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The Winter of Our Discontented Bread

Mar
6

I’ve gotten several emails recently about winter bread. The common problem with bread in the winter is that it won’t rise. It’s a bad time to be a first-time breadbaker because it’s discouraging. It can be discouraging even if you’re an experienced breadbaker!
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Yeast breads don’t rise well under certain atmospheric conditions. Heavy barometric pressure is a rise-killer! This can be true even on a warm day when a storm comes in, but on a cold day, it’s even worse. Yeast needs warmth to activate. When I’m making bread in the winter months, I automatically assume I’m going to have trouble getting the bread to rise so I use one of the tricks that can help overcome winter conditions. Here’s my top 10 list of bread rising tips:

1. Make bread when your kitchen is warm, heated up by other cooking.

2. Place the bread in a dehydrator like an Excalibur, with removable shelves, on the bread rising setting.

3. Put the bread in front of a fire! But be careful. Too close to your fire and you’ll kill it from too much heat. (Been there, done that.)

4. Set the bread on your stovetop while you’re cooking something else in the oven–the heat on the surface of the oven will help warm the dough.

5. Boil a small pot of water. Set the bread on the top oven rack and the pot of hot water below it and shut the oven door.

6. Turn on the oven, heat it up just slightly then turn it off. Place the bread inside the warm oven and shut the door.

7. Start bread early in the day–give yourself two or three or four times as long for the rise time.

8. Move to Cozumel. I bet bread rises there year-round.

9. Don’t make bread till spring.

10. DEFINITELY KIDDING ABOUT THAT LAST ONE. What is life without fresh homemade bread?

See, I knew I could come up with 10.

Good luck! Anybody got any more tips for raising bread in the winter? Let me hear ‘em.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on March 6, 2013  

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  1. 3-6
    10:44
    am

    I have an over the range microwave, if I turn on the lights who shine on the range, the inside of the microwave warms up as the perfect rise box
    (have to have them on a bit before, it’s not instant but works slick )

  2. 3-6
    11:01
    am

    I, also, use my microwave. I heat up a 2-c measuring cup of water in it for 2 min, then take it out and put the bread dough in. It rises really good, and quicker than out in the open. Heating up the water seems to make the microwave just the right temp. for my bread dough.

  3. 3-6
    11:06
    am

    Flatlander does what I also do , microwave with nite lite feature on and it works great. We love pizza and try all sorts of toppings.I can pints of roasted romas with bell peppers , garlic & onions & balsamic in the fall which makes 2 sheet pan pizzas.I just recently chanced making bread from scratch and use the micro nite lite for warmth there also , so far even on bad stormy days it works great. But again moving to Cozumel would help save on the electric bill…. :chef:

  4. 3-6
    11:15
    am

    Three-quarters of the year my house is inhospitably cool to yeast, so I turn my oven to 100 degrees and let my bread rise (quickly!) in it, no water needed. When it has raised (have never noticed an issue with rising at any time of year) and retains the dent made when I poke a finger in the corner, I turn my oven up to 350 degrees WITHOUT REMOVING MY BREAD, set the timer for 30 minutes and wait half an hour for perfect bread!

  5. 3-6
    11:16
    am

    I’ll add that I always make the same wonderful whole wheat flax meal recipe with sunflower seeds, four loaves at a time.

  6. 3-6
    11:17
    am

    Well, I have a pilot light on my oven now (so I can still use it, if the electricity goes out) so it stays warm enough in the oven to raise bread…however, before I got this one, all I did was turn the oven light on and that kept it warm enough to raise bread in the oven.

  7. 3-6
    11:25
    am

    Put your bread in the oven to rise and turn on the light. I tested it once, and just having the light on made the inside if the oven 10 degrees warmer!

  8. 3-6
    11:26
    am

    ;) what Doxie said.

  9. 3-6
    11:31
    am

    Generally, the slower the rise, the finer the texture of the bread, so we mostly get better bread in the winter than in the summer months. But, when I just don’t want to wait (which is most of the time!), setting the loaf or loaves next to the coffee maker works well. And, out of drafts.

  10. 3-6
    11:57
    am

    Heh, this is timely, since I just tried and failed at breadbaking yesterday. I mean, I got bread, but it had teeny tiny bubbles and just didn’t rise like it should have. We keep our house very cold in the spring/winter/fall, and have no AC in the summer, so our home temperatures vary wildly. It’s very hard to make bread rise! The newest trick I learned yesterday was to turn the oven on for a minute, turn it off, then wet a dishtowel with hot water, wring it out, cover the dough with it, and put it all in the oven. It worked great for the first rise! It was the second one I had trouble with – the oven was pre-heating for the baking so I couldn’t proof the dough in it. Boo. :(

  11. 3-6
    12:45
    pm

    I’ve sometimes used the slow rise method by putting the dough in the refrigerator over night. Do you suppose this would help counteract the atmospheric pressure issues?

  12. 3-6
    1:00
    pm

    My husband has been the bread baker recently and he’s been using a heating pad on the low setting with a towel between the pad and the bowl – he covers the bowl with “Pam” sprayed wax paper and then a dish towel to contain the heat. Works great, even in our house (which we keep at around 64-65 during the day).

  13. 3-6
    1:27
    pm

    When I was into doing sourdoughs, I learned that many bakers will use a styrofoam cooler (one of the cheap ones you can find at the grocery store) with a small watt bulb inserted in to make a proofing box. Googling will bring images of that and how to make one. What I do is turn on my oven for about 2 minutes if it is cold in the kitchen, and then leave the oven light on. if it is warm (in the 70’s) in the kitchen, I just turn on the oven light. Proofing this way has been successful in all seasons. It is kind of a pain for second rise, but I adjust by taking the shaped dough out of the light-heated oven about halfway through that time and setting aside while the oven is warming up to bake. I haven’t had any problems with the second rise by doing this, it works for me.

  14. 3-6
    1:33
    pm

    I knead my bread in the Kitchen Aid. If it is really cold in my kitchen, I fill up the mixing bowl about 1/2 way with hot water from the tap (120 degrees) and then put a glass bowl with the dough in it on top of the mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Helps “goose” the yeast along, and the mixing bowl is soaking in water which makes it easier to clean out later.

    Also, if you have your crockpot going with something for dinner inside, putting the dough close to that works too.

  15. 3-6
    2:51
    pm

    Love number 8!!

  16. 3-6
    5:16
    pm

    Years ago, I used to turn the dryer on for a couple of minutes, while I boiled up a quart or so of water. I put the “sneaker rack” in the dryer – that shelf that some dryers come with for putting your wet shoes on so that you can dry them without tumbling? That thing. I set the bowl of water and the dough on the rack, and didn’t turn the dryer back on; it had enough heat in it at that point to raise the dough.

    It always cracked my friends up when I’d say, “I better get my bread out of the dryer before I put the wet clothes in.”

    I’ve also used the heating pad trick, but I use a microwavable heating pad. That way, the hottest it’s going to get is whatever temp I heat it up to in the microwave. Put the bowl of dough on the heating pad, cover the whole works with a flour sack towel. Works great! I could probably also boil up a quart of water in a wide pot on the stove, put a cookie sheet across it, and put the bowl of dough on top of that if I didn’t have a microwave or heating pad. Or a dryer. :french:

  17. 3-6
    5:49
    pm

    Suzanne,

    You mentioned above that you have gotten several emails re: bread. I wasn’t sure if email was reaching you or not. I have emailed you 3 times re: studio events and have yet to hear back from you. Do you know if you got any emails from whitemammothranch@yahoo?

    Thanks so much,
    Denise

  18. 3-7
    8:47
    am

    :chicken: On top of my refrigerator!

  19. 3-7
    10:25
    am

    These may give NEW LIFE to bread baking for me. Before we moved I hauled mine downstairs to the furnace room where there was heat, by the time I got it raised and back upstairs it would fall from the heat change. I had thought of a proofing box, but never got one made. Shame on me, we enjoy home made bread, too.

  20. 3-7
    2:41
    pm

    Your tip #5 works really well in a microwave. It’s a smaller space, and so stays warmer longer. I heat up two cups of water to boiling, set it off to the side, and then put the bread in the microwave to rise. And since everyone has to open to the door to insert food BEFORE they turn it on, no accidental heating when someone turns on the oven to cook a frozen pizza.

  21. 3-7
    8:50
    pm

    If it’s a cold but sunny day (which it is often here in winter)I park my truck in the sun and put the covered bread bowl on the front seat.

  22. 3-7
    10:35
    pm

    I generally do 5, 6, &/or 7, and it works quite well.

  23. 3-8
    9:30
    am

    Love CassieOz’s trick: parking the truck in the sun and proofing the bread in on the front seat!
    I’m not in Cozumel, but yes, bread rises year round here, too.

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