Pro Tip: Here’s how recognizing the greater purpose of a proof box can pay dividends when baking buns or bread.

The role of a final bread or bun proof box might be slightly different than you think. I teach a lot of classes and find that most people believe the proofer simply accelerates the raising of the product, but there’s a greater purpose. 

Imagine your product as an underinflated balloon as it enters the proof box. Within roughly an hour this balloon will enlarge four to eight times in volume. As the internal pressures build, the outside surface area of the balloon grows and stretches. Moreover, with bread, the pan constrains the dough and forces it upward — stretching the top surface even more.

We all know that additional heat below 140 degrees Fahrenheit helps to make yeast more active thus increasing the rate of proof, but why is the steam added for humidity? The answer is dewpoint. A dry proofer, which doesn’t keep the surface of the product moist enough to maintain dewpoint, is like a balloon that you’ve spray-painted then let the paint dry. A dry proofer causes the surface to cap, shred, hinge or literally become a separate layer, just like dried paint, unless it stays moist. However, if you keep the outer surface layer at dewpoint then it can flow with the ever-increasing volume. Once in the oven, the trapped internal moisture will continue to hydrate the surface while proofing.

Be careful how far apart you place the proofer and oven. The greater the distance the greater the chance of your product surface losing dewpoint and drying out before entering the oven.

Last tip: Do not use live steam injection in the final proofer, otherwise known as a sparge tube. The live steam is hotter than your dry heat setpoint and causes the dry heat to cycle off, in turn drying out the proofer and limiting the ability to maintain dewpoint. This is why the water bath and spray bar system is used to create a very cool level of humidity that facilitates dewpoint and keep the temperature below the dry heat setting.

It is crucial to quality that production know and understand the purpose of the proofer. They say knowledge is power, but in this case knowledge is tastier bread and better symmetry!

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.