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. Dorothy Grant

    I am madly,madly,over the moon, in love with my proofer. The bread comes out SO perfect every time.I have wanted one forever because of the price I just couldn’t justify it. I am so happy that I took the plunge. It pays for itself. Thank you

    Reply
  2. Darryl Vanderpool

    I like it. But I raise seven to ten loafs at a time. This product, ( while being exceptional.) is to small for my needs.

    Darryl Vanderpool

    Reply
  3. AlliS

    Can you extend the proof time of dough with this by putting it at a lower temperature? Are there any tips included to do that in the manual of this? For example, recipe would say to proof for hour and a half, but could you do a lower temperature proof overnight to have that bread for breakfast without waking up early to prepare it? I guess this is both a baking and a proofer question.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Allis, your baking instincts are right on: leaving yeasted dough at a cooler temperature slows down the rising time. However, the proofer doesn’t function as a cooling unit; it can only warm up the space. If you’d like to give your dough an overnight rise so it’s ready to bake in the morning, you can cover your shaped dough with lightly greased plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. This is a great technique to use with sweet buns and other breakfast breads so they’re ready to go without a lot of prep in the morning. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. AlliS

      Thanks for the response, Kye. Do you know if there’s any guidelines to time and temperature for when you change it to a slow rise? Sometimes if I leave items in the fridge overnight, they don’t actually rise enough–is there any science on how long if you’re converting from warm rise to slow? Thank you!!

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Sadly, there isn’t an exact conversion for it. You base it off of how the dough feels more than anything else. You want the dough be nice and bouncy, almost like a marshmallow. It will plump up once you take it out of the fridge if it has more growing to do as your oven preheats, but we’ve made loaves that were ready for the oven as soon as we took them out of the fridge. Look for a pillowy, marshmallowy dough and you’ll be on your way! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Peter

    Great Idea , would just love one, unfortunately Just can’t afford it. but why does this product have to be so expensive,
    What a rip off for a heated box of plastic… An have heard on the net, when it was tested, it did not hold the correct temperature, as stated … Sounds like a great product But why are companies so greedy to make such pricy products to do very simple Deeds.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you for reaching out to us with your concerns, Peter. Your concerns are definitely something we take seriously and your feedback is greatly appreciated. We tested several models of bread proofers before deciding on the Brod & Taylor Folding Bread Proofer and Slow Cooker. We loved that it was collapsible for storage, found it had really reliable temperature control, had a variety of functions, and that the brand had such helpful Customer Support for our fellow bakers. If you’re interested in giving it a try, we encourage you to sign up for our email newsletter so you can be notified when we have sales or promotions. We also have a 100% satisfaction guarantee as we stand behind each and every product we offer. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the proofer, our products, or our guarantee, our friendly Customer Service team would be more than happy to chat with you at 800-827-6836. It’s time to get baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mary, we haven’t tried hatching chicks with the Bread Proofer, but I’m not sure I’d want to use it for bread dough after chickens had been in there! Barb@KAF

  5. gale

    Works in reverse as well. Too hot in summer, set the proofer for a lower temp. I did it a lot – these proofers are a recipe saver.

    Reply
  6. Hilary

    If your microwave is the over-the-stove mount, turn on the stovetop light, and voila, nice warm box for bread rising.

    But if you need to use your microwave during the rise, you need to shuffle things around.

    Reply
  7. Constance Finch

    Singapore’s heat & humidity get to me sometimes (I’m originally from California) but it’s great for proofing bread-right on the counter, get a good rise *every*single*time.

    Reply
    1. Diane

      Same with South Florida! (At first I couldn’t figure out what was happening — giant breads in no time at all.)

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The answer depends on how much time you have to let the dough rise, Laurie. Usually anywhere between 70 and 80°F is ideal for basic pizza dough and white rolls–the higher temperature will make the dough rise faster. Some bakers prefer the flavor and texture that comes from a slower rise, so if you have a bit more time to spare, try 70°F to see how you like the results! Kye@KAF

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