I never want to bake bread ever again without this thin-as-hell dough riser

There are a lot of free hacks when it comes to creating the ideal warm environment for your dough, but spending $70 on a self-heating placemat was worth the peace of mind baking in a drafty kitchen.

If you’re baking with yeast, then you’re familiar with the recipe step “let rise in a warm place for one to two hours or until double in size.” If you search online for the best (and quickest) ways to make dough rise, there’s a litany of suggestions, such as nuking a glass of water and then putting your little dough baby in the microwave to enjoy a MacGyvered-steam room, or by creating a humid environment with a bowl of boiling water in your oven. Someone suggested putting your dough in the car and then parking your car in the sun. (I don’t have a car.) There’s even a wikiHow page with a few tips.

Up until recently, especially in the winter months, I would preheat my oven, turn it off, and then put my dough in there to do its thing. (This trick doesn’t work during a final proof while the oven is preheating, however.) It worked fine, but then I started seeing this placemat-looking device called the Raisenne Dough Riser on sites like Williams-Sonoma and Food52 that promised “a beautiful proof every time.”

It looked simple, was less expensive than a nice proofing box, and promised to take the guesswork out of a baking process that always felt a bit abstract and intimidating to me. If my oven accidentally got too hot, it would kill my precious yeast and my dough wouldn’t rise. Too cold, and that “or until double in size” could stretch out hours. I’m an amateur baker with a kitchen window that loves to leak in a cold breeze and an inability to waft the warm air from my preheated oven and go “ah yes that’s the ideal temperature.” So I decided to see if the little placemat would give me beautiful proofs.

“You simply plug it in and it starts heating up, reaching the ideal proofing temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Raisenne Dough Riser, which was almost called Proof Perfect, comes from printed electronics company Reliatrace. The company has been developing its patented tech for about three years now, and about a year-and-a-half ago decided that it wanted to take a product directly to the consumer, which it hadn’t done before — it worked primarily in the medical and commercial equipment industries.

And so the circuit maker started brainstorming ways to bring a product direct-to-consumers. Reliatrace CEO Mark Ester said that they had a long list of about 20 or 25 ideas, but that the dough riser rose to the top of the list for a number of reasons. A key one being that they wanted to be in total control of the build.

For instance, if they explored developing a seat heater, they would have to find someone to build the structure of the seat and then build their heater into it. With the dough riser, it was so simple in application, they could do everything in-house, with no third-parties. All they have to do, essentially, is print the heater, put laminate on both sides, and attach the power source.

The company patented its self-regulating flexible heating technology in January of this year. It’s what allows the Raisenne to be so thin while controlling its temperature at what is believed to be the ideal heat for dough rising, based on what the company found on baking sites, in general research, and through internal testing and a testing group of bakers.

The Raisenne is thinner than a millimeter.Melanie Ehrenkranz / Input

You’ll just have to trust that the unit is heating up to the right temperature since there aren’t any displays or timers. I used my hand to make sure it was heating up after plugging it in. It was warm to the touch, but not so warm that it burned my hand.

Raisenne knows that it’s supposed to warm up to 85 degrees because the pattern on the screen-printed surface determines the target temperature. And because the heating source is from a thermally conductive ink, it lowers the risk of burning or melting. The ink itself reaches the target temperature and then holds that temperature for as long as you plug it in. If it works as intended, the Raisenne should reach and maintain the same temperature every time.

Wow, it’s thin!

When my Raisenne arrived in the mail, my first impression was that it was really thin. I was expecting a girth like the base of my electric kettle, but the plastic countertop unit was so thin I could flap it around. It’s described as “microthin” and that is no exaggeration — it is .032-inch thick, to be exact. It’s just above 10-inches in diameter, which easily fits one of my larger bowls I use to mix in when I bake. And it weighs 10 ounces, which is equivalent to about two large oranges, though I attribute most of the weight to the power source given how slight the actual dough rising part is.

It’s as simple as it looks.Melanie Ehrenkranz / Input

There was also nearly no assembly — you simply plug the unit into an adapter and into the wall, and it starts heating up, reaching the ideal proofing temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and maintaining that heat until you unplug it.

Baking tests

To test it out, I baked a few items that required active dry yeast and meaningful proofing times — whole wheat English muffins, white bread loaves, and challahs. I would set one bowl of covered dough in a warm place (in this case, my oven) and the other on the Raisenne. The company does advise that if you have countertops that lean cold, such as tiled or stone surfaces, that you place a cloth underneath the unit for a quicker warm-up, which I did.

In each experience, the dough on the Raisenne proved slightly quicker than my dough in the oven. The intention behind Raisenne isn’t to speed up the process, though, it’s to give consistent proofs. And they definitely were consistent across the board in several recipes with varying proving times. The Raisenne website states that in some of their internal side-by-side tests, the proof times were cut in half. I used a transparent container to keep an eye on my dough on the Raisenne and took a marker to indicate the progress of my dough at quarterly increments. While in my baking experiments it never doubled in half the time, they consistently puffed up by, at the latest, the minimum amount of time the recipe called for, and sometimes slightly less than that.

Rise, dough, rise!Melanie Ehrenkranz / Input

Whereas, in my oven, it took at least the maximum amount of time to double in size, sometimes longer depending on the recipe. That probably means that my oven hack was just a little cooler than it could have been. I was also able to more easily keep an eye on my dough on the countertop versus my dough in the oven — opening the door let cold air in, chilling my fragile manufactured humid ambiance.

When I was done proving, I unplugged the Raisenne and let it cool down before wiping it with a damp cloth. It’s not dishwasher safe. Since it is paper-thin and made from lightweight plastic, it was really easy to clean and dry.

Look at all these delicious and consistent proofs.Melanie Ehrenkranz / Input

“I think with the pandemic we've seen increased interest in baking, we've certainly been very pleased with the rollout,” Ester said. He added that they anticipated that as the weather got warmer, they’d see sales level, which happened, but that after places like Williams-Sonoma picked the Raisenne up, there’s been an increase in demand. Ester said he’s hopeful that they’ll continue to roll out new consumer products, such as a 9 x 13-inch dough riser for someone who wants to make buns or rolls that are yeast-based.

Beautiful proofs

Reviewing this item, I was reminded of a time a few years back when I was looking for a DVD player online. I was reading the reviews, and they effectively boiled down to “this works” and “this doesn’t work.” With a dough riser, I simply wanted to trust that it would work. It has one job: to give me beautiful proofs. For $70, I can’t say that it’s an essential buy. If you’re comfortable with your proof hacks, do you.

If you’re looking for a dependable and consistent way to make your dough rise, it does offer some peace of mind.

But if you’re looking for a dependable and consistent way to make your dough rise, it does offer some peace of mind. For all the work (and waiting) that goes into making yeast-based baked goods, screwing up the proving process can be pretty devastating. Knowing that my dough is parking it at the ideal temperature for the yeast to be activated was one less thing to think about in the flurry of my kitchen. If a “beautiful proof” just means that my yeast is thriving as fermentation intended, then I did get those “every time.” And, as I said before, it’s thin as hell. You can store that thing vertically among your cookware. Although as one Raisenne reviewer pointed out, you could also try a reptile mat with an adjustable temperature.