Yeast dough’s secret weapon: bread proofer is a surefire path to the perfect rise

You’re making yeast bread in the dead of winter. Your house is a bracing 62°F. The particular recipe you’re following – Jewish Rye Bread – says you should let your starter rise overnight, “preferably at a temperature of 70°F.” Farther on, the recipes says “Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot (78°F) for 1 hour.”

Yeast dough’s secret weapon to the rescue!

There are a number of ways to get yeast dough to rise in an inhospitable (read: cold) environment – and you’ve probably discovered most of them, if you bake bread year-round and live north of the sunny South.

The minimally pre-heated oven. The microwave with boiling water. Next to the woodstove, over the hot-air register, snuggled into a heating pad – even on top of the hot water tank in the cellar.

But these can be hit-or-miss options when you’re looking for a specific temperature, one you can rely on to remain constant over the course of your yeast dough’s rise. Or, in the case of sourdough starter, for as long as it takes to reactivate, with feedings that can stretch over several days.

So, yeast dough’s secret weapon is…

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

A climate-controlled electric bread proofer, where your dough, shaped loaves and rolls, and sourdough starter can rise at any temperature between 70°F and 120°F – your choice, not the weather’s.

How do I love my proofer? Let me count the ways…

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

1. The proofer works with your schedule.

When you’re on a tight schedule, and absolutely need your rolls to be ready for the potluck supper at 6 p.m., you don’t have time for yeast to do any cold kitchen-induced dawdling.

See the two bowls of dough above? The one on the left, proofed in the proofer, doubled in bulk exactly when the recipe said it should, in 90 minutes. The one on the right (shown at the 90-minute mark) took about 30 minutes longer to double.

Maybe you have 30 minutes to spare (plus probably another 30 minutes once you’ve shaped the rolls) – but when I’m juggling too many projects in too tight a schedule, I appreciate the “specificity” of timing the proofer offers.

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

2. You can ditch the plastic wrap.

Finding a way to cover a delicate pan of rising rolls – or a buxom domed loaf – can be problematic. Towels stick; plastic wrap, even when greased, can cling. There’s nothing so disappointing as carefully lifting plastic off a trembling ciabatta, only to see it catch in the center and pffffftt… the whole loaf deflates.

The proofer comes equipped with a shallow tray in its base for water. Between the heated environment, the walls and lid, and the water, your rising dough is both protected from drafts, and kept warm and moist. It just doesn’t get any better, environmentally speaking.

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

3. The proofer lets you follow demanding recipes exactly.

If you’re a dedicated bread baker, you’ll inevitably run across recipes with VERY SPECIFIC RISING TEMPERATURES.

Gosh, sometimes you’d think yeast is a pampered poo-bah, when in reality it’s a good sport, surviving (if not quite thriving) under all kinds of conditions…

Nevertheless, if you bake many artisan-style breads – particularly those involving a starter – you’ll likely want to begin by following a recipe exactly as written, rather than winging it. So when your recipe calls for a starter to be held overnight at 70°F – you can do just exactly that.

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

4. It frees up counter space.

The proofer holds a couple of 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Or a 9″ x 13″ pan. With the optional shelf, you can do two 9″ round pans of rolls – or two 9″ x 13″ pans. I can even wedge my 12″ pizza pan in there.

Baking in tight quarters? Need all the work space you can get? Set the proofer outside the kitchen somewhere, and never again have to deal with counters full of rising dough.

folding

5. It’s easy to set up, and easier to store.

The whole thing packs away inside itself, and folds flat for storage. Ready to proof some dough? Simply open the proofer, unfold the walls, and you’re good to go.

Yeast Dough's Secret Weapon via @kingarthurflour

BONUS: The proofer is multi-purpose.

OK, this post is supposed to be all about yeast bread. But I couldn’t resist showing you how else I use my bread proofer. Like making homemade yogurt. And tempering chocolate. And then there’s the quirky starter for lost-in-the-mists-of-time salt-rising bread. To say nothing of feeding my just-plain-sourdough starter. See everything I’ve done with my proofer in Proof(er) positive: bread and chocolate (and yogurt, too).

Looking for more information? Read a detailed description of our bread proofer.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Judy

    I noticed you said to use all purpose flour instead of bread flour. What is the purpose of bread flour then? I have always used KA bread flour as it says bread…right!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Judy, that’s an excellent question! Bread flour has more protein in it than all-purpose flour, which gives it extra sturdiness and helps breads to maintain a good rise. That being said, our all-purpose flour also works for many recipes, and is more accessible to a lot of folks. For this reason, we write many of our recipes to call for this flour, which is easier to find in many grocery stores. If you’re getting great results with bread flour and are able to find it near you, stick with that! We hope that helps to clarify. Kat@KAF

  2. Barbara L Nelson

    I love my Brad and Taylor proofer. I use my bread maker to make the dough. Then I place it in the proofer to rise. Turns our great every time. The bread turns out just fine the old fashioned way most of the time. Why struggle when you can use modern methods to make it turn out great with a lot less frustration. This way I have more time for my family and myself.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Karen! Our Bread Flour has a slightly higher protein content, 12.7%, than our All-Purpose Flour which is 11.7%. The higher protein content will make your bread and other baked goods have a chewier texture and also absorb more liquid. We find that our All-Purpose Flour works wonderfully to make bread of all kinds, from soft sandwich bread to crusty artisan loaves! If you’d like to use Bread Flour though, we’d suggest adding 2 additional teaspoons of liquid per cup of the bread flour you use. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  3. Julie

    I am struggling to get the KAF Soft White Dinner Rolls recipe to rise properly in this bread proofer. Was very excited to finally get the Brod & Taylor proofer because I live in a drafty old house that has no warm nooks and crannies.

    There are so many variables with bread that it seems impossible to isolate each one and hone in on the problem. But I have made this recipe multiple times in the past with satisfactory results, using my oven and a pan of boiling water under the pan of proofing rolls.

    My yeast and most other ingredients were new. First rise seems OK at 80 degrees in bread proofer (is that too hot?). But on the second rise of the shaped rolls, they spread out and touch each other but don’t gain any height, whether I let them rise for an hour or three. They bake up into hockey pucks.

    I attempted the rolls twice in one day, with little discernible difference in my results each time. I used round cake pans for the first try (crispier, brown bottoms to the rolls) and a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish for the second try. I kneaded the dough longer on the second attempt and let the initial rise go for only about 30 minutes in case it was overproofed at an hour during the first try. During the first try, I let the second rise last an hour. During the second attempt, I let the second rise last nearly three hours. No real difference.

    Is my trouble more likely to be with technique than the equipment?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Julie, it sounds like your rolls are overproofed. This happens when the dough is left to rise for too long and/or in too warm of a place. You might try turning the temperature of the proofer down slightly (try 75* to 78*F) and also reduce the length of the second rise. (Each subsequent rise goes faster than the one before.) Your rolls might only need a mere 30 to 40 minutes for the final proof before baking. The risk of overproofing is the dough structure becomes weak and can’t support the dough any longer once it meets the heat of the oven. Last tip? Be sure you’re using King Arthur All-Purpose Flour if you’re not already doing so. Our flour has a high protein content, which will give the dough the strength it needs to rise high. Otherwise, they are more likely to flatten out and lose height. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

Leave a Reply to Mary Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *