The Fresh Loaf

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Finger poke test problem

sparklebritches's picture

Finger poke test problem

I've been baking every couple of days for about a month and a half now--mostly working on whole wheat/blend sandwich loaves.

When in their final proof, I've been noticing that my loaves are always overproofed according to the finker poke test.   So, of course, I rush to get the oven warmed and the loaves in.  Most of the time it yields a very reasonable sandwich loaf.

Today I used Peter Reinhart's whole wheat formula (overnight refrigeration) from ABED.  Lo and behold, I did a poke test 30-minutes after shaping (about 40-42 minutes after being pulled from fridge) and the indention stays.

This has also happened with the Laurel's Kitchen recipes that I have started with.....

What's going on here?  Why does the indentation I make never fill in?

I've got today's loaves still proofing in the microwave....any input would be much appreciated! :)

Chuck's picture

My own experience (maybe not exactly correct, certainly any "explanations" are probably bogus:-), is that applying the finger-poke test to just-shaped loaves can give a false impression that proofing is done. I've found I need to wait a "reasonable" amount of time into the proofing before the finger poke test will be useful.

After a while proofing, the finger-poke test behaves as expected:

  • hole stays entirely dented in: over-proofed (maybe recoverable by baking right away, maybe not recoverable and reshaping is required)
  • hole dent pops half way back out: proofing is just right

But if I apply the finger-poke test immediately after shaping, the hole stays dented in just like the loaf was over-proofed. I can tell the difference by feel, because when proofed the loaf is "bubbly" and elastic, whereas right after shaping the loaf isn't elastic.But I can't tell the difference by what I see.

Also, I've found that I need to start pre-heating my oven as soon as the loaves are shaped no matter what. If in trying to save energy I wait until closer to the time I need it, the schedule goes kaflooey too often. (This is especially true since baking stones "fool" the oven pre-heat sensor so that when the oven says it's pre-heated I've learned it's really only half way.)

sparklebritches's picture

Thanks for the info.    I did the poke test every step of the way during the final proof and ended up with several poke marks to try and cover up.  :-/


I'm not sure what my problem is!   I suppose I'll continue with the Reinhart recipe until I figure it out.


The loaves, despite the poke marks, still rose a ton in the oven yesterday though I tried a new shaping method that made them much denser than before and they didn't cook all the way through.  Oops!

lazybaker's picture

Maybe you can go by the size and appearance of the dough when it's proofed enough.

Sometimes I nudge the side of the dough with my knuckle and wait for a slow bounce. 

Still, it's hard to tell whether it's really proofed in the middle. I wonder if the center of the loaf is cold and hasn't enough time to warm up and proof. I just think the outside of the dough has relaxed, so it leaves an indentation in a short time. 

I guess you can probably measure the height of the dough with a ruler and keep track how many inches it has risen.

Rick D's picture
Rick D

For me, I don't think you can actually explain the poke test in print. I think the best way is by experience (I'm still learning as a weekend warrior). Poke as many proofing loaves as possible, and eventually you'll figure out what you're looking for. Even experiment, and allow a loaf or two to overproof, then learn what it should not be. (you can always reshape it and start over).


LindyD's picture

The Anchor Hocking lidded batter bowl is perfect for bulk fermentation.

It's very sturdy, has a two-quart capacity, and is made in the USA.

I put mine (sans lid) on my scale and weighed it, then noted the weight (1581 grams) in indelible marker on the lid.  

When my dough is finished fermenting, I place the unlidded container (and dough) on my scale, then subtract 1581.  That gives me the weight of my dough.  

I'm lousy at eyeballing dough when it comes to dividing it, so knowing the precise weight before I move the dough from the container makes it much easier to uniformally divide it, with less handling and cutting.  

The shaped loaves are proofed in a couche or baskets  I find it more challenging to correctly judge the proof of the dough in the basket since the dough is colder at the bottom (I retard most of my doughs).

Keep in mind you want get the bread in the oven before it's fully proofed.

sparklebritches's picture

Thanks everyone for the proofing suggestions!  My baking wishlist has grown...

About to pull Struan balls from the fridge to shape and watch like a hawk.

ETA: Nudging is working beautifully!  I flat out poked the cool middle 30-minutes into final proof and the mark stayed but the dough softly springs back when the sides are gently nudged.