The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

VERY basic proofing question

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Irutigliano's picture

VERY basic proofing question

I have been baking bread for a long time. Sometimes with great success and sometimes not. The one thing that has always troubled me is in the proofing. How do I know exactly what I am looking for to make sure my dough has proofed enough and not over proofed. I have always gone with the double in size method but sometimes I have success and some times not do much. 


thanks for the help, this is a great site and I can't wait to try some of what I have learned here already.

judsonsmith's picture

That's a good question, and (for me at least) it takes a bit of experience to get a good feel for when a dough is over, under or just the right level of proof. I personally think that two things need to happen during proofing: enough gas needs to be generated through fermentation to expand and give the loaf volume when it hits the hearth, and the loaf's gluten needs to relax enough to allow for that volume (think like expanding a weak vs a strong rubber band with your fingers). Sometimes one is more important than the other but I think it depends greatly on the type of bread and overall process you're using.

I think its very important to pay attention to how things feel and look just prior to baking and to compare that with the final result. You can sort of reverse engineer some problems that way- examples might be: bread has some oven-spring but low volume overall and looks kinda "locked-up" - might of been underproofed. Or, bread has poor oven spring, looks flat and has poor score openings- maybe overproofed. Those are pretty general but you get the idea.

This is such a rich and complex trade/hobby/art, it can be so rewarding and so confounding. Always something to learn. Sometimes I have to learn the same darn lesson over and over again!

Hope that helps. There are so many skilled bakers who use this site and I'm sure they have well qualified guidance to offer with this.



mariana's picture

Usually the recipe tells you how much or how and how long and at what temperature and humidity to proof the dough before baking.  In that aspect every bread is unique, some only double in volume, some are not supposed to rise at all, or barely so, others rise 4x and even 6x in volume. It all depends on the recipe (dough composition) and the typical crumb and external characteristics of the bread you want to achieve - smooth top, decorative cracks on the surface, barely open vs wildly open cuts with ears, deep cuts that you want to stay deep in the finished loaf or shallow cuts which you want to open up, etc. .

The only answer is to work on one specific bread at a time and practice proofing it just right. It won't work for the next recipe, but you will master one bread at a time, one recipe at a time.


clazar123's picture

I need to understand the concept of what I am doing so I know how to judge what works. This is what I figured out(above) and it seems helpful to know. I still have to work at it.

Irutigliano's picture

Thank you all for your replies. Clazar that is exactly the type of info I was looking for. Great explanation. Off to the kitchen!!