Proofing baskets are used for breads during the rising process. The baskets enable the bread dough to rise and take on the shape of the basket. Traditionally, proofing baskets are made of wicker with cloth liners. The baking industry is moving along with technological advances by using plastic proofing baskets.
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Prior to mixing yeast with other ingredients to form dough, the yeast must be proven active because dead yeast will not ferment. Fermentation releases carbon dioxide gas, causing dough to rise. Yeast is proofed in water and a small amount of sugar. If the mixture bubbles, the yeast is still active and can then be used to make dough. The term "proofing" also refers to a rising stage of dough. Following the dough's first rise, it is punched down and shaped into its final form and set out to rise a final time. The final rise is known as proofing.
Wicker baskets, often made from willow branches, have been used for hundreds of years. Modern day concerns of sanity have played a large role in reducing the use of wicker baskets in the marketplace. Wood baskets are held together with metal staples that rust. Wicker has to be washed after use and dried in an oven for 72 hours before it can be reused.
Plastic proofing baskets have proven to be an economical and more sanitary alternative to baskets made of wood. Plastic is easy to clean and dry. With a little dusting of flour, the bread dough does not stick to them. Fraying is not a problem, so plastic baskets will not need to be replaced nearly as often as wicker baskets. Plastic proofing baskets save bakers time, energy and money.
Food grade plastics will not transfer chemicals from the plastic to the food placed in it. Plastic proofing baskets and other containers made specifically for food are made of polycarbonate, polyester or polythene. Storing food in this type of container can keep food fresh longer as well.
Bakeries that produce large volumes of breads of various shapes and sizes would find purchasing proofing baskets in bulk more economical. For the home baker, recycling food grade containers can prove to be economical as well as interesting. Shapes and textures of bread can vary greatly when using an assortment of containers for proofing. Get creative with the art of baking, but ensure the containers and objects you use are food grade.
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