The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Results from testing the Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer

Franko's picture
Franko

Results from testing the Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer

In the latter part of October I was asked by Michael Taylor of Brod & Taylor, makers of the new Folding Proofer if I would be interested in being a tester for their new product. I had been reading the comments and recommendations posted by Eric Hanner and Sylvia regarding the proofer with a good deal of interest and had pretty much decided to purchase one for myself at some point in the New Year. Naturally, Michael’s offer was gratefully accepted and the proofer was shipped out to my address on Vancouver Island, arriving last week. Once I had it out of the box my first impression was how stylish it looked, considering it's basically just a plastic box with a heating plate attached to it. While I'm more interested in function than form I do appreciate that they've made it as attractive as it is. The set up is quick and easy with all the pieces slotting together nicely. Then it's just a matter of adding some water to the humidity tray, putting the lid on, plugging it in and selecting a desired temperature using the digital control panel. I'd decided before the proofer arrived that I'd run it initially over an extended period of time (almost 40 hours), 1- to see if it would keep a constant temperature for the duration, and 2- to see whether being on continuously for a lengthy time would cause it to fail in some way. The proofer did an excellent job of maintaining heat throughout the entire 40 hours. Even when I checked it at 2:00AM just before going to work one morning and with our house at it's coldest, it was just 2 degrees negative compared to the temp I'd set it at. I used a calibrated cable type meat thermometer to read the actual temp inside the box, and while I wouldn't swear it was 100% accurate 100% of the time it was close enough for something like this to satisfy me it was well within an acceptable temperature range. I'd set the cable thermometer at various levels and locations inside the proofer as well during this part of the testing to see if there were any significant cold spots. There were none that I could find. The proofer recovers it's heat within 3-4 minutes if the lid has been removed for any reason, so no prolonged heat loss to be concerned about. For a uninsulated plastic box this is pretty darn good, I thought at the time. Next up would be getting a levain going for a bake the next day.

After the initial testing I shut the proofer down for a few hours then started it up again shortly before going to bed, setting the temperature at 70F about 20 minutes before mixing a 100% rye levain. By the time the levain was ready for it's 14-16 hr fermentation the proofer was spot on at 70F. In the past whenever I've done this, particularly during our colder months, I've always known that the levain temperature will be lower than optimum by the time I get up the next morning. This time I was fairly confident I'd have a good strong batch of yeast cells to work with for a change. Sure enough next morning it was quite active and bubbly and far better than any previous efforts I've had at this time of year. I gave it the other half of it's feeding and left it for the remainder of it's 15 hour fermentation time. I think the levain was more ready to begin mixing than I was when the time came.

 I thought if I couldn't get a decent looking loaf of bread out of this mix it wouldn't be because the leaven wasn't strong enough. The bread I was making was inspired by Jeffrey Hamelman's 66% Sourdough Rye on pg 210 of his book 'Bread'. Although I added and altered a number of ingredients and percentages, I kept to his instructions as far as times and temperature for bulk and final fermentation were concerned. DDT for most of his rye breads is 80F, which is easy enough to achieve by adjusting the water temp, but maintaining that temp during bulk and final has often been a royal pain for me. Not so this time. When the levain was removed from the proofer for mixing I bumped the heat up to 80F in preparation for the bulk ferment and final proof and again it was at the correct temp by the time I needed to use it. How nice! Bulk ferment of 35 minutes, shape, slash, and back into the proofer for a final rise of 50 minutes. Baked at 500F for 10 minutes then 450F for 20 min. and 440F for 15 min. I think it turned out a good loaf with a respectable profile, an even crumb, and well coloured crust.

The next bread I mixed was another from Hamelman's 'Bread' but shifting from rye breads over to Chapter 5 on Levain Breads. I chose his Semolina Bread p -171 to mix, as the combination of durum flour and toasted sesame seeds is one I've enjoyed previously in the Tom Cat Filone from Maggie Gleezer's 'Artisan Baking'. Other than using mature rye starter for the levain build, increasing the percentage of sesame seeds, and a minor increase in hydration, I followed Hamelman's formula and procedure closely. Once again the proofer cooked up a very active levain to use in the mix as you'll see from the volume of the baked loaf in the photos below. The loaf was scored Fendu style.

 For a final test I decided to see how the proofer would do with a rich, laminated dough, in this case a danish pastry dough from 'Advanced Bread & Pastry' by Michel Suas. I wasn't really anticipating any problems doing danish in the proofer, I simply wanted to make a few for myself, as well as for my wife to take for some of her co-workers. The danish were proofed at 78F for around 90 minutes, coming out nicely expanded and slightly moist. They baked off with a good jump, even colour and tasted great.

It should be clear at this point that my overall impression of the Folding Proofer is quite positive, however there is some room for improvement that I’d like to see in future models.

  • The first issue is that the lid has no way for it to stay in an upright position without the user physically holding it up by hand. If you need both hands to remove something from it, the lid has to be removed entirely and placed elsewhere until you've removed the item from the proofer. It's a nuisance and something that could be easily and inexpensively resolved I'm sure.

  • Front loading would be preferable to top loading particularly if the user is stacking pans or bowls on 2 levels, and solves the first issue as well.

  • The inside length is just a 1/2” short of accommodating a fairly common sheet/jelly roll pan size of 15 1/2” x 10 1/2”. The inside width of the proofer is generous at 12 1/2” so it seems the dimensions are slightly off and need to be reconfigured.

    This next wish is intended for a deluxe model should Brod & Taylor ever make one, since I'm sure it would increase the production cost considerably. A user controlled humidity level would give the user another degree of control overall and could be used to compensate for various ambient conditions.

Because I bake professionally for a living and work in a well equipped shop I've become accustomed to having the proper tools in order to do my job in the best way possible. Having to rely on some sort of makeshift proofer set up for my home baking is something I've never been entirely happy or confident with. An easily controlled environment for fermentation is of far more value to me for home bread production than a mixer is when it comes right down to it. If I'd known a few months ago while I was shopping around for a new mixer that this home proofer would be coming on the market, I would have kept my money in my wallet and waited for it to become available, and have spent less than what I eventually paid out for the mixer. Much as I like a mixer for making cakes and pastry, etc, I don't need one for bread making as much as I need something with a reliably constant source of heat and moisture for bringing the dough to it's best potential. My feeling is that anything that can bring a higher degree of control to the process of home bread making such as the Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer does is worthy of the same serious consideration we use when purchasing a new mixer or oven. It's good product and it does what it's designed to do very well.

Happy baking,

Franko

 

Comments

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

You really caught my eye with the Danish...you have no idea, everytime I open my freezer how that golden wrapped Plugra talks to me...and then I think you may have read my mind : ) wow, are they delicious looking and of coarse the loaves are beautiful too!  What beautiful shaping on the danish and loaves.    

Now, on to the proofer.  I thought your write-up and testing was very well done. If I didn't already have one..I would be ordering it today.  However, I do have one little question..I'm not sure if I understand your meaning about your issue with the lid.  At first I thought you meant just holding it open while looking inside, but when you said 'placed elsewhere' I'm wondering if you know there is a place made on the back, bottom of the proofer that the lid will fit snuggly into a standing position while removed?  With a little practice Im able to quickly open the lid and place it right down onto it's stand clamp thingy.  

The Delux model sounds great.. : )

Sylvia

 

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Sylvia,

Thanks very much for the compliments and for clueing me in on the lid rest at the back. That's what I get for skipping through the instruction manual. Much better, but I'd still like to see some kind of arrangement where the lid can be attached and kept upright if needed . Time to put that Plugra to good use Sylvia! :^)

Best Wishes,

Franko

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

I'm a bit of a skeptic, so I wanted to see other commentary and reviews before making the big jump into this great innovation.  I'm dying to use it as soon as it arrives.  I live in Arizona where in the summer months, my A/C runs continuously and it dries out the house even more than the desert environment.. therefore, a warm, humid and steady proof is the stuff of dreams!

A side note...

I had to laugh at the comments on the pastries.. usually, women are jealous of other wives/women because their husbands are hot-to-trot and I'm not saying you aren't in the "trot" category, but I'm jealous because you send pastries to work with your wife.  I'd be satisfied if I was one of your wife's co-workers!  LOL

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi BellesAZ,

 I'm quite sure you'll enjoy using the Brod & Taylor Proofer, it's a great piece of equipment to have if you bake often, make your own starters and leavens, and want better control over the fermentation process. Something I discovered with the unit though is not to put more than the recommended 1/3C of water in the humidifying tray. I wanted lots of humidity for a particular loaf I had in final ferment and added slightly more than I should have. The temps dropped significantly, so just a word of caution on that point in case you ever feel the urge to do something similar to compensate for your dry conditions. Spritzing is likely a better option to up the humidity in the proofer. As for the pastries...  jealousy will get you nowhere :^) but I certainly appreciate the compliment!

Hope you have fun with the new toy and Happy baking!

Franko

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Thanks for this writeup. Like Sylvia, your pastries caught my eye as well.

If only my small apartment would accommodate one of these new toys...

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Louie, good to hear from you.

One of the big features of the proofer that I neglected to mention in the post is that it folds down into a nice thin profile for storage. It's perfect if space is limited as it is with us. The link below will take you to the Brod & Taylor website that has all the specs, video, etc of the proofer. You may find room for it after all.

http://brodandtaylor.com/

Thanks Louie!

Franko

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Mine arrived yesterday and was almost immediately put to use fermenting a levain build and then an overnight sponge for this morning's English muffins.  Looks like my fustrations with slow sourdough growth in a cool house are over!

Now I need to find some of those stacking racks mentioned by an earlier poster to make the best use of the available volume in the proofer.

Paul

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

you can adjust the height as shown on my blog.  All you need is one cooling rack that will fit inside the proofer and 4 paper clips.

Sylvia 

 

Franko's picture
Franko

It's a whole new ballgame for us now Paul. I'm sure you'll enjoy the benefits of this proofer as much I have. Have fun!

Franko

varda's picture
varda

Franko,  What an awesome post.   But totally unfair to get all the best bakers on the site using this thing and making the rest of us think that suddenly our baking will look like that.   It all looks delicious but I hope to make that Hamelman semolina soon.  -Varda

Franko's picture
Franko

Thank you Varda!

Unfair? Unfair is not having a WFO to bake in, ;^) that's what's unfair.

Seriously though, if you live in the latitudes that we do, having a reliable proofer like this one makes a big difference when the cold weather starts up. It's not a magic bullet but it helps.

After all your experience working with 100% durum doughs this one will be a piece of cake for you....and it's delicious.

All the best,

Franko

 

EvaB's picture
EvaB

but it may be awhile before it happens, sadly enough finances just won't run to it. But going by your experiences and the ones of the others on here, this may solve the problems I seem to have with making bread, mine simply doesn't rise well, so maybe the proofer would help.

Franko's picture
Franko

I know what you mean about a wish list Eva. The proofer, like any mid range appliance is one of those things that tends to fall into the wish list category until it's do-able. There are a number of factors involved in whether a dough rises well or not and the proofer won't solve them all, but it will provide the optimum environment for the dough if your mix is balanced in the right proportions.

I see you're well into the cold stuff now in Dawson Creek at -27C. Stay warm Eva!

All the best,

Franko

EvaB's picture
EvaB

it was nice and brown for my birthday on the 8th and that is a rare occurance.

The cold I can deal with more easily than that other four letter word SNOW! That is a right royal pain in the arse to put into good old fashioned English.

We got 10-12 inches the other day (we get more as we are on the west side of a hill) and the snow blower which was fixed for the second time since last spring quit! So it is now back in the shop waiting for repairs, its frustrating as the darn things run a $1000 bucks or more. The other one needs to be warmed up to start and that hasn't managed to happen yet.

DH just drove 65 or so miles to a job this morning at around 5:30 to 7 am, he said one of the bad hills was so obscured by heavy snow that he actually drove down the middle to make sure he didn't go over the edge. He says right now its nice there, bright sun and blue sky, here its half sunny, with gloomy clouds to the west! Can't win.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

I used it for the first time yesterday and today.  I love it.  Yes, I would have liked the lid to tip up and back and stay in place.  When I disconnect it from the top I can't see where it should rest when I let it down behind the back of the proofer box.  I had to go to a bar mitzva Sat. AM so I just turned down the temp. of the enviornment in the proofer and it waited for me to get home.  It's wonderful.

Franko said he was a professional, no wonder the pastries look so great.  Thanks for all the suggestions.

Stu B.

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Stu,

The lid just slides naturally into the only place it possibly could on the back wall of the proofer. I couldn't agree more regarding the proofer. It's a very good piece of equipment for a baker to have. Have fun with it!

All the best,

Franko

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,

Your write up is truly well-considered.   I really appreciate your comments and relate to the benefits this machine can bring, especially the comments about the perceptions of a professional, baking at home, of course.

I must be missing out, as I don't think I can get hold of one of these machines here in the UK...and it's about to get very cold over here soon, no doubt!

Your breads?   Well, perhaps the best compliment I could offer is that they look really authentic?   I'm sure the author would comment favourably on that.   Pastries, you are a master, no doubt.

Very best wishes

Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Andy,

I tried to be as objective as I could in the review but it all came down to the fact that the proofer works very much like the ones that you and I are familiar with on the job. It just does the job the way a proofer should, no muss no fuss.

Thanks for your kind words on the breads and pastries. I'm gradually venturing back into the 'dark side' again in pursuit of the open celled rye that you are a master of. I had some faint hope for this one, but it was not to be. There will be lots of baking days ahead this winter if the predictions for the "Worst Winter in 40 Years" come true for our locale so perhaps that'll give me enough time to solve the problem. The Semolina Levain I'm quite happy with in all respects, particularly the flavour. A very versatile loaf I think most people would enjoy, and one that will be made often.

All the best,

Franko

EvaB's picture
EvaB

for making a box proofer with a light bulb and socket and a cord to plug it in, I will bet that you could find something similar on a DIY site in the UK.

Basically its a box with the socket attatched to the back side  and uses a low wattage bulb to keep the interior warm, you could probably design it with a humidity tray, it wouldn't be as fancy and maybe not as good as the other one, but it would certainly be better than an open counter.

You could even make it fold up, or come apart and be storeable so there are ways to do it, just not as pretty and without the accuracy that the Broad and Taylor one seems to have.

I think the proofer would solve about 90% of my bread baking problems I know its not warm enough in my house to raise good bread not even in the summer.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Lovely bake, Franko!  You made music to my tastebuds!

I received my proofer yesterday.  After sitting outside on my cold porch all afternoon, I figured it would be best to just unpack it and let it acclimate indoors overnight so there could be no condensation on any of the electronics.

I use eight-inch brotforms and two easily fit inside the proofer:

 Adding the linen covers makes a snugger fit, but still doable.

My sourdough culture was raring to go this morning, so I figured why not?  Have never mixed and baked a sourdough in the same day (I've always retarded overnight) so it was quite an experience to manage that.  Got a lovely boule late this afternoon. While the taste test doesn't come until tomorrow, the proofer is quite fabulous.  Best of all, when folded, it fits into my large kitchen drawer where I stash my parchment sheets.

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Lindy, good to hear from you.

My proofer arrived packed to survive a major solar event I'm sure, but you were probably wise to leave it overnight before connecting it. It's good to have that option of same day mix, rise and bake, although I'd like to try the Tartine bread with a slow overnight partial rise to build flavour, but finish the final rise in the proofer. I'm assuming that Tartine Bakery does it the same way. From a production standpoint I don't see them doing it any other way,  but I may be wrong. The proofer is a pretty sweet little unit to have in the kitchen that's for sure. I've always thought of the programmable coffee maker as my favourite appliance, but the new proofer is running a close 2nd. Thanks for your compliments on the bake!

Franko

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough

Hi Franko, you visted my blog review of the new Brod and Taylor proofer http://www.northwestsourdough.com/discover/?p=2770  and I wanted to thank you for your link. I thought I would post my link here and we can have  reciprocal links to the reviews. I really enjoyed reading your review, great job and terrific looking bread. 

Teresa 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Teresa,

Happy to have your link, or any others for that matter, posted here so that folks can get as much info and opinions as possible regarding the Brod & Taylor Proofer. I found your post through MC's 'Farine' site http://www.farine-mc.com/ and thought it interesting how close our reviews were on certain points. It's really all about having better control over fermentation conditions when it comes right down to it for bread making, which is why I feel, that for a home bread baker the proofer gives a better bang for the buck over a mixer in terms of equipment.

Glad you enjoyed the review and thanks for the compliments on the breads.

Franko

lumos's picture
lumos

OK, I'm sold..... Was thinking not to buy when I learned this machine'd be available soon in UK, but thought I'd check the reviews on internet, just in case....

Your review is by far the most extensive and reliable source of user's info I've read so far, along with our dear Eric's, and of course, I always trust and respect your comment. Thank you for sharing your experience and opinions.  I'm now placing my order with Lakeland. 

......... Look what a few flakes of snow since yesterday does to you.  It's so cold! :p

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Lumos,

The B&T Proofer quickly became an essential piece of equipment for me, and like Lindy, mine works just as it did the day it came out of the box. So nice to find a well made and reliable small appliance these days. Although I know this one will eventually need to be replaced, I don't anticipate that happening for a good long while yet. After over a year of almost constant use it's proven to be a high value item that's earned a permanent place in our kitchen. I'm glad the review was helpful to you and here's to many years of enjoyment using the Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer!

So far we're having a relatively cold winter here on Vancouver Island, but not much snow thankfully. I'm looking forward to our upcoming escape to the Caribbean to rejuvenate and try to forget about the cold damp weather for a couple of weeks.

All the best Lumos, cheers,

Franko

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I think you'll love the proofer, Lumos.  I've been using mine at least weekly for over a year now, and it still works perfectly.

I'd give up my mixer before I'd give up the B&T proofer. 

lumos's picture
lumos

OK, I'm doubly sold. :D