The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When does the window pane test hold?

Bill Pass's picture
Bill Pass

When does the window pane test hold?


I'm new to bread making and have been trying to understand some of the theory.
I would be interested in peoples advice about when (for which style of breads, hydration levels, flour types, ...) you should be aiming to have dough that passes the window pane test.

In terms of hydration levels, should it be possible to develop dough that passes the window pane test for a range of hydrations, does the range have an upper and lower limit for a given flour?

In terms of bread style, I understand that for croissants you should not be aiming to create a dough that passes the window pane test. Why not?

Kind regards,

proth5's picture

This test shows the amount of gluten development in the dough.

There are subtleties to dough development that I am unable to quantify, but I do know this:  Croissant dough should be somewhat under developed.  That is because the rolling and folding of the dough during the lamination process will continue to mechanically develop the gluten.  If it were fully developed at the beginning of the laminating process, the rolling and folding would be very difficult.

Hope this helps.

GSnyde's picture

The window pane test is useful for enriched sweet doughs like for cinnamon rolls, as well as lean doughs such as Pain de Campagne.  But I wouldn't try it for English Muffin Dough.


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Bill,

Glad to hear about your baking. I'm quite new to baking also and this windowpane thing really exercised me at the beginning (along with 'poke test', which is still about as unclear as the offside rule in UK football!)

I thought at first that I always had to produce a dough that passed the windowpane test after the initial mixing stage and was working my arm off trying to do this. Turns out that this is not necessary for all doughs and not necessarily helpful for breads with long fermentation times. 

Hamelman is good on this, stating that 'Appropriate development does not necessarily mean full development' (8) and that for breads with long fermentation a dough that stretches to full windowpane after initial mixing may well be over-mixed, as gluten will develop over time, anyway.  David Snyder's reports on baking instruction at SFBI also echo this thought.

You probably know this, but breads with a higher proportion of whole grains will behave slightly differently to all-white doughs and that rye is a different beast altogether...You should be able to pull some degree of windowpane with a mixed grain dough with a high proportion of bread flour, even a whole wheat dough. 100% rye paste does not windowpane, however, at least not in my experience, due to insufficient gluten!

For the state of the dough after lower intensity initial mixing, terms such as 'medium gluten development' can be used. At this point the dough may give a partial rather than full windowpane but should not be tearing too easily.

As you are interested in how this plays out with different doughs it might be worth looking for recipes that actually stipulate the level of dough strength after mixing. Several of the recipes I have for artisan bread, including those by Hamelman, say 'medium consistency'. 

At a recent talk Dan Lepard was very good at addressing the question of why the idea of achieving 'full windowpane' might still haunt the home baker. According to what I understood of his analysis, some books for home bakers and for home economics/food technology teachers, written a decade or more ago, assumed in some cases that such bakers were trying to emulate plant bakery processes with their high intensity short mixes, truncated fermentation times and high rise loaves. If you did want to bake such a loaf then mixing hard to initial windowpane would be an option. It may also be relevant for other doughs, as indicated by particular recipes. 

As Hamelman points out, however, less initial mixing with less initial gluten development tends to lead to a flatter loaf, but one that should be better-flavoured!

There is more debate on the windowpane technique on this thread

Hope you find the information you seek.

Kind regards, Daisy_A



smeredith's picture

If you knead croissant dough too much, it becomes too elastic, which makes it impossible to roll out to the correct thickness. 

Bill Pass's picture
Bill Pass

Thank you all for your replies and thank you Daisy_A for taking so much time.

One of my concerns at the moment is that I'm not achieving the correct level of dough development, the right amount of surface tension in the dough before baking and the right of oven spring for the style of bread I'm baking. I'm finding that what ever I do, though the bread is nice, I'm ending up with the same type of bread every time.

I'm yet to find a good source which goes into details about different styles of bread and provide in-depth information about the look and feel of the dough at each stage. Daisy_A, you mentioned Hamelman, would you say Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman was a good book?

Along the same lines, I'm finding that what ever I do all my breads have the same flavour, even when trying pre-fermentation such as a poolish. I'm currently using supermarket bought flour and instant dried yeast but I'm about to try some fresh yeast. What would people say were the biggest contributor to flavour, the flour, the yeast, the dough development process (e.g. a poolish), the baking process (e.g. temperature, steam, time), etc?



Daisy_A's picture

Hi Bill,

No problem! I started baking yeasted breads in earnest in January and sourdough breads for the first time in May. I got some good mentoring from the beginning and Bread was the book that was recommended to me as having the best in-depth guide on technique, along with the proviso that is was a book that would need to be studied over time, and 'grown into'. This advice proved to be bang on. 

The Hamelman addresses itself to both professional and home bakers so is very detailed. Quantities for formulae and recipes are given in metric, Imperial and then 'home baker', which involves odd fractions of ounces. I have found it better to divide the metric by 10 for a batch or couple of loaves, then by 2 for one loaf. Proportions remain better also. You will find a lot of cases on TFL where bakers have also scaled down the metric and recorded it.

It does mention how the dough should look and feel at different stages but this is such a varied thing that no text could cover all that a baker comes to know by sight and touch. I'm still learning a lot on that score! 

The only thing that I would mention is that as a novice I have found Ciril Hitz's shaping techniques easier to follow that Hamelman's. More information on this video link

In terms of flavour - so much contributes that it is hard to bring one thing to the fore. Flour is a big factor, as is the use of preferments and sourdough cultures. Bakers on Dan Lepard's site who compared different doughs on a 'baking camp' found that a stiff levain yielded good flavour.

However it is possible to get great flavour with instant yeast and white flour. Have you tried Jason's ciabatta?  Available on this link

Wishing you continued good baking, Daisy_A