My second day of work, I was handed a Classic Sourdoughs revised A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed and Jean Wood and a Sourdoughs International Original San Francisco Culture. I was so excited to head home and start my baking with mouth watering bread. I was told by Ed that I would need to proof the culture first. Now, you really have to understand that I don't bake. I don't really cook even. If I get the milk and cereal in the bowl at the same time, I think that I am tearing it up in the kitchen. So proofing meant to me, that I would be making sure that it was OK. I related it to proof reading a book. All I could think is great! I will get to taste all of these breads to make sure they are OK. Wow, I was completely off!
Proofing, as I learned when I opened my new cookbook, was keeping the culture at a certain temperature for a given amount of time. This is when I closed the cookbook and wondered what was the best sourdough bread available at the grocery store. Proofing was an overwhelming concept to me. I think this is for many first time bakers. After about five times of reading and re-reading the chapter on proofing, I bit the bullet and charged ahead to build the proofing box.
I was excited to build the box. Now this was up my alley. Ed has developed a simple way though to build a proofing box. He takes a Styrofoam cooler, mounts a light bulb (low watts) on the bottom so that it is on the inside, attaches a dimmer switch and you have a proofing box. The cooler is placed with the top on the floor. I have added a thermometer through the side so I can see the temperature from the outside of the box. Some put a thermometer on the floor under the proofing box. Either way works.
Here are some tips that I figured out through trial and error. One, I put a towel under the proofing box. This helps if you have an uneven surface. Then I put a bowl with some water in the proofing box and turned on the dimmer switch. I played with the different temperatures until I found the two temperatures that I needed. I put black marks on my dimmer switch with the temperatures so that it would be easy to find where to put the dimmer switch. Now I was ready to try it with my sourdough culture.
I recommend to proof one culture at a time, especially when you are first starting out. Having a thermometer on the outside of the proofing box allowed me to see the temperature during the proofing process without having to lift up the proofing box.
The proofing box is very important to maintaining consistent temperatures. You can use the proofing box with your dough also. We have heard of people placing ice in the proofing box to bring temperatures lower when they are unable to lower temperatures in their home.
The proofing box scared me, almost to the point of throwing my hands in the air and saying no way to sourdough. But once I accepted that I really wanted to make this amazing bread, I jumped in and it was extremely easy.
I have conquered the proofing box! Now on to baking with sourdough! Next week I will tackle pizza crust ... please check back and see how it goes.