Turning Your Oven into a Proof Box
Professional bakers often have a proof box on hand. Home cooks don't. Or do they?
When professional bakers let dough rise, they often make use of a proof box: a large cabinet that holds the air temperature between 80 and 90 degrees and humidity around 75 percent—conditions ideal for yeast activity. Whenever our kitchen is particularly cold or dry, we start to wonder about homespun imitations.
In the past, we’ve tried to replicate the real deal by holding dough in a turned-off microwave alongside a steaming cup of water. While effective, this method can’t accommodate large bowls or sheet pans. We’ve also tried turning an oven to 200 degrees for a few minutes and turning it off before placing the dough inside, but the effectiveness of this technique depends largely on the speed at which the oven heats (plus it does nothing to affect humidity). After more trial and error, we finally landed on a consistently effective method.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and place a loaf or cake pan in the bottom of the oven. Place the container of dough on the middle rack and pour 3 cups of boiling water into the pan. Close the oven door and allow the dough to rise as instructed. If you limit the time that the oven door is open, the proof box can be used for both the first and second rise without the need to refresh the water.