A windowpane test is when you take a piece of your dough and gently stretch it between your fingers to the point that you can see light shining through it. This is where it gets the windowpane name. The reason we perform a windowpane test is to see if our bread has developed enough gluten through mixing.
Learn how to perform a windowpane test when you're making bread here! If you've somehow found this post and don't know what a windowpane test is or maybe you just heard the word before but didn't understand its significance, let me explain.
The windowpane test is especially helpful if you are new to baking bread and you just don't know when your bread is done mixing. Terms like "mix until smooth" or "mix until the dough bounces back" are very vague.
Whats In This Blog Post
When I was first learning to bake bread in my early 20's, I had no idea what I was looking for and often wondered WHY my bread was not rising as expected. It wasn't until I attended pastry school in 2010 that this very short demonstration changed my whole outlook on baking bread.
Now I never have under-mixed dough.
How To Do The Windowpane Test
After kneading your dough, take a golf ball-sized piece, press it flat, and let it rest on the workbench for 5 minutes. This will give the gluten a chance to relax and give you a more accurate representation of how much gluten is developed.
Begin slowly stretching the edges with your fingers. The center will get thinner and thinner.
If you can stretch the dough to the point you can see light shining through without breakage, your dough is likely ready to bulk ferment.
Why Does The Windowpane Test Work
What you are seeing are strands of gluten linked together in a very fine web. The more strands you have, the more air that is trapped during baking, resulting in a lovely fluffy loaf of bread.
When gluten is underdeveloped and weak, it cannot trap air, resulting in a flat or dense loaf of bread.
When Should You Do The Windowpane Test
You should perform a windowpane test whenever you are unsure of the gluten development in your bread.
Breads that are enriched with eggs and butter such as brioche, panettone, or fast bread are especially difficult to develop gluten because of the added fat. These breads are always good for performing a windowpane test.
You do not need to perform a windowpane test if you are making a bread that will be resting for a long time such as sourdough or overnight focaccia. The reason for this is that gluten can also develop with time, not just kneading. So a dough that is undeveloped on day one can be very developed on day two.
Keep in mind that yeast will break down gluten as it ferments. So you don't want to leave your dough to proof for too long or your bread could collapse during baking.
If you think you may have over-proofed your dough, perform the windowpane test after fermentation and shaping to see if it still holds together.