Bread for all seasons.
August 25, 2008 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Good all-season low-temperature breads or tips?

I live in an old, un-conditioned house. During the summer I can make sourdough and other breads to my heart's content since my house stays between 68-78° F, and yeasts will happily do their thing without my assistance. However, during the winter my house rarely gets over 60° F and can get as low at 40° F if I'm not home to throw wood in the heater. I've experimented with keeping rising loaves in the oven, but it's tricky to do, especially when I'm at work and the loves can easily overheat and bake, not rise. My mother kept dough on the water heater, but mine is in a very un-appetizing basement. Are there any breads I can get to work at such low temperatures so I can have fresh bread on cold winter nights or does anyone have any helpful temps for keeping yeasts warm and happy?
posted by 1f2frfbf to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can build a proofing box, AKA a cooler with a (incandescent) light bulb in it. Good both for maintaining your culture and proofing your dough. You'll want a low wattage bulb and you may need to allow for some adjustable venting to keep the temperature ideal.
posted by rocketpup at 9:46 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This might be a good excuse for a bread machine with a timer setting. You can set it to complete the whole mixing/kneading/rising/baking process, or time it just to get the dough ready to put in the oven.

Bread machines run about $10-20 bucks at a thrift store; just make sure the pan and paddle are both intact. You can find manuals for most models online.
posted by padraigin at 9:50 AM on August 25, 2008


The tastiest bread, to me, gets a long slow rise in the fridge, in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerated dough takes a while to come to room temperature (9 hours for me!), so I take it out of the fridge the night before I'm going to bake it and by morning it's workable. I form the loaves, let them double, bake them, and let cool one hour--voila, warm bread by lunchtime. If you want bread in the evening, you could take the dough out of the fridge in the morning, form it into loaves when you get home, let rise, bake, and eat warm.
posted by sevenstars at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2008


The proofing box would probably do the trick. You could also put it in the oven with a big pot of hot water. Don't turn the oven on - the insulation will hold in the heat released by the water. That would probably do the trick when it's 60. I don't know about when it's 40. Maybe if you used a really big pot of almost-boiling water?
posted by echo target at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2008


Heh. I never thought of my chilly house as a positive, sevenstars, but getting the bread to rise at all during the day is my real issue.

A proofing box! Now that I know the name, there's a wealth of info, thanks!

Are there actually any leavening techniques not involving artificially raising the environmental temperature? If lager yeast will work at 60° F, surely there are baking yeasts that will do the same, right?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2008


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