The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Maryland

lolajl's picture

Hello from Maryland

Hi all . . . I come here from Bowie, MD.  I've always loved bread.  Developed an early dislike for Wonder Bread and always on the search for that perfect bread with a chewy inside and a crisp outside.  I've baked off and on, but always from an "i need rolls for the family get-together" perspective.  My interest has been kickstarted by the No-Knead Bread and the fact that right now we don't have the $$$ for luxuries such as artisian bread from one of the bakeries which I have to going into DC via metro or driving all the way over to Montgomery County (no, I'm not too crazy about Panera Bakery).  Anyone know of good artisian bakeries in Prince Georges County, Maryland?

Took 2 tries before I finally got success with No-Knead bread.  Then, a failure last Friday (dough refused to raise) and now I have a bowl sitting on my cable box - so far this looks like this may work out. 

Lately I've been on a quest to come up with a good, warm spot to get my bread raising reliably and am exploring a few ideas which I've gotten from browsing other bread sites on the web. We keep our temperature set at 68 degrees during the night, and about 73-74 during the day.  Even so, there are spots in this townhouse that is rather drafty so it looks like I may have to create a proofing box to get a secure environment for proofing.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If I could do it, I would park my dough on top of my refrigerator. Instead, I park it in the utility room (on top of the water heater) and post reminders everywhere! :) Mini Oven

lolajl's picture

If you have cable, that cable box gives off a nice, warm heat.  Have a batch of No-Knead bread and got it started off on that, but rise is too fast so i've moved the bowl over to the spare room.  I think I'll go start another batch, American Sandwich Bread with Buttermilk from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

JMonkey's picture

That temperature (68 degrees) should be just fine for rising most bread. It just may take a little longer.

Have you checked to see if your yeast is still active? It takes a while, but the stuff does go bad eventually. 

lolajl's picture

Yes, the yeast is active - bought it from the grocery store about a month ago (Fleischmann Instant Yeast).

Floydm's picture

Some warm places I've used:

  • The oven, with just the light on

  • The laundry room while the dryer is running

  • The dishwasher after it has been run

JMonkey is right that 68 is warm enough to eventually do the job, and for maximum flavor slow and steady is the way to go. But there a limits to everyone's patience: given the option of great bread in time for dinner or incredible bread at midnight, I usually vote for the former.
lolajl's picture

So, what did people do back then when they didn't have all those modern conveniences?  What would the lady of the house in 1840 during a New England winter have done?  what about the settlers out in the Midwest?

mountaindog's picture


People think we're crazy, but we're cheap so we keep our heat turned down to 58 all winter here in the Catskills (minus 20F min temps outside)! I can't imagine keeping the house higher than 70F like my grandmother used to, I would suffocate, we like it much cooler, esp. after a summer of unbearable 100F weeks.

Also, the main living spaces stay warm when we've got our woodstove going. This gives me lots of options: I have plenty of cool places to do a very long slow rise (my mudroom), which I agree with Floyd makes the best tasting bread with the best crumb; I also have plenty of warm spots near the woodstove and I can adjust the distance depending on how hot the stove is going - my instant read thermometer tells me what's going on with the air temps.

 I imagine the women of the 1800's or earlier did the same: rose the bread somewhere near their cookstove or open hearth, and I'll bet a lot of them used natural leavenings with long cool risings too.

breadnerd's picture

Well, there was always the woodstove or fireplace!


But really, in general, I feel that longer, cooler risings are best anyway, so room temperature is fine with me. On a really cool day I might stick the bowl in a sunbeam or other warm spot, but that's about it.


If I want to speed up the process to fit a time constraint, I just warm up my liquids a bit, and that jump starts the rising just fine.

JMonkey's picture

Another good trick is to take a picnic cooler and invert a cereal bowl in the bottom. Put your dough bowl (bucket, whatever) on the bowl. Throw a cup of boiling water in the bottom of the cooler and close it up. If you've got an instant read thermometer, you can stick one end inside to check on the temp, which you can regulate by opening the lid until it's down where you want it. You can get the insides to 100 degrees F pretty easily and, if you leave the top open for half a minute or so before closing, it'll stay in the high 70s or low 80s. Nice and humid too!


The cereal bowl is important, since you don't want your dough bowl coming in direct contact with the hot water. Steamed Boston Brown Bread is delicious, but that's not what we're after. :-)


If the temp gets too low, throw in another cup of hot water. 

titus's picture

I put my dough under a plastic box that has been rinsed out with water. It then goes on a thick towel and I put it in our waterbed!

caryn's picture

I also live where it can be quite cold this time of year, and don't keep my house too warm, but I have discovered, as many have already reported, that letting starters and bread rise in an oven with just the light on creates a near perfect temperature for dough rising. I also let the sourdough starters rise that way, too. It is so easy to do and convenient, and doubt that it uses that much energy. When working with a shaped dough, I let the shaped loaves rise in  the oven for some of the time, and then remove them when I want to preheat the oven for baking.

Abigail's picture

I put hot water in the sink, cover with a pastry board (plastic) then stand my bowl of dough on that and cover it as usual. I used to have an electric blanket on our  bed,  I  put the dough in the there, covered. It was quite successful. But one time, getting ready for bed my husband commented that the bedroom smelt like a brewery, I had overlooked one loaf and it was stuck to the sheet, awful mess!

L_M's picture

Here is a tip I got from another forum and I have used it so far for yeasted dough and it may work for sourdough as well, but I don't want to try anything weird just yet - it's kind of scary but here goes .... if your dough is too cool and it needs warming, just put the bowl in the microwave and zap it for only about 3 -5 sec. Check the temperature and if it needs a bit more zap again but be very careful not to overdo it!!! It goes VERY quickly.