The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Proofing Box

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Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Proofing Box

For the past week I have been having a blast constructing a proofing box.

Like so much of what I have done with baking in these past almost 2 years, I couldn't have done this without the help of others who have gone before me and posted their boxes here for all of us to see.  I leaned heavily on their ideas.

Before I began I knew I had several criteria my box had to meet.  They were that it:

  1. must be large enough to hold sheet trays, loaf pans, baskets and leaven jars all at the same time if necessary.
  2. must have a door that opened from the front of the box.
  3. must be made out of glass for 2 reasons -  Glass is clean and allows viewing. 

I knew all of those criteria had been met when I found a 18x18x24 reptile terrarium at a local reptile store.

Everything else fell smoothly into place once I had a friend install a piece of Plexiglas's on the side of the box which allowed him to also install a light socket.

Photos below show how it looks now. 

The heat source is a 60 watt ceramic heat emitter.  (Initially I used an appliance 40 watt bulb but found out that the ceramic heat emitters handle the 'on' and 'off' cycles better than light bulbs and they don't fill the room with additional light and they are supposed to last for ages....)

The air is circulated by a 80mm computer case fan.

The temperature is regulated by a reptile cage thermostat.

         

 

       

The towel around the box allows me to regulate the temp. from the outside when the room temp. is low in the mornings. I like to think it adds a little added insulation.

The top of the box provides me with a mini desk where I can keep my recipe sheets.  (The glass is tempered glass.)

So far it has run perfectly.  The temp. stays within a 3-4 degree range between 74° and 77°.  The bottom level of the box is perfect for my leaven builds as it is cooler than the area up on the shelves.

The computer fan does a great job circulating the hot air around the box.

All runs on auto pilot.  (I love lamp timers :-)

The breads made in it so far have been great.  All rising on schedule.

My family is ecstatic that my make shift proofing area on our dining room table is gone and the table is now always available for unobstructed meals *^)

Again I give a hearty thanks to all who have shared ideas here.

Janet

 

 

 

Nate Delage's picture
Nate Delage

Janet, what a nice setup. Seems you've thought of everything. I'd love to build one, but I don't think I can find the space.

I've been noticing differences in oven spring I think are due to an uneven base temperature of the dough (some parts are warmer than others). I'd imagine a proof boxes creates a more consistent final/before the bake dough temperature.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Nate,

Thanks for your kind words.  I am lucky to have the space - the hearth on our living room fireplace.  The fireplace we use is in our family room so the box really isn't interfering with anything except maybe living room esthetics....Makes a heck of a conversation piece though :-)

I had the same problem with uneven base temps.  The set up I had on our dining room table used a heating pad beneath the dough and a halogen lamp above.  It worked really well until our temps. dropped here a couple of weeks age and then the heating pad couldn't penetrate into the middle of the dough unless I turned it up which would 'singe' the bottom of the dough.  

Good luck in finding a solution that will work for you.  You might be able to turn up something here using the search box.  This place is full of wonderful and practical ideas.

Take Care,

Janet

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hi, Janet

Like you, I first listed my needs, before I designed and built my proof box. While I'm content with a smaller scale--I bake on a much smaller scale than you do--our designs are very similar. ( http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/21476/proofing-box ) I finished my box about a year ago, and, with the right tool in hand, I found I began to pay much closer attention to temperature at all stages. Because I suddenly had a proofing box, and a chiller (a wine cabinet) that control their temperature +/- 2°F, I pay much closer attention to DDT working hard to have my dough at its fermentation temperature, and proofing temperatures, before it goes in the box or chiller. The result is consistency, unlike anything I could achieve bake-to-bake before I had these tools.

I love the idea of using an aquarium. I considered using clear plexiglas for my doors, but settled on all wood construction because of its insulating quality.

David G

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

David,

Your box is the one that really got me motivated to actually do something with the ideas I had been toying around with in my head for awhile.  Your design pointed the way to solutions to problems I hadn't been able to solve on my own in a practical manner. 

Finding the terrarium really, really got the ball rolling and it wasn't my original idea as I had never heard of or seen one before.  I discovered it quite by coincidence.

Originally I was going to bite the bullet and use a plastic storage box and I knew I would need some kind of thermostat so I set off to my local Ace Hardware store in hopes of finding something to fit the bill.  They had nothing but the young man waiting on me suggested looking for one at a reptile store nearby.  I set off in search of the store and when I found it the first thing I saw when I entered were the terrariums and I knew I had found what I was really looking for.  They had no thermostats but I didn't walk away empty handed....

Everything else simply fell into place from there.  

I loved your idea of a small fan to move the hot air around the box  and the young man at Ace (who was also the one who did the Plexiglas instillation) knew a recycling center close by that dealt in old computers so that is where I found the fan as well as a transformer - both were simply given to me!

When I finally found a thermostat online (also from a reptile store) the sales person educated me about the ceramic heat emitters and I was sold!  

So my box is very much the result of others pointing the way and I just kept following the leads I was getting.

Really a fun project to work on as I am sure you know from constructing yours.

I did choose large because I learned a very expensive lesson several years ago when installing a wood burning insert into our home...Bought a smaller one that was rated for our square footage but when the cold hit.....it simply couldn't keep up.  Had to be replaced by a larger unit a couple of years later...Lesson learned - one can always burn a small fire in a large fire box but a larger fire can't be burned in a small firebox....

I will be curious to see the results of using this as I use it for more of the loaves I bake.  So far I am pleased with the results.  I find it already makes a difference in the doughs I retard overnight in the refrigerator.  I put them into the box for a couple of hours before I shape and proof them and they appear to warm up a lot more evenly now.  I have only had time to  use it on 3 recipes so time will tell.

So, a thanks goes out to you for your sharing of your proofing box.  It is a beauty! And the design is pretty darn slick :-)

Take Care,

Janet

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

!!!

what do you do for a living Janet? Very smart design.

I'am thankful to God for living in a warm Desert, and don't suffer the hassle of decreased temperature.

Lovely work!

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Morning Khalid,

I am currently a stay-at-home mother of teenagers.  Projects like this one are a fun challenge - especially when they unfold so smoothly and have a practical application.

Come summer time this box won't be needed because the household temps. will be perfect then - maybe even too warm in which case I move my doughs into the basement where it is cooler....

I can't imagine living in a desert as you do....the heat totally knocks me out.  I was raised in a city that always had a blanket of cool fog wrapped around it (San Francisco in California) so my body is 'programmed' for cool and my brain is simply more alert when in a cooler environment.  

I find it very interesting how we all adapt to the environments we were raised in and I have always been mystified by people who live in the extremes - desert dwellers and the ones who live in places like Alaska or Siberia.

How nice that you can simply leave your proofing breads on you counter top year around :-)

Take Care,

Janet

varda's picture
varda

I love your design and so happy you are sharing it.   I already feel the itching to go out to a local reptile store getting started.   (Actually we have several unused fishtanks in the basement right now - one of them must be right.)   As for the towel you mentioned, insulation yes, but mostly to reduce radiant heat loss since your proofing box is glass.   Will bookmark this now, as I feel that spring is just around the corner, and I don't want to forget come November.  -Varda 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

Our winter has been mild here but it suddenly got colder a couple of weeks ago so I decided to build now....or rather the box decided it needed to be built now....Sometimes these projects seem to have a life of their own and I am simply the vehicle for getting it done :-0

I have an aquarium in our basement too but knew it wouldn't do what I wanted - ie - have a door that opened like an oven.

The terrariums do have doors - nice large ones.  You can see where the door is on mine in the first picture.  It is the larger piece of glass on the left hand side of the terrarium.  A black strip of plastic separates it from the final 4" of glass which you can also see.

The door opens just like an oven door giving me lots of space to load and unload. The final picture was taken with the door open.

You are right about the towel and radiant heat.  

I also used a piece of aluminum foil attached right above the ceramic heater to deflect the heat from the glass.  Boy do I love double sided sticky tape!  

I also love the Command brand adhesive hooks and used several different ones to hold down the wiring I have in the box.  The ones I found to be really nifty are their clips. They  have a small latch on them so that I can open and shut the clip so the wires don't slip out.  I used them on the 'ceiling' of the terrarium to hold the wires from the computer fan up.  With regular hooks it was really easy to knock them loose when loading and unloading doughs.

I bet with spring around right around the corner your mind is occupied with getting your WFO up and running again.  I will be waiting to see what goodies you produce using it :-)

Take Care,

Janet

 

varda's picture
varda

I see what you are talking about with the nice door.   In any case, looking forward to hearing how this goes.  -Varda

bertie26's picture
bertie26

Hi Janet

well done. I am astiounded. This is the place to generate ideas for us. Thank you foir sharing you are getting me tuned up to go and search to get myself a gadget too. Have a great day 

albert

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Albert,

Thanks for the kind words :-)

Hope you are able to find what you need and that you have fun in the process of making your own box. 

Take Care,

Janet

 

bertie26's picture
bertie26

Goosd morning Janet

Thanks for the intersting post. I cant see some of the pictures but it is ok i got the idea. as you may know i moved into a small unit in a old factorey. I nearky died when i s=discovered how cold the place was and my bread did not prove. I neededd a bigger sapce as a temporary proving cupboard and bough a wardrobe (the ones which you close with a peice of fabric 0 from aros and adjusted it to suit my needs.It is covered with olycarbonate sheets except the fromt which I would have loved to have doors but the cupbooard would not cope with doors as polycarbonate is rather heavey. I use a aquarium heater and a small convection heater not perfect but it is helping. I am looking i nto the aqaurium reptile haeters and  seeing or rather reading what you have done is my next tryu out project. I needed the cupborad sonve I bake about 100 loaves three times a week.

Thanks you to all of the people here for shpowing their projects and theuir ideas when i did mine I at leat knew how to start and once o ver the shock  knew excatly waht to do.somehow if i reach that goalI think i will feel a bit sad becuase the cahllnege will be gone , however as with my life new cahllnges arrive all the time. 

Have a happy new year all and happy aking

 bye 

Albert

My new goal for the next few months is a to get a prover and a mixer.  

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Albert.

Sounds like you are on the right track.  What a project. That is a lot of bread!  I went with the ceramic reptile heater because people told me they last longer as they are made to cycle on and off.  Regular light bulbs are not, thus, they wear out faster.  THis is my second winter using mine and I have had now problems.

Have fun :-)

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Last weekend I set a 12"x12" ceramic tile on top of a seed germination heating mat (it's that time of year!), set my makeshift banneton on it and covered all with a large styrofoam box I rescued from the trash (lab across the hall).  Warmed up gently and appropriately for proofing.

tdb

 

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Janet

I would love to see the pictures of your proofing box but for some reason they do not show up either on Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

Also:

  • How did you wire the computer fan to an electric source?
  • Is the lamp timer used in addition to the termostat?
  • Do you feel you need to address the issue of humidity inside the proofing box?

Thank you,

Frank

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Photos were deleted so I will attempt posting more down here:

 

        

1 - Computer fan is wired to an 'adaptor'  - not the correct name but it cuts the elec. to the fan down to an amt. that won't destroy it.  I simply spliced the wires to the adaptor and elec taped them in place.  Adaptor is plugged into it's own timer.

2 - Lamp (reptile ceramic heat lamp) is spliced to the thermostat (reptile thermostat ) which regulates the temp. auto.  It is plugged into it's own timer too.

3 - Humidity is addressed with a shallow pan filled with water that sits on the bottom of the box.  Not very scientific but it works for me. :-)  I keep my breads covered when proofing because the fan does dry them out.

As you can see in the photo the box used is a reptile terrarium.  It is large and takes up space.  It sits on our living room hearth which doesn't get used so I took over the space. 

I also covered the box with some quilted material this past summer which helps keep the heat within the box.  The material is nicer than the towel I originally used.  I also mounted the box on cinder blocks so that I do not have to bend down so low to load and unload breads.  The blocks are covered in material too and topped with plywood and some firm foam.

 

    

 

    

Hope this helps!

Janet

pmiker's picture
pmiker

I envy your creativity.  I have no place to store a box like that nor am I bright enough to build it.  I just used my Christmas gift money to order a Brod and Taylor proofing box.  Not big enough for some folks but I don't forsee putting a lot in it yet.  I usually have one or two bowls out for an evening.  I can fold the B&T and put it up on a shelf when not in use.

Mike

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Mike,

Thanks for your kind words.  It was a fun project and I got ideas looking through posts here.  Seeing what others have done really helped.  I considered a B&T but I needed more space so opted for building my own.  I hear good things about the B&T.  Enjoy yours :-)

Janet

bertie26's picture
bertie26

Hello Mike i am never complimented on my creativity, but there you are.i am chuffed.

becuase I have moved into a larger unit and i make abot 100 l;oaves per week andwould limetoexpa nd tio more i had tio innovate this way. it is fun to be strecthed and if it was just bakinf at home a B&T was my purchase of choice, in  fact my daughter who live in usa offerd me one as a present.

I am now seriously considering two option for my lbakery business. One is serouius growth and marketing with my resources as it is right now. 2.to target save and do some seriuos  fundraising to buy a prover and a mixer. No mean feat, but I am determined that this must work and that my small business but show growth and exapnsion within this year. 

I know it is early days and hard work is very much on the cards but thanks to people here and you fiolk I am motivated to continue even ifff the task appears daunting right at the mement.

Bye 

Albert

 

bertie26's picture
bertie26

Hello Mike i am never complimented on my creativity, but there you are.i am chuffed.

becuase I have moved into a larger unit and i make abot 100 l;oaves per week andwould limetoexpa nd tio more i had tio innovate this way. it is fun to be strecthed and if it was just bakinf at home a B&T was my purchase of choice, in  fact my daughter who live in usa offerd me one as a present.

I am now seriously considering two option for my lbakery business. One is serouius growth and marketing with my resources as it is right now. 2.to target save and do some seriuos  fundraising to buy a prover and a mixer. No mean feat, but I am determined that this must work and that my small business but show growth and exapnsion within this year. 

I know it is early days and hard work is very much on the cards but thanks to people here and you fiolk I am motivated to continue even ifff the task appears daunting right at the mement.

Bye 

Albert

 

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Janet

Thank you so much for the additional details for this thoughtful project. They will significantly assist me in building my own.

Frank.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

You are more than welcome.

Have fun :-)

Janet