Creating a Great Environment for Yeast Dough to Rise

Beautifully risen yeast dough

Beautifully risen yeast dough

I have tried many ways to coax yeast dough to rise beautifully in the least amount of time.  One trick was to put the bowl of dough in the microwave after heating a cup of water, leaving the cup in the corner of the microwave.  Maybe if the bowl is small (mine never is!) and you don't need to use that appliance for an hour or two.  Nix that one.  I've heated the oven for a bit, then turned it off.  That works, but on one occasion the oven and rack got a little too hot and killed the yeast, and at other times the oven cooled down before the dough was completely risen.  I keep my house cool, so just leaving it on the counter means a long rise time.  What to do?

While baking bread that required steam to create a crisp crust (No-Knead Country White Bread) I placed a skillet in the oven and added boiling water to create the steam effect.  Of course, the oven was hot in order to bake the bread, but it dawned on me that I could introduce gentle heat to the oven with boiling water to create gentle warmth for a yeast dough to rise in, just like in professional dough proofers. (Why that never occurred to me before escapes me. Seriously?!) 

So, after mixing up the next batch of dough, I placed a skillet in the bottom of the oven and filled it up half-way with boiling water.  In went the covered dough on the rack above, right over the skillet, and the timer was set for an hour.  And, it worked great!  The oven stayed warm and humid for the hour, and the dough obviously loved its environment, rising beautifully.  It also works well for the second rise, after the bread or rolls are shaped.  Finally, a method that worked without too much extra effort!  This is now my go-to technique.

Try this trick the next time you're baking bread, rolls, or making pizza dough.  I think you're going to love it!

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