Where is the Perfect Place for Bread to Rise?
Where are some good places to sit the dough for proving?
The classic answer to your question is to put bread dough in a warm, draft-free place to let it rise, and the classic example is in a bowl inside a gas oven that has a pilot light running. So if you're one of the four people in the world who still has a gas stove with a pilot light, you're all set!
We are actually among those four, so, yes, we are all set. We could leave it at that and force the other 6 billion or so of you fend for yourselves, but that's not the Ochef way, is it? (No, it isn't.)
It is good if the ambient temperature for you dough is right around 75°F (24°C), a temperature that few of us maintain in our kitchens. There are any number of solutions. Some people heat a bit of water to nearly boiling in a microwave oven, remove the water and pop in their bowl of dough. Some people turn the oven on to the lowest setting for three minutes, turn it off, and set the dough in the oven with the door ever so slightly ajar.
You can set a pan of warm water on a lower rack in the oven and the dough on a higher rack. You can warm a large earthenware bowl with hot water, dry it well, and invert it over the dough or set the dough in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
We know of serious home bakers who have built proofing boxes with a low-wattage light bulb as the source of warmth. You don't want the heat to get much above 75°F, but if it is lower, it will just take the dough longer to rise.
Some fancy new convection ovens have a dough proofing setting, but as they don't go below 85°F (30°C) and can range to 100°F (38°C), they are really too hot for ideal proofing.
Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Bible even suggests taking "the dough for a ride around town in the back of the car. Dough loves the gentle motion and warmth of the automobile," she says. We haven't decided whether to take her seriously or not.
In all cases, you have to give the dough room enough to double or triple, depending on the recipe. And all of the suggestion regarding the use of ovens and microwave ovens are predicated on the assumption that you will not inadvertently try to use them while your bread is silently rising (near at hand but out of sight/out of mind).
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