Time, temperature and scheduling are of paramount importance to the baker. Each week I make up a schedule of what needs to be done and when. I am usually pretty close to staying on schedule. One of the tricks to doing this is taking the temperatures of the room, the ingredients and the desired dough temperature and plugging them into a formula to determine the correct temperature of water to use. This should give me dough fermenting at the rate that will keep me on schedule.
I am a little bit of a miser when it comes to heating the bakery this winter. So I have to be inventive to keep my dough from cooling off too much and fermentation slowing down too much. For the bulk fermentation, I have been putting the dough in a enclosed sheet pan rack with a container of warm water in the bottom. But the next step is dividing and shaping the dough on a wooden table and I have noticed that the table conducts the heat out of the dough at a fast rate and was trying to think of a way to prevent this. I finally came up with an idea that is probably a little crazy. This is why I found myself plugging in an electric blanket and spreading it on the table a couple of hours before I had to work with some dough on it. It had me laughing at myself, but it worked pretty well.