What Is The Poke Test For Sourdough Bread And Types Of Test

The poke test is one of the best ways to understand your dough and when you need to move to the next phase in the baking process. You’re going to see below what the poke test exactly is and how it can help you as you bake your sourdough.

What Is The Poke Test For Sourdough Bread?

The poke test is meant to be used after you have proofed your dough at room temperature. The poke test is to be used to assess the final proof stage and confirm if proofing has been done so that you can move to the next stage of baking.

Doing a poke test is great for someone that is new to baking and can help them gage if their dough is ready for the next step. This is done by poking the dough and seeing if the spot snaps back slowly after being poked. If this happens it means that the dough is ready for the next stage. If it bounces back quickly it means that the dough still needs more time in the proofing stage. 

The poke test is useful to use right after the bulk fermentation step but it’s not so useful once you’re done with the shaping stage. When doing this test it should be only used as an indicator but not the end all,  be all. As sometimes it isn’t accurate and you’ll notice that if you ask different bakers you will get different answers, some people live by this test and some people don’t believe it’s useful. It really comes down to finding a process that works for you.

Now you know what the sourdough poke test is you’re going to learn how to do it and an alternate method to use when you want to make sure you get the best rise out of your sourdough bread.

How To Do The Sourdough Poke Test?

The goal is once you poke your dough you want that specific spot to slowly return to its original shape. That’s how you know it’s ready for the next stage. But experience will always triumph and would be the best guide in terms of knowing when your dough is done in the stage of fermentation.

The poke test isn’t always the best method to use in all situations. For example, if the dough is cold it won’t really work or if you decide to do the poke test before the fermentation stage while you’re shaping the dough you won’t get a true representation of the poke test outcome. If it’s in its gluten-developing stage it’s going to snap back slowly once you poke it. So it can be very deceiving. 

Most experienced Bakers will usually let the dough proof in the refrigerator and then take it out straight from there and bake it. Because it’s believed to have a better flavor when the dough is chilled. Cold dough is known to keep gases and bubbles better as well as grow in volume more than if it’s room temperature.

The key to understanding when your dough is finished proofing without even doing a poke test is really knowing your dough and understanding the amount of time needed in order for your dough to proof whether that’s in the fridge or in room temperature. Also weighing the volume of the dough can help to see how much it has grown and great indicator of when it reaches maximum height. 

How Do You Test If Sourdough Is Proofed?

To test the sourdough to see if it has been proofed is feeling the dough and assessing where the stage of the dough is. Whether that is under-proofed, perfectly-proofed, or over-proofed. When you press into a perfectly proofed dough it will spring back very slowly. The dough will also be very tight but it won’t be dense and will feel airy which is a good thing. 

The dough will be relaxed and you may see a little bit of bubbles which is ok. Once you bake it it will rise perfectly and will not overly expand or explode. 

If you are proofing your dough and you test the dough and you feel it’s sticky and very thin it means that the dough has been over-proofed and you’ve gone too far. But if you feel the dough and it’s very dense, tight, and not relaxed it means it still needs more time in the fermentation stage.

What Is The Float Test For Sourdough Bread?

The float test for sourdough bread is grabbing a cup of water and then grabbing a small portion of the starter and dropping it in the water. If the starter floats in the water it means it is ready to proceed and if it doesn’t float it means that the starter needs more time to reach its peak. An indicator to know when the starter is ready to be tested is when you start to see bubbles which means that there are gases and that’s initially what helps it to float in the water. 

Though the float test is used by a lot of beginner bakers to deem if the starter is ready to go to the next stage. It’s not the end all to know if you’re done a stage and may not be always accurate so it’s important to look at other factors to know if you’re ready to go. 

Check out this article to learn more about how to know when the starter reaches its peak to get the best rise.

Using this method can lead to you believing that your starter is not ready when indeed it might be. It’s important to use this method as a grain of salt and not the main indicator of if you should proceed. But that comes with experience.

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