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Challenger Fermentation Mat Evaluation

Straight To The Level

The Challenger Fermentation Mat is an efficient and versatile technique to maintain your sourdough starter or bread dough on the correct temperature in colder months, so long as you’re not making an excessive amount of dough. It’s additionally offered with their Proofing Box (which we additionally tried and advocate) of their Proofing Kit.

One of many tougher elements about sourdough baking within the colder months is sustaining correct starter and dough temperature. Pure yeast cultures in a starter are slower to breed than immediate or lively dry yeast you should purchase from the shop, and constant temperatures between 74ºF to 80ºF are needed to permit bread to rise. 

Industrial bakeries have proofing racks that permit totally enclosed temperature management, however choices for residence bakers are restricted. There are countertop proofing bins out there, however they are often costly and their dimension and form is restrictive. The Challenger Fermentation Mat is designed to be extra versatile: as an alternative of a field, it’s a protracted, rectangular silicone mat with heating components that radiate upwards, permitting extra freedom for which kind of proofing container you wish to set on high of it. It additionally has a temperature management field that means that you can set a customized temperature, and once you’re completed, you’ll be able to roll it up for straightforward storage.

We evaluated the mat’s efficiency and usefulness, to see whether or not we advocate it (or not).

Challenger Breadware

The Exams

Severe Eats / Jesse Raub

  • Starter Check: We made a 5-hour levain in a glass jar with 57ºF water and 68ºF flour and set it on the Challenger Fermentation Mat set to 90ºF. We positioned one temperature probe within the starter and one within the air to measure ambient temperature and recorded the outcomes. 
  • Dough Check: We combined the levain right into a 2-loaf batch of dough made with 54ºF water and 68ºF flour and set it in a plastic proofing field on the Challenger Fermentation Mat set to 90ºF. We positioned one temperature probe within the dough and one within the air to measure ambient temperature and recorded the outcomes.
  • Massive Batch Check: We repeated each the starter and dough exams, this time doubling the recipe for a 4-loaf batch to see if the mat might deal with a bigger thermal mass.
  • Usability and Cleanup Exams: We famous how easy the mat was to arrange and program, in addition to how simple it was to scrub. 

What We Realized

It Maintained Temperatures Properly

Throughout our testing, we discovered that the mat was capable of keep constant temperatures over lengthy durations of time, which helped each our starter and our bread dough ferment correctly. It held our starter between 74ºF and 80ºF for greater than 4 hours whereas the room temperature floated between 64ºF to 68ºF each half-hour attributable to residence heating cycles. The mat additionally helped maintain our dough temperature secure for 3 hours. 

It did take a little bit finesse to achieve our goal of 78ºF, however because the dough mat says on its floor: “mat temperature just isn’t dough temperature.” With a view to get our levain and dough as much as the 74ºF to 80ºF vary, we needed to set the mat a little bit larger and monitor its temperature the primary time we used it. 

It Took Time To Warmth Up

Severe Eats / Jesse Raub

The mat’s temperature consistency was stellar, nevertheless it wasn’t environment friendly at heating. Each our levain and bread dough started round 66ºF, and it took round two hours for the levain to hit peak temps of 80ºF whereas our dough took round three hours to clear 74ºF, even with the dial cranked to 100ºF. In consequence, we needed to lengthen the proofing time by half-hour, although this may doubtless be much less of a problem in spring or fall when the beginning water temperature is larger and the room temperature is hotter. 

The Mat’s Form Was Tremendous Versatile 

The fermentation mat may even heat a sourdough starter jar that is perhaps too tall for a proofing field.

Severe Eats / Jesse Raub

The principle benefit of this fermentation mat over different countertop proofing bins is simply how versatile it’s. It’s lengthy sufficient to position two medium-sized mixing bowls on it side-by-side, or perhaps a proofing field along with your starter jar subsequent to it. Much more helpful than that’s its portability: as a result of the mat can simply roll up when not in use, it takes up little or no space for storing, and might even slot in a drawer.

It Struggled With Bigger Volumes

To check the fermentation mat’s limits, we doubled our common recipe for a 4-loaf batch of dough. Each our larger levain and dough struggled to hit our goal 74ºF to 80ºF goal, forcing us to increase our proofing time for each by practically two hours, although most individuals wouldn’t face this concern with commonplace bread recipes.

It Labored Finest with Flat-Bottomed Bins

Severe Eats / Jesse Raub

Together with the Fermentation Mat, we additionally examined out Challenger’s Proofing Field as a part of their Proofing Kit. Whereas the mat labored effectively for jars, bowls, and different bins, the Challenger Proofing Field has a totally flat backside which gave it a variety of direct contact with the Fermentation Mat. The opposite plastic proofing field we examined had plastic rails on the underside that elevated it off the counter barely, and the warmth switch wasn’t as direct.

The Verdict

challenger breadware fermentation mat

Challenger Breadware

The Execs: For many residence bakers, the Challenger Fermentation Mat is a superb choice for sustaining correct fermentation temperatures on your starter, levain, or dough. As a result of it’s a mat (versus a field), it means that you can use no matter fermentation vessel you already personal (although utterly flat-bottomed bins work greatest), and its capability to roll up when not in use makes it simple to retailer. We additionally discovered it was simple to program the specified temperature, fast to arrange, and simple to wipe clear with a humid fabric if any dough had been to spill over. 

The Cons: The most important downside is that the mat can take some time to warmth up, extending your proofing occasions, and simply isn’t highly effective sufficient for bigger batches of dough. Nevertheless, for many residence bakers this wouldn’t be an issue. 

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 10 x 21 inches
  • Wattage: 20 watts
  • Temperature vary: 40ºF to 108ºF
  • Care directions: Wipe clear with a humid fabric as wanted
  • Worth at time of publish: $76


Is a fermentation mat or proofing field price it?

For individuals who stay in colder areas, it’s more durable to keep up the right temperature for sourdough fermentation. A fermentation mat or a proofing field can assist maintain your sourdough starter and bread dough on the proper temperature for your complete proofing course of. 

What temperature ought to a proofing field be?

Sourdough requires gentler warmth and longer proofing occasions than immediate or lively dry yeast, and the perfect temperature vary is between 74ºF to 82ºF. If the temperature is simply too cool, the dough gained’t rise in time, and if the temperature will get too heat, the fermentation will begin to break down gluten strands, and the dough will collapse.

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