The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Homemade Proofing Box

debdp's picture
debdp

Homemade Proofing Box

Okay, with the weather changing I decided I needed a proofing box.  I do woodworking so for me it wasn't too complicated, but I did a simple box with a 3/4" plywood base and 1x2" corners, a 1/2" plywood top and 1/4" plywood backing.  Lined with foil bubble insulation.  Installed a 25 watt candelabra bulb unit at the top and a small aquarium fan inside for circulation.  The door is 3/8" wood with clear vinyl stapled to it and is held closed with Velcro.   I ran the light on all day long and the top was 82 degrees, the mid section 80 and the bottom 78.  So that's when I decided to add the fan which I already had.  Now the temp reads 80 at all levels. 

 

debdp's picture
debdp

Melesine's picture
Melesine

It looks fabulous. I'm so tempted to get my husband to make me one. I have the Brød and Taylor and it has served me well but I really would like one that holds multiple half sheet pans and not just 13x9. 

Moeksie's picture
Moeksie

Hi, thanks for sharing what you have done. Years ago I had a small bakery with a cafe. I made all the breads etc for the cafe. We made a proofer out of plywood. It was a large box about 5 ft tall and wide enough for 1/2 sheet pans. we put a warm vaporizer in the base of it and used that. It worked great. However.....we have built another one now for my home and am having trouble with the condensation on the bottom of the pans. Thus drips on the lower pan of dough. i can't ever remember dealing with this issue. how do you deal with the condensation? I don't think we had a fan. Does that do it?

tchism's picture
tchism

Nicely done!

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Looks great. Is this for a domestic situation or semi-commercial? Only ask because it looks quite big.

Some ideas for future tweaks:

- Probably worth replacing the clear plastic film with a sheet of clear perspex for longevity
- Equally maybe replace the velcro for some kind of metal slide on latch as velcro will wither in time.
- Swap the baking trays for metal cooling trays as these will allow for better steam and air circulation

Nice bit of kit, well done.

debdp's picture
debdp

Thank you. 

I wanted to build the box using only materials I already had on hand.  I thought about the clear vinyl because that's what I use on my screened patio in the winter where I keep tropical plants, it's inexpensive, durable and it really works quite well (plus I already had some).  I used industrial Velcro and it's already pulling the vinyl off the frame :(.  There's not enough space for a sliding latch.  So, I plan to use a sort of jewelry box latch that you would insert a lock into, but without using a lock.  If I find cooling trays that will fit that would be a nice idea, but for now the fan is working perfectly to circulate the air.  There's a 1" gap in front of and behind the trays, and 3/4" gap on both sides. 

It is big as every couple weeks I sell sourdough bread at a small local farmers market.  Not commercial, but Texas Cottage Food law. 

bikeprof's picture
bikeprof

that looks nice...the shelves would be handy.

I did the cheapest version possible, so not as elegant, but it works really well:

debdp's picture
debdp

Very nice setup!  easy to put together and take apart and put away.  :)  I tried something similar using an underbed plastic storage container with a heating pad inside.  It was tall enough to hold a few baskets and a couple loaf pans without the dough hitting the top, but too small for the number of breads I make. And the heating pad worked surprisingly well. 

Muffin25's picture
Muffin25

What did you use as your heating source at the bottom? I can see it but can't tell what it is.

bikeprof's picture
bikeprof

It is a shop/mechanics light with a conventional light bulb in it...

like this one (but mine is a bit cheaper and less heavy-duty):

http://www.sears.com/craftsman-100-watt-work-light-with-metal-bulb/p-03483022000P?plpSellerId=Sears&prdNo=15&blockNo=15&blockType=G15

Muffin25's picture
Muffin25

Thanks so much I really love your idea and totally plan on stealing it!... ---- I hope you don't mind❗

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in thw garage and the garage is already full of stuff I can't ever find:-)  Nicely done!

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Very nice.   Love the room inside and your 'selves'.  I made my own too several years ago using a reptile terrarium, reptile cage thermostat and ceramic heat lamp plus a discarded computer fan for circulation. An old piece of plexiglass fit nicely on the side with a bit of silicone paste.  Works like a charm and is easy to maintain.  Just have to wash the front window every once in awhile.

Thanks for posting your idea.

Janet

The Happy Baker's picture
The Happy Baker

OK so I know its probably a stupid question, but why the need for a proofing box, whats wrong with a tea towel over the banneton left on the kitchen table?

The Happy Baker's picture
The Happy Baker
debdp's picture
debdp

The proofing box was originally going to be more for winter.  Especially when my house temperature is going to be much cooler and it will take my sourdough much longer to proof, longer than I want it to.  Since I bake several loaves for a small local market the oven can't hold it all.  Even if the room temperature is perfect, I can still proof everything in the box and not have baskets and loaves spread out all over the dining room table and counter top :)  So for me with or without the heat turned on it allows for a relatively small area to put 20 or so loaves of bread to be proofed at room temperature.  :) 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

There are two main benefits to a proofing box - consistency, and sometimes time.  If you put a temperature controller on your proofing box, you are always dealing with the same temperature in the proofing box, so if you leave your dough in for two hours, you will get the same amount of rise every time.  If you just put a tea towel over a banneton, your kitchen might be anywhere from the 60's to 80 F - so if you leave you dough in the banneton when it is 80 F for 2 hours it may be well overproofed, while if you do the exact same thing on a cool summer day, it will be underproofed.  While most suggest you watch the dough not the time to determine when it is proofed, it is nice to have the exact same temp, so you don't have to check it as much.  The second potential advantage is speed - if you set your proofing box at 80 F,  you dough will rise much faster than if it is sitting in a banneton at 65F  .  I have heard that the rate of activity of yeast doubles for every 18 F  ( 10 C ) rise in temperature, so the time saving can be considerable.You would not need a temperature controller for this, just a way to be sure that the temp stays somewhere close to 80. Other options are putting the dough in the oven with the light on, or in a microwave oven with a cup of boiling water ( but not turning on the oven ).  

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

For those who only bake 1 or 2 loaves at a time and don't have the space or desire to use a proofing box, your stove is very well insulated and will  remain warm for a long time when heated on low for only a minute. Some people will add a pot of hot water to their oven, or turn the oven light on, both of which do very nicely for warming the environment.  If the microwave is a suitable temp, I find proofing in there a nice way to keep my counters clear.

Norcalbaker's picture
Norcalbaker

i heat my stove for just a couple of minutes with the door open, then put a pan of boiling water in just before placing dough in. I place an instant read thermometer on a sheet pan inside to make sure it's not too hot when I place the dough in.  Then leave the thermometer there so I can monitor  the temperature.  

debdp's picture
debdp

Those are really great points.  Consistency is important.  I tested the box for 16 hours and it stayed at 80 degrees.  But you’re right that temperature may cause my sourdough to proof too fast.  And while room temperature right now is perfect, as winter draws closer it will take much longer for the sourdough to proof as the house becomes cooler.  I did research thermostats and a seed mat thermostat looks like a good option.  It has a temp range of 68 to 108 and is relatively inexpensive.  Herp thermostats for reptiles would be another option.  So I may have to go that route to keep the temperature consistent and a bit cooler inside the box.  Do you know if that rate of yeast activity also applies to wild yeast? 

I have always used my oven for a proofing box when baking a few items, and even for my cheese that needs to sit in a warm place for 18 hours.  I simply turn the oven light on and it warms the oven enough and then turn the light off.   

Norcalbaker's picture
Norcalbaker

had a thermostat set up that had a temperature range of 75 degrees  

Norcalbaker's picture
Norcalbaker

had a thermostat set up that had a temperature range of 75 degrees  

Norcalbaker's picture
Norcalbaker

That had a thermostat set up with temperature range starting at 75 degrees  

kenlklaser's picture
kenlklaser

Do you plan on adding a humidifier?

debdp's picture
debdp

Thank you.  I don't know that it will need one.  I guess if it did I could microwave water in a cup and place it inside or use damp towels to cover the baskets.

kenlklaser's picture
kenlklaser

But I mostly make pan bread, and I want soft crust, so I oil the outside of the dough, this helps to keep the dough and later bread from sticking to the pan, but it also keeps the crust from drying.  Anyway, I believe you can build a simple humidifier with an aquarium air pump ducted or plumbed to pump the air inside the proofing box so that it bubbles recirculated air through water in a bottle.  You'd probably want a digital controller for it as well, or at the very least, a humidity meter.

debdp's picture
debdp

With some breads, like sandwich loaves, I'll lightly oil a small piece of plastic wrap and place it on the top. It keeps it from forming a skin, and allows the bread to expand.

kenlklaser's picture
kenlklaser

Sorry.

suave's picture
suave

So the box is dumb, no temperature control, right?

debdp's picture
debdp

Hahaha, not dumb for me.  At this time I don't see a need for temp control.  The foil bubble insulation, the small light and the fan keep the whole box at 80 degrees, no fluctuations for 24 hours, which is way longer than I need it to keep a steady temperature. 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

A proofing thermostat is a great investment. I use one that brewers use. It has a probe which pokes right into the dough and allows very tight regulation of the temperature.

My proofing setup consists of a heat lamp positioned above my mixer bowl. I mix the dough and proof it right there in the mixer bowl. Works great!

txsupra11's picture
txsupra11

Very nice, I was also told you could put a tray of water and set your oven to warm. 

debdp's picture
debdp

My oven temp on warm is about 180 degrees, so definitely too hot.  Just keeping the oven light on, however, has always worked in the past.  The heat from the lightbulb in the enclosed oven keeps it between 80-90, at least in my oven it does. 

debdp's picture
debdp

I love this box.  I haven't made any changes to it or bothered with a thermostat.  It just holds the same temperature of 80 degrees all day,  I bake sandwich loaves in cast iron loaf pans and the bottom easily holds 8 pans for proofing the top two shelves will hold 4 bannetons each or my homemade baking couche for 5 batards or six baguettes.  With the light off or on it's great for autolysing my doughs.

albacore's picture
albacore

I built this proving box many years ago. I wanted a folding box that could be stored in the garage and then brought into the kitchen and assembled within two minutes.

It comprises four sides and a lid. The sides sit on the worktop/counter. They consist of two centrally hinged panel pairs with magnetic catches at the edges to quickly join the panel pairs together.

Each panel is made of 4mm ply inner and outer leaves with softwood separator battens and 12mm expanded polystyrene/styrofoam insulation in the cavity.

Inside the box is a 12mm ply platform on legs. The proving dough containers (bulk or final) sit on this platform. Underneath there is a cartridge heater in an aluminium heatsink and a fan.

Temperature is controlled by a simple external on/off temperature controller with a thermistor probe. You can easily adjust the temperature setpoint to whatever you need.

The fan runs on slow speed all the time except when the heater is on, when it runs at fast.

 

 

Lance

debdp's picture
debdp

Very nice.

albacore's picture
albacore

I thought everyone was ignoring it!

 

Lance