The first thing I have to say about the folding proofer ($148) from Brod & Taylor is, "How have I survived so long without this?"
Okay, I'm in the midst of developing bread recipes for a cookbook, so I'm baking more bread than a normal person. But even when I'm back to my normal rate of bread production, this will be a handy thing to have. And when it's not in use, it folds for more compact storage. That's always a bonus.
When I first unpacked the proofer, I thought it might be a little too small—it looked like it might be too short to fit my stand mixer bowl. But, no, the bowl fit in the proofer, with a little headroom. The interior measures 12 1/2 x 15 inches, and about 8 1/5 high, so it's too small for a half-sheet pan, but it's fine for plenty of other pans and bowls.
This heats to a range of 70 to 120°F in one-degree increments, so besides proofing dough you can use it for fermenting yogurt or similar products. I been using it pretty constantly for proofing dough, and I've made several batches of yogurt as well. I suspect it would also be useful for keeping food warm if you're cooking in batches or if something is finished a little sooner than it should be, but I haven't tried using it for that purpose.
Before I had this proofer to work with, my favorite place to proof dough was in my oven with the light on. But that's no use when I need the oven for something else, which is usually the case.
If you don't bake a lot of bread, obviously you won't need this. But if you make a lot of bread and you want consistent temperature for rising, this just might come in handy.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.