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The proof is in the pudding
Posted: 17 February 2018 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I would’ve thought, based admittedly on nothing but the fact that people have been baking with yeast for millennia, that it was far older.

Yes, that was my assumption also. And it still may be, because bread-making was for millennia so universal an activity that hardly anybody felt a need to write down how it was done. (I don’t believe that a single recipe for plain ordinary bread exists in any of the English-language cookery books printed before the 19th century; people whose business it was to make bread knew as a matter of course how to make it, and they had learned directly from other people who knew how to make it, not from a recipe. Only recipes for speciality breads and buns that not every cook or housewife was expected to know merited publication.)

I have flipped through my collection of facsimile 18th-century cookery books, and the instructions for making dough for such things as Wiggs, Yeast Cakes, and French Role mostly use some such phrase as ‘Let it stand/lie to rise’.  It could be, I suppose, that the word proving was a term of art among professional bakers, not used by domestic cooks.

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Posted: 17 February 2018 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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The act of proofing/proving, at least in conversation and the few written recipes I have used, is what you do to make sure the yeast will grow before adding it to the dough, rather than referring to the rising of the dough itself. Maybe that’s a more recent development, or just my dialect.

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Posted: 17 February 2018 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I haven’t had time to track down the history of this, but although yeast-based bread-making is millenia old, it would not be until relatively recently that yeast would be a separate, stored ingredient whose activity might not be fairly certain.  In earlier times it would have been added in the form of a sample of the previous batch of dough, saved out unbaked, or from a fermenting batch of beer.  These would be active cultures, not stuff that had been sitting “on the shelf” for some time that could have lost activity.  It seems plausible to me that before the 19th century yeast did not require “proving”.

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Posted: 17 February 2018 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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The act of proofing/proving, at least in conversation and the few written recipes I have used, is what you do to make sure the yeast will grow before adding it to the dough, rather than referring to the rising of the dough itself. Maybe that’s a more recent development, or just my dialect.

I have never heard it used in that sense. Nor had the OED, up to September 2007. Here is their entry:

h. intr. Of bread or dough: to become aerated by the fermentation of yeast prior to baking; to rise. Occasionally also of yeast: to cause such aeration.
1852 C. Tomlinson Cycl. Useful Arts (1854) I. 181/1 The whole of the flour is..left about an hour..to prove.
1854 A. E. Baker Gloss. Northamptonshire Words II. 139 In making a cake, if it rises well, ‘it proves well’. A baker will often say ‘It is good yeast, it proves so well’.
1909 Mrs. Beeton Cookery Bk. (new ed.) 265/2 Knead well, and leave dry, cover over with a clean cloth, and let it prove for 1½ hours.
1959 Woman 14 Mar. 21/1 Put the dough to rise and prove in a warm but not too hot place.
1999 BBC Good Food July 101/2 Score the dough with a knife—this allows it to relax and prove more quickly.

And as Dr Techie says, till relatively recently yeast was either obtained from beer (’ale barm’) or a ‘mother’ was kept from the last batch of bread made (the sourdough method).

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Posted: 18 February 2018 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 17 February 2018 11:26 AM

The act of proofing/proving, at least in conversation and the few written recipes I have used, is what you do to make sure the yeast will grow before adding it to the dough, rather than referring to the rising of the dough itself. Maybe that’s a more recent development, or just my dialect.

I have never heard it used in that sense. Nor had the OED, up to September 2007. Here is their entry:

I began baking bread from James Beard’s bread book “Beard on Bread” which was originally published in 1973 and this is the way he “proofs” the yeast. A glass of warm water or milk with a bit of sugar in it, pour in the dry yeast and look at the results after a couple of minutes. It puffs up and it is “proved” or “proofed” to be ready for adding to a mound of flour/wheat or whatever. THEN the dough is set aside in a warm environment (in a gas oven lit only by the pilot). Here is his white bread recipe

Add the yeast to 1/2 cup of the warm milk, along with the sugar, and stir well until the yeast is completely dissolved. Allow the yeast to proof. (The mixture will swell and small bubbles will appear on the surface.)

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Posted: 19 February 2018 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Bayaker - 17 February 2018 09:18 AM

The act of proofing/proving, at least in conversation and the few written recipes I have used, is what you do to make sure the yeast will grow before adding it to the dough, rather than referring to the rising of the dough itself. Maybe that’s a more recent development, or just my dialect.

This is also correct, and I apologize for omitting it. The Wikipedia article titled Proofing (baking technique), which I’m not even going to try to link to, calls this proofing the yeast. I’ve also seen it referred to as blooming the yeast. The article implies that blooming is synonymous with proofing/proving when describing either process, but I think I’ve only seen it used to refer to adding yeast to warm water.

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