Turn Your Oven Into a Bread Proofer

by Daisy

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A bread proofer is standard equipment in a commercial kitchen. It’s simply a big metal cabinet with racks for trays of dough (rolls, doughnuts, loaves of bread).  It maintains a warm, moist environment for the yeast to prosper and create perfectly-risen baked goods.

Few of us are going to have a bread proofer in our kitchens, but we improvise. I have a sister-in-law in whose rear car window can regularly be seen a bowl of pizza dough. Sunny windows, heating vents, & radiators are often made to do double-duty in this way.

I use my oven. This is for ovens with no pilot light–I have heard those make the ovens too hot.

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Turn Your Home Oven into a Bread Proofer

Set Up Your Racks

You need a rack for the pan of dough in the upper portion of your oven. Be sure to allow enough space above the pan for the dough to rise. You need a rack below the pan of dough for a medium-sized pan of boiling water. Alternatively, you may be able to set the water pan on the bottom floor of the oven, provided the heating element is not in the way.

Prime Your Proofer

  • Place the dough on its appointed rack in a cold oven.
  • Boil a pan of water.
  • Place the pan on the bottom rack and close the door.
  • Turn on the heat to 400 degrees for exactly one minute.

WARNING:  Time this exactly! Don’t forget and go off to do something else!

  • Turn off the heat and don’t open the door.
  • Leave your dough in for the amount of time recommended in your recipe.

But, the recipe says to “cover” the dough!

You will not need or want to cover your dough in a home oven bread proofer. It will be sufficiently humid inside the proofing oven from the boiled water to obviate the need for a cover. (And of course, plastic wrap would melt when you turned the heat on. A towel might scorch.) Just don’t cover it.

No special equipment required. And you’ll never forget and drive around town with a pan of Parkerhouse rolls sliding around in the backseat.



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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Whisperingsage February 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Thank you so much for this! I grew up in a house with a very large natural gas stove. It had a cast iron griddle in the middle between the burners, which itself had a pilot light underneath. My mother used to put her rising bread on top of that and it was just right. I later got to work with a commercial proof box in my jobs, but of course those are so spendy!
I guess many people don’t cook anymore and aren’t familiar with rising bread. (I am shocked at the number of people excited when they find out I can COOK! Whoopee! I had thought everyone could cook. Silly me.

Joan January 12, 2011 at 1:22 am

Thank you so very much for the proofing in the electric home oven. I have been looking and looking some more for these instructions and knew this should be a possibility. My husband & I are retired and to be able to make my own bread in the winter in the Pacific NW is going to help out a lot. Will be trying this out in the AM. Wow, am so happy I found this. Thanks.

Harry December 13, 2011 at 12:04 am

I have a gas oven with electric igniter, do I leave the oven on for one minute from the time the oven lights or one minute from the time it reaches 400 degrees? Please clerify? Thanks for the tip.

Tomato Lady December 13, 2011 at 7:11 am

Harry–One minute from the time it lights. We just want it to be warm, not hot hot.

Daniel August 4, 2012 at 8:22 am

If you use your oven as a proofing oven, do I still cover the dough? Usually when I make bread, after I’ve kneaded the dough, I place the dough in a bowl and cover the dough with plastic wrap. If I don’t put the plastic wrap the dough develops a crust on the top. If I put the dough in a lightly heated oven with a pan of boiling water tongive off extra moisture moisture, will that impede the development of the crust while the dough is rising. Thanks in advance for the answer.

Daisy August 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

Daniel–I find that the humidity in the oven keeps the bread surface from drying out and forming a crust. I leave it uncovered. Plastic wrap would get melty and cling to the dough.

Phil November 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

How about putting the boiling water on the top rack with the dough below? I tried proofing croissants with the boiling water underneath and the butter melted out.

Daisy November 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Phil–Yes, anything to keep things below butter melting point. I wouldn’t even turn on the oven either. Just the moist heat from the water at the most.

Adam February 10, 2013 at 11:58 am

Sorry to ask a silly question but if I’m using an electric oven then turning it on to 400F for one minute won’t even begin to heat it up at all, any ideas what the internal temperature should reach before you cut it out and put the pan and the dough in at?

Daisy February 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Adam–Not a silly question. I have an electric oven, too. The whole oven doesn’t heat up (thankfully), it just takes the chill off, maybe gives it a little warmth, and the hot water you put in there will do the rest. I don’t have an oven thermometer so I can’t say, but again, it isn’t supposed to reach 400 degrees, not by a long shot. Just slightly warm.

Melissa February 26, 2013 at 11:51 pm

On my oven I have to do the whole pre-heating thing to turn the oven on. Should I put the dough and boiling water in after I start the pre-heat and then turn the pre-heating off after one minute? I’m not sure if I’ll be using an electric or gas oven, dose it matter either way? I’m trying to make yeast donuts and I haven’t been able to figure out a good way too proof the dough yet.

Daisy February 27, 2013 at 7:08 am

Melissa–Since I’m not really sure of your set-up, I’ll explain what the ultimate goal is–to take the chill off the oven and make the atmosphere in there just slightly warm and nice and humid. Test out what happens when you try it both ways and see which method gets it to warm but not hot and humid but not clammy and drippy. Save me a donut.

Melissa February 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Daisy- Alright I’ll try it out and see what happens. Hopefully I will be able to figure this out 🙂 I’ll try to save you a donut but I make no promises. Hehe

donna b March 28, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I make bread quite often and what has been helpful for me is to turn my oven on to 200 (I have a electric stove) then turn it after that temp is reached, I then put my pan of boiling water on the bottom rack and put the bowl of dough which I cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and let it rise . I also will just leave oven door open with oven on at 200 and put bowl of dough on the oven door it has been my way of having a proof box. This is my first time leaving a comment and I do enjoy all the tips that are given here.

Angela April 29, 2013 at 10:49 am

I had my gas oven switched to a electric convection oven. I had originally been using the heat from the top vents to proof my dough but the convection oven takes all that heat away with the fan. So needless to say I had been searching for a way to quickly proof my dough again. I had heard about this and tried your technique tonight for French bread. It worked swimmingly! Thank you so much for the helpful tip!

Peggy Williams (South 47th) May 13, 2013 at 2:13 am

Thank you for the Electric Oven tip! Tried it and even with our inherited old crappy oven, it worked like a charm!

Denise Brown July 31, 2013 at 4:54 am

Thank you for the info on bread making.. This is going to be so much easier… Love your site…

Bobbie Janice Carson November 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I love to bake andI have a gas range & oven. I have been thinking about making a proofing oven independant from the stove. Do you know of any DIY plans I could purchase as I am not really sure of the correct dimensions. I’m thinking of a simple plywood box outfitted with a couple of 150Watt bulbs mounted towards the back. Any ideas?

Daisy November 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Bobbie Janice Carson–That would be cool. I remember the huge proofing cabinets from when I used to work in commercial kitchens. I never questioned how they worked, though, just popped things in there and let the magic happen. They were always metal, the better to deal with the humidity, but that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. I googled “build proofing box” and found some interesting forum threads and blog posts on the subject, too many to list here, including at least one plywood one. There was one made in an old Coleman cooler.

I like the idea, and you could also make yogurt in it, I bet.

sunshine December 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

This is going to sound strange but this is what I do in my 62 degree Northwoods home in the winter. I preheat a cooler with my heated corn pillows or whatever you can warm it up with. This takes a little while if the cooler is cold to start with. Once it’s warmed up I put my bread in it to raise. Works great. You cold also heat up and put the corn pillow right in the ovento do the same. I’ve done it with the microwave….a perfect little proofer!

J white January 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Once it has risen do you take the bread out of the oven when it comes to cooking to allow the oven to preheat to cooking temperature? If you do how do you stop them from sinking at this point?

Daisy January 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm

J white–I just turn the oven on and start baking. If you have a double oven, proof in one and bake in the other.

J white January 20, 2014 at 4:09 am

Thanks, so you leave the water pan in there too whilst baking I guess? Also, do you start timing you baking from when you turn the oven on or wait until it gets to temperature?

Daisy January 20, 2014 at 10:24 am

No, I take the pan out so I don’t bake the handle. I’d say split the difference. If it takes 15 minutes to pre-heat, maybe start your cook time 7 minutes from when you turn on the heat. I’m a “it’s done when it looks like it’s done” person and I don’t usually use a timer. Baking times usually vary depending on the oven, the pan, etc. so just start checking and thumping and everything will turn out okay.

Nikk January 24, 2014 at 9:11 am

Can you tell me if this method is better than using the fridge to proof overnight as I’m in 2 minds of which would give a better rise. I know the fridge method works quite well but would this be improved by at all?

Daisy January 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

Nikk–If you love the fridge method, I say stick with what is tried and true for you and use this method when you want to proof and bake in the same day.

Deb February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am

I really like this oven proofing thing. However, I wound up over proofing my bread and it collapsed and tasted a bit fermented. I figure that I did 1 or possibly 2 things wrong.
1. after I punched down the dough and divided and put it in my bread pans, I repeated the boiling water/400° thing for the second rise.
2. with the second rising, I got interrupted and left the oven on for 90 seconds.

I am going to give this another try today. I am going to not repeat the boiling water and 400° thing but use the residual heat from the first time. I will make sure that I don’t get distracted and go over the 60 seconds.

Cora Jane September 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for posting this. Tried it today and produced the best bread I’ve ever made. I live in a cold and draughty home in the North of England so finding a warm spot to prove dough has always been a challenge.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Cora Jane–I’m very glad it helped. Hope you find lots of things to keep warm and cozy this coming winter.
I have to add, I love your name.

Bex October 4, 2014 at 9:21 am

Thank you so much for this, proving is the bane of my life, i read instructions which say lay a tea towel or lightly oiled cling film over the bread etc when proving, which ive tried but all i get is bread rolls stuck to tea towel etc! its so frustrating seeing all my ovely hard work deflate but this way i dont have to cover them. Genius! Thanks again (the temptation to open the oven door is huge but ive resisted!

Daisy October 5, 2014 at 6:37 am

Bex–Very glad to have been of assistance! Thank you for letting me know!

Barbara Werner October 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Definitely going to try a version of your tip the next time I bake bread. I have a loaf of bread in the oven right now, but it didn’t rise the way the recipe said it should, (draughty, slightly chilly house today), now I know what to do the next time. Thank you.

Aimee February 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Honestly – you wouldn’t have to turn it p to 400 if you don’t need it to get hot. The oven probably only reaches 100 degrees or so in the 1 minute it’s on.

Ken February 2, 2015 at 2:47 pm

I’m glad I came across this tip. I live in Western NY south of buffalo and baking bread in the winter has always proved interesting at best. Next time I do bread (which won’t be very long) I’ll let ya’ll know how I made out

Daisy February 2, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Ken–Hope it’s just what you need to get that yeast going in the cold! Let us know how it did!

Ken February 3, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Daisy, it was just as you said. I made pigs in blankets making the dough myself. Did it as you said to and voila. It worked :). Thank you, thank you, thank you 🙂

Daisy February 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Ken–Hurrah!Thanks for the report. I bet the kitchen smelled terrific.

Alvin February 9, 2015 at 3:59 am

Hi this is my first time to comment on a blog. Thank you for sharing this knowledge to (us) your reader I was able to make my burger bun bigger with this technique. I have a gas oven after the dough I portioned it out then shoot to the oven with hot water (I am a bit confused with the 400F method) high flame within 1min then rest for 15mins then baked it. The outcome was awesome thanks Daisy! Will make this method on my stuffed pandesal tomorrow and see what will be the outcome.

Daisy February 9, 2015 at 8:24 am

Alvin–Thanks, I’m glad it worked so well. It’s a pretty reliable method. Hope it works on the pandesal.

Carol February 11, 2015 at 7:24 am

Thanks for the method of making the oven into a proofing oven. I live in a small apartment with a very low end oven (poor seals & no oven light). I love to make yogurt, but can’t keep the heat right…so I’m going to try a variation of your method. Since I have to keep the temp up for 8-12 hours, I’m going to use my large slow cooker in the bottom of the oven with the boiling water (will try it on High the first time) Will let you all know how making yogurt in the oven this way works.

Daisy February 11, 2015 at 8:46 am

Carol–I hope it works! Homemade yogurt is so addicting.

J'Marinde February 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Do you have a newsletter? If so, Please put me on it!!! Thanks

Judy February 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm

I am having trouble getting my dough to rise….I out one packet of yeast in a glass bowl, add 2 cups of lukewarm water, give it a stir, and then let it set for 10 minutes, but it does not bubble or foam…the yeast has an expiration date of 1/16..what s,, . So doing wrong?

Daisy February 18, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Judy–Try adding a little flour or honey or sugar and see if it helps.

Carol February 19, 2015 at 6:40 am

Update on the Yogurt: I put my large slow cooker on the very bottom of my oven on Warm with my bowl of prepped milk in a bowl on the rack above it (wrapped in a bath towel) and closed the oven. I had a temperature probe in the bowl and left it for the night. Next morning, I had wonderful yogurt! The oven stayed at a wonderful 113 degrees!

Daisy February 19, 2015 at 9:19 am

Carol–Victory! Glad. 🙂

J'Marinde February 19, 2015 at 10:14 am

Carol;
PLEASE tell me more. I have been wondering about how to do this so I could extend my yogurt when I couldn’t get to the store.
Thanks!

Carol February 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

Basically, I follow Eliza Cross’s directions Here: http://www.happysimpleliving.com/2011/03/06/make-your-own-homemade-greek-yogurt/

After making it many times though, I don’t measure anything…just poor the milk into my pan until it is as much as I want. (you can also heat the milk in the microwave…which I don’t have at the mo.)

I also just use a Jelly Bag to strain the yogurt to get my Greek Yogurt. I never really did like messing with the Cheese Cloth.

Hope this helps.

cajunlagniappe February 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm

do you preheat oven to 400 before putting bread to rise

Daisy February 24, 2015 at 5:58 pm

cajunlagniappe–Not exactly preheat in the usual sense, just a quick burst of heat then off.

Alexis Harrington March 18, 2015 at 6:09 pm

I guess it depends on how big the baking project is, but for a loaf or two I just use the built-in microwave over my stove with its light turned on (you know, the bulb that lights the cooktop). It stays warm, the light bulb maintains a low, steady heat, and there are no drafts or drying out. I think of it as a mother hen sitting on my dough.

Just a thought. 🙂

Claudia April 7, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Well, I’m disappointed. I’ve been trying to find that perfect proofing method for a long time. My husband is a bit tired of bricks of bread. The first rise goes well, and I can do that on top of a warming oven. I tried your method for the second rise, and…well, it’s been a couple of hours and it’s still not risen above the top of the loaf pan. It’s in a glass pan, and I can see lots of air bubbles, which I think is good, but I’m not sure. I used a 100% whole wheat recipe on King Arthur flour recipe. I suspect the heat is too high, but I followed your instructions. Any help would be appreciated.

Daisy April 7, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Claudia–Sorry about your loaf. I’ve never had dough take that long to rise, so (as by this time you’ve discovered one way or another) it’s probably not going to. As to troubleshooting, I imagine you’ve tried everything: testing your yeast to make sure it’s viable, making sure the liquid wasn’t so hot it killed off the yeast, checking the cupboards for mischievous pixies, etc. The only other thing I can possibly imagine would be if the first rise lasted so long it exhausted the yeast and it was too pooped to pop the second time around; try shorter first rises maybe? Otherwise blame the pixies.

Claudia April 8, 2015 at 7:28 am

You may be right about the first rise…I let it go for 2 hrs…the recipe said 1-2 hrs, depending on the warmth of my kitchen. I didn’t know letting it go long the first time would affect the second rise. I’ll try it again. Thanks.

Claudia April 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Update. I used a container for the first rise that had measurements on it, so I could tell if it was doubled in size. My recipe says to leave it for 1-2 hrs, so I set the timer for 1 hour. I felt that was safe, right? Well, it went more than double in just that one hour and now I have the same result as I did yesterday…a pooped out, flat dough. So, I’ll try it again and set it for 15 minute increments. If I can catch it at just double or even a little less, the second rise should be wonderful. AND…my husband had a question….why not do the first rise in the loaf pan, and, after the rise time is over and it’s high and puffy, just bake it at that time? I told him I figured it was because it’s too airy and puffy…punching it down and letting it rise again makes for a dough that is not all air bubbles…am I right?

Daisy April 8, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Claudia–You’re right about the bubbles, a second rise is said to produce a finer crumb and eliminate the huge air spaces. Mainly, though, it makes the bread taste better as the fermentation process produces more alcohol and something called maltose which improves flavor, texture, and helps with browning. You can certainly try a one-rise bread and see how you like it. I’d be interested to see what happens. Some roll recipes I know only require one rise.

Claudia April 9, 2015 at 8:52 am

Two questions…what is the best humidity for proofing bread? When you say “a pan of boiling water”, what size pan do you use? A loaf pan? A 6-quart pan? Thank you!

Daisy April 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Claudia–The exact humidity isn’t terribly crucial–it is useful so you don’t have to cover the dough with plastic wrap or a towel to keep the surface of the dough from drying out (mine often sticks to the dough and makes a mess/causes the dough to fall) and forming a crust which would interfere with the rise. I use a small saucepan; it probably holds about a quart and a half. Sometimes smaller. The oven is a finite, smallish space, so it doesn’t take much.

Julie May 5, 2015 at 10:47 am

Close the door of the oven and turn on the heat to 400 degrees F. for exactly one minute. Time this exactly!

So my oven takes several minutes to get to 4oo. Does that time all count in the 1 minute or do you just count the warming up to 400 in that 1st minute? Does that make sense? Just trying to clarify so I don’t goof it up.

Thank you!

Daisy May 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Julie–Good question. The timing starts from the time you turn the knob, not from the time the oven reaches temp. You don’t want to get to 400 deg., just knock the chill off.

Heather May 12, 2015 at 10:38 am

There are one rise breads out there, and I will use them when I’m in a time pinch but it’s a compromise on flavor and on the crumb if the recipes isn’t intended for a single rise.

I usually proof in my oven with the light on but I’m excited to try this method.

Phil July 26, 2015 at 12:31 am

1. There’s nothing magic about the 400 deg setting during the minute: any setting that cannot be reached in one minute will do, and the result will be the same. Ovens operate at full power until the target temperature is reached, then shut off until the temperature drops below a low threshold then cycles on at full power until the target is reached again, etc.
2. Maltose, also called “malt sugar”, is a sugar that is produced by the breakdown of starch in the grain by enzymes that are produced by the endosperm of the grain when it sprouts. The process of causing grain to sprout, thus producing the enzymes, the drying and roasting the grain, thus killing the sprouts, is called “malting”, and the product that results is called “malt” or “malted grain”, which is the used to make beer and whiskey. I suspect that there may be some low level of the same enzymes in unmalted grain (and flour) that could convert some of the starch. These enzymes are activated by moisture, and are more active at higher temperatures up to about 158 deg.

Phil July 26, 2015 at 12:41 am

3. Yeast mostly eats sugars, including maltose, and mostly produces CO2 and alcohol.
4. Maltose will lend a sweeter and “malty” flavor to the bread, and will cause the bread to brown easier, and at lower temperature.

Mike August 29, 2015 at 8:02 pm

You might also check which type of yeast you are using. Instant yeast doesn’t need to be dissolved before adding to the dry ingredients and it doesn’t need two risings. In place of the first rise you would knead the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. Continue with to follow your recipe with instructions after the first rising. I learned this from the King Arthur website.

Marilyn November 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm

So when you say set to 400 degrees for exactly one minute, you mean that the oven doesn’t actually reach 400 degrees. The one minute period is the oven warming up to get to 400 degress, correct?

Daisy November 13, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Correct!

Hilary. H January 14, 2016 at 3:10 am

Thank you just saved me 200 dollars on a proofer I’ve been avoiding to buy. So it was try this or spend ugh! Well it actually worked and it seems easy to do but people appear to make others nervous and harder when reading some of these comments. Well anyway thank you!
And to Phil … NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOObody cares! Plus you are speaking beer language acting like an expert well I saw the beer website you got this plagiarism from that you entered here, right down to the ”Thus”. You’re so moded lol!

Jenn January 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

I use my oven but set it on the lowest setting, 170 degrees, with a big pot of water on the bottom and proof for 45-60 min, depending on the weather. Works great!

Ray Flacke August 25, 2016 at 5:34 am

Hi Daisy, when you say 400 degrees, you don’t say preheat, but would that be too much to put in and then turn off? Thanks Ray

Daisy August 25, 2016 at 5:39 am

Ray Flacke–Right, don’t preheat it, literally just turn it on for one minute and then turn it off. Easy as pie.

L. Archer September 1, 2016 at 11:44 am

Or, you could use that drawer under the oven to proof your breads. That is what it is designed for, not for storage of lids and pans.

Lindsay Marshall September 5, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Claudia, the use of whole grain flour also affects the raise of bread. Whole grain doesn’t raise as well as more processed flours. Right Daisy?

Daisy September 5, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Lindsay–Yes, that’s true.

Colleen January 8, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Worked great! Thanks!

Daisy January 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

Good to hear, Colleen!

Wayne January 21, 2017 at 8:06 am

If it’s any help, I tried this today, and once the oven was off, and I had waited a minute or so, I used a non-contact digital temperature meter. The oven temp was 44 degrees C (about 110F). Yeast dies at about 55C, so I guess that all makes sense 🙂

KevinB February 18, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Thank you!! My mom made sourdough rolls for my family, friends, and church members for many years. She died of cancer 2 months ago, and she wasn’t able to cook for the past 4-5 months.

I missed her rolls!! I’ve never cooked bread, but was determined to try her recipe…and this helped SO much! The dough proofed “just like” I remember seeing hers!

I think she would be proud of me! I’m fifty and just starting to appreciate how much mom knew (about cooking). I wish I could have learned more from her, but I’ll cherish the recipes and with great help (like this article), illl be able to enjoy moms sour dough rolls for many years!

Melanie Jenkinson April 21, 2017 at 8:55 am

This method of proving is fantastic. I have just made a batch of fruit teacakes, just out of the oven and they look and smell delicious. Not tasted them yet, waiting for them to cool. Thank you so much. Xxx

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