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It is winter down here in Australia and I find it challenging to find a warm spot to raise my bread dough. What I have been doing is placing the dough in the oven (not switched on) with a pot of hot water, replacing it once or twice. The oven becomes a warm and moist environment for the yeast to do its magic.

What other alternative spots are there to raise the dough in cold seasons?

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related, how to use a microwave for proofing : – Joe Jan 17 '15 at 13:12

19 Answers 19

up vote 22 down vote accepted

A non-exhaustive list of ways to get your bread to rise when it's cold includes:

  • Just let it rise slowly over a long period of time, which does give you good flavour but requires serious patience
  • Put it in the airing cupboard, assuming Australian houses have such things, but in the winter the hot water tank will keep it nice and warm
  • If it's still in the rising in the bowl phase rather than having been shaped, you can carefully put the bowl in a larger bowl of warm water (not too hot though or it'll go a bit mad)
  • Sometimes I can get away with putting the pan with the shaped bread ready for the oven over a large bowl or bucket of hot water
  • Put it in the oven with the pilot light on if your oven has a pilot light
  • Put it in the top oven with the door open while you're cooking something else in the bottom oven, if you have two ovens (careful though, this can get too hot depending on your oven)
  • Encourage the cat to sleep on it
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I stick it behind my computer. The thing is like a furnace. – Adam Shiemke Jul 20 '10 at 10:47
Similar to using an oven with a pilot light, there are often warm spots on a cook-top/range with pilot light(s). – Isaac Jul 20 '10 at 15:44
I just heat my oven slightly (it's electric), put the dough in covered, and shut the door. All of a sudden my bread is rising in a warm, dark place just as the recipe suggest. – justkt Aug 18 '10 at 12:37
No mention of radiators? (old house w/ cast iron radiators... not those little baseboard ones, so I can set large bowls of dough on there) – Joe Feb 21 '14 at 4:55

If you are talking about resting, that is for a short period, typically 10-15 minutes, covered with a damp cloth. When raising however, which takes considerably longer, what I do is set my oven at around 90 - 100 F or 30 - 40 C and put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth. Have, with other ovens, turned the heat on briefly, periodically.

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Sorry, you are right. I meant "raising". I will edit my entry. Thanks. – zachary Jul 20 '10 at 6:20
Many ovens I have seen (in the US) don't go below 170F. It's always annoyed me, but I guess it's an attempt to keep people from holding food at an unsafe temperature. – Al Crowley Jul 20 '10 at 12:06

I do something very similar to Shawn's solution. I put a large glass of water in the microwave to heat it up. Once that is done I put my dough right in next to it. If it needs a long rise, I will go back in an hour or two, pull out the dough and reheat the water for a minute or two. Then I can put the dough back in again.
Careful though, a since the space is small it can get hot quickly if you use a large amount of boiled water.

If your refrigerator doesn't have any cabinets above it, you can put a bowl of dough on top of it back near the wall. The waste heat that is sucked out of the fridge and freezer is vented out the back and will rise up the wall. It’s not going to be too warm back there, but it will be warmer than the counter.

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Run your dishwasher for a few minutes, wait to let the water finish dripping, cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and set inside--top rack seems to work the best for me.

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Oops, I just said the same thing. I deleted my answer and upvoted yours. Works like a charm! – Jolenealaska Mar 6 '14 at 10:15

My mother used to put the dough in a steel bowl, cover with a plastic bag, and then wrap an electric blanket around the whole thing.

Warning: Cats love to sit on top of this soft, warm, aromatic goodness.

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If you have a clothes dryer and happen to have a load of laundry on, sitting on top can be warm enough. I usually just use the oven method.

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I just fill the sink with some hot water and slap it in there, covered by a clean towel. Works like a charm!

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I place mine in an oiled bowl, covered with a damp tea-towel on top of the heating boiler. There's usually enough residual heat coming out of it to make it the warmest place in the house once the heating goes off.

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You may want to play with the water temperature. In his book Bread, page 383, Jeffrey Hamelman provides a formula to calculate the right temperature of the water before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients. Also, it's mentioned that one of the benefits of the folding technique (just degas and knead for a few seconds every 30-50min 2-3 times) is that the temperature gets even in all the dough.

I don't know if the formula can be shared here. He mentions in a recipe that you can email him about the formula. You can also find if your library has a copy of the book using worldcat, I can see a few copies in Australia, I hope one of them is close to you!

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I put my bread in the slow cooker on the 'warm' function. Works a treat!

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To go another route -- a bit of forward planning and the use of a fridge might be another way to solve your problem, which is probably one of boredom or inconvenient timing.

Instead of making bread over the course of a morning -- say, between 9am and midday -- you can make it over 24 hours in the fridge, using the cold environment to slow the yeast and develop flavour. It works something like this;

  • Make the dough last thing at night, knead it, and pop it in the fridge. The yeast will get, say, ten hours to work in a cold environment, which works the same as an hour or so at room temperature.
  • In the morning, get it out of the fridge, knock it back, and shape it. Put it back in the fridge on its tray or proving basket.
  • In the evening, get it back out (it'll have risen by now) and bake.

I've made focaccia this way and the nice thing about it is that you don't have to 'time' things very much. Also, the slow prove gives a nice flavour!

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I usually use the hot-water-in-oven method you described, but I've also had success with just putting the dough in the oven with the oven light on (this is slower than the hot water method). I've also put the dough in a metal bowl and placed over some warm water in my slow cooker, put the lid on top, and set it to warm. This works a bit more quickly, so you need to pay attention and shouldn't do it if your dough needs to rise slowly.

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I live in the Blue Mountains and it is impossible to get bread to rise in my kitchen at only 2 to 5 degrees above outside temperature. I mix and knead the bread in a bread oven machine (tried kneading and am hopeless at it). After one knead take out and form the loaf and place in the convection oven preheated at 40 deg C for 30 to 40 minutes. When time is up remove and cover with a tea towel or similar and preheat the convection oven to bake at 200 deg C for 30 to 35 minutes. Now we avoid buying bread at the shop if we can.

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How about this: fill a hot water bottle with just enough warm/hot water to allow it to still lie flat (get the air out before closing), then rest your (preferably rectangular) container on top.

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Try placing an electric heating pad on the counter on low setting. Then put the bowl or pans on top. Check periodically to make sure it is not too hot. works great on granite countertops as they are usually colder than laminate ones. Good luck :)

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In winter when the sun is not too hot, I put the bowl of dough into a glass fish tank which is in the sun. The temperature sits on about 35C (measured with old vacola thermomter).

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I don't think the Australian winter can beat our harsh Canadian winter. One suggestion is to switch then oven light on or to make use of a 60 watts incandescent bulb using an extension wire through the door gasket to keep the oven warm. This will keep the oven warm for an extended period. Or buy a bread maker! (Which I only use for bread kneading only).

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Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (F), leave it there for 10 minutes. Shut the oven off. Make your dough, and when you're done kneading, the oven will be nice and warm, but not too hot. Works great!

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Dishwasher for the win!! Make sure it's clean, of course, and water isn't actively dripping from above. I ensure mine's clean, turn it on and let the bottom fill with hot water, turn off before it can drain, insert bread - wait an appropriate amount of time... then bake.

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