I learned how bakers proof bread at the culinary school today. I had a
chance to use the big wet warm cabinet called a proofer. How do you do it
at home? Do you just wait longer in cooler temperatures or is there some
good way to produce the effects of a proofer in a home kitchen?
The Good Gourmet
I don't find that I need a proofer unless I want to speed up the process.
You get better bread with a slow rise in a cool place. You can rig a
proofing box in a number of ways. 1) put a 11x14 pan of hot water in your
oven, place the dough in a bowl, and close the door. 2) bring a 4 cup
measure of water to a boil in your microwave, put the dough in a bowl, place
in the oven, close the door. 3) Put the dough with a pan of hot water on a
tray and invert a large plastic storage bin over it. 4) put a jug of hot
water in a picnic cooler with the dough and cover.
You get the idea. You just need a way to trap warm, moist air. Many newer
ovens have a "proof" setting. That turns the convection oven on at a
temperature of 100F. They usually recommend that you add a pan of boiling
water for moisture.
There are lots of ways.... you can cover the bread with oil (a thin film),
saran wrap, or a wet towel and put the bread in a warm place. The big
goals are to keep the bread from drying out, and then keep it warm.
A good place is in an oven with a pilot light or the oven lamp on.
Check your temps though, the oven can get too warm.
Some people use sweater boxes as the seal well. Others use
styrofoam coolers with some hot water in them.... lots of choices
I proof my dough by putting the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it
with saran wrap, and put the bowl on top of my computer monitor. The
inside of the bowl ends up being just the right temp.
During the summer, I'll sometimes put the bowl in sunlight to provide more
I proof my doughnuts at room temperature, and I've seen that it's better
for the dough. Alton Brown claims that you should proof in the fridge, but
I can't say that I agree with that. I've noticed that it leads to uneven
proofing as the dough goes through its temperature change in a rather slow
fashion. Minor point, but for fragile doughs it can be a problem.
Thanks for the tips. I was really concerned about proofing after the loaves
are made up. The first proofing isn't much of a deal and room temp. seems
fine to me. The idea of starting and then stopping the oven makes sense.
I'll work with that idea. In fact I'll make up some dinner rolls at the
store today and test the process in our "consumer kitchen." Take care.
The Good Gourmet
3) Put the dough with a pan of hot water on a
tray and invert a large plastic storage bin over it.
I have a large plastic storage bin to cover my dough to raise. I'm not sure
what you mean by putting the dough with a pan of hot water on a tray .." I
can't visualize this, can you be a little more specific for me?
pc playing up so sorry if this appears more than once.i empty a shelf
in my airing cupboard and pop the bowl of dough in there for the first
rise.(if my kitchen is not warm enough--otherwise i just leave it on
the worktop) for the second rise i put the bread tins on top of my
central heating boiler and the warmth from that is just right.
Here's my setup for proofing yeast dough: I place the oiled dough in a
warmed greased bowl, then place the covered bowl on top of an electric
heating pad (yeah, the kind used for sore muscles! LOL) set at "medium".
When I make rolls, after the first rising I shape the rolls, place them on a
greased baking sheet, cover, and place the baking sheet on the heating pad
for the final rise.
In lieu of a heating pad, I've used a 9"x13" roasting pan filled halfway
with the hottest water from the tap. I set the baking sheet on top of that
and cover the dough. This works really well, too.
When kitchen and oven space are at a premium, these "portable" methods can
be used in almost any room in the house...as long as you remember you've got
dough rising somewhere! :-)
I tried the oven method today. I turned the oven on for about a minute and
then shut it off and put a pan of dinner rolls and a pan of baguettes in to
proof. The proofed product was pretty uneven. What I mean is that the
baguettes had a lumpy crust as though some little creature was inside trying
to break through in spots and the cloverleaf rolls looked kind of funny.
Nevertheless, everything baked to perfection and the product had perfect
texture and good flavor. I think the oven might have proofed a little too
fast and, hence, unevenly. At least the dough was good. I'll keep
The Good Gourmet
On Sun, 18 Jan 2004 00:48:45 GMT, "Fred"
It seems that much of this thread is based upon the (false) assumption
that it is best to warm the dough, and therefor accelerate the
proofing process. Generally, cooler, slower proofing yields better
flavor and texture.
All the best,
While that's true, it's often helpful to have a good idea when the bread will be
done, and how well it will have risen.
Controlling the temperature of the dough as well as the temperature and
humidity of the proofing area are big factors in this.
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OK, by jove, I think I've got it. I knew there was a solution there for me
as I have a large plastic bread cover-er.
1) Onto a baking tray, set your container of dough; and beside it on the
tray, set your container of hot water.
2) Cover the tray with a plastic-bread-cover which covers the whole tray
and sits flush on the table so the heat/moisture will not escape.
I think it's improper to say that warming up the dough is "accelerating"
the proofing process. Proofing dough is done at the ideal temperature for
yeast growth (near 32C/90F and 80-85% humidity). To raise your dough at
any temperature outside the ideal yeast growth range and you are
"retarding" the yeast growth. Sometimes this is useful, like in doughnut
production. For something like pizza crust, it's just a slower process.
Better to get the pizza dough's yeast moving rather than take 25% longer
for no palatable benefit.
Well, we certainly disagree...
When you say above that "Proofing dough is done at the ideal
temperature for yeast growth" you are confusing "ideal" with "most
Proofing can, in fact, be "done" at any temperature that allows the
yeasts to multiply. Dough will proof (slowly) in the refrigerator.
All the best,
On that we agree, but please note how frequently in this thread folks
talk about ways of "warming" the dough. In fact, I don't recall too
many comments about accurately measuring the temperature of the dough
or the surrounding environment.
All the best,
Decided to check the loaf I started this morning. Room temp is 69.1.
Internal temp of the dough is 72.4. It doubled in 2 hours just
sitting on the counter in a plastic container with one of the "shower
cap" covers on it.
Quite. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it may be distracting for the
This is semantical, but remember that I'm speaking about the growth of
yeast. The best way (the ideal way) to grow yeast would be an environment
at the "ideal temperature" for such growth. Rapid yeast growth does not
affect its quality. There is nothing lost intrinsic to the yeast to have
it grow faster. By extension, nothing is lost to have it grow at a slower
temperature. This is why retarding yeast growth doesn't lead to an
inferior product - just takes longer.
I do not disagree with this. My mere point is that you don't gain much by
doing this. Other than wait time. If that's your goal (making rolls the
night before to give you time to rest overnight) then by all means you can
proof in a refridgerator. They even make retarder-proofers these days that
keep the humidity in the 70-80% range. Just do all the steps to makeup,
put them in the retarder-proofer, set the timer, and come back to
perfectly proofed doughs.