Bread baking essentially comes down to four steps.
- Make dough
- Proof dough in a warm spot
- Bake in oven
- Admire briefly and devour
Winter months can throw a wrench into the proofing process. You need a warm spot to let your dough rise. But everything is cold!
So how can you proof bread in a chilly kitchen?
I reached out to my fellow colleagues/bread aficionados to find out their winter bread-proofing tricks.
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1. Use Your Oven (Turned Off)
Cook’s Illustrated Deputy Food Editor Andrea Geary loves this method. Just be cautious with long bulk fermentation breads such as sourdough. “If you’re proofing sourdough in the oven, alternate the dough with a little time both in and out of the oven," she says.
ATK Reviews team Assistant Editor Sarah Sandler suggests a great tip: “Add a note for people saying there is dough in there or else they will preheat the oven and melt their plastic wrap and ruin their dough . . .
. . . not that I’ve ever done that or anything.”
2. Use Your Microwave
Another great idea from Andrea: “Microwave a mug of water until it’s boiling, then put your dough in the microwave and close the door.” Note: Don’t turn on the microwave!
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3. Use Your Radiator
Books team Deputy Food Editor Stephanie Pixley relies on her cat to find a warm spot.
“I have radiators in my house, so if I want to speed things up a bit I put my bowl of dough on the radiator, but I find I need to insulate it a bit so I put it on a little kitchen towel pillow so the bottom doesn't get overheated," she says.
“If you’re looking for a warm spot and have a cat, look where they like to curl up on cold days!”
4. Use a Cooler
Andrea has another tip that is similar to the microwave. “Treat your cooler like a warmer," she says. Place a bowl of hot water in your cooler next to your bowl of bread dough and keep it closed."
5. Use a . . . Seedling Mat?
This budget-friendly (yet very clever) hack comes from Test Cook Hannah Fenton:
“I actually used this technique when developing my kefir recipe last winter because my apartment was too cold. I placed a seedling mat in a container and covered it with a towel. The mat can be set to a specific temperature, which could certainly be applied to bread as well!”