The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Timing the preheat to the proof

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Timing the preheat to the proof

So I get the poking the dough thing to tell when the proofing dough is ready to bake, but how do you tell an hour in advance when it will be ready, so that you can start preheating the stone and steam tray or Dutch Oven?  Right now I have a no knead 25% WW which has been proofing for a half hour in the oven with the light on (room temp is 66F), and Lahey writes that it needs between 1-2 hrs proofing.  So should I start preheating the oven after only a half hour of proofing (taking the dough out of the oven, obviously) and possibly leaving it on for an hour and a half until the dough is ready, or is there some way of telling in advance when it will be ready?  Tomorrow I bake a Pain Au Levain on a stone and I'll have the same issue.  Is it just a matter of knowing your recipe and knowing how the room temperature affects proofing?  Thanks!

MisterTT's picture

cops develop "the stare", a baker develops a sense of forecasting the future.

Sure, there are simple enough rules, such as that by increasing temperature you decrease proof time, but really every formula is slightly different, not to mention that the same formula made with different starters might still behave a bit differently, so it's just a matter of making the same formula a fair few times and developing the experience of being able to tell when it'll be done.

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

That's a very useful answer.  I'll heat up the oven way in advance until I get a better idea with a particular recipe.  I didn't pay attention at all and just let it proof for the maximum, until last time I way overproofed.

dabrownman's picture

thing to get coordinated when baking at home.  The poke test doesn't work too well if you ask me and the 1 hour before 85% proof poke test is even worse - since it doesn't exist  Commercial bakers don't worry about this too much since their ovens are hot most of the time baking something so they don't have to worry about this as much but, for the home baker, it is a real problem especially if you are proofing the oven with the light on like you and i used to do all the time.  I started proofing it in the microwave with hot water instead just so I coulfdget the oven started up on time.

I got around it two ways I got adept at knowing when the dough was 85% proofed rather than what I though it was.  I posted a picture on time of a basketed dough that I thought had doubled visually and mini oven immediately looked at the before and after photos and said no, it had easily tripled.  So once i got used to knowing what an 85% proof looked like my oven was still cold when it was ready to go in the oven.

So one way was to bake it in a cold DO going into a cold oven.  This actually worked very well.  All you had to do was start timing the bake for lid on and lid off after the oven beeped saying it was at baking temperature.  Plus no problems with burning yourself with a hot DO.  But eventually I  settled on a different solution.  I started shaping the SD and retarding it in the fridge in the basket overnight and taking it out when the loaf got to 80% proof in the morning and letting it warm up on the counter while the oven heated up.  The cold really made the bread more sour too.

I don't do this anymore either.  i let the dough retard in the fridge til it is 85% proofed and bake it cold right out of fridge in a hot oven.

You will find what works for you the best too.

So there are lots of options but learning when your dough is 85% proof by looks rather than poking is the real deal.

polo's picture

Try it in a wood fired oven for a while. Timing was my biggest trouble, but like dabrownman I found the refrigerator (or alternately the garage in the winter time) was my friend. I was able to judge when my oven was about an hour away, and took the loaves in from the cold at that point.

When I do use the indoor oven, I use a cast iron griddle to bake on. This can be preheated fully on a gas cooktop before putting it into a preheated oven.

pizza fool's picture
pizza fool

Sorry it took me a couple days to post - had some emergencies at home. Didn't mean to be rude.  Thanks for your advice, it certainly helps put my proofing troubles into perspective.  I'll try baking with cold proofed dough one of these times.

So far I've had no trouble proofing small loaves (1 or 1.5 lbs) but lots of trouble proofing large ones (2.5 or 3 lbs).  I guess I could bake two small ones together instead of one miche.