The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Judging proof times

Ivy in Canada's picture
Ivy in Canada

Judging proof times

Hi all,

I'm very new to baking and especially sourdough. I have a gazillion questions but I'll try to ration them out a bit *g* I have made a couple of starters (whole wheat, rye and white) but only the wheat one seems ready to use. So I have been making 100% ww bread from It turns into a YUMMY ww bread, but with no sour taste at all. I'm following his instructions exactly.  My starter is now 2 weeks old, and still living on my countertop.  I feed it 2x a day with equal amounts by weight of ww flour and water. It bubbles and foams up to double size pretty enthusiastically, I'd say in about 8 hours? (I like to go around the kitchen chanting 'it's aliiiiiiiive')) My kitchen stays around 20 degrees C, and 38-40% humidity.

I wonder if it's proofing long enough? I do the poke test and the hole remains at about 1.5 hours for the first rise, then 45 min then about 20 min.  The dough necver doubles in size, it doesn't even get 50% bigger.  When I bake it, the crust explodes along the top edge of the baking tin. (I'm using aluminum baking tins because I can't for the life of me, shape bread without dropping it).


So should I wait for dough doubling and ignore the poke?




pointygirl's picture

All wild yeast colonies have their own character and flavor.  Yours is also still young and the flavor will mature.

Also with whole wheat flour and honey in the recipe there is a lot of sweet to balance out the sour flavors.  It will never taste like white San Francisco Sourdough.  If you want more sour flavor you could substitute buttermilk or yogurt for the water in the final dough(this will also make the crumb a little softer.)

100% whole wheat usually doesn't rise as much as white and it sounds like you got good oven spring so as long as you like the texture of your bread, it sounds like pretty good success for a first sourdough loaf.

ehanner's picture

Hello Ivy,

First off, welcome to the site. I think you will find it to be friendly and helpful. Now for your question about proofing.

Your starter is very young and you shouldn't expect too much from it quite yet. The first part of the culture to show strength is the yeast component and it sounds like yours is progressing. You might consider finding a slightly warmer place in your kitchen, say above the refrigerator. 20C is a little on the cool side. 23-26C would be better, especially for proofing. With all yeasts, commercial or natural, temperature is the most important thing to control. Adjust your water or other liquid temperature to arrive at a dough temp of 26C. The biology will be much more active and the dough will rise better and proof better.

I suspect you are under fermenting and under proofing given the temperature and times you mention. Try fermenting in a clear container so you can see the gas bubbles forming as a way of knowing how  your dough is progressing in fermentation.

Learning to judge when dough is ready to bake is part art, part science. Personally I haven't found the finger poke test to be very reliable. Some people swear by it. The kind of bread is a  factor also. Just remember that the bulk proof has an impact on the need for a final proof, which is also fermenting. If you ferment for only 2 hours, the proof will need to be longer. If you ferment for 4 hours, a short proof might be better, say 30-45 minutes. With rye breads, 15 minutes is about right for proofing.

I'd suggest starting with a 50/50 mix of Bread flour and WW and learn how it looks and feels during mixing and fermenting. Watch for the gas bubbles when you do a stretch and fold. After 3-4 hours when you have bubbles the size of a pencil, shape and proof for an hour. See how the crumb is and make an adjustment. Take notes on the dough temperature for next time.

Let us know how it goes.


intelplatoon's picture

sourdough also proofs much slower than commercial yeast. 

if i did my simple addition correctly the total time from mix to bake is only about 2 hours and 45 mins. When the room is only 20C it will move very very slow. in my experience the 100% whole wheat i bake bulk ferments for about 4 hours with a dough temp of 80 degrees farenheit and a room temp of about 78-80 degrees F.

it may take a few flopped trials to get the timing down for your sourdough, but i think if you let it go for longer you will have improved "sour" flavor, the dough will at least double in size, and you may not get the blowout along the sides that you were talking about.

and as pointygirl mentioned, over time and many more feedings, your sourdough will mature and develop its own flavors and become a bit more acidic.

let us know how the next ones turn out. maybe some pics too!

intelplatoon's picture

@ehanner.........INTERNET JINX!