It’s a bit ironic that the best time to bake bread (a cold, dark day) is the worst time to proof (or prove) bread. Bread yeast needs a warm, kind of humid environment to thrive, and it can be hard to find such conditions come October. A microwave makes a pretty good ersatz proofing drawer, but that means your microwave is occupied for at least an hour, which could be an inconvenience. But if you have a pressure cooker, you can create a very dough-friendly environment using its “Yogurt” setting. (Or the equivalent setting on your machine.)
In fact, the environment is so friendly, it can even cut down your proofing time. I made this peasant bread last night, and it had doubled in size after one hour and 22 minutes, a full eight minutes shy of its 1 1/2- to 2-hour proofing window.
However, it’s not as simple as plopping your dough in the insert and pressing the “Yogurt” button. Doing so places your dough too close to the heating element, and the yeast don’t like that. In fact, they hate it so much they’ll refuse to do their job (or perish altogether, depending on how close they are to the heating element), and your bread will never reach its desired volume.
This is an easy fact to work around: just place a trivet in the insert, lay a piece of parchment on top of the trivet, and place the dough on top of the parchment, keeping your dough away from that pesky heating element. Stretch a piece of plastic wrap across the top of the pressure cooker, then press the “Yogurt” button, making sure it is set to “Normal,” as opposed to “More” or “Less.”
Then step back and let the yeast do their thing until your dough has expanded however much your recipe says it should. If you’re looking for a very easy bread recipe to try this out, I simply must recommend the aforementioned peasant bread. It turns out the peasantry was very good at baking..