Question: I love to bake but have two jobs and don’t have the time to sit around and wait for the bread to proof all day. Is there any way to stop or slow down the proofing process?
Answer: Baking bread at home is much easier than most people think. It can be done in stages and no special equipment is required…just your hands and a bowl. In the beginning, when you are mixing the flour, leavening, and water, it is important to get the conditions right so that the bread can get a healthy start. Once you have created an environment for the processes in bread dough to flourish, you can put the dough in the refrigerator for several hours (up to 8 or so). Use a container that is twice as large as your bread dough so that it can have lots of room to rise. I have also found that a straight-sided container works better for dough development than a wide, open bowl. Cover the container with a clean cloth tied closely to prevent drying.
When you are ready to bake your bread, pull the dough from the container and let it rest on a counter for about 30 minutes so that you can shape it easily. Try not to deflate it too much while doing this and then cover it again while you create an environment suitable for proofing your bread. There are many ways to do this and one of the easiest is to put your bread in a warmed oven. Halfway through the table rest period, turn your oven off and let it cool to 80 degrees or so before putting bread in. To keep the oven’s ambient temperature around 80-85, just warm a cast-iron skillet on the stove top and place it in the oven at regular intervals in the proofing process.
I know what you are thinking….that is going to take forever! I’m in a hurry! I don’t have time for all of that! If you can find the time to bake bread once each week, you will find it is very rewarding. I highly recommend “Tartine” by Chad Robertson for the home baker.
Lastly, store home-baked bread on your counter-top in a bin or wrapped in paper and aluminum foil, rather than the refrigerator. If you make a gigantic loaf, cut it in half and freeze half while you enjoy what you can eat in a few days.
Deanna Rushing invites home bakers to ask their baking questions and we will publish one in the newsletter linked to the answer posted on our website.
Deanna C. Rushing, baker for The Wiltshire Pantry, is inspired by old methods of baking breads. She is passionate about helping people develop an intuition for baking great breads at home with their own hands. We are so pleased to have this fun new addition to our monthly newsletter.
To ask a question, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.