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Mar 6, 2010 10:12 AM

Proofing Bread-Do You Time It Or "Eyeball it"?

So, I'm making this blue cheese and walnut bread:

and the dough is supposed to rest, covered for 2 hours until it doubles. The dough has doubled at one hour aka: eyeballing it.
I'm thinking that I'm going to go ahead and continue with the recipe before the 2 hours is up...
What do you do? Do you eyeball it, or are you rigid with the time guidelines?

eta: I proofed the dough in the oven with the oven light on...seems to help in the winter when I keep the heat down to 65F or so.

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  1. ALWAYS do it by the dough and NOT the clock. If you're unsure there are wonderful cheap Cambro tubs that have measurements printed on the side. They're airtight so you dough will stay moist inside and they're made of a material that releases the wet dough easily.

    You'll be very clear when your dough has doubled.

    You can get them from King Arthur's Bakers' Catalogue but they're cheaper and also available online. Better yet, check a local restaurant supply. They'll have 'em. They're standard equipment for a serious kitchen.

    Here's a pic. The site may or may not be the best price you'll get. I wasn't googling for that just the pic.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rainey

      I use 1 and 2 gallon Rubbermaid storage containers with a rubber band at the doubled mark to achieve the same end.

      1. re: rainey

        Actually, the prices at that site were very good for Cambro. I'm glad you posted it.
        Yes, I'm with the eyeballing crowd, too; many variables when proofing dough.

        Here's a great baking link with lots of hints, tips, recipes and anything else you might want, baking-wise:

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          The great thing about Cambro is they're so infinitely useful in the kitchen.

          Aside from monitoring the rise of dough I use small ones for fermenting mashes, old dough, sourdough starters and food storage. And they're great in the freezer for keeping ice cream insulated from the air so that they don't have their moisture pulled off. I use medium sized ones to strain hot stocks into. The tall ones make great proofing boxes. I only have the round tubs so they can nest but even a round one on its side will hold a pan of shaped dough to rise in a controlled moisture environment. The really large 8qt one will brine a large turkey and still fit in a conventional refrigerator.

          I think Cambro tubs are possibly the most versatile tool in my kitchen and I can't believe they haven't transitioned into the home cook market. But that's a good thing for us! Because we can still buy them at the competitive commercial rates.

      2. Eyeballing it is more finger poking to me. If the dough doesn't fill in a gentle poke pretty quickly, it's not going to rise anymore and will soon deflate on itself. So, at that point, just know you must have a warmer kitchen than the recipe writer, or started with warmer ingredients, (or maybe their yeast was half dead?!?) At any rate, it's not good to over proof dough the first go round. There are some recipes I'd consider a second rise after gently deflating the dough, or perhaps even a cold first rise overnight, in order to better develop flavor. I don't think a blue cheese bread falls into either of those categories, necessarily, though. Considering that the dough would turn a lovely purplish brown shade from the walnuts with an overnight rise, that may or may not be appealing. So, yeah, for this bread, proceed after an hour's rise, no worries.

        7 Replies
        1. re: amyzan

          One of my favorite recipes is Amy Schreiber's Coarse-Grained Whole Wheat with Toasted Walnuts. It has a long slow overnight rise in the fridge to develop all the walnut flavor. I have had no purpling of the dough from them.

          This is one of my very favorite breads due to the smack-you-in-the-gob flavor which is sensational with cheese.

          1. re: rainey

            Well, that's interesting, because in that very same cookbook, Amy's Bread, Schreiber has a recipe for scallion walnut bread in which she specifically notes the purplish hue. I actually like the subtle "variegated" look of the dough, and it does show through after baking.

            1. re: amyzan

              Maybe you're right and I never paid any attention to it because the flavor is so intense. It IS a dark bread. But, honestly, I never saw purple in any objectionable way in that loaf or the scallion one. Could it be that I get fresher California-grown walnuts from my Los Angeles farmers' markets and that variety behaves differently then older nuts or Eastern varieties?

              That walnut scallion bread is also wonderful and I've taken to adding the green onions to the walnut wheat berry dough as well.

              That cookbook has some outstanding breads. I also like the semolina bread that has such a wonderful sunny color and a buttery taste. Love the contrast of the bright yellow crust and the black sesame seed topping.

              1. re: rainey

                Look at page 126 of Amy's Bread. She notes twice, at two different steps, that the walnuts color the bread with an overnight rise. (Yes, I checked this evening.) I don't think the freshness of the nuts has any play in whether or not the dough is colored by walnuts after an overnight rise. It's just characteristic. It doesn't adversely affect flavor, and the color isn't intense purple by any means. But, it's definitely a purplish brown. Walnut sage bread I buy at Wheatfields Bakery has the same purplish hue. Here's a thread on another forum with photos, though my walnut scallion bread is nowhere near this purple:

                I haven't made the coarse grained bread, but am planning to give it a whirl sometime soon. Will report back!

                1. re: amyzan

                  OK. I guess I'm a little color deficient -- I just saw a dark bread. But the bread is sensational and I wouldn't hesitate to make it or to let another dough rise over time with walnuts in it.

                  Edited to say that I'm not sure I said that very well. What I mean to say is that I accept that I'm wrong about the color but that I'd still wouldn't hesitate to make that or any walnut bread. Regardless of what color it became. It's a delicious note to the grains and goes particularly well with a nice gooey cheese like a triple cream.

                  1. re: rainey

                    LOL, I don't consider the color to be off putting at all, but I just think new bakers need to, I don't know, be prepared? It could be quite a surprise, especially if you're going to serve it to someone. Sort of the green eggs and ham phenomena...but I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from making walnut bread, 'cause it's one of my faves.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      That much we're in agreement on. ;>

        2. Eyeball it (or by touch and feel).

          So many variables go into how and why a particular mound of dough will rise (temp, humidity, water hardness, etc.) that any recipe that says "let the dough proof for X minutes" is spewing nothing but gibberish. The proper instruction should simply say "Allow the dough to rise" (or something of that ilk).

          1. I always eyeball it because there are too many variables involved to go by the clock. Most recipes are very conservatives and the fermentation times can be doubled w/o worry.

            1. eyeball it always, just because different days, recipes ingredients and temperature interefere with the timed process. Dough sometime gets going late, and then you're working it too soon. I like to get to go 1.5 X itself. I get better final results with that. I've let it go too far before, letting it rise too long and nearly doubled. Results were not great, the dough sort of loses its oomph if you get my meaning. Not much spring, and such.
              Keep at it, you'll soon recognize the signs.
              By the way your recipe should turn out really good, texxture, and I love molasses in darker breads. Nice touch. I think if I were making it though, I 'd make them freely without the pan, and I'd also slice the top, drop the cheese inside the slits, and less on the top. The photo with the recipe looks like a cake with a burnt egg on top. But that's just me. Perhaps the dough is not one that can hold up on its own, might be that the molasses makes it spread out. Either way I think I'd like the looks of it better with slits, and then drop the cheese down into it. Please post how this turns out for you, I think I might be trying it if you like it.