The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How can you tell when final proof is done?

varda's picture
varda

How can you tell when final proof is done?

One aspect that I can't seem to get the hang of is final proofing.  I have overproofed, underproofed, and when I get it right it feels as much chance as anything else.   Yesterday I started off making Hamelman's Pain Au Levain with 5% rye flour.   I have made it once before, and felt that I overproofed it just a bit.   Today, as I was mixing the dough I realized I didn't have anywhere enought bread flour.   I didn't want to substitute AP, so instead I put in 1/2 bread flour, 1/4 rye, and 1/4 spelt.   So already I had deviated significantly from the formula so I had no idea if the techniques would still work.   I let the bulk ferment go for the 2.5 hours he specifies.  He specifies 2-2.5 hours for the final ferment.   He also says the following: "As you feel the outside of the loaf with your finger, try to sense what is going on inside ... The dough should feel light, somewhat loose, somewhat weak..."   I really have no idea what he is talking about and wish I did.   But anyhow, today, I prodded the dough with a wet finger after 30 minutes, and it left an indentation.   So even though the time was so short and even though I had no idea if that meant the dough was light, loose, or somewhat weak, I decided to pop it in the oven.   It got a lot of oven spring, but split along the bottom seam, and the crumb is pretty tight, so did I bake too soon?  How do you know when it's ready to go in?  Thanks!  Varda

Chausiubao's picture
Chausiubao

It sounds like you're already touching the dough to see if its done, and thats exactly what you need to do.


First thing to check is time, its going to take at least a certain amount of time for the dough to final proof, how long that is depends on what type of bread you're baking. Ciabatta might take as little as 20 minutes, but a French baguette dough might take 45 minutes. 


Second thing to check is how it looks. The surface will be rough when shaped, but after a final proof the cracks and crevices in the dough will have filled out, it'll look tight, like a balloon filled with air. Also, when moved the dough will jiggle. 


Lastly, and personally the ultimate sign is how much the dough springs baked when its touched. I go for spring back about one third again or one fourth again. A full spring back means the dough is too under proofed. No spring back means the dough is over proofed. You're looking for a sign that there is still fermentation to be had (oven spring), but not so much that the structure of the dough can't handle it. 


These are my own opinions about final proofing, maybe you can find some speck of truth in your own bakes!


--Chausiubao

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for your comments.   Your specificity will help me a lot.   -Varda