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My room temperature is 65°F (18°C). The recipe calls for the ingredients (milk, egg, butter, etc.) to be at room temperature, 75-90°F (24-32°C).

How should I warm them? Can I use the microwave, or put them in a water bath?

My bread right now tastes good, but is very dense.

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2 Answers 2

To answer the question as stated: please don't use a microwave. You risk overdoing it. You don't want to cook your eggs or melt the butter. A water bath should work well. You can also set your oven to the lowest setting (should be around 50°C/120°F) and put them in it (no preheating), but then you must really check on them very frequently. Out of the two, I prefer the water bath. @Elendil's suggestion for a thermometer is also great.

A side warning: I doubt that the dense bread is due to such small changes in ingredient temperature. You can easily start with cold ingredients, you just have to give the bread more time to rise. And kneading will easily raise the temperature of your dough from 65 to 85 °F. It is OK to warm the ingredients if you want to, but I suspect the problem is somewhere else, probably either in an incorrect raising/proofing process, or in a bad flour ratio (which could be due to a bad recipe or to measuring by volume instead of by weight).

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If he's following a recipe exactly and it says to rise for a specific amount of time - cold ingredients could definitely result in a dense bread. –  rfusca Feb 23 '12 at 15:16
    
@rfusca That could be a problem. You can't follow yeast-dough recipe times exactly, unless your conditions are identical. So, pretty much only if you're using a commercial proofbox. –  derobert Feb 23 '12 at 17:39
    
Warming/softening butter in the microwave is possible if you're careful: microwave until it's just barely melting on the surface, and then since the center will be cooler, it'll resolidify. But that obviously won't work with eggs. –  Jefromi Feb 23 '12 at 19:14
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I've had a lot success in the past with a water bath. Make sure the water is not boiling or you risk cooking the edge of the dough, and make sure you only keep the bowl in the water for as long as it takes the dough to come up to temperature, as you want it to have a nice slow rise. A probe thermometer is the only sure way to know when the dough is ready to come out.

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