Proofing dough is the final process in bread-making before the bread is cooked. It involves leaving bread in a warm, moist place for some time in order for the yeast to ferment and therefore the dough to rise. Professional bakers have proofing boxes with settings to control temperature and humidity, but the effects can be mimicked easily in the home by either turning your oven into a proofing environment, or creating your own proofing box from household objects.
Proofing in your oven
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and switch it off. Boil a kettle full of water and pour into a deep oven-proof dish, such as a roasting tray. Place in the bottom of the oven.
Put your bread dough into a large bowl with plenty of room to rise. Loosely cover the bread with a clean tea towel or cling film, but be sure to leave space for the air to circulate.
Place your bowl in the oven. If possible, monitor your bread dough through the oven door to avoid opening the door and releasing the heat. Most ovens allow you to leave an internal light on without any other function active, which makes this easier.
Building a proofing box
Buy a large, clear plastic box, such as the sort often used for storage. The box should be large enough to cover the bread, allowing space for a small jug of water and for the dough to rise. Ensure the plastic is fully transparent, as this will allow you to easily monitor your bread.
Drill a small hole in the plastic near to the open top of the box, large enough to pass a wire through. Cut down from the hole to create an opening you can pull apart to slot the wire into place.
Place the box upside down over the dough and the small jug of boiled water. To maintain the temperature, choose something to heat the air beneath the box. An electric heating pad would be ideal, though a strong lightbulb would probably be sufficient. Thread the cable through the hole in the box then seal with tape or cloth to prevent unnecessary heat loss.
Stick a timer on to your proofing box to make sure you don't leave your bread proofing for too long.