To ensure consistent results and maintain baking schedules, specialized tools (dough proofers ) are used to manipulate the speed and qualities of fermentation.
A dough proofer is a warming chamber used in baking that encourages fermentation of dough by yeast through warm temperatures and controlled humidity. It is also called a proofing box, proofing oven or proofing cabinet. The warm temperatures increase the activity of the yeast, resulting in increased carbon dioxide production and a higher, faster rise. Dough is typically allowed to rise in the proofer before baking, but can also be used for the first rise, or bulk fermentation. Desired proofer temperatures can range from around 70F / 21C up to about 115F / 46C (cooler temperatures are achieved in a dough retarder, see below). Commercial bakers typically use large, temperature- and humidity-controlled proofers, whereas home bakers employ a variety of methods to create a warm, humid environment for dough rising. Examples include a home oven with a bowl of water and the pilot light on, a box with a bowl of hot water in it (the water is replaced periodically to maintain warmth), or a counter top proofer (an electric appliance) designed for home use.
A dough retarder is a refrigerator used to control the fermentation of yeast when proofing dough. Lowering the temperature of the dough produces a slower, longer rise with more varied fermentation products, resulting in more complex flavors. In sourdough bread-making, cold decreases the activity of wild yeast relative to the Lactobacilli, which produce flavoring products such as lactic acid and acetic acid. Sourdough that is retarded before baking can result in a more sour loaf. To prevent the dough from drying, air flow in the dough retarder is kept to a minimum. Home bakers may use cloth or other cover for dough that is kept for a longer period in the refrigerator. Commercial bakers often retard dough at approximately 50F / 10C, while home bakers typically use refrigerators set at about 40F / 4C or below.
A banneton is a type of basket used to provide structure for shaped loaves of bread during proofing. Banneton baskets are also known as Brotform or proofing baskets. It is normally used for doughs that are too soft or wet to maintain their shape while rising. Proofing baskets are distinct from loaf pans in that the bread is normally removed from these baskets before baking. Conventionally, these baskets are made out of wicker, but some modern proofing baskets are made out of rattan. cane, spruce pulp, Terracotta, or polypropylene. A banneton will sometimes have a cloth liner, generally made of linen, to prevent dough from sticking to the sides of the basket. Bannetons become more non-stick with use as a small amount of flour accumulates in them. These baskets are used both to provide the loaf with shape and to wick moisture from the crust. Bannetons come in round or oblong shapes.
Alternatively, a couche (pronounced koosh) or proofing cloth can be used on which to proof dough. Couches are generally made of linen or other coarse material to which the dough will not readily stick and are left unwashed, so as to let flour collect in them, increasing their non-stick properties. A couche is typically used for longer loaves, such as baguettes. The loaves are laid on top of the couche, and folds are placed in the linen to separate and support the loaves.
Breads such as sandwich loaves and brioche are normally proofed in the bread pan in which they will be baked.
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