The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Windowpaning Pain

Conjuay's picture

Windowpaning Pain

I have been baking bread for about 4 months with moderate success. I'm working from the recipes in BBA, and am stuck on a single aspect-windowpaning. I'm weighing the ingredients, following the provided instructions and cannot get a piece of dough to stretch as shown in the picture. My dough always tears, rather than stretching to that translucent state. I assume I am not hydrating enough, but any more water and the dough would be too sticky, rather than tacky.

I've tried resting the dough between initial mixing and kneading, but it doesn't seem to help.

Mind you, I don't think I'm letting the dough rest for a full twenty minutes, more like ten or so. But that 'rest period' isn't  even mentioned on the pages that discuss windowpaning.

Do I need to knead longer? (Hand kneading)

I'm using "Gold Medal Better for Bread" flour presently, but I've had the same problem using KAF.



jcking's picture


Is there a problem with the baked loaf?


Chuck's picture

...I assume I am not hydrating enough...

My experience is just the opposite: that the "windowpane" test is more difficult to perform, and in fact is often not a good guide, with very high hydration doughs or "artisan" recipes. (Furthermore, it seems the complete gluten development that comes from using the "windowpane" test makes large holes in the crumb more difficult [not impossible, just more difficult:-].) I'd stick with the hydration level given by the recipe.

My first thought was about your flour (some flours have significantly lower gluten), but you're already using good high gluten stuff. Stick with it. Does this happen mainly on recipes with mix-in ingredients (raisins, nuts, etc.), which can significantly interfere with a windowpane test? (Also, "windowpane", which is straightforward after less than ten minutes in a power mixer, takes lots and lots of hand kneading.)


Dhull100's picture

I am relatively new to baking as well, but my success increased dramatically by forgetting about the windowpane test and instead using folding (I discovered folding here on TFL and in Hamelman's Bread). Another thing that helped was to stop adjusting the dough by adding small amounts of water and/or flour. I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like, and I could get a windowpane eventually by kneading too long and adding a little flour. The result was heavy dough, however. Particularly when not using large proportions of whole grain flour, I am thinking that adjusting hydration may be unnecessary (?) for small batches of dough. How much water can be absorbed in 2 pounds of flour on a percentage basis? Perhaps I am just not skilled enough to know the difference, but the crumb is FAR superior when I follow the recipe by weight.

In my (limited) experience, the best outcomes result from measuring ingredients by weight and including folds during bulk fermentation. Worked wonders for me.

Chuck's picture

"Adjusting" by adding either more flour or more water is most useful when your measurement isn't so accurate (i.e. those darn "cups") - which used to be true of the majority of folks, so lots and lots of people think of it as the "conventional wisdom". (Furthermore, it assumes you have a pretty good feel for doughs  ...which is probably not true of somebody who didn't learn from their mother and hasn't been baking a long time either.) But I don't think we're in Kansas any more this isn't 1950 any more; nowadays we use scales to measure very accurately.

I agree with you that for folks who measure with scales and have good recipes, "adjusting" is far more likely to cause problems than to cure them.

(I personally am so paranoid about working in too much flour -especially since I usually only make one small loaf at a time- that I coat my work surface with salad oil and my hands with just a bit of cool water. They work almost as well as flour, and I don't risk messing up the hydration level while working the dough. And for those few times when I really do need to sprinkle some flour, I use an oversized "shaker" to get a very thin layer. )

The one time a recipe may need a very slight adjustment is if you change flours dramatically. Both "strong" ("bread", "hi-gluten", whatever you call it:-) flour and whole wheat flour need very slightly more water than "All-Purpose" flour. But the amount is so small (half a percent?) you're often better off calculating it right on the recipe and measuring it right from the start than trying to make the "feel" of the dough just right. Adjusting the "feel" of the dough can be done  ...if you've already made a lot of bread and know exactly what "feel" you want. But if you don't already know, learning is both unnecessary and quite difficult.

G-man's picture

I've been baking for a while now, and I've never had a windowpane. As long as your bread tastes good, has the texture you want, etc...why bother worrying about it?

So much in baking is stuff you will be told you "must" do. Only half of it is actually necessary.

Conjuay's picture

Thanks for the input.  The final product is what matters, and I really can't complain about the quality of the final loaf. It's just that you invest so much time, follow the recipe and the steps so carefully, and there is that "one bump in the road" that makes you say to yourself..."Wha?!!!"

As suggested here, I did do some folding on the last batch of dough, and that had some incredible stretchiness- so I'll try more folding in the future, and forget about what doesn't work.