The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My journey in final fermentation/proving, progress?

KevKim44's picture

My journey in final fermentation/proving, progress?

I recently got into sourdough bread, and with my starter now fully active and healthy, I've been able to get a couple of loaves out. The first image you see is my first loaf, a Pain de Campagne from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. At first, I believed that burst seam was due to my poor scoring, but upon researching and asking around, it appears that underproofing is the main culprit. I was positive that the elusive finger poke test was performed correctly, but I suppose the dough sprung back faster than it should have. Therefore, on my next loaf, I vowed to increase my proof time:

As you can see, massive improvement compared to the first exploded loaf. However, the loaf was not very tall which led me to believe I could have overproofed this loaf. So, with two loaves of experience under my belt, I made this today, albeit at 500g instead of 1kg:

I feel that this was my best loaf yet, but I am still unsure whether this is just right, or a tad overproofed. I just do not understand the finger poke test, it seems (do I poke it with the tip? The pad of my finger? Is it ready when it springs back halfway? Slowly? Barely? etc.). So, I figured I'd ask people with more experience than myself. I put the previous and this loaf next to each other for comparison:

The left loaf is the second, 1kg boule, and the right is today's 500g boule. My thoughts were that the second loaf was overproofed due to its height being nearly the same as the 500g, but I do not know if the total weight of dough changes the oven spring/height of the final product.

In conclusion, obviously, the first loaf was underproofed severely. However, it's the second loaf that confuses me the most. Does that loaf look proofed correctly? Or is it actually slightly overproofed as indicated by its lack of vertical height? I think my third loaf was acceptable and I am happy with it, though I would appreciate an opinion on its final proof stage as well.

mutantspace's picture

its a nightmare. ive been making sourdough for 8 months and am only getting the swing of it. First things first it always helps to have a diary so you can write down times, temperatures, etc...especially with sourdough as longer ferments leave more time for variables to change the dough so operating in controlled conditions is always best. Use the pad of your finger and dip it into flour before sticking it into your dough (stops you sticking to the dough and possibly deflating it) Give it a good deep poke and watch....I always think of it as a game of chicken - too soon and its under, too long and you're done for. After a while you'll know. Check out this video @

it helped me a great deal  - ever since seeing it and using my microwave as a proofing box my bread has improved immensely...

hope it all helps and let me know how you get on.....bottom line is taste always about the taste. I spent too long worrying about my crumb now im delving into the wonders of wholegrains which my obsession with the perfect crumb stopped me doing previously....