The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Will this work if my house is almost always around 60 degrees?

KristinKLB's picture

Will this work if my house is almost always around 60 degrees?

Hello -- great forum. I have a question. I have two new starters going, don't feel like making a proofing box and have to keep turning the lights on and off to keep the oven at the right temperature. I might look into getting a lower wattage bulb or unscrewing one, but there are cages on them and it looks like a hassle. At night the starters get cold and if I forget to set the timer they get too hot. Actual conversation at midnight: "Honey, that light was supposed to be on, right?" "NO! Oh no! They're going to die! Go turn it off!". "This is crazy, you know." "Yeah, but go turn off the light, please?" 

I have put a pan of warm water in there which helps maintain the heat longer, but would rather just leave it on the counter. During winter, I have no warm place in the house except for my bed and we're not like that. During summer, it's way too hot in here, but I could manage to keep it in the basement but might not bake much anyway so that might not matter.

Can I just feed twice per day and let it adapt to the environment we have? In winter the thermostat is set at 53 during the night.

Yumarama's picture

Just prop the oven door open so the heat doesn't build up too much. Pop a thermometer in there that you can see easily through the window and adjust how big the gap is so the space stays about 85ºF. I had to do that with my oven since it would get to the high 90's if it stayed shut. A rolled up towel in the door that left a 1" gap did the trick just fine. And the towel obviously stuck in the door also serves as a signal not to tuen the oven on by accident.


proth5's picture

I hate to generalize based on my starter (which seems to defy every piece of advice I see on these pages) but, my starter does just fine in my house which I keep at 60 degrees in the winter.When I want a higher temperature, I use an insulated cardboard box and a heating pad set on low in the bottom.  My particular box will stay at about 72 - 75 degrees which my apparently very cold hardy levain considers quite toasty.  No construction skills required.

In summer, when the levain is out of its refrigerator (my personal schedule requires that it go into cold storage during the week), I tend to keep it in my basement or in a cooler with a small chunk of "blue ice" so that is stays fairly cool. 

The more papers I read on the kinds of lactobacilli that live in our starters, the more I am convinced that they are extremely adaptive to their environment.  Researchers are finding new strains in bakery cultures all the time.  I can say no more than it raises bread quite nicely for me on a weekly basis, so what I am doing works for it and me.

Hope this is helpful.

PaddyL's picture

The bread I'm making now is supposed to rise in the bowl at a temperature of 90 F.  It's a cold day in Montreal and I can't get anywhere near that temperature, so I put it to rise, in the bowl, on top of the fridge which is an almost constant 75F.  It doubled in 4 hours and is now in its pans, back on top of the fridge, rising their little heads off.  I think starters do adapt to low temperatures quite well, if there are enough wild little yeasts floating around to capture.  As long as they're not frozen or over-heated, they should respond, maybe a bit slower than usual, but they can still live.

edh's picture

Ditto to what proth5 and PaddyL said; our house is never above 60 in the fall, winter, or spring. Being Downeast Maine, summer's only a few days long, so we're cool/cold most of the time. Sometimes I get impatient when I'm trying to get something to proof, and stick it in the (gas) oven with the pilot light, but otherwise the counter works just fine.

As for getting a starter going, those temps shouldn't give you any real problem. Things might move a little slowly, but better that than too fast; I killed my first really good starter when things warmed up during syrup making season and I didn't feed it enough!

Keep it up; the yeasties will adjust.


KosherBaker's picture

Wouldn't it actually benefit the starter to be at a cooler temperature, as it will develop flavors that don't come forward at higher temperatures?

I placed my starters in the refrigerator just for that purpose.


Wild-Yeast's picture

I always retard the dough in the refrigerator overnight. The enzymatic action of the amylases break down the starch into fermentable sugars and is also a good way to control the timing of the bake. I try to keep it at around 77 deg. Fahr. during the secondary fermentation phase. This requires around 6 hours till it's ready for the oven.

So cold can be a good thing!


  Last Nights Bake

KristinKLB's picture

Wow, that's a beautiful photo.

I went with Paul's suggestion and use the dish towel in the oven door. It's great because I'm not patient enough to let it sit on my counter after all! But I might try it some day.