The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"The Dough Should Pass the Windowpane Test and Register 77 to 81 Degrees....."

AndyKornkven's picture
AndyKornkven

"The Dough Should Pass the Windowpane Test and Register 77 to 81 Degrees....."

This sentence, or one like it, occurs throughout the Formulas section of Peter Rinehart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I know what the windowpane test is.  But I don not recall the author explaining why the temperature of the dough should rise so significantly after being kneaded for 6-10 minutes; nor do I recall him instructing what to do if your dough does not make it to the prescribed temperature range.


I always stick my trusty digital thermometer (bought from King Arthur Flour) into the kneaded dough, and not once yet has my dough registered above 74 degrees.  I've tried kneading for additional minutes, and that seems to raise the dough a degree or two.  Am I doing something wrong?  Do I need to turn up the thermostat in my house?


Any comments are appreciated. Thank you!

ejm's picture
ejm

I'm pretty sure you're not doing anything wrong. Unless the bread that you're making doesn't taste very good. The temperatures are just guidelines and if your dough temperature is around 74F, I'm certain that's fine. Really cold makes the fermentation of the dough REALLY slow. Too warm makes it go too fast and will produce bland tasting bread.


It is possible though (I gather) that kneading in a machine can cause the dough temperature to rise higher than the recommended temperature. That should be guarded against.


The window-pane test is described well on sourdoughhome.com:



Once the dough is springy and lively, it's time for what bakers call "the windowpane test". Start by pulling off a piece of dough about the size of a walnut. Roll it between your hands for a few seconds to smooth the damage done when you pulled the dough away from the larger chunk of dough. Now, using both hands, pull the dough between your hands. The idea is to tease the dough into a sheet or film. From time to time, rotate the dough 90 degrees so you will be pulling on different sides. As you pull on the dough, it should form a sheet, or film, that is thin enough that light can pass through it. No, you won't be able to see things through it, like you could with a real window. The dough shouldn't tear when you do this.



Personally, (and this may make me unpopular) I've always thought this window pane test was over-rated. I think it's enough to knead your dough until it feels smooth and silky. I've never managed to do the windowpane test successfully and yet I know that the bread dough I've kneaded has been kneaded enough.


If you're worried that maybe you didn't knead it enough, take it out of its rising bowl about 30 minutes after kneading and place it gently on a very lightly dusted board. Fold it in half, gently dust off any flour and fold it in half again. Put it back in the bowl. This will strengthen it.


-Elizabeth

mcs's picture
mcs

Are you out of your mind?  Just kidding.  I don't quite get it either, to tell you the truth. 


-Mark


http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

janij's picture
janij

After 10+ years of baking, I think I am okay.  And I think I have achieved windowpane like once.  It was an all white straight dough.  So I am so glad a fantastic, professional baker thinks it is not as important.  I feel so much better that I just can't get it to do that, esp with whole grains!! :)

ejm's picture
ejm

I have to admit that I'm relieved to hear that I'm not alone.


It seems to me that trying to get dough to pass the windowpane test and measuring its temperature religiously are just ways to make a simple process far too complicated.


-Elizabeth


P.S. Alas, though, the answer to your first question, Mark, is "Yes, I am out of my mind." But that's another story. ;-)

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I'm so glad I'm "out of my mind" too. I just couldn't see the reason to fuss with a windowpane test or a few degrees of temperature. Maybe it's a good idea for new bread bakers so I won't say don't bother.


 


Thanks Elizabeth for your post and Thank You Mark for giving it the Seal of Approval.


 


weavershouse

LindyD's picture
LindyD


Maybe it's a good idea for new bread bakers so I won't say don't bother.



I don't think Jeffrey Hamelman can be catagorized as a "new bread baker."


Or Reinhart, for that matter, since the OP referenced his formula and suggested temps.

davec's picture
davec

FWIW, I have been assuming all along that Reinhart, Hamelman, and the other expert baking authors were just trying to help us new bakers to recognize when the dough is ready, with all this window-pane and temperature stuff.  If you just say, "knead the dough until it feels right," we newbies won't know what you're talking about.  Once I have enough baking experience to know what the dough should feel like, I assume I won't need those tests, either.


Dave

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

Andy, as Elizabeth noted, if your dough is passing the windowpane test and otherwise behaves well, the slight variation in temperature is not that big of a deal.  If you really want to hit that target temperature, start with slightly warmer water.  Adjust it by a few degrees until you get the results you desire.  Of course, a cooler temperature will require a longer rising time, which in turn leads to tastier bread!


Phyl

twgiffin's picture
twgiffin

It seems that the details matter until they don't.


When the results are good then "Eh whatever" ?


I am beginning to feel that striving to satisfying the minutia is a waste of time.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I think the warmth comes from the water and the mixer kneading. Perhaps the comment about the temperature being between 77 and 81 degrees is more of a caveat warning not to let it get hotter than 81 degrees. It might get hotter than 81 degrees if mixed in a food processor.


I don't do the windowpane test with kneaded doughs either. More, I'm just looking for a the dough to develop a certain quality, e.g., my sprouted wheat dough will start making a 'slapping' noise against the mixer after the gluten gets developed.


But I have done the windowpane test: just gently work a little section of the dough apart with your thumbs until it is really thin and you can see through it. If you can do this and the dough doesn't rip, then it passes.


--Pamela

plvannest's picture
plvannest

Pamela, would you mind sharing your recipe for sprouted wheat bread?  That was one of our favorites while in the UK, but I can't find the sprouted wheat or a recipe here.


Thanks,


plvannest

xaipete's picture
xaipete


 


My recipe is a adaptation of what appears in Laurel's Bread Book and Reinhart's WGB.


1340 grams sprouted hard red spring wheat berries
67 grams vital wheat gluten flour
18 grams sea salt
14 grams active dry yeast (you can also use instant yeast, which doesn't require activation in water)
57 grams honey
1/2 cup water


whole wheat flour for kneading



To sprout grains: generously cover wheat berries with water and store in a dark, cool place for  about 36 hours. Change the water every 12 hours. After 36 hours, drain the wheat berries, place in a covered container, and let them sit on the counter for about 3 to 6 hours until they are just beginning to sprout (until you just begin to see a little white tail form). At this point you can process sprouted grains to a fine pulp with fine meat grinder disk of a KitchenAid mixer. You can also store the sprouts in the refrigerator overnight and grind them the following day. I have also ground them right away and then stored the grind overnight in the refrigerator.



Mix all ingredients together in your mixer (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant, you will have to activate it with some of the water first before putting it in the mixer) with the paddle attachment for a few minutes, then switch to the dough hook. It takes quite a bit of coaxing and scraping and hand-kneading to get the dough to knead correctly on the dough hook (in other words, I have to move it in and out of the bowl and reposition it multiple times before I'm able to get it to sit in a kneading position on the dough hook). Once the mixer really starts to knead it, I begin tapping tiny amounts of whole wheat flour down the side of the bowl whenever needed so as to keep it sliding around in the bowl. My mixer (4.5 quart 1976 vintage Kitchenaid) takes about 20 minutes to develop the gluten properly; I can tell when the dough starts to really develop because it makes a "slapping" sound as it hits the side of the bowl and undergoes a significant texture change. You have to make it several times until you get the feel for what is going on. I can knead the entire batch of bread at once in the 4.5 quart bowl.

When it is well kneaded, form it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, 45 to 60 minutes in a warm, humid environment (about 80º). Gently degas it and knead for a few minutes to redistribute yeast action, cut in three parts, form into three loaves and place into three lightly greased loaf pans (I use pyrex loaf pans). Let rise again until nearly doubled, about 50 minutes, in a warm, humid environment (about 90º). If you don't want to mess with the proofing box, just let it rise on the counter at room temperature; this seems to work almost as well.

Place in a preheated 425º oven on middle lower rack position, and immediately turn oven down to 350º. Let bake 20 minutes. Rotate loaves 180º and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until center of loaf reaches about 205º. Let cool 1 hour before slicing.

Makes three loaves.


http://gallery.me.com/xaipete#100031



--Pamela

plvannest's picture
plvannest

Thank you so much!  Going to try this as soon as I can find some wheat berries.  So far all I've come across are Bob's Red Mill white winter wheat berries.  Would those work as well as the hard red spring?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

They should work just fine as long as you put in the vital gluten. I use Bob's Red Mill berries too (hard spring red).


--Pamela

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I checked my BBA and it appears that Reinhart is making reference to the desired dough temperature.  Too bad he doesn't discuss how to do the calculation.


As explained by Hamelman in his "Bread," controlling the dough temperature encourages good gas production and flavor development during fermentation.  Quoting:  "Because the home baker is always at a disadvantage - not able to mix doughs to the level of strength that the professional can, and lacking good steam - it is particularly important to do absolutely everything possible to benefit the doughs.  By mixing doughs that are in the temperature zone that most favors both fermentation and flavor development, the home baker is well on the way to making consistently high-quality bread."


It's pretty simple to do:  multiply the DDT by 3 for a straight dough.  That gives you the total temperature factor.  The flour temp, room temp and friction factor are subtracted from that number and that gives you the water temperature you should use.  If using a preferment, the multiplier is 4 and you have to subtract the temp of the preferment as well as the other temps.  


If hand kneading or folding, there is no friction factor to speak of.  If using a mixer, well, if you don't know the friction factor for your particular mixer, that can be a crap shoot.  But he does explain how to calculate that number.   Hamelman also states that in most cases, the temperature range that works best for wheat based breads is 75F to 78F.


I do the calculation every time I bake bread because for me, it has made a positive difference.  On the other hand, I rarely do a windowpane check.


 


 


 


 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I've never bothered with that, nor have I ever taken the temperature of the dough.  When it feels right, that's when it's done.

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

ihave used a friction factor constant of 36 F for all my years and have that number to work well with pro mixers types sprial planatery and Horizontal


not sure how that number woulf work with the dlx or other types

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

If you're mixing by hand, warming the water a bit is really the only way to get the dough a bit warmer--though if you've got it to 74 degrees you're probably fine.  As LindyD notes, there is definately a "friction factor" of 20-40 degrees that mixing in a mixer adds to dough temperature, but when mixing by hand, I've found a friction factor of maybe six degrees--hardly worth mentioning.  So you won't improve it much by kneeding, as you've already found.


I do do the windowpane test, and that generally works out pretty well (rather than breaking off a piece or anything, I just pick the dough up by an edge and see if gravity can stretch it thin without tearing).  Prior to getting Reinhart's book, I generally went by the "smoosh" test--getting the dough into an oblong, standing it on end and seeing if it will smoothly smoosh flat, rather than folding on itself.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

My grandma didn't use any "window pane" test and she didn't own a thermometer.  Her bread was an incredible blend of flavors and each slice always tempted me to take just one more.  Her kitchen was always above 70 degrees (rarely below 75 degrees) and she had a special corner for resting her dough to rise.  So I don't worry about window panes or 74 degrees.  That may be why I'm struggling to learn the art of bread making but if grandma suffered through the learning curve I know I can do it too.  ;-)

proth5's picture
proth5

But our grandmothers spent years learning just how the dough should feel, how hot the water felt on her wrist and just where the bread needed to sit to rise.  She probably had a few failures, but they were probably before you were born.


I would never critisize "Grandma's" techniques or wisdom.  Especially since I am at that age where I could easily be a grandmother.


On the other hand, we've learned a few things over the years.  I will say that I baked for years the way I was taught by my own grandmother and I wasn't bad at it.  Things like desired dough temperature and windowpane tests (and baker's math! Why - oh why did I have to wait so long to hear about baker's math???) are tools to make a more consisent product with more consistent timing under varying conditions.  It's the extra 5% and is meaningful to some...


Just a thought.  Peace.

sw3's picture
sw3

this answers a question i posted this morning concerning the window pane test.  another question i have is high gluten flour vs. bread flour.  if you had it would you use it over bf. and not add the gluten.  i bake a honey whole wheat, and made my first rye last night. the hww i get a great rise from with the addition of gluten to the bread flour.  the book bread bakers apprentice, says you can go either way. but suggests the hg on the rye. 


any input would be really helpful.  thanks.

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

There are some formula for getting the water temperature right. Sourdoughhome web site has a rule of 240 and Dan Lepard has a formula in his first book Baker and Spice. It is 2x the desired dough temp minus the flour temp equals the water temperature for machine mixing. Add 3 degrees to the water temp if mixing by hand.


Personally I usually use room temperature water. If It's really cold in winter I warm it up a little. If the days are really hot like the 90-100 F we've had lately I use some water out of the fridge.


Liz

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Thanks for the recipe.


Tonight I made pizzas with sourdough discard by adding KAF Artisan Flour, salt and a little olive oil. I had been feeding my sourdough with an all-purpose flour, so when I tried to windowpane test, the dough kept ripping. In fact, it was somewhat hard to work with because the gluten just hadn't developed as much as it might have, in spite of the fact that it was smooth and looked pretty good. It was also very sticky because I added a lot of water during the machine kneading. Weird dough, all around. However, it made fabulous cracker-crust pizza. I used the recipe that was on another thread here for greens and garlic pizza, and it was exactly the kind of Roman-style crust I'd been searching for. So, my conclusion is that a low-gluten flour with full hydration makes a good cracker-type pizza crust.

PoundCake's picture
PoundCake

I must say I almost gasped at the beauty fo those three loaves of bread.  I got up and started some bread and now I am back, hehe .....

cheetrowe's picture
cheetrowe

Just wanted to add that if there are any new bakers out there, don't worry too much about the windowpane test. I've never had much luck with it anyway, most likely because I'm not stretching patiently enough.


We were never taught to windowpane in culinary school and of course the breads were coming out fine.  If you're kneading by hand you can use the palm of your right hand and push the ball of dough outwards, diagonally towards the left, then roll it back and use your left palm to roll it out towards the right.  Back and forth, back and forth, switching hands each time and pushing outwards and not downwards.  You don't have to necessarily do the folding-type kneading, although if you like that of course you could.  I've always had better luck with the rolling method.  Do it for 8-10 minutes at a good pace (unless your recipe specifies otherwise) and you shouldn't have any problems with gluten development. 


Hope that's helpful and happy baking (and eating!)!

fastmail98's picture
fastmail98

Thank you all for your comments on windowpane testing my dough. Between Peter Reinhart and Ciril Hitz, I've been going crazy trying to figure this out. Have I passed up the windowpane threshold? Is there some way to go back? When am I at the point where it WILL windowpane? Arrrrrrrgh!! The digital thermometer I can do! Tacky but not sticky dough I can do. I have dough for French bread fermenting next to me as I type. Practice, practice...process not event...craft not concoction! I THINK I'll eventually end up with a stand mixer to help with my dough mixing.  Ciril Hitz' book 'Baking Artisan Bread' is all formulated for mixers...wish I had known that before I bought it on line. He's into the windowpane test, too. Although I'm having a hard time with his recipes right now, the book comes with a DVD that shows how to shape/roll/fold dough. That is worth the money along with some of the other technique info in the book. Thanks for your insight and sharing your experience...as a newbee I often turn here for advice.


Russ

rockyriley1's picture
rockyriley1

My only comment about measuring dough temperature is...."How did they do it in Pompeii a thousand (or so) years ago...they unearthed pizza/bread ovens that are still able to be used today...so they made bread..im sure they didnt have a digital/spring/mercury thermometer back then and im sure their bread/pizza turned out fine....

 

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Fair enough... while in the end it all turns out 'fine', the difference is the way the process is learned today, versus yester-years. Prior to the last 4 or so decades, everything was passed down, and children were involved since the day they could walk. Nowadays, bread baking is a 'hobby', and anyone taking up this hobby is immediately at a multi-year disadvantage to the learning process years gone. These tools have their value, but of course they are certainly not 'required' steps that would lead to disaster if not strictly performed. Although I rarely do a window pane on recipes that I can pull off with my eyes closed, I'm certainly glad I know how to do one when I'm faced with a new recipe or unfamiliar flour. It's handy, not voodoo.

A lot of people have taken up this art, as well as many in the past, who like to approach things from a slightly more scientific angle. Minutia becomes important when you can actually control many of those tiny elements. The produced flavors and down-to-the-minute production schedules are proof that it can work that way. It's hard on a newcomer to bread baking, because all of these little things are all new ideas and procedures; it's a LOT to try and not only absorb, but control as well. Anyone who posts with an obvious information overload is usually quickly advised to slow down, pick an easier recipe, and accept initial results that might not be 'front page' worthy while they master all of the smaller details that will result in the superior product.

I'd hate to scare off anyone already perplexed by the whole 'windowpane' thing, but the reality is, pulling open a window pane is just an 'action'. There is much revealed about the condition of the dough as you continue to stretch it to where it eventually tears. The tearing itself has subtle 'qualities' that can allow you to really dial in a specific development of the dough. These visual cues are just handy to have if you're trying to emulate a particular recipe and the results.

Temperature I could get a little more hard-nosed about, because it really is important. Think about all of the problems we try and help people with here at TFL, especially the failed or unexpected results of the bake itself. This is usually under-proofing or over-proofing. If everyone's temperature was the -exact- same, we could quote times down to the exact second (that's how scientific yeasts and bacteria are), but since everyone's tempertaures are variable (even by just a few degrees), we have to try and get them to take note of visual cues and/or post pictures so we can advise. Temperatures, if all exactly the same, would eliminate a vast majority of problems. These are only problems for people who have not yet learned by look and feel, and thousands of years ago this was not a problem, because they learned the look and feel first. Anyone with that many years of experience looking at and feeling dough development while growing up would find little use for a thermometer and window paning today.

Some people are perfectly fine with loaves that vary from bake to bake, even using the exact same recipe. They might even find that 'charming', and who can argue with them? I will submit, though, that a vast majority of them all have that story of the perfect bake that one time... and well, if they had been tracking minutia, they would have been able to obtain those details, and bake that perfect bake every single time. That's the clear advantage to paying attention to the details, once you have sufficient skills to do so. Those 'magic' moments can be captured and repeated. It's dough development, temperature, and time... if you sync up those three items perfectly, you will get almost identical results every time. If any one of those 3 are even slightly out of sync, you will get either subtly, or even quite wildly, different results.

For the newcomer, less science and more baking! As they grow more confident and capable, learning these tools can really start making huge differences - if that's what they desire.

- Keith