Under or over-proofing dough

I re-discovered the “no-knead bread” video and then found the Cooks Illustrated modification (making it now nearly no-knead, but still very easy) but in the process have been learning about “proofing” the final rise, and this is the best description I have found so far (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/24941/help-pain-au-levain-crust), so I shall share it here. When I finish refining my version of the recipe for how I make it I will post the whole thing later.

Overproofing:

  • poor oven spring
  • greyish crumb
  • greyish dull crust
  • dense gummy texture
  • sometimes unpleasant yeasty smell and/or flavor
  • when slashed before baking, loaf significantly collapses
  • dough feels sticky and flabby after bulk rise or final proof*
  • dough collapses when poked with finger (more than just a little indentation)

Underproofing:

  • dough explosions (out of the side, bottom, etc), extreme oven spring
  • poor crust color (light-brown or grey)
  • Some bubbles in crumb with dense dough around them
  • Unevenly distributed dense areas of crumb
  • Dough immediately springs back when you poke it with your finger
  • Dough feels very firm and dough-like, no sense of lightness.
* some wet doughs, like focaccia, are naturally sticky, but when you learn how they’re supposed to feel, they still don’t feel “flabby”
Here’s another way to think about it: imagine you’re chewing a piece of bubble gum, and you blow a bubble.
  • If you blow a really big bubble, it’s flabby and collapses: that’s overproofing.
  • If you blow a really tiny bubble, it’s really firm and unpopable: that’s underproofing.
  • Somewhere in the middle is the perfect bubble, with good surface tension, that won’t immediately pop if you were to poke it, and can hold its shape: that’s correctly proofed.

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