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The window-pane test in bread-making


The window-pane test in bread-making
The home bread-makers often ask themselves “Have I kneaded my dough long enough?” . A good question, as dough that is insufficiently kneaded will not rise properly or will fall flat when the top is slashed, which is very frustrating.

To know when the dough is ready, one can rely on the length of kneading time shown in the recipe or test the temperature, but both can be unreliable guides. It is better to check visually if the dough is sufficiently well kneaded. Then one can say, “OK, let's stop there” , or “No, that needs a bit longer” .

To check the dough visually, like the professionals do, we need to check for the “window-pane” effect, also known as the membrane test.
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Last modified on: June 16th 2021

The window-pane test in bread-making
Behind this mysterious name lies a very physical phenomenon: when dough is kneaded, the gluten in the flour forms a structure, like a kind of net, which holds the dough together. This gluten network gives the dough its elasticity and traps the C02 formed during fermentation to create the “bubbles” which will become the open spaces in the bread.

If you stretch well-kneaded dough, the gluten network will prevent it breaking immediately, so it is possible to stretch it out very thinly, indicating that the gluten network is properly developed.

So, the test is very simple: if the membrane is there, the dough has been kneaded long enough. If not, continue kneading.

baker test




Now, of course, we need to know how to check whether the membrane is there or not.

To do this, stop kneading and take a small piece of dough, about the size of a walnut. Stretch this out gently: if the dough tears easily, the membrane is not yet developed and you will need to continue kneading, like in this photo:

baker test


If, on the contrary, the dough does not tear, but can be stretched out into a thin, translucent membrane, you can stop kneading. This is shown here:

baker test



Here ios a small video to show you the gesture and the result:



To sum up :The presence or absence of the translucent membrane is the best indicator of whether bread dough is sufficiently kneaded or not.

But not all dough in baking is the same: this membrane should be looked for in bread dough as a sign of elasticity. However, for tart pastry, it is quite the contrary: we don't want the dough to be stretchy and develop the gluten membrane. So, for pastry, the dough should be kneaded as little as possible.

baker test




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Your 2 comments or questions on this page
  • I agree with you, the test is not absolutely necessary, but it is so simple and fast to do that why avoiding it?
    Professional baker (good ones) make it a dozen a day, because they want to be sure of their doughs, despite the flour, temperature of the day, hydrometry, amount of water, etc.

    But I think you're wrong when you say you could check "kneaded sufficient just by the way it looks and feels", sorry, no, it's a beginner mistake (believe me, I made it some time... when I was in bakery school) looking at the dough and claim that it's enough, especially if you have soft doughs like milk rolls, who could be smooth, because of the butter and milk in, but not enough kneaded.

    And I don't agree neither when you say "it's usually better to err on the side of overkneading than underkneading", no, it's the opposite when overkneaded, it's over, failed, can't be fixed, but if you're underkneaded, you can fix it by a longer first rest (pointage) than usually planned.
    Posted by jh november 17th 2020 at 08:11 (n° 2)
  • So is the windowpane test absolutely necessary? No, it isn't. It might be a good idea for a beginner, but it's better to learn when bread dough has been kneaded sufficient just by the way it looks and feels. Bread dough that doesn't contain any add-ins or coarse whole grains will feel soft and silky, about like your earlobe feels. The dough ball will also stretch easily when held between your two hands. Bread dough is very forgiving to work with, but it's usually better to err on the side of overkneading than underkneading.
    Posted by Shary november 16th 2020 at 20:06 (n° 1)
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