The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do you know if you've over proofed?

gizzy's picture

How do you know if you've over proofed?

How do you know if you have over proofed and are there any ways to fix it?

Also, I've read people mention that when they score their bread it doesnt deflate, or does a little but bounces back. How does this happen (as all mine deflate slightly and never bounce back) and how do you prevent it?

wally's picture

There are a couple ways to determine if you've overproofed your dough.  The most common method is 'finger poking.'  Take (the pad of) your index finger and indent the loaf about 1/2 inch.  If the indentation rises back immediately, the dough is underproofed.  If it springs back somewhat, but still leaves an indentation, it's probably fully proofed.  BUT, if the imprint remains without springing back, the dough is overproofed.  The second indication is a loaf that falls or collapses in the oven while baking.

There are more subtle ways to determine when a loaf is fully proofed and ready to load into an oven, but the two I mention are easy ways to 1-prevent it, and 2-to know if it's occured.



cranbo's picture

+1 on Larry's response. 

If you score your loaf and it significantly deflates, it's definitely overproofed. 

IMO better always slightly underproofed than at all overproofed. 

jcking's picture

The bounce back happens in the oven. I think you're okay. Follow what Wally wrote as a good guide.


Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

As an addition to Wally's post, poke your finger into some fresh flour -before- you poke the side of the loaf. Sticking a dry finger into a sticky dough can get you into trouble. Easier and healthier is to use the rounded end of a wooden spoon or other utensil, also dipped in flour. Once you get the hang of what the results should look like, you can use the pad of your finger, rather than the fingertip, and just ever so lightly indent the side. This is a lot less intrusive on the loaf.

Be aware that sourdoughs often behave a bit differently than commercial yeasted doughs. Sourdoughs will generally look quite deflated after scoring, but will bounce back in the oven. This is even more pronounced if you use stretch and folding, and carefully retain most of the gasses. In a lot of commercial recipes, the dough is either punched down, or radically degassed (manhandled) during final shaping. This is somewhat desired if you're wanting a closed crumb for a sandwich type bread. Due to the lack of kept gasses and the taught skin, if these deflate from scoring, they don't recover well at all. A properly proofed commercial yeasted dough, when scored, should actually start to 'bloom' a little bit from the pressure of the shaping. When learning these things, err on the side of under-proofing, as it's a lot nicer to eat... bricks usually taste ok, but aren't pleasant to eat otherwise.

- Keith

clazar123's picture

I've had episodes where the loaf and time got away from me and the loaf just totally deflated or over ran the pan. I reshape and let it rise again. Depending on how much "oomph" the yeast has left, it should work just fine. But note that I have had some failures doing this-if I used a not- quite-strong eough starter as the only leavening or a long retarded dough. Then it either takes a long time to proof or it bakes up pale and dense.

Usually it works just fine-just remember to keep an eye on it the second time around-you won't be able to do this again.

Eternal Grain's picture
Eternal Grain

If the dough is really overproofed, the gluten will breakdown and the dough will be like a paste.

heavyhanded's picture

and thanks for all the answers. My deflated loaves make me sad, it's nice to finally know what I have been doing wrong!