Keeping Your Dough Warm
By Teresa L Greenway All rights reserved worldwide- copyright March 2015
No, I don’t mean oven temperature (check that too). I would like to talk about dough temperature. In a bakery, the dough temperature is carefully controlled because if it wasn’t, a hundred loaves might be ready for the oven too soon and then they would over-proof while waiting to be baked.
In the home environment when you are only baking a few loaves, your dough temperature isn’t as critical. That being said, if where you bake is very warm (80F – 90F+/26-32C+) you should do something to cool down your dough or you risk over-proofed dough or dough that lacks the flavor obtained through longer, cooler fermenting.
An average temperature for dough fermenting/proofing would be around 72-78F/22-25C. I like bulk fermenting my dough on the cooler side (under 70F/21C) and I often do a final proof in a warmer proofing box at around 76-80F/24-26C. It is variable since I treat various doughs in different ways.
If it is very warm in your baking environment, try cooling the dough by using ice water when you mix your dough or refrigerate your dough for part of the bulk ferment.
Try warming your dough, if your house is very cool, by using warm water during mixing. Water is the one variable when mixing dough that can really help change the dough temperature.
Desired Dough Temperature
Several variables are used to actually calculate the desired dough temperature (DDT). The temperature of the room, water, flour and the effect of the machine on the dough as well as the temperature of any pre-ferment used in the dough are all factored in for the final dough temperature.
That is way more complex than a home baker needs to worry about. As you bake more often you will get a feel for what temperature you need to work with and will naturally cool down or warm up your dough. You will learn to stagger your loaves so they won’t all be ready to bake at the same time when you may only have room for one or two to bake at one time. You can refrigerate a loaf if it seems to be proofing too quickly, to slow it down a bit, or make a warming box to speed up cold, slow dough.
If you are interested in the science behind the desired dough temperature and you want to get more technical about it, look up DDT (or the desired dough temperature) on the internet and you will find a lot of technical information.
Ways to keep your dough warm – Speed up fermentation:
There are various ways to keep your dough warm at home. You can get really creative. Some ways I have come up with are:
- A microwave. Just heat a mug of water in the microwave, turn it off and set your dough inside. Not only will it stay warm, it will be moist so the dough doesn’t dry out.
- A dishwasher. You can pour a cup of water into the bottom of your dishwasher and then run the heating cycle for a little while (you don’t want it too hot so keep an eye on the time). Then turn the dishwasher off and you have a large, warm humid place to proof your dough.
- A slow cooker. Place a few inches of water in the bottom of your slow cooker, turn it on low, put the lid on upside down and then place your dough on top with a towel over it to help hold in the warmth.
- An ice chest or Styrofoam box. Fill a couple of water bottles with hot water and place them in the box, set your dough inside and close the lid.
- A heating pad. Set your heating pad on low, find a cooling grate or something to hold the dough off of the heating pad so it is not setting directly on top of the pad, then set a large box over all or drape a towel over everything. Check back and make sure it isn’t overheating.
- You can purchase a home proofer like the Brod and Taylor proofer.
With all of these methods, use your thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature and make sure it isn’t getting too hot or cooling off too much. Keeping the temperature somewhere between 70-80F/21-26C would be ideal.
Some ways to keep your dough cooler – Slow down fermentation:
- Use less sourdough starter in your dough ( a lower inoculation rate-would also mean a modified formula)
- Cool the dough in a refrigerator (even for a few hours)
- Use ice water when mixing your dough
- Shorten the bulk fermentation and the final proofing
- Try keeping your flour refrigerated
- You can also use more white flour and less whole grain flour to help slow down fermentation.
- Don’t forget your salt! Salt modifies and slows down fermentation. You might need to skip autolyse and add the salt during mixing if your dough tends to be too warm (like in a warm climate).
- Mix up lower hydration dough, it will take longer to ferment than a high hydration dough.
So if it’s very cool or very warm in your kitchen, consider trying some of the suggestions above to speed up or slow down the fermentation time of your dough.
See video: Ideas for keeping your dough warm