Had an interesting discusion with the baker at a local restaurant today. He mentioned differing batches of bread in different weather conditions. He said when the Santa Ana winds blow, the humidity drops right out and he has trouble proofing his loaves. Has anyone experimented with humidifiers in their proofing areas?
Weather and Bread
I've had lots of experience with humidity levels affecting both formulas and proof times.
It can be quite humid here in summer, and, even with the AC going, I still have to cut back the hydration of my doughs by as much as 10 per cent to get proper dough consistency.
In winter, even with a humidifier on my gas furnace, I've found that both hydration levels and proofing are adversely affected by the dry air. I bulk ferment in my large kitchen, and I've found it advantageous to put a large pot of water on the stove kept just at the simmer. Even so, bulk fermentation times are increased. Many of my doughs are retarded in the fridge overnight, so that, at least, is one constant in my favour.
What you don't want is air so dry that your shaped loaves develop a skin.
Temperature (air, ingredients) is one factor. Humidity level is quite another; both must be factored in as the seasons change.
It's quite possible, and cheap, to build a proof box out of an large, inverted, styrofoam picnic cooler. Stick a termometer probe through the wall, add a 25 watt bulb on a rheostat, put in a pan of hot water, and you're away. How warm the interior is will determine what your proof times will be.
I'm working on this, don't have all the figures yet, but I'll post when I do.
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