the elusive poke test

wishfish's picture

Proofing - I never seem to get it right and I am baffled by the poke test. I've read the SourDom's proofing page and the link to the Jack Lang's proofing demonstration. I understand the concepts explained there. But in practice I am confounded by my lumps of dough. Sigh.


Here is a picture of the bread in question.

384 users have voted.


Daniel Des Rosiers 2012 October 16

The key of consistency in proofing is time versus temperatue . Usually a receipe will tell you how long to proof your dough. In general you can assume a 72F temperature. If your temperature fluctuate a lot, it will be very difficult to get consistency from time to time. This is why I bought myself a proofer in order to systematicaly proof my dough always the same time from receipe to receipe.

This way i never have to watch or second guess if i proof long enough or not.

Good Luck



farinam's picture
farinam 2012 October 16

Hello wishfish,

The old adage 'double in size' is a reasonable guide as well.  Perhaps what you could do to get a feel for things is to let a loaf 'over prove' by letting it run on for a lot longer than you do now until a) it had definitely doubled in size and b) the poke causes a 'collapse' with no spring back.

I too used to prod and poke to little avail until once I was 'forced' to leave a loaf for an extended period (overnight actually) and - hey voila - next morning there was a beautifully proved loaf that fairly obviously did not need even a 'poke' test to tell that it was ready to bake.  Beautiful oven spring, beautiful crumb, beautiful loaf.  Now I mostly tell just by looking. 

The other thing that I have found is that it seems to be pretty hard to actually overprove, presumably because of the  realtively slow action of the culture compared to commercial bakers yeasts.

Good luck with your projects,


wishfish's picture
wishfish 2012 October 16

My most recent problem is the dough sticking to the cloth. Sigh. Getting the loaves out the improvised proofing baskets and into the oven was a disaster. Not sure, in the end, if they were over, under or perfectly proofed.

But overall the last loaves turned out my best so far with a good hot oven and a pizza stone. They wouldn't win any beauty contests but I got pretty good oven spring and the most open crumb of any loaf I've made so far. If I hadn't mauled them on the way into the oven they might have been really quite good.

I guess what you are saying, Farinam, is practice, practice, more practice. Thanks for the tips.





farinam's picture
farinam 2012 October 16

Hi wishfish,

Not sure how you are going about it.  I take a piece of baking paper and place it over the top of the loaf in the basket, pick the basket up and grip the paper from below to the sides of the basket and then quickly invert it, lower onto the bench and them remove the basket and cloth.  Slash the loaf, slide the peel under the paper and into the oven - easy peasy.

If you don't have a peel you can improvise with a sheet of cardboard, thin ply or particle board.  Or even carry it in the baking paper hammock.

More ways to kill a cat than choke it with butter!

Keep on bakin'


wishfish's picture
wishfish 2012 October 17

The main problem was getting the cloth peeled off the dough. I had to tear it off and so damaged the 'skin'. I floured the linen teatowel but didn't have semolina flour (or other non-gluten flour) to hand. I think wheat flour makes dough stick to cloth more rather than less.

I used a wooden chopping board as some sort of peel. That part wasn't too bad.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 October 17

Hi wishfish,

Yes, it seems that wheat flour can be a problem.  I use rye on mine and others have suggested rice flour.  A one day session that i did a while back with a baker we used whole-meal wheat that seemed to be quite effective - maybe the bran etc helps.

The other thing is, like for the bannetons, keep the cloth floured - that is don't use a washed cloth.  Just spead it out until dry, give it a shake to get rid of the loose stuff, fold it up in a drawer until next time and sprinkle with fresh flour.  A bit like using a seasoned wok or frying pan.

Hang in there.


Issybreadmaking 2020 May 21

Hiya, i've been making sourdough for a few months and have definitely confised myself with the poke test, it can not have changed size AT ALL and then i poke it and the dough responds as if it is has proven - i.e. the indent slowly rises back halfway - this bread does rise in the oven but not amazing oven spring. I think for the poke test to really be accurate you do have to rely on how it looks as well but i am really bad a doing that - so afraid of 'overproving' and losing the time i spent making the bread lol that i give up too soon! 

SUZI 2020 May 23
I a begginer I feed my starter at 1,2,3 ration (1 part starter, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour- exemple 50gr starter+ 100gr water and 150 flour. I made a gough with 500 gr flour + 400 gra water + 120 starter. It stays toooo wet. How can i know how much water adictional my starter introduce on my recepie? Help!
Teacher B 2021 June 14

Hi there,

I use 120 g of starter, 100 g water and 100 g flour. I dissolve the starter in the water and then add to the flour and gently fold until all flour is dissolved. I then pour (it is rather thick) into it's unsealed jar and let the fed starter sit on the counter until it turns bubbly. I usually get double the amount of started with which I began. If I have time, I bake, if not, I place the sealed container in the fridge until next morning. I remove the container from fridge and let the starter come to room temp and then I use to bake. 
Hope this helps. 

Teacher B 2021 June 14

Hi again Suzi

i may have misread your post, when I bake I use The following ingredients and measures:

120 g starter

380 g water

12 g sea salt

520 g bread flour

I dissolve the starter in the room temp water. In a large bowl I thoroughly mix the flour and salt (sometimes I add 2 Tbs of chopped rosemary). 

Hope these measures help. 

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