Is Bread Dough Risen Enough? How to Test

Bread Dough Risen Enough? Exploring three ways to test dough, whether it’s sourdough or yeasted.
1. Doubling. 2. Marking. 3. The Knuckle Test. Which is easiest? Most trustworthy?

After plenty of fun trying them out, I reckon I prefer the Knuckle Test, (number 3 below).

Is Bread Dough Risen Enough 01 – Doubling in Size

The generally repeated test to see whether bread dough is sufficiently risen is to ‘place it in an oiled bowl and let it rise until it is doubled in size’.

This is a non-starter for a couple of reasons:
Most bowls used by everyday bakers are – well, bowl-shaped. Unless you have a degree in visual spatial computational mathematics, it’s unlikely you can figure out what a doubling of the dough looks like.

Sure, I have tried it. But then after a half hour or so I can’t remember exactly how big the original ball of dough was . . and with sourdough, to remember the original size for a few hours? ¡Que Va!

Is Bread Dough Risen Enough 02 – Marking

I did introduce a semi-scientific method once. I took a glass bowl and filled it with water, one cup at a time. As I added each cup of water, I marked the level on the outside of the bowl with a semi-permanent marker. Thus once the dough was in I could say: OK, that’s close to 1 cup of dough. It needs to rise to at least the 2 cup mark.

It worked – but frankly it was a one-fiddly-thing-too-many addition to my day.

And I discovered there is a simple test that works for me just as well as computational mathematics or semi-permanent markers.

It’s the knuckle test.

Is Bread Dough Risen Enough 03 – The Knuckle Test

In the Basic Sourdough Loaf Recipe I talk about the ‘finger-poke’ test to check the risen bread dough. To be precise, I advocate using a knuckle rather than a finger tip – the knuckle is smoother and disturbs the dough less.

– Bend the finger and slightly dampen the knuckle – this stops the dough sticking & messing up the observation!
– Gently make a slight indentation in the surface of the risen dough.
– If the dent rises back up again to fill the depression, the dough is saying ‘Go away, I’m not finished yet.’
– If, however, the dent remains, the dough is saying, ‘Come on then, let’s get together and get this show in the oven.’

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