A proofing basket is a large bowl used by bakers to hold dough as it rises. The spiral pattern in which a proofing basket is assembled leaves a noticeable imprint on the risen dough that is often still visible in the finished loaf. Proofing baskets come in many different shapes and sizes to form an expanding dough ball into a multitude of loaf styles. Baskets are often made from natural materials, such as wood and woven cane, but are also available in dishwasher safe plastic. Using a proofing basket can give a baked loaf of bread the rustic look of old-world artisan baking.
These baskets are commonly used in home and commercial bakeries to control the shape of a loaf and texture of the outer crust. The ball of rising yeast dough is usually left to rest in a proofing basket for about an hour or until it has nearly doubled its original size. Proofing baskets are typically covered with a slightly damp cloth or sheet of plastic wrap during the rising process to keep the top surface of the dough moist. A well-made proofing basket can last for years of regular use.
Active yeast mixed into dough consumes the sugars in flour to produce carbon dioxide gas bubbles. Yeast is a single-celled fungal organism used by bakers to add flavor and a light airy texture to bread. The carbon dioxide gas bubbles created by the fermenting yeast are trapped by the elastic dough, causing it to expand in every direction. Placing a ball of dough on a flat surface to rise makes it more difficult for the dough to overcome gravity and grow upwardly, often resulting in a low, flat blob. A proofing basket supports the dough all the way around, so it is able to expand straight up and hold more of the carbon dioxide gas bubbles.
Proofing baskets are often prepared with a dusting of flour on the interior or thin cloth liner before the sticky dough ball is introduced. These measures can make it easier to release the risen dough from the basket and move it onto the baking sheet or stone. Cloth proofing basket liners typically leave a crosshatch imprint on the outer surface of the bread. Using flour to prevent sticking in the basket can also give the bread a spiral of flour that follows the trail of indentations from the basket. The proofing basket can help give finished baked goods a more professional and artistic look.