The litereature I own on sourdough make reference to a proofing box to regulate the temperature accyrately. does anyone use one? have you found it essential?
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It is not essential for most types of bread but some recipes do call for proofing at higher than room temperature. Also, if the temperature in your home tends to vary (if you keep your thermostat low in the winter) a proofing box will assure a consistent temperature.
Although I do not own a proofing box, I usually help myself quite often with the inside of my oven - heating off, lights on and door closed. This practically mimics a proofing box with a temperature of about 30-31 deg.C. Often use it when I want to speed things up a bit, like my starter or the dough itself.
I don't use one mainly beacuse I try to spend as little money as possible. I have a light under one of my cabnets the keeps the dough at a pretty consistant temperature on the counter underneath. Recently I've been just leaving it on the table at room temperature about 65-70 degrees F to extend the fermentation. I kind of like seat of my pants approach.
Sorry don't have time to put up a full post now but here are some tips.
it is possible to buy tempreture controlers on ebay - I use an analoge one from a reptile supply place. There are also digital ones. They cost under $50. Next time I would get a digtal one. The thermoprobes are much easier to deal with than the old fashioned thermostats.
I use it to control a fan heater pointing down into a tray of water that heats a plastic green house bought from Bunnings. That is big enough for me to proof four full baking trays of bread (20kg). For high humidity I put in a room humidifyer as well.
It could also control a light bulb in an esky for a smaller unit.
Hope that is clear and helps.
I have found in the summer the counter works fine as I keep my house about 80 deg. in the winter the house is colder and I use the oven, cycling the light to keep the temp around 80 deg. this creates a slow rise and great oven spring. The first rise was 5 hours,after forming the loafs the second rise was 2.5 hours. My last bake the loaf had over three inches of oven spring.
In the winter when the house is cool, I just use an ice chest / camp cooler with a jug of hot tap water in it. The warm water (~40 - 50 C) keep the loaves warm throughout the proof. It is a good cheap proof box. All you need to do is to determine how hot to make the water to yeild the desired proof temperature.
I bought a Doyon proofing box that allowed me to have consistency in my bread baking. Now i know how long to proof my bread on each reciepe from time to time. It is nice to eliminate this guessing game from time to time because the temperature and humidity varies each day. Now I set the temperature at which I want to proof my bread and it's magic.
Especially when making Rye bread with the Detmolder method that required to proof at 3 different temperature for 3 different time frame. It makes the most amazing Rye bread.
If you have the money, invest in a proofer, to me it is more important than the actual oven.
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