maturation - the rise
Maturation or leavening or 'the rise' can take many hours so we must protect the prosphoro. If left in the open and especially in a draft, the surface of our prosphoro will dry out. Then, the difference in the hydration of the dough between the surface and the deeper parts will cause separation during baking creating rips or tears.
Various methods have been developed to protect against drying while providing a moist and warm environment during maturation. Depending on your kitchen you may use one of the following:-
You can place your pan under a large glass bowl, (Glass to allow you to watch the rise. Leave a matchstick under one edge to allow for oxygenation).
Another simple method is to fold a damp tea towel over a plastic bag. Place this sandwich towel face down over the pan and put the pan with this covering somewhere warm and away from draft.
Warming an oven or microwave oven cavity and leaving a bowl of hot water in it can keep your dough warm and the surface moist. (never above 30C)
Some ovens offer a dough proving setting (30 C and sometimes with steam)
REFRIGERATE - TO SUIT YOUR SCHEDULE
For times when it is impractical to wait many hours before baking, you can store the prosphoro in the fridge.
For example, if you prepare the prosphoro after work one evening you will need to bake it the following evening unless you enjoy baking in the early hours of the morning.
If you plan to allow some of the maturation to occur in a fridge, it is best to do so early in the maturation phase. Refrigerate straight after you've stamped and pierced. When you get home the following day, let the rest of the rise occur the following day prior to baking.
Most prosphora will rise and be ready for baking within 4-5 hours at around 28-30C.
TO STORE IN THE REFRIGERATOR:-
Wrap a cotton tea towel over the pan. Secure it and place the towel covered pan inside a plastic bag. Seal the bag well. Place it in a refrigerator (not the freezer) for up to 24 hours. Remove it from the fridge and give it whatever time it needs to mature.
HOW TO TELL IF THE MATURATION IS COMPLETE?
Learning to tell when the rise is complete and the prosphoro is ready for baking is very important.
Baking before the rise is complete will result in a big "oven spring" (a rapid rise in the first minutes of baking, due to the heat promoting a vigorous period of activity). This will promote air cells, rips and splits on the prosphoro.
Leaving it too late, past the ideal rise time, will cause the prosphoro to begin to deflate and deform. Worse still, the bread will be dense and unappealing.
These clues are only guides. With some experience, you will know much more accurately, when the dough has risen to the ideal point.
The dough will be at least double its original height
The impression of the seal which had been the lowest part of the surface of the dough, should have risen at least 5mm above the surrounding dough
The 'finger press test'. Press your finger for 2 seconds, into the dough about 5 mm deep, away from the seal impression, near the edge. Release it. If the dough springs back and fills the depression quickly, it needs more time. If it stays depressed with no bounce back... hurry, you've left it too late. Bake immediately. If it returns slowly - often leaving the some of the indentation ... it should be about right! (the indentation should correct itself during the bake)
If your prosphoro is beginning sink and show surface wrinkles, it is late. Bake! The wrinkles will likely vanish during baking unless you've left it well beyond the right time.