At long last, what all of us avid home bakers have been waiting for has arrived: a bread proofer ideal for home use. This beautifully designed piece of equipment provides a moist, warm, draft-free environment for raising bread dough. It also can provide a warm and dry environment necessary for melting or tempering chocolate. And its ability to maintain very low temperatures makes it useful for warming eggs for a génoise batter, making yogurt, and crème fraîche. The read out is easily switched between Fahrenheit and Centigrade and has a temperature range of 70˚ to 120˚F/21˚to 49˚C. The proofer folds flat to under 3-inches for convenient storage and pops up quickly to accommodate a large dough rising container, large free form hearth loaf, or two bread pans as long as 14-inches. Before this bread proofer existed I used a variety of other less convenient solutions for raising bread from plastic boxes, to my microwave oven, with setting a glass of hot water inside the container to produce the proper temperature and changing it every 20 minutes. I also recommended using an oven without a pilot light and turning on the oven light to produce the correct temperature of 75˚ to 80˚F/24˚ to 27˚C. But of course using either the microwave or the oven as a proofer means not being able to have access to it for other uses.
The following explanation of ideal rising temperatures is from my book The Bread Bible: Room temp of 75˚ to 80˚/24˚ to 27˚C is considered the ideal temp in which to raise dough. If dough is around 75˚F/24˚C after mixing it will take 1 to 1-1/2 hours for the first rise. If the room is cold or you need to speed the rise, rather than increase the yeast, which would result in a more yeasty flavor (which might mask some of the desirable wheaty flavor), you can increase the temperature of the rising environment easily with a homemade or purchased acrylic proof box. I always use one to raise dough because it makes it unnecessary to cover the dough with greased plastic wrap. Note: When bread rises above 90˚F/32˚C it develops off flavors. Above 120˚F/49˚C the yeast will die. It is therefore important to set the proofer at a temperature well below 90˚F/32˚C. The proofer's heating element is at the bottom so if you set the temperature at 80˚F/27˚C it will likely be around 86˚F/30˚C if set too close to the bottom. I inverted four 3-inch high custard cups and set the rack that comes with the proofer on top. I set the proofer at 75˚F/24˚C and it maintained a perfect 80˚F/27˚C temperature for the dough, which rose, in the usual time. I've suggested to the designer of the proofer, Michael Taylor, to create an adjustable rack that will make it possible to elevate the dough or bread pans to a higher position than the current rack that ships with the proofer and it is in progress. When melting chocolate, to prevent flavor loss, the temperature should not exceed 120˚F/49˚C, however, when set at 115˚F/46˚C the bottom rack far exceeded this temperature so again I would advise raising the rack more toward the middle and setting the temperature at say 110˚F/43˚C. The sides of the proofer come apart easily for washing when necessary. It is easy to reattach them provided you make sure to have the embossed warning regarding the bottom plate being hot facing the inside of the box. For more information click here.