The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

On the subject of Proofing...

flank steak's picture
flank steak

On the subject of Proofing...

Does one need to proof loaves upside down? I have been experiencing so much sticking of my dough lately-- resulting in some rather sad mishapened loaves as of late. Granted, I am using a bowl and a very heavily floured piece of cotton (tried to look for linen, no dice...) so it isn't the most ideal set up, I know. But does proofing with the seam side down make a difference in the quality of the loaf? I would use a mold, a basket or bowl again, but would use parchment paper and just simply transfer the dough over to a pre-heated dutch oven-- no flipping required. Would this hinder the dough expansion at all? Tin breads are baked in this manner, you never flip a sandwich loaf or a challah or rolls, so why is it standard pratice 'round these here parts to always proof seam side up? Tommorow I am hoping to try this little "experiment" of mine with my standard YW loaf (fairly high hydration, not sure of the exact % as I go by feel,  but it is certainly a wetter dough than most), albeit scaled down so I don't waste a bunch of home milled/sifted flour on another messed up loaf. I was wondering if anyone else does something akin to this?

Doc.Dough's picture

Upside down is not essential, but it won't make much difference.  See if you can find some durum flour (or chapati flour at your local Indian grocery - it is durum with some bran added back). I find it much more forgiving than straight bread flour.  Depending on the level of hydration you may not be able to proof very long in a bowl.  A bowl is very bad for proofing anyway simply because there is no way for moisture to evaporate from the cloth and you get the stuck-to issue with which you are now familiar.  See if you can find a wire mesh colander as a substitute.  They are often a lot less expensive than a brotform.

Google for hemp cavas.  I get mine at:

it drapes much better than equivalent weight cotton.

foodslut's picture

.... is untreated canvas tarp (the kind you can find at Home Depot or other big-box reno stores).  I cut/hemmed some pieces of the cloth to use as couches, washed once and have been using them for months now.  Sprinkled with flour, I've never had one stick (even with wettish dough).

Your mileage may vary, though.

nicodvb's picture

recently I rediscovered how are efficient the folds used in puff-pastry lamination. If you spread the dough on a slightly oiled counter in a 3x1 rectangle and give some turns (5-6 depending on how the dough reacts) the dough keeps the shape very well, even for many hours (directly on baking sheet or baking pan). Notice that i use this method on 80% hydratation doughs (not only on dry ones), but the dough must have some elasticity, that requires extensive kneading. Batards and boules come out perfectly shaped without having to resort to expensive baskets (I'm sooooooooooooo cheap!).

Also, the dough acquires surface tension and it's very easy to score before baking.

Proofing in a bowl and flipping the dough before baking is calling for serious troubles! In my experience every single time the dough sticked to the cloth.

isand66's picture

There is no need to fear the basket!  Just buy some Rice Flour and you will never stick to the bowl again as long as you make sure you flour the bowl.  Rice flour works perfectly.  There are many doughs that do not require extensive kneading.

dabrownman's picture

with rice flour (or a mix of rice and regular flour) and gently rub it all over the top before placing it top side down in the floured basket.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I had a major issue such as this one this weekend with a walnut fig loaf I made. I was so upset that the entire top of the proofed loaf ripped off while I was trying to transfer from canvas to dutch oven.  It was a mess.

One thing I would like to share, but not advocate yet, is using paper towel instead of linen/canvas.  I have no idea why it worked but it did.  It did not stick to the dough at all for one of my loaves (I ran out of couche material for the last loaf so improvised in a panic).  I used a heavy duty type paper towel.  The heavy picker-upper I think.  Anyway, I don't like the idea, but it DID work.  Anyone else have experience with paper towel?