Proving Bread Dough
Q: When proving dough, what should you cover it with?
A: You may have noticed different recipes recommend covering your bread dough in different ways for proving but ultimately it comes down to two things – the temperature of your kitchen and the humidity in the air.
When it comes to low humidity, cool days (say under about 24°C, I find covering your dough with plastic wrap, sealed off as best you can, is the best option. The plastic wrap will help the heat generated by the fermentation of the yeast to be retained close to the dough and hence keep it at a slightly higher, more preferable temperature for proving. Depending on the temperature you may of course also have to create a warmer mini-environment to help keep the temperature at a suitable level for proving but that is a topic for another time. Sealing the bowl, tin or tray in a plastic bag also will have the same effect.
On high-humidity, warm day (say about 24°C- 30°C), covering your bowl of dough or shaped loaves or buns with a dry clean tea towel is all you need to do as the high humidity will help stop the surface of the dough from drying out and this temperature range is perfect for proving dough.
However, if it is warmer than 30°C a slightly damp tea towel is preferable as the light dampness of the tea towel will help the dough prove at a good temperature (yeast is happiest between 25°C-28°C) as it will have a slight cooling affect on the surrounding air and will help stop the dough from proving at too high temperature (it doesn’t like being proven above 32°C as unpleasant yeasty flavours can develop). The slight dampness of the tea towel will also help if it is a low humidity day as it will help stop the surface of the bread form drying out.
Also, another thing to keep in mind is to coat the dough lightly in butter or oil for the first proving or brush your buns or loaves with a little egg wash or milk and this will also help the dough from drying out during proving no matter which technique you use and how humid the day is.