The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough bubbles or lack thereof - question

ifs201's picture

Dough bubbles or lack thereof - question

That is not my dough!! I stole the image. I know that a lot of folks look for bubbling dough as a sign of good bulk fermentation. I'll often see lots of activity in the dough tub and even some small air pockets on the surface of my dough, but nothing like what's pictured below. Am I not pushing my bulk ferment far enough? Is there a relationship between hydration and these types of bubbles?


A second question. If you are doing room temperature bulk ferment followed by a very cold fridge overnight retarded fermentation, is it at all sensible to do the finger polk/dent test at the end of the bulk ferment?


Thanks for your advice!



BaniJP's picture

These bubbles are just one of the many indicators that the dough has proofed enough. Others are that it's jiggly, has grown noticeably in size, has a smooth surface.
So lack of these huge bubbles doesn't mean your dough isn't ready. I sometimes get them, sometimes not and the breads always turn out great.

The finger poke test is, I believe, more for checking the final proof. Also it doesn't really work after cold fermentation. In BF you are rather looking for the signs described above. If you are doing a long BF followed by cold fermentation, keep in mind that the dough will continue to ferment in the fridge, albeit at a very slow rate. So proof 75-90% (depending on how long your cold fermentation will be and how cold it is), then to the fridge :)

ifs201's picture

Since I rarely get these big bubbles, I do go off of the other signs that you mentioned. Since I do a cold fermentation at the end and was aware that the poke test doesn't work after a cold proof, I hadn't been using the poke test at all but just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something! 

I've heard people on this site recommend seeing if a piece of your dough floats at the end of bulk fermentation as a good gauge as well, but my dough never floats! 

Cinnabon's picture

Hi Ilene:


I just noticed your post and the very exciting pictures of a happy dough!  I have happy bubbly dough by giving the dough time to rest in between stretch and folds! In the past, I never paid attention to the bubbles as much but sure have seen the difference in going forward with a perfect shape and bake! 

Letting the gluten develop and testing for a strong window-pane is ensuring you have a fantastic loaf of bread with the right spring and delicious outcome.

Over the years, I have perfected my bread making formula to always include a long resting period for 2 of my bulk ferments, followed by 2 shorter in span rests!  Everyone has their own formulas but really the outcome of the finished product is what matters!  The hydration levels can differ slightly with many recipes! its really in the gluten development, for me anyways!  If I see the bubbles forming, I know I will end up with an amazing loaf of bread.

When I shape the boules and have multiple bubbles, that I am constantly popping, is music to my ears!

As for the overnight proof, when I have my boules in my Banniton's, ready to be put into the fridge, they are placed into plastic proofing bags until the morning. Before I have my coffee, I give the boules a gentle poke to check the proofing.  Since its much colder in my home now with the season's change in temperature I place the banniton's in my oven on the lowest rack and turn on the oven light and leave them there for an hour.   

The dough is quite hardy and wont deflate or ruin if  you gently poke it!  I sure do, since in the past I have over-proofed dough and ended up with a hockey puck hard boule!  I also lightly giggle the banniton's and if it has a wobble like jello I know its time to preheat the oven! Of course removing the other Banniton from the oven before I turn on the oven! lol. 

Have a great night!



ifs201's picture

Hi Cindy,

I just want to get a better sense of your process. You wrote "Over the years, I have perfected my bread making formula to always include a long resting period for 2 of my bulk ferments, followed by 2 shorter in span rests!". I am guessing you meant resting periods between stretch & folds? What do you consider a long rest versus a short rest?

I have generally been pretty consistent about 30 minutes between folds (I do coil and not S&F), but then try to leave a good long period undisturbed at the end of the bulk ferment. 

I don't think I've ever heard bubbles popping during the bread shaping, but that must be exciting!



Cinnabon's picture

HI Ilene:

Yes, exactly this is the rests I am mentioning! for me, I find that the first 2 rests after stretch and folds are longer rest time than the last 2. 

I stretch and fold after 2 hours rest, then I stretch and fold with another 2 hrs rest, I never add flour to stretch and fold, I spritz purified water lightly in my dough trough (Container) By 4 hours, the dough is bubbly so I pop out the larger ones and let it rest again for 35 minutes, then gently stretch and fold again having fun popping bubbles. lol

Then I divide the dough in half and form into rough boule shapes, many bubbles are forming at this time .

I have tried the 30 minute stretch and fold and the 45 min (6 times) stretch and fold!  I just adopted what worked for me by 2 longer rests followed by 2 shorter ones.

Many recipes do say to dust with a bit of flour when shaping and handling the dough, I don't use any extra flour, everyone has a formula that works for them, I just know that my dough is lively and has an amazing spring and rewards me with beautiful boules!  I also will let the dough have a 30 minute rest after I divide it in half and have rough shaped it! I always make sure the dough retains a tight round before it goes in the Banniton!  




mwilson's picture

The picture shows a dough that appears just mixed and not bulk fermented. Look at the lines... this is a spiral mixed dough after mixing.

The bubbles are the result of mixing in air and in the case of large masses, the weight forces the air to accumulate at the top and form these big bubbles.

This was a topic of discussion not long ago...