November 5, 2012 05:00:30
Posted By Steve the Bread Guy
As winter starts to remind us that it is on its way, our breads are going to notice, too. Most of the recipes you find in cookbooks assume that you have a nice hot kitchen when you make bread. Professional bakers work in very warm environments thanks to their many ovens, and that affects how their yeast reacts. Yeast is a fungus that likes warm temperatures, roughly akin to a hot summer day. But many of us have homes that are not heated that way in the winter, and this will affect how long it takes yeast to react and for bread to rise.
One simple answer is to just give the yeast more time. In most bread recipes, including my own, we suggest that you let the bread double in size for each of its two rises. In warm conditions, I find that this usually takes about an hour (with the exception of sourdough breads, which take longer). But when my house is cool (68F, or 18 or 19C), that doubling takes longer, sometimes as much as an hour and a half.
If you don’t have time for that, there is an alternative. Turn you oven into a warming chamber for the rising dough. Preheat the oven to 200F, but turn it off before it gets there. Open the door to let some of the heat escape. Stick your hand in a few minutes later. If it isn’t too hot for your hand, it will be okay for the dough’s yeast, too. It should feel like a hot summer day, but not a scorcher. Place the rising dough in their for an hour. Insure that you cover the dough with a damp towel, since the heat will dry out the top surface of the dough otherwise. Check on its size 45 minutes later, to see if it has been rising faster than expected. I find that this works quite well. Some ovens even have breadproofing settings for exactly this purpose.
Good luck with you winter baking!
Steve the Bread Guy.