You’ve probably seen it written in many bread recipes before: use lukewarm or hand-hot or tepid water to make your bread dough. But should you use warm water to make bread dough? And if so, why is the temperature of the water so important for dough making? Watch the video below or read on to find out more.

Why is water temperature important in baking bread?

There are three main reasons why water temperature is important in dough making.

Firstly, the yeast in your dough work better to produce gas and rise your dough in a warmer environment. Yeast are living organisms and like to be treated just like we do – given food, water and warmth, they start to work well. But, this stops at 37C (around 100F). Above this temperature, yeast start to die and will no longer produce gas.

The easiest way to control the temperature of your dough is through changing the water temperature. Dough temperature is affected by the temperature of the ingredients, the surrounding air temperature and also through heat transferred into the dough during mixing and kneading.

Water temperature is important here as it’s the easiest part to change. Other ingredients will be hard to heat up or cool down, and there will always be heat transferred during kneading.

Lastly, adjusting the temperature of the water in your dough helps keep your dough at a consistent temperature. A question I’m often asked is how to keep baking great bread time and again. Dough temperature is one key factor in this – find the temperature at which your dough rises well and adjust the water temperature each time you make dough to achieve this temperature.

What water temperature am I aiming for?

As mentioned above, yeast will start to die and will stop producing gas at temperatures above 37C. So it’s important not to use water that’s too hot. If you have a food-safe thermometer, then that’s a great way to check your water temperature.

Otherwise, you should be able to comfortably dip your finger into your water. No hotter than hand warmth is best.

Ooops, I just used cold water in my bread dough – have I ruined my bread?

In a word, no. Unlike us, yeast will still work to produce gas at cooler temperature. They’ll just do it more slowly. So if you do use cold water in your dough, expect to be waiting a little longer for your dough to rise and fill out with gas. This is no bad thing, as a longer prove can help develop more great flavour in your dough.

More bread baking help

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