4 S’s: Structure, Size, Shape & Surface
For any baker, it can be challenging to diagnose under proofed or over proofed dough. It can be even more difficult to describe what that looks like to new or inexperienced bakers! To recognize perfectly proofed dough, just follow Guttenplan’s 4 S’s:
- Structure: how dense
- Size: how large
- Shape: how uniform
- Surface: how smooth
The Signs of Over Proofed Dough
- The structure is: fragile, loose, airy, and puffy, like an overinflated balloon. The dough grows then suddenly falls flat along the pan and looks deflated.
- The size is: more than twice the frozen size.
- The shape: can become distorted.
- The surface is: bubbly, blistered and wrinkly, not as smooth and dry, not wet at all to the touch. It’s a duller color. The dough kind of gets a new skin, that’s somewhat sheer and translucent.
- The structure: on the inside is dry with large air pockets. Product collapses when sliced.
- The size is: much larger than twice the frozen size and can be oddly formed.
- The shape is: wide and deflated.
- The surface is: bubbly and the crust can look wrinkled. It’s dull, with no sheen, and pale.
The Signs of Perfectly Proofed Dough
- The structure is: slightly firm and springy.
- The size is: twice the frozen size. Use a ruler or template to measure.
- The shape is: perfect!
- The surface is: damp, not sticky yet not totally dry. It’s a slightly darker shade than frozen dough.
- The structure: holds its shape and has a nice crust that doesn’t collapse.
- The size: is perfect!
- The shape is: perfectly symmetrical with consistent uniformity, without any skinny or fatter parts.
- The surface is: smooth with a nice crust. It’s golden brown with a nice sheen. The product should have the same color on top as on the bottom. Note that the color on top and bottom is more about baking temps and oven airflow.
The Signs of Under Proofed Dough
- The structure is: dense and tight.
- The size is: small with little growth (under twice the frozen size still).
- The shape is: still close to the original frozen shape.
- The surface is: smooth (bubble and wrinkle-free). The color is the same as just-thawed dough.
- The structure is: heavy and very dense, like hockey pucks or rocks. Breads will have a ribbon of dough at the bottom that has not baked.
- The size is: small.
- The shape is: not consistent and odd-shaped.
- The surface can be: wrinkled. It’s light in color, or might be lighter and darker in certain spots.
Still unsure? Try the finger test!
Very lightly use your finger to press the dough.
- If the dough is perfectly proofed, the indentation springs back slightly and stays just a little. If scoring, the cut should be easily formed with sharp, clean lines, with no dough sticking to the scoring knife.
- If the dough is under proofed, the indentation springs back really fast and does not stay.
- If the dough is over proofed, the indentation stays, the surface is sticky, and the structure may collapse.