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. Kelley. Smith

    One of the Best purchase I have made to bake bread. No regrets!! Bought this about three years ago.

    Reply
  2. Stephen Licata

    The BEST decision I ever made in baking products.
    Don’t know how I lived without it. Brioches like babka used to get my schedule all messed up. Now I can time then perfectly. Not to mention perfect melted chocolate.

    Don’t hesitate. Buy one.

    Reply
  3. Joan

    I purchased this a few months ago, and I absolutely love it. My question is about the optional shelf you mentioned in point number 4 above. Where do you get the optional shelf?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The <a href=http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/stacking-wire-bread-proofer-shelfshelving unit can be purchased from us! Elisabeth@KAF

  4. Karen

    Love my Brod & Taylor proofer! i’ve only used it for dough so far but will definitely be trying to make yogurt & tempering chocolate.

    Reply
  5. Andrew

    Could you please add a big “Buy Now” button to this post, I don’t see any link to purchase. You are missing out on sales by not making it more obvious.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for the feedback, Andrew. I will be passing your suggestion on to our Web Team. Please go to our Shop page and search for item 1991 or bread proofer. We hope this product helps accomplish your goals! Elisabeth@KAF

  6. Richard

    Easy, cheap alternative … one of those large insulated boxes for keeping food cold in the car or on picnics, camping etc. Put a jug of water hot from the tap in one corner and fill with dough then close the lid. Never fails, you probably have the box anyway and hot water is always in the tap.

    Reply
    1. cathyf

      My trick– I stick my container in the shower stall, plug in the space heater and close the bathroom door.

      And forget plastic wrap. The crock from my 7-quart crockpot has a glass lid…

  7. Nancy

    I starred at this product for years due to it’s hefty price tag. I recently decided that I absolutely had to have it. Wow, why did I wait so long? It’s a multi-purpose tool. So far, I have made bread and yogurt using the proofer with great success. I can not wait to try tempering chocolate – something that I have tried several times and subsequently failed each attempt. Great piece of equipment.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer Gilkerson

    I kept looking at this appliance and finally purchased one. I love it. No more trying to figure out where to set a bowl of dough proof and then ultimately being dissatisfied with the baked results. I can now plan the timing and the end result is perfect.

    Reply
  9. waikikirie

    Cannot say enough about this product. LOVE IT. My husband refers to this (and my bread machine) as the “magic box”. When he sees this out ( or hears the bread machine gently thump-thumping) he gets a big happy grin and asks what’s in the magic box. We keep our house pretty cool so this is GREAT for proofing. Haven’t had the chance to temper chocolate of make yogurt (next on my list) but it is wonderful that it’s a multi-tasker. It does fold flat for storage. I have to get the second shelf. Thanks for the reminder!!!

    Reply

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