Does this sound familiar? Your looking at a yeast bread recipe. Sounds really good and would pair nicely with the stew you're making for dinner. Then you look at the clock. The recipe says you need about 5 to 5-1/2 hours to make the bread, allowing for two rising periods. You only have four hours until dinner. Sigh.
What do you do? What do you mean, Gloria? Time is time. I can't cram 5-1/2 hours into 4 hours.
Are you sure about that? True, you can't make the bread bake any faster. Raising the baking temperature to speed baking and shave off time can lead to burned bread. But what about those two rising periods? Both of those period together can account for up to 3-1/2 hours of the time needed to make the bread.
I was in this quandary not long ago. I needed to make a couple of loaves of cranberry pecan bread (with a cinnamon swirl!). This dough is chock full of dried cranberries and toasted pecans so the rising periods are quite long. Like 90 minutes to 2 hours for the first rise and 1 hour to 90 minutes for the second rise. I didn't have that much time. Could I speed up the rising time and shorten the proofing periods enough to make the bread in 4 hours? Turns out I could.
Yeast dough rises best in a warm environment. How could I add just enough warmth to the dough to make the yeast cozy, happy and excited to rise? I suddenly thought about a heating pad. My heating pad has a simple temperature control switch - low, medium high were my choices. You need an electric heating pad so that the warming is steady and even. I pulled out my heating pad, plugged it in and set the temperature control on low. Then I put the dough in its rising bucket onto the heating pad and set the timer for an hour.
After an hour, the dough had nearly doubled in volume. Wow! Another 5-10 minutes, and the dough was ready to be shaped. I had shaved off nearly an hour from the first rising period!
What would happen the second time around? After shaping, the loaves are placed in bread pans, covered and left to rise until the top of the dough is visible above the lip of the pan. Okay, back onto the heating pad. I checked the loaves after 45 minutes and low and behold they were ready for the oven. Scratch another 45 minutes from the recipe time table.
So what was the total time savings using the heating pad? About an hour and 45 minutes!! Two loaves of cranberry pecan bread were done in 4 hours instead of 5-1/2 hours.
I know what your thinking? Did the acceleration affect the final loaf? Not at all.
So the next time you are facing a time crunch and need to do 5-1/2 hours of bread baking in only 4 hours, don't throw in the towel. Pull out the heating pad.