common point of all these doughs is that they expand in cooking due to the gases produced by yeast fermentation.

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The choice between the two ingredients – Sourdough or Yeast – is the first choice.

Using Sourdough requires appropriate knowledge of this ingredient and a longer production process. Still, you will get a much more digestible product with excellent flavors and a longer shelf-life.

Fresh or dry Yeast allows you to shorten the process, and if used in the correct quantity, it also gives a good result. The secret of having an excellent yeast-leavened product is to use small quantities of Yeast per kilogram of flour and allow long proofing times at low temperatures. In this article, I will explain how much yeast to use better.

Another difference between the 2 ingredients is the alveoli in the baked product: products prepared with Sourdough will have more irregular alveoli and are more stable during baking, making the product softer and lighter. On the contrary, fresh yeast produces smaller and more regular alveoli. Moreover, they tend to be very delicate. For this reason, if you try to handle a yeast-leavened product during fermentation, it will tend to deflate!

Moreover, alveolation depends on yeast type and the quantity of water used in the recipe (like bread rich in water, such as a baguette). Also, the type of flour plays a role. Flour with a good protein content and good extensibility will produce a more elastic gluten mesh, which can better support the development of alveoli.


There are two main types of processing for preparing leavened products:

  • The Direct Technique (or single dough) kneads all the ingredients simultaneously. Once ready, the dough will rest to start the fermentation before being baked.
  • The Indirect Method (or double doughs), instead, has two distinct phases. First, we make the first dough, and once it is well ripped (after about 12 hours), we continue the process by adding all the other ingredients of the recipe. However, the first dough’s fermentation time can vary according to the type of dough, the temperature, and the quantity of yeast.

The Biga (preferment): It is a stiff dough made of water, flour, and Fresh Yeast (1% of the weight of flour), which is generally fermented between 12 and 24 hours at 19°C (6°6F). The proportion between water and flour is about 0,45:1 (450gr of water for 1kg). It is essential to stress that when we use the Biga in a recipe, we always need to add (fresh or dry) Yeast, as the Biga alone is not “strong” enough to ferment the dough. This technique’s typical use is bread and pizza preparation with a proportion of at least 40-50% of flour’s weight. To learn more about Biga and Poolish and how much Biga can be used in recipes,

Poolish: It is obtained by mixing water and flour in a ratio of 1:1 and Yeast in a variable quantity from 0.1% to 2.5% of the flour’s weight. Yeast’s quantity depends on the fermentation time:

  •  0.1% needs 16 hours of fermentation
  • 0.5% needs 8 hours of fermentation
  • 1.5% needs 3 hours of fermentation
  • 2.5% needs 2 hours of fermentation 

I suggest using a poolish prepared with low Yeast to improve the finished product’s digestibility and fragrance. 

Moreover, the ideal quantity of Poolish is up to 20-25% of the flour’s weight. In this article, I will explain how to prepare Poolish correctly.

Sourdough: In this case, a good fermentation of the first dough prepared with flour, Yeast, liquids (water and/or eggs), and fat takes about 10-12h at 24-26°C (75°F – 78°F). 

During this process, yeasts develop considerably, and sugars are partially digested. According to the sugar and fat quantity in the recipe, the average quantity of sourdough for the first dough varies from 200 to 450 grams per kilogram of flour. To further discover sourdough, I invite you to read my article on how much sourdough to use for 1kg of flour.

Pizza with Biga
Italian Schiacciata
Whole Wheat Bread with Sourdough


I suggest using a stand mixer or a professional kneading machine to prepare leavened dough because the kneading process is long.

Suppose you can choose the type of kneading machine. The first choice is undoubtedly Double Arms, which is remarkable for its capacity to oxygenate the dough and keep its temperature low.

Spiral kneaders are also the right solution. However, this type of machine tends to overheat the dough, thus degrading the gluten mesh. 

The final temperature of a leavened dough should be between 25°C (77°F) and 28°C (82°F).

The development of the gluten mesh is primary for the recipe’s success. For a good dough, in fact, in the first phase of the process, we should mix flour, Yeast, and sugar and gradually add liquids to hydrate the flour progressively. Only when the gluten mesh is formed can we go ahead and add fats and salt; these ingredients hinder gluten formation.

Once ready, whichever method is used, we have to let the dough rest for 45-60 minutes at room temperature to relax the structure and facilitate the next steps. This phase is called Bulk Fermentation.

After that, the dough is divided, shaped, and left to proof. The proofing duration is mainly regulated by temperature. 

A standard proofing temperature is around 28°C – 30°C (82°F – 86°F), and I advise you to keep the dough uncovered and with the surface slightly greased (with oil or butter).

However, cold temperatures (+4°C, 39°F) can be used to lengthen the proofing time. Placing the dough in the fridge can extend the proofing time up to 10 – 12 hours, favoring development during baking.

French Croissant with Sourdough
French Brioche with Sourdough


Baking leavened doughs require particular attention if you want to succeed.

A leavened product is correctly baked when the heart’s temperature is about 92-96°C (197°F – 205°F). Lengthening the baking time would cause excessive toasting of the product. In contrast, a shorter time could cause the cake’s internal collapse and mold formation in humid products like Panettone.

In general, I suggest baking leavened products at medium temperatures around 170-180°C (338°F -356°F), further lowering it for large-sized products up to 150°C (302°F).

A classic oven without a fan is preferable because the fan tends to dry the product excessively. In this case, try to shield the fan if you can’t regulate it.

Once baked, some products, such as brioches or croissants, are polished when they come out of the oven with a weeping glaze made of powdered sugar and water.

Instead, Panettone and Colomba must be cooled for 10-12h upside down to avoid the center’s collapse (given the recipe’s richness) and retain the moisture in the ramekin before being packed.

Italian Panettone with Sourdough


Pandoro with Sourdough
Easter Colomba with Sourdough


3 comments about “Gli impasti lievitati”

  1. Ciao, avrei bisogno di un chiarimento riguardo i tempi di lavorazione: spesso quando devo impastare un lievitato ad alta idratazione con metodo indiretto (Poolish), ci metto davvero tanto tempo per far sviluppare la maglia glutinica, poi quando si forma e aggiungo progressivamente sale e olio, passa di nuovo un’eternità prima che l’impasto incordi di nuovo, nel senso che a volte impiego anche più di un’ora (facendo qualche pausa di 10 minuti per evitare che la planetaria di surriscaldi). È normale? Lo lavoro comunque troppo? Grazie in anticipo

  2. Ciao! E grazie per il tuo fantastico sito!
    Un pozzo d’oro per chi come menè appassionato di lievito madre!

    Una domanda: recentemente ho avuto dei problemi con il distaccamento del panettone dal piroettino quando lo capovolgo. Riesco a fare tutto bene e in forno è spettacolare, ma poi quando lo giro, in alcuni punti si stacca quasi 2 cm dallo stampo.. secondo te da cosa potrebbe dipendere?

    Grazie in anticipo!

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