How a Clever Baker Proofs Dough Quickly

Sometimes it feels like bread can take forever to rise, especially in a cold house in winter. This trick helps dough rise in half its usual time!

Dough in a towel lined bowl to make spiced sourdough bread shaped like a pumpkin

Simply Recipes / Hannah Dela Cruz

If you are an enthusiastic baker who loves making bread, then you know how long the proofing process can take. Proofing is especially important when making dough; without it, you would be left with a bland and tough product.

There are many thoughts on the best way to proof dough quickly, but the following trick is my favorite way, since it won’t overproof your dough, which can happen with other techniques.

Steaming bowl of water in the oven to help proof dough quickly

Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

A Bowl of Steaming Water is the Key to Quickly Proofing Bread

In the winter, when your house and kitchen are at a crisp temperature and you need a warm spot for your dough to rise, create a makeshift “proof box” by placing a bowl of steaming water inside your oven alongside your bowl of dough. This will create the perfect humid and warm environment for your favorite yeast-leavened breads!

Here’s how to do it:

1.   Arrange a baking rack in the middle of your oven: Set a baking rack in the middle of the oven, or if your oven is smaller, in the top 1/3 section of the oven. Place the bottom one below the top rack, typically in the bottom 1/3 section of the oven.

2.   Place your dough on the rack: Place your dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel, then set it on the middle or top rack in the oven.

3.   Heat the water: Heat 3 to 4 cups of water until it starts to steam. Pour it into a large bowl or baking pan.

4.   Place the water in the oven: Set the bowl or pan of steaming water on the bottom rack below your dough in the oven. There should be enough space between the bowls where it won't directly touch the dough bowl.

5.   Turn on the oven light: This helps bring a bit more warmth to the inside of the oven.

6.   Close the oven door: Close the door of the oven and watch as your dough doubles in size in about 20-25 minutes depending on how dense and bulky your dough is.

This technique will keep the temperature and humidity level in the oven for about 1 hour. If your dough is denser and needs a longer proof time than an hour, simply change out the water when it gets cold.

While the dough is proofing, don't open the door unless you absolutely need to. Opening the door will let out all the warmth and steam you created and drag out the proofing time.

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