The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Novice questions about Stretch and Fold in a Bowl (how can one tell when the dough has finished proofing) and oil in bread dough

khaos's picture

Novice questions about Stretch and Fold in a Bowl (how can one tell when the dough has finished proofing) and oil in bread dough

Hi all.

My very first post on this great site and I just have to take the opportunity to say "Thank You"  for such well crafted informations and good hearted people who are willing to give them. I learnt really a lot and it made a very noticable improvement on my baking experience which is great because I am suffering from several intolerances and medical conditions and I am quite limited in what I can eat which is one of the reasons why I have to bake bread and "buns" myself with spelt flour.

Okay enough of that. Yesterday I completely changed the way I baked my bread- basically taking in so many tips posted here: Calculated and checked the dough temperature (DDT), used autolysis, made two S&Fs in a bowl, checked and passed the windowpane test, baked for a specific core temperature and so on. And for the first time my dough (actually both of them) passed the windowpane test and the resulting bread was noticable superior. YES! :-) Unfortunately one of my doughs was slightly over proven. I found it hard to figure out when the dough was finished proofing because it was hard to tell when it had doubled in size due to my S&Fs. Is there a secret to it that I missed? Is there a different way to check for a dough's readiness? Using a finger to pinch the dough doesn't work well because being a spelt based dough, it is sticky.

Oh and one more thing: I'm putting 2% oil in my dough just to add some more calories actually because I am quite skinny. Also I like the slight flavor it adds. But I am wondering if this is such a good idea in the first place and if it doesn't actually hurt the dough's consistency and texture. What I am trying to achieve is a bread with a soft and creamy texture that has no open crumb (more dense, less pores but soft). I read somewhere that it made a huge difference if one used oil, margarine or even shortening. I would really appreciate any help on this.

By the way, being from Germany, I only use fresh yeast and I mix type 630 and type 1050 spelt flour in a 1:1 ratio resulting in 812-ish type.

Thanks again,

bnom's picture

Matthias, your headline caught my eye:  "stretch and fold in a bow"  That's quite a visual!  

Kidding aside, there is a video on line that shows the stretch and fold in a bowl technique"

I think if you're looking for a soft, dense crumb, adding oil will only assist that.  But I leave it to others to answer your very good questions more comprehensively than I can.

Welcome to Fresh Loaf.


mrfrost's picture

Be advised that you will probably get a lot of replies as they relate to wheat, but I have learned that the gluten in spelt acts somewhat differently than does wheat, so the advice may not be precisely valid.

Spelt, I have read, expands quite nicely, but it's gluten lacks the elasticity to hold it's structure, so will often collapse. That is, without learning techniques to deal with it's properties.

I use spelt sometimes, but only as a mixture with at least 50 % wheat, so basically the dough behaves as a wheat dough.

Hopefully, those experienced with working with all spelt, or mostly spelt doughs will follow up with helpful advice. Maybe it will be as simple as shortening the proofing times, or maybe not working the dough(as much) to fully develop the gluten like a wheat dough?

Good luck.

Chuck's picture

Have you tried to use the old "finger poke" test? (My guess is it works for sourdough too  ...but I'm not certain of that.) You should be able to search for "finger poke" on this site and find lots of information.

My own personal version goes something like this: Wet your finger with cool water (to minimize sticking). Poke it into the dough almost to the bottom of the nail (i.e. something like 1/2 inch), then remove it. Count to five slowly, then look to see what has happened.

  • If the hole popped back out most of the way so the dough is once again relatively smooth, the current step needs more time.

  • If the hole popped back out about half way, proofing is done and the dough is ready for the oven.

  • If the hole didn't pop back out hardly at all, rising is done and/or dough is overproofed and needs to be re-shaped.

Don't worry about the ugly look of those holes in your dough. Holes during rising will just get smooshed away anyway. The hole from the last proof test will pretty much pop back out and disappear in the oven (even though it didn't pop all the way back out in the raw dough); nevertheless try to make your proof test finger poke in an inconspicuous place.

khaos's picture


I just noticed that I made a mistake in my original posting: I mixed up terminology. My problem was with the bulk fermentation and not with the proofing. Or to be more precise: When I bulk ferment and do the S&Fs in a bowl, I cannot figure out when the dough is about ready to be shaped and can enter the proofing stage because the S&Fs change the size of the dough and thus it is hard to figure out when it has doubled in size. :-(

@bnom: You are right that was quite a visual. :^) I changed the title accordingly. Thanks for the hint.

I have no problem with the S&Fs, they work just fine and in fact the video is how I learnt to do it in the first place. :-)

@mrfrost: Spelt is a great cereal but indeed very sensitive. You have to handle it with care. And most people treat it like wheat and end up with a dissatisfying result because they knead too long or use less/not enough hydration. If one keeps in mind that spelt forms its gluten structure relatively fast but also looses it quite fast again, you are have way there. I use a Kenwood Chef (KMC560) for kneading and I usually ended up with an overkneaded dough. This time I only kneaded for about 1 minute each (total of 3 1/2 minutes), scrapped the dough from the hook and checked the dough with the windowpane test. And for the first time I hit a medium gluten development- even twice. Initially I kneaded for 10 minutes... way too long.

@Chuck: I tried the poke test during bulk fermentation but the dough just stuck to my finger even though I floured my hands. Maybe I used not enough flour or not much of it was on my finger. I'll try it with a wet finger today. This does also apply to the bulk fermentation stage, doesn't it?

Thanks again,

Chuck's picture

Yep, the finger poke test applies to bulk fermentation too.

(There are alternatives of course: i] gently dump the dough out of the [straight-sided] bulk rise container, do the S&F, then gently put the dough back in the container, or maybe even ii] get a fairly large [and straight-sided] container for the bulk rise and do the S&F right in the bottom of the container.)

As to sticking, don't give up; do whatever works: lots of cool water, oil, water and oil, more flour...

dmsnyder's picture

I had been trying to use the poke test to judge completeness of bulk fermentation, too. When I was at the SFBI, I asked the instructor about this, and she said it should not be used for bulk fermentation, just for final proofing.

Her reason was that there is that the poke test is "measuring" the stretch of the gluten sheath by CO2 in the air cells. The gluten sheath is formed during pre-shaping and shaping the loaves. As it stretches with the dough rising, it is elastic at first. Eventually, if you over-proof, the sheath is over-stretched and loses the ability to spring back. The optimal poke test is where the poked dough comes back, but slowly. It is stretched, but still has some elasticity.

When I asked the instructor how to judge fully proofed dough, she said it's a combination of volume expansion and how the dough "feels," which should be "puffy" or "pillowy." Unfortunately, that's even harder to describe in words that the poke test results.


wally's picture

David, that is perhaps the most challenging thing for me at my stage in baking.  My mentor will lightly touch proofing dough in a container and then pronounce it ready for pre-shaping or not.  It's just a light touch, and I'm learning, slowly, how to do this and ascertain if the dough feels 'heavy' or 'light.'  You're right - there's no way to describe this in words, and it takes a long time to begin to distinguish. 

What's helped me is more frequently touching the dough as it bulk ferments and trying to note differences.  Otherwise, you're at the mercy of a timer, which may work....or not.


Franko's picture


I'm having a challenge with this as well, but as it pertains to natural yeast breads. With a bakers yeast made dough it's generally not a problem for me, particularly at work where I'm extremely familiar with all our product and equipment. But I tell you these natural yeast doughs have really set me on my heels. At last count I've almost had one in the past four that didn't split on me. It didn't split on top but near the bottom , kind of a medium split compared to all the other ones that burst through the top. The upside is at least I know I have working starter. There's more of a learning curve to natural yeast doughs than I anticipated that's for sure.


ww's picture

i've always found the poke test to be quite unreliable -but then again i live in a very hot country and so i suspect that my doughs are all generally over-proofed, sadly. Each time i bake it's dicey but have learnt to live with it.

I risk going off on a tangent here but if i do the final proof overnight/ for many hours in the fridge (for better taste, safer proofing, easier handling), should i refrigerate immediately after shaping or should i let it proof for a while before refrigerating?

I think opinion is also divided as to bake straight out of the fridge or to give it some time to warm up.

Your thoughts?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, WW.

The important thing is for the loaves to be fully proofed before baking them. You can let them proof at room temp until they have expanded 25% or so, then refrigerate, or you can refrigerate after shaping.

I would argue that the decision to bake right out of the fridge or to wait depends on the loaves - using the poke test to judge proofing. If the loaves are fully proofed when you take them out of the fridge, they do not need to warm up. Bake them. However, if the loaves are still under-proofed when you take them out of the fridge, they need to complete proofing, and that will take some time. They have to warm up to wake up the yeast. In my experience, that whole process may take 4 hours.

I hope this helps.