I was recently browsing through the Micro Bakery Connection group on Facebook and noticed a post where someone was asking about dough proofers.
In a professional environment, it is fairly common for bakeries to use retarders or proofing chambers that can be set-up to hold the dough to a specific temperature before gently warming it up on demand. This is of great help to the baker because one can control yeast activity, thus allowing for better production and time management. This technique can be used for bulk fermentation or for final proof, after shaping.
Whilst these systems are usually costly and require space, there is a simpler and cheaper approach for the micro baker. This is a system that I implemented for Copains Micro Bakery back in the days. It has its limitations because it is only designed to hold a certain temperature or temperature range, meaning it will not kick in at a specific time, but I have found it to be very useful regardless. I stole the idea from brewing forums, as it is a very common and affordable way of keeping a fermenter at the target optimum fermenting temperature.
So here it goes for the explanation:
First you need a fridge, or a freezer. Then you need a simple 220V car heater and a temperature controller. The most commonly used model amongst home brewers is the STC-1000 because it is cheap and does the job. You can buy it from EBay for less than 10 euros. I used the 220V version because my fridge needs 220V and the car heater is 220V. The STC-1000 is delivered with a temperature probe.
Then comes the cabling. Not to worry if electricity is not your thing. There is nothing difficult here, and you don’t even need to understand what you’re doing, because the internet is full of STC-1000 cabling diagrams. So here’s one for you, as a matter of example:
Once you’re done, the fridge will kick in above a specific set temperature and the heater will start when it falls below a certain temperature, as measured by the probe.