The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Proofing Box

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Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Proofing Box

I have been taking stock of my bread baking activities and I decided that to have better control over process and the taste of my breads I should introduce a proofing box into my bread making. I live on the east end of Long Island NY and the temperature here fluctuates dramatically from season to season and this is showing up in my bread making. Fermentation time varies greatly and therefore results also vary significantly.

With my youngest son’s college graduation I inherited his small college dorm refrigerator and I feel this could make a wonderful proofing box if modified: it is the correct size, has shelves and a light, it’s insulated, and the door seals completely. The only thing it is missing is a source of heat and I feel it could be best achieved through a heating element controlled by a thermostat.

I am hoping someone with greater experience or insight could offer additional suggestions and specific thermostat controlled heating element recommendations for my proofing box project.

Thank you and Happy New Year to all my fellow bread bakers

Frank

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

to questions with "Try Search" because I think it is, on it's face, somewhat unfriendly in appearance even though not in intent.  I prefer to give specific answers.  In this case though, the search box is, in fact, your best friend.  Many here on TFL have travelled the path you propose, and you can read extensively on their experience directly, to better benefit than if I try to paraphrase it all here for you.  To speed things up, I typed  proofing box into the search box and got the following multitude of hits:  Proofing Box Search   Among these you will find discussions of thermostats, terrarium heaters, halogen bulbs, and some other interesting topics. 
I have travelled some of this path myself, but not to any great extent.  I have used an electric skillet of hot water in the bottom of a very big tri-wall corrugated box (26" Sony CRT Monitor shipping box) for warming up and humidifying a captive environment.  I have used my oven with the light on, the microwave with a cup of hot water in the corner, all to varying degrees of success and failure.  Now I use a Brod & Taylor Proofing Box available from many sources (like Pleasant Hill Grain, as well as others).

None of these solutions achieves the goal I think you are looking for though, and that is a heating & cooling proofer, or perhaps even the grail of a temperature and humidity controlled retarder proofer.  I'd like to have one of those myself, so I wish you luck and I hope these few hints will help you along your way. 

You are on the right track.  Temperature control is a key factor in improving your quality and consistency in baking bread.  I'll be interested to see what you come up with.

Best of luck and Happy New Year
OldWoodenSpoon

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

temperature swings too and I get tired of waiting for, what sees like forever ,watching dough that just isn't going to rise in anything like a normal time in the winter.  So my proofing box is a heating pad set on the lowest setting with the appropriate layers of kitchen towels on top of it to get the 73-85F we want depending on the dough and where it is in the process.   This is the easiest for our needs.

There are also terrarium warmers at pet stores that might  work better perhaps .   

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

...that I read somewhere (probably on TFL) and have played with a bit myself.  As the heat source, I use a short string of Xmas lights connected to a variable transformer to adjust the temperature.  You have to use the old incandescent type of lights, not the modern LEDs (which do not generate much heat).  With an insulated box you can generally work out what setting to use for a given temperature.  Instead of the transformer you could certainly use a terarrium thermostat to control the temperature automatically if you want to get a bit more fancy.  I think most thermostats hold temperature within a range of ±2˚F from a setpoint. 

-Brad

 

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

I very much appreciate all the suggestions and I intended to consider them all before proceeding. Like many here, I like to involve myself with custom made projects that impact directly on the things I do and the quality of my life. For example, I recently made a looking box used to harvest scallops and oysters. It’s a wood box in any size personally suitable, mine is 18"w x 24"l x 12"h, that has a plexiglass bottom that rest on the water and an open top. It acts like a huge "face mask". It enable me to see shellfish resting on the seabed as I walk / wade around which I then scope up.

On a project like making a proofing box that will be made specifically to my circumstances and criteria I like to accumulate as much information as possible before starting since the results are permanent and will forevermore impact on my bread making. And, the best way to do that is to tap in on the experiences of my fellow bread makers. So please...... continue forwarding  your suggestions.

Thank you, Frank

Yippee's picture
Yippee

if you follow SteveB's brilliant design below, and have someone (hubby, in my case) build it for you, :-)

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8947/quick-proofing-box-available-materials#comment-46000

My homemade proofer based on Steve's idea......

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33569048@N05/sets/72157623206356202/show/

 

I also have a refrigerator designated for bread proving, with that I use this wine thermostat:

http://s300420052.e-shop.info/

 

Hope this information is helpful.

 

Yippee

 

 

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Thank you Yippee for your informative and useful response. There is certainly several ways to build a proffing box.

Frank