The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"How do I build a proofer?", and other questions. I bake bread too.

Chausiubao's picture

"How do I build a proofer?", and other questions. I bake bread too.

The last time I made a lean dough, the results were dissatisfying. A small opening, poor flavor, and a lusterless crust having none of the virtues of oven venting. Truly, it was my own fault. I neglected the mantras of pre-ferments and long fermentation cycles. And it is very likely I under-proofed it as well. Taking the time I've been given, I've decided to try and rectify those oversights. I went about making my preferment, calculating the proper water temperature. But it was all for nothing! I overlooked the need for cold pre-ferment and cold water, and as a result, lost control of the fermentation process. But in the end I achieved one of my goals of getting a more open crumb.

If it isn't too vain of me, I really want to make attractive bread. Then again no matter how beautiful your bread, that first bite solidifies that love that sets in when you see a particularly pretty loaf, so you need both. But if structure is function, a beautiful baguette is a well made baguette. Part of the reason I mixed this formula was to get a little experience making bread with a more open crumb. As a home baker, that goal has been elusive; but I also want to make tasty bread!

The pre-ferment had to go through the night without over-proofing so I mixed it dry at 60% hydration with one third of the formula's yeast, bringing the pre-ferment to 0.5% yeast. It was mixed just enough, then allowed to bulk ferment overnight. The mix itself was a straight mix, and was developed to just shy of an improved window, three periods of 45 minute bulk fermentation followed, each period was punctuated with double letter folds. Ultimately two, one-kilogram rounds sprang from the dough and were shaped into batards. Baked at 450 F until done, they were vented around eight minutes.

My, my that was boring. But it got the job done. I made a number of mistakes this time, on top of the mistakes that I made the last time. But luckily, those mistakes I didn't make again, except for the possibility of over-proofing, rather then under-proofing. But these things happen. I probably should have put the pre-ferment away after it got some momentum, better results would have come from letting it go long and slow in the cold. I also should have put my water pitcher in the refrigerator so I'd have the option of cold water for mixing. Since I did neither of those two, I couldn't control my dough temperature. With all my temperatures in the low 80s, 15 F is the water I needed. The best I could do was 78 F water. Ultimately the dough came out at 82 F, a bit higher then the 75 F sweet spot. All manner of other troubles befell my bread, I'll list them for you; lack of tension in my finished shape, perpendicular scores of varying lengths, and skinned over shapes.

The flavor was definitely less robust then I'd like, I'm certain this is a result of the fast fermentation the dough went through. 0.6% yeast and it was probably doubled in size within 60 minutes. The water was too hot, something I could have avoided. And that is the easiest error to fix. If I had but remembered to put away the pre-ferment or put away my water pitcher. No bigger problems lie in the smaller mistakes. I must shape tighter, score more consistently, and wrap my mind around some type of proofer. I cannot have my shapes skinning over! And I don't have a couche, and even if I did, the air is so dry here in Colorado. I'll have to figure something out to fix that. It is by far, the largest of my problems. I will put it beside my mind until my next day off; farewell!



RonRay's picture


I did describe my proof box at the link below. You can find others here, also. Just search the term in the search window at the upper left of the home page.


wally's picture

Any WalMart carries Rubbermaid products for storage. You can find rectangular containers - like bus pans if you're familiar with the restaurant trade - that come with lids for about $8. Place your loaf on the counter on parchment paper, put a measuring cup of hot water nearby it and cover with the bus pan. Voila, you've got a proofer, and, without a couch the moisture from the hot water will keep your dough damp.


Franko's picture

I've done something similar to what Larry suggests with a clear plastic box and hot water, but I've found what works even better is a Styrofoam cooler placed upside down over the proofing dough along with the cup of hot water. It insulates and holds the heat longer longer than the clear plastic boxes, the slight downside being you can't see your dough without lifting the box off.  I paid $1.79 for it at our local hardware store's summer clear-out sale.


Chausiubao's picture

Hm, that sounds like a good idea. I just need something to keep my dough from skinning over while it proofs.