The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rising in cooler -- why didn't I think of this long ago?

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bluesbread's picture
bluesbread

Rising in cooler -- why didn't I think of this long ago?

Maybe this is a well-known trick but I'm still patting myself on the back for thinking it up recently, and I want to make sure you all know about it:

Let your dough rise in an insulated cooler! I have a small soft-sided one that works great, but any small cooler would work. The yeast generates heat as it eats and multiplies, and the cooler holds it in, keeping the dough nice and cozy (but not so warm that it speeds up the action to the detriment of the flavor, as happens when you put it into a warm oven). I used to wrap towels around the bowl, but the cooler is easier and more efficient. Do not stick dough that you've just removed from the fridge into the cooler, though, or you'll just be keeping it cold. Wait until it warms to room temp and then place it in the cooler. Happy baking! bluesbread

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

Great idea.  I have also have a soft sided cooler that I will try next time rather than heating up my second oven and using all that electricity.

Sharon

www.thebraidedloaf.com

Cafemich's picture
Cafemich

Dang, that's a great idea. I have a small cooler that will work perfectly for a lump of dough. I'll bet it holds in the humidity as well, and doesn't dry out the crust. (I prefer to avoid plastic wrap, so I usually use a wet towel, which has to be rewetted on occasion.) I'm starting bread tonight, so I'm going to try it.

Michele 

jeffesonm's picture
jeffesonm

Good idea.

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

It certainly IS a good idea but I saw it on some website a while back. I have a set up with a 15w bulb on a socket dangling in the cooler (it's not going to burn anything you can touch the bulb - for a bit - without it being excessively hot) but I've taped the cord in a way that the bulb is not touching the cooler's sides. If I keep the top opening one quarter open, I can keep the temp in there at a steady 82ºF, I can close or open it more to control the temp. It took a little testing to find out how big an opening I needed. I use a scrap piece of clear plexiglass for the cover so I can still keep an eye on things inside without having to remove the cover and lose the accumulated heat.

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Paul

sharsilber's picture
sharsilber

I had seen one made with a light bulb but was afraid it would burn.  I will try to find a 15 watt.  Thanks 

Sharon

www.thebraidedloaf.com

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

is to visit your local pet supply store and pick up a terrarium heating mat. They sit on the bottom of a lizard or snake tank to keep the place an even, warm temperature which can be set on some types. That would work well in a proofing box and you'd not need to worry about overheating or dangling light bulbs. They're not exactly inexpensive but if you can afford it, would be an excellent, steady heat source.

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Paul

Marni's picture
Marni

I read this idea today of putting dough in the car to rise.  Coverthe bowl with plastic or put it in a plastic bag and leave it to rise on the seat.  I'm in Southern CA, so it would be too hot here almost all year, but in some areas it might work.  A possibilty for those outdoor/camping events?

Marni

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

You just wouldn't have any or at least enough control over the heat, there's be a tremendous chance, I'd assume, that the inside of the car could quickly get well above 90ºF and kill your yeast. There's no way to control it unless you're sitting in the car watching a thermometer and opening and closing windows to try and keep it steady at 85º or so. What if the temp outside shoots up to the high 80's, the temp in a closed up car will easily get in the hundreds.

I'm sure there are more controllable ways to go. 

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Paul

Russ's picture
Russ

I felt really clever when I came up with the cooler as proofing box idea too. I like to think that the fact that others are doing it means we're all clever, not that I am less so.

I started out with a small styrofoam one that I had picked up at Bevmo to bring some stuff to a potluck, but soon found that it was too small for some of my larger batches of bread. I think it was ok for one or two of my smaller loaf pans, but only one of the larger and not big enough to hold anything that I might rise a medium to large batard on.

I later bought a larger cooler specifically for a proofing box. I usually use hot water for a heat/moisture source, either in a bowl or sometimes I just drop in the whole teakettle on a trivet. Then just change or reheat the water once every 30-40 minutes.

Also, the box functions nicely for retarding dough overnight. In my household of four adults, the fridge is often too full to fit my dough. Instead I just toss it in the cooler along with a bunch of icepacks from the freezer.

Russ

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

You could make a trip to your local lumber or Big Box home improvement store and get yourself some stiff, 1.5" thick rigid board foam insulation - the blue or pink type they stick in the outside wall of the house - and pretty easily make a proofing/warming box of almost any size or dimension that would be most suitable to your particular needs. You decide the base size, side height and just cut and glue. It's lighweight so you can haul it in and out of the kitchen easily as needed and also pretty darn inexpensive.

The design possibility is limited just by your imagination. 

Tip: Don't get the white Styrofoam style "beads" kind of board, that is extremely messy to cut and not as solid as the smooth board type.

Rigid Foam Board 

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Paul

micki's picture
micki

 . . . and thank you so much for sharing a terrific idea.  Used it over the weekend for some pizza dough and yesterday for bread.  Didn't have to cover the bowl and the rising times were exactly according to recipe - no variable in humidity or kitchen temp.  Did get a wee bit crowded between the bread pans during the second rising so I may use two coolers next time but I have several small ones on hand.  Consider this another pat on the back and "Way to go!"  Micki

midwest baker's picture
midwest baker

I put dough in my over-the-stove microwave to raise. It has a light underneath to light up the stovetop and it warms the inside of the microwave somewhat. If it's warm in the kitchen I don't put the light on. Of course, make sure no one turns the microwave on. Works for me! Someone probably already thought of it but....whatever!


Mary

UnConundrum's picture
UnConundrum

BTW, the same theory works in reverse to retard the dough.  I had mixed a dough and got called away for a few hours.  I simply put the dough in a cooler with an ice pack (not touching the dough) and it was ready to go when I got home.