The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Heating Pad for Bulk Fermentation?

Mississauga Baker's picture
Mississauga Baker

Heating Pad for Bulk Fermentation?

I seem to have a great starter (doubles in 2 hours, passes float test) but I am not getting any rise during bulk fermentation. So even though I get fantastic oven spring, my loaves are always too dense. I can't seem to get the dough temperature up past 70. My kitchen is about 72. My oven light doesn't work, so I can't use it for warmth and my microwave is over the range, vented to outside, which is currently freezing. Was wondering if anyone has ever used a heating pad during bulk fermentation, or would that overproof?

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

I've done it and continue to do it for focaccia, since my proofer is too small for a sheet pan.  It works great.  For dough I put it in a cooler and put towels on top.  You can put a glass of water inside and take the temp of the water after an hour or so to determine the air temp.  If you find it's developing too quickly, prop open the lid a bit.

Alternatively, the Brod & Taylor proofer is a godsend.  

https://www.amazon.com/Brod-Taylor-Folding-Proofer-Cooker/dp/B01MEEH0SE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549564029&sr=8-1&keywords=brod+and+taylor+proofer

TomK's picture
TomK

I use one every week year round. Even in summer my kitchen is too chilly in the morning and this time of year it seldom gets above 66. 

I put an insulating mat on the table (a couple layers of packaging foam), the heating pad on that, and a cooling rack on the pad because I’ve had the bottom of the dough cook a bit! I use a plastic box for the dough so it’s got a lot of surface area to take up the warmth. The heating pad is controlled with an inexpensive temp controller set to 82-84 degrees F. I put a large plastic bin upside down over the whole works to help hold in the heat but it’s not quite enough. One of my projects when I retire next year will be building a covering box of building insulation foam. 

DesigningWoman's picture
DesigningWoman

does it all the time!

EDIT: here you go: all kinds of suggestions!

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I use a heating pad, though I put it in a wine cooler ( which is unplugged when i use the heating pad ) and I have the heating pad hooked up to a simple temperature controller.  If you decide to go this route, be careful and make sure you buy a heating pad that does not have an auto off feature.  Many heating pads come with a feature that automatically shuts the pad off after it has been on 2 hours.     If yours has that feature , it will stop heating after 2 hours,  or whatever the set time is, then it will not heat again until you manually turn it off and turn it back on.  Learned that the hard way. 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

In addition to (and possibly contained within) the surfeit of links to which sorcerer dab has pointed you, a sink filled with warm water makes a cheap, cheerful and fairly stable water bath for immersing your bulk fermentation bin up to its knees.  I used to do that before Santa miracled me a B&T proofer.

fwiw, I regretted that, after remodeling our kitchen, we hadn't treated its granite island to the luxury afforded our bathroom floor several years later:  Installing Warmfloor™ heating mats onto the underside of the granite slab.  Doughs like their feet warm during folds just as much as we do after a shower.  Our doughs get awfully cold during their periodic exercise on that icy stone surface in winter and it takes all the juice the B&T can muster to keep them happily growing.  That would be one benefit of a wooden kitchen work surface (like Trevor Wilson's - nice one).

Tom

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The WarmFloor idea is interesting. How do you think putting a moist towel in the microwave and then placing it on your countertop would work?

Just thinking out loud.

Danny

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Funny you should mention that, Danny.  It's exactly what I did earlier this winter:  Lay hot towels on the counter for the 5 min before an upcoming fold.  I wasn't convinced that it did any better than just cranking up the B&T a few degrees.  My winter running temps for the proofer are 82-84˚F, as opposed to Spring and Fall temps of 78˚F.  I don't use it in summer, when kitchen is often 78˚ or higher.

But you can really feel how cold the dough gets after its periodic yoga on the cold stone this time of year.

While I'm here:  Can you really detect a benefit from 130 S&F's, as opposed to substantially fewer, say 20 or 50?  I don't have the patience or supporting data to do that many.  When it comes together, I'm done.  Lately it's been two sets of ~10 (I don't count) with 5 min rest between, then into the bulk bucket.

Tom

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

“While I'm here:  Can you really detect a benefit from 130 S&F's, as opposed to substantially fewer, say 20 or 50?”

Definitely! I really do think a large number of reps make a decisive difference in the strength of the dough when dealing with high hydration. Keep in mind, this is in reference to hand mixing without a machine. I think THIS VIDEO is conclusive. Have you seen it?

It may be possible to develop the dough strength with less reps by resting the dough at shorter intervals. The thought just hit me and I haven’t tested it’s validity. But I’ve gotta tell you, I love doing S&F : -)

My standard MO is 300 reps with a rest in between. I can say from experience that the dough increases noticeably in strength @ 200 reps and I think higher. I have never had the gluten damaged during any number of S&F. Bleachng, caused by over oxidating is another concern...

I hope Alan (alfanso) chimes in. He is also a believer.

Danny

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Called back from the woodwork, I hear the singing of the Sirens ;-) .  And am reporting on my tormented history of dark delving into FFs and my subsequent falling under its spell.

I got the idea of these from the video French Kneading with Beatriz Echeverría.  How and why, in my earliest days of this hobby, I cannot recall.  But the idea was more appealing to me to do it by hand rather than mechanical means whenever possible, which was almost of the time.  

Beatriz doesn't specify the number that she does, so I just picked an arbitrary number that "seemed right".  Which was 200 FFs.  This was during my quest to conquer the baguette, starting for real with the Bouabsa baguette as reported by Janedo and David Snyder years before my appearance on Island TFL.  The Bouabsa dough just didn't feel "right" to me and my nascent hands with anything less than 200.  So, 200 it was.  And continued to be.  For a short time until Ifelt that 200 didn't feel quite right either.  So I bumped it up to 300 confident in the understanding that over mixing by hand would take the back and shoulders of a Schwartznegger and the forearms of a Popeye.

Somewhere about two years or less ago, I decided that I'd give the dough a ~5 minute rest halfway through the FFs, time for the dough to relax and the gluten to begin organizing.  Also time to do some initial clean-up of the work area.  And discovered from the first shot out of the cannon that the dough was eminently more pliable and developed with just those few short minutes to relax under the dome of the mixing bowl.

Depending on the dough and the level of development that I guess at, strength of dough that I assume it wants, or that someone else had posted, I lower the number of FFs - but always keep the ~5 minutes halfway through.  I don't actually time the 5 minutes so in some cases it might be 10, but that doesn't seem to be too relevant to the overall "importance" of the rest time.

Others, prefer to rely on the no-knead method, which provides evidence that lack of any mixology can also be successful.  Dabrownman allows Lucy to do a series of fewer, 10-20? FFs at a time over the course of about an hour.  I suppose that this is his chance to take a paws.

No hard and fast evidence as to which methodology or number of FFs, if at all, is "best".  I think that most of us have discovered that there are a thousand ways to skin a cat in this biznez.  Whatever floats one's boat and makes the baker feel successful is apparently their meal ticket.  I do it the way that I do it because it seems to work for me and I can perform 300 FFs in approximately the same time as someone using a mixer for a few minutes, sans the clean-up, exceptions being a stiff dough like the Five-Grain, which takes a more concerted effort on the first 50-70 FFs to become sufficiently pliant.  And I do it mostly because I like it and like getting to know the feel of the dough as it progresses from being an unorganized pile of goop to something that most would recognize as a dough.

alan

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Alan musta pulled an espresso molto bravo this morning.

Bingo.  It was indeed from Babette's video monissimo that I too properly learned S&F.  I even messaged her afterward that we have another translation for dedos gordos in English that is not fat fingers.  We call them thumbs.  Bertinet has a good S&F clip online too that was useful.  And there's one of a young french baker asking visiting asian lady student bakers to step back to avoid the infamous S&F splatter. Ha!

Yes, I happily concede that doughs that need more exercise (i.e., higher hydration than mine typically are) can benefit from CrossFit-worthy amounts of S&F-ing.  I wasn't considering hydration variation when I questioned Danny about that.  Much of what drives my practice is (laziness and...) a desire to develop as simple and routine a process as possible, so as to not let this weekly chore consume more time and hobby energy than it deserves, as there are many other draws and obligations with which it competes.  S&F's in the 100's crosses that line.  Good news is that we don't need as wildly and fashionably open crumbs as high hydration and beaucoup S&Fs produce.  Last thing I need is to be blamed for the plum jam stains on my wife's blouse because the holes in our bread facilitated its descent from the sandwich. 

So your honor, to the charge of Insufficiently Exercised Doughs, I plead self-defense.

Tom

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

What other methods would you recommend using to help with baking in cold weather? My kitchen is typically 24C+ in summer and these days more around 21-23C. If I don't want to use anything to raise the temperature, how much longer can I expect a dough to need compared to summer? My dough typically stays in room temperature 5-6 hours before the fridge in the summer. I don't get the same volume by the time of final proof these days.

Another way is to increase the starter amount. I currently use 100g starter, 400-425g water and 500g flour. Would it impact the dough in a noticeable negative way if I went up to 150g? As an alternative to increasing the number of hours.

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Time and temperature are the two variables we home bakers can and, imho, should manipulate to smooth out seasonal variation in the behavior of a single dough formula.  Pros may well develop seasonal variations in their formulae and vigilantly monitor dough development on the fly every day, tweaking steps in their processes to assure the uncompromising uniformity of product their customers expect.  My preference has always been to leave the formula alone and just mess with time and temperature.  Before I started baking, I recall that my wife used to seasonally adjust hydration of her 100% WW bread machine formula.  I don't.  For the past couple of years, I've just raised the temperature setting of the proofer a few degrees. I will not claim that that single change completely eliminates winter sluggishness of doughs.  But it perceptibly helps and I'm open to trying additional strategies gleaned as always from TFLoafers.

A fairly obvious overall guideline here is to avoid exposing your dough to "room temperature" as much as possible during all seasons, because that is the least controlled variable in the entire process.  Unless of course, like a commercial bakery, you rigidly fix your home's internal climate year-round, a domestic practice I am opposed to for all kinds of reasons.  Ours varies over a 30˚F range, even here in "sunny" (read: Northern) California.  I happily adopted Trevor Wilson's suggestion of doing the first several hours of saltolyse in the fridge.  Then I put the dough in the proofer next to the leaven for the last hour before combining the two.  It's hard to find an alternative to bringing the dough out onto the counter for S&Fs, resting and shaping and that's when seasonally variable room temperature has its impact.  Countertop chilling frustratingly retards doughs in winter that really don't need it, whereas its slowing them in summer is a welcome effect.  I've even considered leaving the bulk bucket in the proofer while S&F-ing the dough in winter, but it would be a bit awkward and I prefer long slow stretches out on the counter.

Tom

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Tom, I am a temperature control advocate, also. IMO, it is actually one of the only completely controllable aspects of sourdough baking. If we are willing, and have the resources and available space, it is very doable. Have you considered a compact retarder? Maurizio’s concept is very simple and affordable. He helped me with my build. Mine cost less than $300 and works perfectly.

 

///  Copied from a prior post ///

 I built a retarder along the lines of Maurizio’s unit. I recommend an appropriate size freezer and a digital controller. Mine maintains outstanding aaccuracy (+/- 1 degree). And didn’t cost too much. Here is a link to my controller and freezer. NOTE - I went with a small chest freezer for efficiency, but an upright would be easier to load and unload.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MVVITWC/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074DBMG7D/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

HTH

Dan

Oh! The exact model of Frig or Freezer doesn’t matter. The controller is the important factor. If you go with a frig to are limited to 38F or above. Using a freezer allows you the option of any temperature you choose. I’ve run mine from freezing to 50F and even higher.

/// End Copy ///

NOTE - just today I messaged Maurizio about the idea of adding a proofer (warmth) function to our retarders. And adding the ability to automatically switch from cool to warm and/or warm to cool. Wouldn’t thank be down town?

Dan

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

If I had a house with more space I'd probably already have a retarder or something like that. The dream as an amateur baker is having a container where I can put any dough and adjust temperature as I want, and it will both cool and heat as needed depending on the ambient temperature. Hopefully one day I'll get the space. All I got so far is a wine cooler at 15C that keeps both my wine and pizza doughs cool.

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

Thanks, Tom. I very much agree with you that keeping the same temperature all year around is the ideal situation and I'd love to have a proofer, but we're pretty limited on space as it is, both in the kitchen and other rooms. I already take up a lot of space with my cookings (wine/dough cooler, pizza oven, coffee gear etc). I can't fit in another appliance that just does one thing. I considered the oven, but 30C is a bit high and not very convenient if I got a dough in there when we're making dinner.

I think I'll have to try making do with finding the warmer spots in our apartment, bring a thermometer along and using time as needed.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

 Heikjo, I am also limited for space. Even if the finances are available the space is not. BUT, I have an idea for your consideration.

Why not get a digital temperature controller and use it to operate a small light bulb or even aheating pad? The bulbor pad could be placed into the wine cooler to supply warmth.

Danny

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

That is something I might try. Or a heating pad like this topic is about. The higher temperatures in summer aren't as big of an issue as the low ones in winter. So a solution like a heating pad or PID-controlled lightbulb might do the trick.

What temperatures do you get inside the bowl with the heating pads?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

My only experience with a heating pad for dough warmth deals with my starter. I took a jar that was partially filled with water. I wrapped a seed germination mat around the jar. The starter was suspended in the water inside the jar. The digital controller probe was also placed in the water and the top of the jar was sealed.

It produced very good results, but the mat heated the water and the water heated the starter.

See THIS LINK for more info.

I am known to experiment a lot. After all experimentation, I concluded that the Brod & Taylor (IMO) is the ultimate appliance  for proofing for the home baker. It folds down for storage, has never given me problems, is extremely accurate, and at $~150 it is affordable. I have owned one since they first came into production.

Dan

 

Heikjo's picture
Heikjo

Thank you! I haven't noticed that the Brod & Taylor proofer folds flat. That increases the chances of a purchase considerably. I like your experiments and effort. :)

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

I've gone about today's chores reflecting on my "focus on temperature" pitch. 

Let's walk that back a bit.

If one wants to produce the exact same loaf from a given formula and process all year long, then one must strive to reproduce identical physical conditions for its preparation 52 weeks/year.  Commercial bakers are enslaved by customers' expectation of and demand for absolute product consistency from one purchase to the next and changing the (proportions of) ingredients in a formula over the course of the year won't be welcomed or bankrolled by finicky customers.  Indeed, the modern food supply chain has evolved to present (read: coddle) shoppers with identical supermarket inventories 365 days/year, regardless of whether it's locally pear or parsnip season or not. It's ridiculous.  Perhaps the dubiously justified Buy Local fad is nudging consumers away from that unwarranted entitlement.

OTOH, home bakers are hardly constrained thus. There's absolutely nothing inherently wrong with changing your bread with the seasons.  Quite the contrary, there's something fundamentally right about doing that.  Perhaps simply northern European style breads (heavier, seedier, rye-er) to accompany winter comfort soups and stews, airier baguettes, ciabattas and other gaping crumbs for summer sandwiches and oil dipping.  While those products arise from vastly different recipes, slight seasonal variations in the same recipes would follow the same logic.  Makes perfect sense.

My aim in suggesting that one focus on temperature was to promote 12 month consistency, since (1), it is indeed domestic temperature fluctuations that we're addressing here, and (2) altering a formula to accommodate changes in one's kitchen climate will, by definition, result in a different loaf of bread.  It's the latter that today's ruminations has revealed to be not at all necessarily a thing to avoided.  Go for it:  Develop a "winter formula" and a "summer formula" for your favorite breads.  No sin in that.  We alter our behaviors and expectations in myriad ways with the seasons, why not our bread formulae?

Tom

Mississauga Baker's picture
Mississauga Baker

Glad to hear others are using the heating pad! I’ll let you know later today as to how it goes.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

when it is 64 F in the kitchen and never used in the simmer when it is 86 Fin the kitchen.  Here is how

Heating pad set on low covered with a flexible plastic mat that is oiled so the dough won't stick to it,  Perfect for dough development and fermentation then later for final proofing in baskets or pans.  i use it for levain building too

Then the dough goes down and covered with a stainless steel mixing bowl

Then a towel goes on top

Babette is The Man:-)  She taught so many of us Fresh Lofians slap and folds.  I used to do 600 of them but now am down to 3 sets of 150, 50 and 25 30 minutes apart.  If I am going for a super max open crumb then it is just 1 set of 100 and then gentle Sleeping Ferret Folds for the very wet dough.  You can do anything to dough in the forst 10 minutes and it is too stupid to know what happened to it.