Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Building a Homemade Proofing Box


  • Please log in to reply
29 replies to this topic

#1 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 01 September 2006 - 01:51 PM

With the cooler weather now returning to Ohio, I am re-contemplating the thought of building (or buying) a homemade proofing box to combat the extra long rise times that will ultimately result because of my cooler kitchen. Because I currently live in a fairly old house built in 1914, the kitchen can become quite chilly in winter (52-55 deg F) which makes for some painfully long breadmaking sessions. I've used the oven before to proof dough, but if I'm making multiple batches, only one batch at a time can occupy it. I've looked on Google for a proofing box for the home cook, but alas, I haven't found anything. Do any of you eGulleter's out there have some suggestions for a quick, easy, and cheap way to put together an effective proofing box? Or even a suggestion for a product that already exists?
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#2 flacoman

flacoman
  • participating member
  • 112 posts

Posted 01 September 2006 - 02:06 PM

The simplest thing is to replace the bulb in your oven with a higher wattage (100W)
Pre- heat to 150 or so and leave the light on. Works well for drying fruit and making jerky also. Give it a shot, it's easy enough to try!

HTH
Jorge

#3 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 01 September 2006 - 02:09 PM

this isn't really a proofing box, but you can probably use something similar to it, then rig up a box...

i used a plastic sheet pan turned over a heating pad (which i also use for chocolate work) on top of which, i place my proofing items. i'm sure you can just put a large plastic storage container over the top to keep the heat in. maybe add a container of hot water at the start to give you the humidity you need.

they're always selling those huge rubbermaid and sterilite storage containers (like for the garage) at a discount at target and such.

don't know if this will give you any ideas or not :blink:

#4 K8memphis

K8memphis
  • participating member
  • 2,464 posts
  • Location:memphis tn

Posted 01 September 2006 - 02:56 PM

You can use the microwave too. In a cold oven or in the cold microwave I put hot water in a pan under my dough. I refresh the water as necessary. Works for me. So I guess any box would work kinda sorta, but I've always managed with those two 'boxes'.

#5 chefpeon

chefpeon
  • participating member
  • 1,796 posts
  • Location:Tinytown, WA, USA

Posted 01 September 2006 - 03:05 PM

:laugh: When I was a kid, my mom always made bread every Saturday. There wasn't enough room in the oven for all the bread, so she'd stick a few loaves in both bathrooms and close the door. The bright heat lamp and the steam from our recent showers made great "proofing boxes"!

We couldn't wait for the bread to rise. Not because we wanted some, but because we had to pee so bad...... :raz:

#6 Bill44

Bill44
  • participating member
  • 56 posts
  • Location:Australia

Posted 01 September 2006 - 04:20 PM

This is my proofing box, made out of plywood and heated by a thermostat controlled 40Watt lamp.

Posted Image

Posted Image
Kind regards
Bill

#7 fiftydollars

fiftydollars
  • participating member
  • 891 posts

Posted 01 September 2006 - 04:57 PM

I made a box using a fish heater and an ice chest. The heater is submerged in water, which encourages some moisture and the ice chest helps keep a steady temperature. It's very simple, cheap, and pretty effective.

#8 bigred93

bigred93
  • participating member
  • 54 posts

Posted 01 September 2006 - 07:16 PM

Upside down bus tub and a seed sprouting heating mat. Works like a charm.

#9 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 01 September 2006 - 09:23 PM

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Unfortunately, I can't use the light in my oven (regardless of the wattage) because it is a rather inexpensive oven and while it does have a light that turns on when you open the door, there is no way to keep the light on once the door is shut. I'm also digging the use of a heating pad with an inverted Cambro style food box.

Bill44 -- I'm totally in tune with what you've come up with. The only thing I was thinking of adding would be a couple of rails on the inside so that once I've shaped my freeform loaves, I could place them on a half-sheet pan and slide them into the box. One question for you though ... on the right hand side of the first picture you posted, it looks like there is a knob-type device. What is this for? And if you don't mind me asking, about how much did it cost you to put it together?

I have a friend who is totally into woodworking that would love a project like this, so I may have to trade him bread for box. :biggrin:
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#10 Bill44

Bill44
  • participating member
  • 56 posts
  • Location:Australia

Posted 02 September 2006 - 12:32 AM

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Unfortunately, I can't use the light in my oven (regardless of the wattage) because it is a rather inexpensive oven and while it does have a light that turns on when you open the door, there is no way to keep the light on once the door is shut. I'm also digging the use of a heating pad with an inverted Cambro style food box.

Bill44 -- I'm totally in tune with what you've come up with. The only thing I was thinking of adding would be a couple of rails on the inside so that once I've shaped my freeform loaves, I could place them on a half-sheet pan and slide them into the box. One question for you though ... on the right hand side of the first picture you posted, it looks like there is a knob-type device. What is this for? And if you don't mind me asking, about how much did it cost you to put it together?

I have a friend who is totally into woodworking that would love a project like this, so I may have to trade him bread for box.  :biggrin:

View Post

The knob on the side of the box is for adjusting the temperature, the thermostat is from a chicken incubator and is accurate to +/- 1/2 degreeF which is great if you wish to do an accurate Detmold 3 stage starter. The box itself is made from scrap ply which cost me nothing and the thermostat cost me A$80.00. I think you can get cheaper thermostats from a pet store, they are used for reptile cages.
I bake 5-6 loaves a week year round, so the cost of the thermostat quickly paid for itself, and I do like the accuracy.
The size of the box is big enough to take a 11Litre dish for bulk proving, and it will take 4 oval 1Kg bannetons or 3 round 1Kg bannetons

Edited by Bill44, 02 September 2006 - 12:35 AM.

Kind regards
Bill

#11 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 02 September 2006 - 05:15 PM

Here is an earlier thread on

proofing in winter
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#12 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 02 September 2006 - 05:27 PM

However, you can make a very inexpensive proofing box from one of the small refrigerators made for dorm rooms, etc., and which can be found at thrift stores, Goodwill and similar stores or swap meets for $10.00 and up.

They are already insulated and all you need is to drill a hole in one side through which you can thread a wire, then, mount a ceramic light fixture base over the hole on the inside and use a 40 watt bulb to heat it.
You can get the fixtures with either a chain switch which will be on the inside of the box, or an in-line switch on the cord (more desirable in my opinion).
surface mount socket
socket with in-line switch

Also drill 2 1-inch holes in the top of the fridge, at diagonal corners, to vent excess heat/moisture. A hole saw works best.

There was a web site that had this conversion diagrammed but I can't find it at the moment. However it is not all that difficult. Just remove the cord to the fridge itself and if it has and external coil, remove that also, however most nowadays do not.

You can even plug the cord into a timer so that it will turn off and on periodically to maintain the correct temp. One of the thermometers that has a probe on a cable, with a magnetic base to stick on the door is perfect for checking the temperature without opening the door.

Edited by andiesenji, 03 September 2006 - 07:45 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#13 RuthWells

RuthWells
  • participating member
  • 671 posts

Posted 05 September 2006 - 06:45 AM

I use a large rectangular tupperwear box, inverted over the dough, with a bowl of hot water along side (still under the box). Low-tech, but it works.

#14 devlin

devlin
  • participating member
  • 648 posts
  • Location:Indiana/Kentucky border, Kentucky Derby country

Posted 05 September 2006 - 11:50 AM

I use Ed Wood's suggestion in his Classic Sourdoughs. It's super simple, and it works beautifully.

Simply buy one of those roughly 75-80 quart (or bigger, depending on what size you need) Sterilite type plastic/rubber tubs with a lid at Wal Mart or wherever, a clip-on lamp with a flexible neck, and a cheap plastic temperature guage.

Clamp the lamp to the lip of the tub, lower the neck into the tub so you can still loosely cover the tub with the lid, set the temp guage in the box about where you plan to set your stuff to proof, and voila. I use a 60-watt bulb. You can either use a towel over the lid as well if it gets really cold, or in not so cold weather you'll have to experiment a bit with how much to cover the tub.

I use it for my sourdough culture, and I usually end up covering about three quarters of the top the tub with the lid only. In exceedingly cold weather, I throw a towel over the lid as well.

No holes to drill, no box to construct, no having to juggle time in your oven for other things.

#15 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 05 September 2006 - 12:15 PM

Well, I've decided to take a sort of hybrid approach to all of the wonderful suggestions that have been posted here and on the other thread that andiesenji pointed to.

I stopped at Wal-Mart today at lunch and picked up a Sunbeam heating pad ($25), a very large (75L maybe) translucent plastic tub ($7) and one of those stick-on aquarium temperature gauges ($3). The plan is to lay an inverted half-sheet pan over the heating pad, place the bowl of dough on top of that (or another sheet pan with shaped dough ready for final proofing), and then the tub inverted over all of that. Even though the aqarium thermometer only goes to 86 deg F, that should be plenty seeing as I am shooting for between 77 to 82 deg F. I made sure to get a tub big enough to hold either an entire half-sheet pan OR two of my workbowls (so I could be working on two batches at any given time).

I will post pictures and results tomorrow.

Note: There were cheaper heating pads available, but almost every one of them had auto-off after two hours. That and they looked a little flimsy. The Sunbeam has six heat settings, includes a continuous "on" setting, and had a 12 foot cord to boot. Fortunately I've saved my receipt in case this doesn't work. :blink:
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#16 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 05 September 2006 - 01:32 PM

I have used the heating pad method with excellent results. You can get a cheap but fairly accurate thermometer that is made to stick on the outside of a window (facing the glass so you can see it inside) which I have used on the inside of a big Sterilite container which fits over my long dough bowl.

The only difference is that I bought a heating pad made for dogs (puppies actually) that is 100% waterproof. (Actually I bought two, because at that time my basenji was in whelp and I needed one for the puppies too.) I still have the one I use in the kitchen - it is also handy for gently heating cream and keeping it warm over a long period of time for making clotted cream. There are a few other less common uses.

waterproof heating pad
the medium size

Edited by andiesenji, 05 September 2006 - 01:35 PM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#17 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 06 September 2006 - 10:49 AM

OK, results time. I decided to test out the rig on the dough that usually gives me problems during the winter time because it is heavier than my other doughs -- the Honey Whole Wheat. I mixed up a batch, covered it with plastic wrap and placed under the plastic tub on top of the cookie sheet. I then placed the heating pad on continuous "high". I did an initial rise, a second rise, I then shaped into boules and proofed them for 30 minutes in the box. Pictures follow.


First, the items I purchased yesterday at Wal-Mart ...

Posted Image


Here it is all set up with the Honey Whole Wheat dough inside the box. Notice that the probe thermometer is sitting on top of the covered bowl.

Posted Image


The temperature at the top of the bowl. Note, when I finally got curious enough and stuck the probe directly into the dough, it registered about 92 deg F -- far higher than I thought it would be.

Posted Image


And, finally, the finished bread.

Posted Image


Things that surprised me:

* The box never ever felt warmer to the touch than the ambient surroundings. That could be because the ambient room temperature was 75 deg F. Perhaps in cooler weather, I would notice a difference.

* The internal temperature of the dough reached 92 deg F. I wouldn't have thought it would've been that warm. It took about 90 minutes for a first rise, 45 minutes for a second rise, and a 30 minute proof using this box. As long as I can count on that amount of time in colder weather, I'm satisfied with the results.

* While the tub that I bought will defintiely accomodate a half-sheet pan, I was also hoping it would accomodate two of my workbowls. Alas, it was about 6 inches two short. Perhaps I'll replace the tub with something slightly longer so that I can fit what I need under it.
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#18 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 06 September 2006 - 01:13 PM

tino, if you're concerned at all about the internal temperature of your dough, i would replace the metal sheet pan with a plastic one and invert it over the heating pad. that way, you get some air insulation and the direct contact between the metal sheet pan+heating pad+mixing bowl+dough won't happen. unless of course, this isn't a problem at all :wink:

looks like a pretty good setup...and cheap too!

#19 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 06 September 2006 - 01:31 PM

I don't think I am concerned as much as surprised. I figured the dough might get to 83-86 deg F. I'm going to have to try a few other kinds of dough to really get the feel for the right setting on the heating pad.

The other thing I thought about doing is placing a cooling rack between the sheet pan and the bowl. That would elevate the bowl about 3/4 of an inch about the heated surface.
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#20 cognitivefun

cognitivefun
  • participating member
  • 97 posts

Posted 06 September 2006 - 02:03 PM

seems that the dough is getting way too warm. I like to see it around 70F or so for better flavor development.

#21 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 06 September 2006 - 03:07 PM

seems that the dough is getting way too warm. I like to see it around 70F or so for better flavor development.

View Post


is this just so that the proofing takes longer? often, that is the temperature of the dough off the mixer. with the yeasties going at it, i would think that the dough will get warmer during proofing?

#22 Bill44

Bill44
  • participating member
  • 56 posts
  • Location:Australia

Posted 06 September 2006 - 04:57 PM

seems that the dough is getting way too warm. I like to see it around 70F or so for better flavor development.

View Post


is this just so that the proofing takes longer? often, that is the temperature of the dough off the mixer. with the yeasties going at it, i would think that the dough will get warmer during proofing?

View Post

A good point raised here, dough will generate some of it's own heat during proofing. The bigger the lump of dough the more heat in the core. This can be overcome to some extent by using cool or cold water in the dough mix.
Kind regards
Bill

#23 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 06 September 2006 - 05:57 PM

Clearly the thing for me to do here is a comparison batch, no proofing box, and monitor the temperature of the dough at current room temperature. I always use room temperature water when I make my doughs -- the only time I've used cold water is when I was playing around with Reinhart's Pain a l'Ancienne from BBA.

Although I forgot to take a picture of it, the crumb and flavor of these loaves was the same as previous batches I have made without the use of a proofer -- so the higher heat didn't seem to affect them negatively all that much.

I would definitely like to see these temperature quite a bit lower, 75 - 80 deg. I'm not looking for fast results, just consistent ones.

I'll make a comparison batch, sans box, this weekend and post the results.

ETA: I've seen a number of books that cite that the dough should ideally be between 77-81 deg F when it comes off the mixer.

Edited by tino27, 06 September 2006 - 06:10 PM.

Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#24 cookman

cookman
  • participating member
  • 185 posts

Posted 06 September 2006 - 08:04 PM

The only difference is that I bought a heating pad made for dogs (puppies actually) that is 100% waterproof.  (Actually I bought two, because at that time my basenji was in whelp and I needed one for the puppies too.)  I still have the one I use in the kitchen - it is also handy for gently heating cream and keeping it warm over a long period of time for making clotted cream.  There are a few other less common uses.

waterproof heating pad
the medium size

View Post


Interesting product, andiesenji. The website says it keeps a consistent temp of 98-101. A bit off-topic here, but that sounds like the ideal temperature for slow-melting chocolate and keeping it in temper. Any experience with this?

#25 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 06 September 2006 - 08:15 PM

The action of the yeast in the dough does generate a lot of heat. 100 pounds of dough in a dough trough will be very warm when you sink an arm deep into it to punch it down or to grab an armful to place on the bench.
Posted Image

Edited by andiesenji, 07 September 2006 - 10:28 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#26 devlin

devlin
  • participating member
  • 648 posts
  • Location:Indiana/Kentucky border, Kentucky Derby country

Posted 06 September 2006 - 10:21 PM

I don't think I am concerned as much as surprised. I figured the dough might get to 83-86 deg F. I'm going to have to try a few other kinds of dough to really get the feel for the right setting on the heating pad.

The other thing I thought about doing is placing a cooling rack between the sheet pan and the bowl. That would elevate the bowl about 3/4 of an inch about the heated surface.

View Post


So much of this depends on how slow or fast you want your breads to rise, and how warm you want your breads as they proof, but the results you're getting with the heating pad is why I use a clamp gooseneck lamp instead. I think you have better control over the temperature all around (short of building an actual proofing box noted in an earlier message). For me, I'd prefer not to have the heat source come into such close proximity to the bread or the culture.

#27 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 07 September 2006 - 10:11 AM

The only difference is that I bought a heating pad made for dogs (puppies actually) that is 100% waterproof.  (Actually I bought two, because at that time my basenji was in whelp and I needed one for the puppies too.)  I still have the one I use in the kitchen - it is also handy for gently heating cream and keeping it warm over a long period of time for making clotted cream.  There are a few other less common uses.

waterproof heating pad
the medium size

View Post


Interesting product, andiesenji. The website says it keeps a consistent temp of 98-101. A bit off-topic here, but that sounds like the ideal temperature for slow-melting chocolate and keeping it in temper. Any experience with this?

View Post


I have used it for keeping pulled sugar flexible - I also have used it to keep pizelle and rice wafers from setting up too rapidly so I have time to shape them.
I lined it with one of the large Silpat sheets, drizzled melted sugar onto it and then rolled the "lace" into a cylinder.
I also used it once for making a large batch of yogurt I needed for a variety of frozen yogurt desserts. I used an extra large SS roasting pan simply covered with plastic wrap (I use the large rolls of commercial stuff that is heavier than the regular Saran wrap).

It is made so that it will not get any hotter - dogs and puppies have a higher body temp than humans. What feels fairly warm to us is normal for them.

Edited by andiesenji, 07 September 2006 - 10:11 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#28 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 07 September 2006 - 10:16 AM

By the way, with the waterproof pad, you can put a folded, damp towel on the pad and set your pan or bowl on top of that and will get much higher humidity under the "hood" and this will help to keep the surface of the dough flexible and allow it to stretch - particularly with the heavier doughs, such as rye, whole wheat, and the Struan dough noted in Peter Reinhart's books.
Peter Reinhart's blog.

Edited by andiesenji, 07 September 2006 - 10:17 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#29 tino27

tino27
  • participating member
  • 831 posts
  • Location:Akron, OH

Posted 07 September 2006 - 08:46 PM

Time to post some follow-up results, just for some comparisons.

I used two thermometers: my instant read and my probe thermometer (the one I pictured in my earlier post).

Ambient room temperature before starting: 78 deg F as registered on both thermometers.

All ingredients were mise en placed this morning and had been sitting at room temperature the entire day, so I think we can safely assume that the ingredients were the same temperature as the room.

Mixed the dough for about 90 seconds on my KitchenAid at speed setting 2. When the dough came together, I proceeded to knead for 5 minutes (at setting 2), added the salt, and kneaded for another minute.

Temperature off of the mixer: 88 deg F. I covered with plastic wrap and set aside. Within 10 minutes, my instant read therm still read 88 deg F and my probe read 92 deg F. It stayed at precisely the exact same temperature for the 1st rise of 90 minutes.

I degassed the dough and folded it over onto itself. At this point both the probes read a lower value, 82 deg F for instant read and 88 deg F for probe therm. This, too, stayed constant during the 45 minute 2nd rise. I suppose the instant read therm could've been touching a cold spot in the dough that was originally on the outside before I folded it into the center of the ball.

I have now shaped the dough into boules and am proofing in my normal method, on my work surface on a towel, covered with another towel. On Tuesday, the dough only took 30 minutes to proof. I'll see how long it takes with the room temperature method.

I'll post the rest of the results after the dough has baked and I can snap a shot of the boules and the interior.
Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving -- Exercising my epicurean muscles by eating my way through everything that is edible.
Flickr: Link To My Account
Twitter: @tnoe27

#30 sugarseattle

sugarseattle
  • participating member
  • 342 posts
  • Location:Seattle, WA

Posted 09 December 2007 - 02:55 PM

i have a cambro insulated sheet pan transporter that's black and I want to try making the homeade proofing box, only, I'm concerned that I won't be able to see inside while my dough is proofing, and that when i open the cabinet, i will make the temperature fluxuate too much...anybody else with a non-see-through proofing box...how do you use it?

also, what's a good target temperature for croissants?
Stephanie Crocker
Sugar Bakery + Cafe