The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Temp for Proofing

gerryp123's picture

Best Temp for Proofing

I bake my bread in the mountains of NC at an altitude is about 3,000 ft and winter temp in the 60F range.

Now that i have a new (home-made) proofing box I'd like to ask for advice on the "best" (average) temp for an overnight starter, other pre-ferments, first proofing, and final proofing (after shaping).

Also wondering how important the control of humidity within the proofing box is ?  Will adding a small tray of heated (or boiling?) water  at the start of proofing do the job?

Any advice much appreciated.

jimbtv's picture

Temperature control is a big part of successfully building and baking artisan breads. I run temps as low as 38 F and as high as 81 F depending on what I am trying to achieve. There are reasons to run things warm, cool, and somewhere in the middle.

Most cookbooks tailored to the home consumer generally assume that the user doesn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. They therefore tend to run hot and fast - do your build, let it proof then into the oven, usually in less than 2 - 3 hours. The flavor and texture of the bread are reflected accordingly.

Those of us around here are generally striving for deep flavors, and open crumb and a crispy crust. Playing with times and temperatures are just another set of tools in the toolbox. We tend to run our mixes for hours if not days, and we often use cooler temperatures, both to slow development and alter how the leavening agent performs its duties.

So, with all that said, today I am baking two breads. One ferment started Thursday evening and the other Friday evening. Both ferments were kept at around 78 F for 12 hours or so. The denser bread was mixed Friday morning, developed over an 8 hour period at around 72 F, and placed into a chiller at 40 F for 12 hours. The other bread was mixed this morning developed over 2.5 hours at 75 F and proofed at the same temp.

A lot is written about time and temperature when it comes to making bread. You may want to do some searches on this site, on the web as a whole, or pick up an artisan bread baking book or two. 

I am careful to cover all my breads, in any stage except baking, with some sort of moisture retention product. Sometimes it's plastic shower caps, sometimes it's pizza proofing trays and I also use a second couche or bubble wrap at times. It is important to retain moisture but only in the most extreme cases do I try to evaporate water.




gerryp123's picture

Thanks Jim.  Very useful info.

Now that I have a proofing box it makes it easy to maintain a constant temp for a longer duration.  

Did not understand your "bubble wrap" comment (enclose the proofing bowl and bread in bubble-wrap?) , but I gather that it is not necessary to add a water-evaporator pan within the proofing box - just make sure the bread is well covered.