I’ll be honest: the Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer was not something I thought I particularly had to have. When I needed to keep my dough or starter snug and warm, I had been content with makeshift “proofing boxes”: the oven with the light on, the top of my stove under the range hood lights, or a big plastic bag with a frequently-changed bowl of warm water.
But now that I have one, I’m over makeshift. The Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer is a tool that does one thing, does it well and without a fuss, and makes my baking life easier. It’s hard to ask for more than that from your equipment, isn’t it?
Plug it in, set the temperature, nestle your fermenting dough or proofing loaf inside its cozy incubator, and rest easy. Your dough will be well-cared-for at a consistent temperature, even if the temperature in your kitchen is not very bread-friendly. And constant temperatures make for more predictable proofing times. That’s good news if you’re a control freak, or if you just like your bread to turn out well.
The proofer has a roomy, collapsible design. It has an 18 x 14.5-inch footprint and folds down to less than 3 inches thick for compact storage. The interior dimensions are 15 x 12.5 x 8.5 inches, which can accommodate a quarter-sheet pan, most 12-cup muffin pans, two or three loaf pans or oval brotforms, or two round brotforms of up to 8 inches in diameter. I can create a second layer for additional loaves by stacking two 12-inch square baking pans with Sklips. I do wish the proofer were just a skosh larger, to take a half-sheet pan (13 x 18 inches).
I used to have a love-hate relationship with parchment paper. I love that it keeps all kinds of things (bagels, hamburger rolls, grissini, cinnamon rolls…) from adhering to their pans. In fact, parchment is indispensable if you bake in or on metal pans. But I hate that the rolls of paper parchment are difficult to tear off cleanly, need to be cut with scissors every time to fit the pan, and can’t be reused more than two or three times, if at all.
The sheets can be reused hundreds of times, according to the manufacturer. I’ve had mine for a few months and they show no signs of wearing out.
They’re easy to clean with a damp cloth, and a little soap if they’re sticky or greasy.
They are easy to cut to the exact dimensions of your pans. The uncut size is 13 x 17 inches, large enough for a sheet pan, two 8-inch cake pans, or two 9 x 13-inch pans (which are usually a little smaller than that at the bottom). It’s worth having one for each pan you use regularly.
Once they’re cut to size, they can be stored right in their pans.
They can be used in oven temperatures up to 500F. Paper burns at 450.
They are more “nonstick” than paper parchment. I used to need copious amounts of semolina to keep bagels from sticking to the paper. With these sheets I don’t need any.
And here’s even more for you to love: Forget flowers and chocolate — I would love to send some love to your kitchen in time for Valentine’s Day, in the form of two reusable parchment sheets, courtesy of Regency Wraps.
People often ask me what I recommend as the most important tools to get first, if you have a limited budget for baking equipment. These items are listed in roughly the reverse order in which you could pry them from my hands. It’s also not a bad list of gift ideas for any bread baker in your life.*
Baking stone. It’s hard to get good crusty hearth loaves without one (and here’s why). High-end is the Fibrament, but a less expensive stone, or even unglazed terra cotta tiles, will do the job, although they’re more prone to breakage. $10 – $100.
Bench scraper (aka bench knife, dough scraper, or dough cutter), like this one. Cuts ciabatta dough into pieces, lifts sticky pieces of dough off the counter, and cleans your counter of tenacious dough bits and loose flour. About $12.
Small ingredients scale. Ingredients like yeast and salt that are usually called for in amounts of 10 grams or less are best weighed on a scale that has precision to a tenth of a gram. However, these ingredients also measure fairly well by volume, so this is not an essential tool. It’s nice to have, though. $20 – $40.
Stand mixer. Although nice to have, especially for certain doughs like bagels and brioche, most breads can be mixed just fine by hand, so a mixer is a lower priority. Mine is a KitchenAid 6-qt. and I recommend it. About $400.
*Note to my male friends on the appropriateness of these things as gifts to wives/girlfriends: For birthdays and other occasions, it might depend on the woman in question, and on the gift — mixer, probably; scale, perhaps; lava rocks, doubtful — but for anniversaries, just don’t do it! Trust me on this one.
Not the flours, grains, and seeds (seen here dragged from their beds so I could assess which ones are fit to make the 6-mile move to my new home next week), although I do love them too. But I’m talking about the colorful bars that clip the bags closed.
If you don’t already know about these little hinged pieces of plastic, your life is about to be changed forever. Okay, maybe they’re not life-changing in the same way as, say, a credit card and Velcro are, but still. Not having to grapple with knots, twist-ties, rubber bands, tape, or springs is huge. I can clip these one-piece guys on and snap them off again with one hand tied behind my back, and when they’re on they stay put.
It’s what we use at SFBI to deliver about 20 loaves at a time into the deck oven without harming one strand of gluten on their pretty little heads. This canvas conveyor belt does a great job of ensuring, for example, that our lovely pear-shaped loaves don’t wind up becoming oranges or bananas on their way into the oven.
It’s what you can use at home to pick up your own pears, pizzas, or pains de campagne and deposit them onto your baking stone equally unscathed. And although it’s modeled after those big conveyor belts, it’s far more versatile. The SFBI loader can’t pick up a rolled-out pie crust from the counter and move it onto the pie dish, or transfer a freshly-ganached cake from wire rack to serving plate, but the Super Peel is great for these tricky jobs.
Thanks to Gary Casper, Super Peel’s inventor, you can have a chance to win a Super Peel (your choice of original maple or gorgeous new butternut) just by being a US resident and leaving a comment here by 11:59 PDT on Friday, October 23. Gary will even upgrade to a gift set — including a cloth storage bag and an extra cloth belt — if the comment I pick at random is super good (as judged by me).
I apologize for not announcing the winner of the brotforms earlier. If you haven’t heard from me, you didn’t win, I’m sorry. The only person who has heard from me is Dave R from Boston, MA; congratulations, Dave!
As I said before, I highly recommend Brotform.com for your brotform needs. Good selection, good prices, fast shipping, nice people. So go order some.