The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Puzzled by dough tests

GlenisB's picture

Puzzled by dough tests

I've been baking bread for almost a year now and after a few early disasters I'm now confident with a variety of loaves: White, Wholemeal, Pizza base, Baguettes, Ciabatta, Sourdough etc.

They usually turn out well with good crumbs, nice crust and most importantly, the family love them and we haven't bought a shop-baked loaf for a long time.

Now what puzzles me is the dough tests often mentioned here and in various books. The window-pane test is the most confusing in that I've never achieved it. I've kneaded by hand using the French slap or push and fold methods. I've let dough rest during kneading, I've used a stand mixer. I've extended the kneading times to as long as 30 minutes - until I'm exhausted - none of these give the window-pane effect.
And yet I always get good oven spring, good crust

Let's take a basic recipe for white bread:

500g strong white bread flour (Alinson's)
10g salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
40ml olive oil
320ml water

Tray of water in bottom of oven
Spray inside of oven with a mister at start
Bake at 210C for 25 minutes (Fan oven)
Lower temperature to 190C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.

This seems to produce a decent loaf every time so:

Where am going wrong by failing to produce the elusive window-pane effect with the above?

Would the bread be better if I could produce the window-pane effect?

Should I just stop being nerdy & continue as I am?

Your thoughts please.

dabrownman's picture

for regular breads since slap and folds followed by stretch and folds always develop plenty enough gluten structure.  For enriched breads where you are going for the most soft crumb possible and there is  lot of eggs, butter, cream etc like buns, pain de mie, panettone and dough like them, then you would want to use a machine and beat the heck out of it for 20 minutes on KA 2 and up to twice a long with higher hydration

You will eventually get a windowpane and then it might be worth it but I do slap and folds for them too, never more than a half hour, and I don't bother to check for windowpane on them either - I just go by the feel of the dough. I don't worry about it all and like you my breads come out fine.

wassisname's picture

I don't think the windowpane is anything to worry over.  It's just one way to get a sense of how developed the gluten in your dough is.  If you are consistently happy with your results then you already have a sense of when the dough is ready, even if you aren't consciously applying a "test" to it. 

I could be wrong, but my thought is that the windowpane test shows up in so many bread books because it makes sense when described in words and photos.  If we could all learn at the elbow of a master baker the test might be something more subtle.  Would that we all had that opportunity!

I haven't checked for a windowpane in ages, but I do pay attention to how the dough feels, how it reacts to being stretched, to being folded - how far does it stretch, how hard does it spring back, does it tear, does it feel like it did the last time I made this bread?  So, as a tool for learning to judge the development of your doughs I think the windowpane can be valuable, but as an end in itself, I don't think it's something to get hung up on.