Gluten Development (with Windowpane Photos)

I took (actually, my husband T took, while I “windowpaned”) some photos of the stages of gluten development. I hope someone will find these useful. Most of the breads I make call for the gluten to be developed to a medium stage.

Gluten development is tested with the “windowpane test.” Pinch off about two tablespoons of dough and try to stretch it into a thin membrane (windowpane).

If you can do so without tearing, but the membrane is mostly opaque, you have barely developed gluten.

If you can stretch a paper-thin, very translucent windowpane, the gluten is fully developed.

A medium level is in between these two extremes: the windowpane is translucent with some opaque areas.

The progression from minimally to fully developed gluten:

Low gluten development Medium gluten development High gluten development

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sapphire says

    Hi,

    Thanks for the windowpane picks. Being new to baking wasn’t quite clear what I was shooting for – thanks again.

  2. says

    Macfield, full development generally gives a tight, even crumb (interior texture), which is desirable for some breads. For breads where you want a more open and irregular crumb, medium development is usually best.

  3. Herb Nicholas says

    Are the pictures of the windowpains in reverse order? It seems that the one on the lift shows ligt and image behind it.
    The idea of showing the actual window pain results is a great idea.Thanks to Susan again.

  4. says

    Herb, the photo on the left is the most opaque (i.e., the least developed gluten). There is a little translucency at the edges, so maybe you’re perceiving the edges of the opaque area as an image behind the dough. This is like a Rorschach test :)

  5. Elana E says

    Thank you so much for this demo. It has changed my sourdough making. I was never sure what I was doing and I just crossed my fingers. Now, I know what to look for.

  6. says

    Thank you so much for this explanation! When I did my cinnamon rolls, I only had medium gluten development. Does this mean that I need to knead it longer in order to reach full development?

  7. says

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for sharing with us your gluten development together with the photos taken. Will show it to one of my friends who likes baking.

    Paul

  8. says

    What a brilliant tip! I have been making a sort of rustic bread for a few years now with a pate fermentee, but I suspect any success was down to luck. I shall definitely be using this in future!

  9. says

    Hi Susan,
    I need to be honest with you: these pictures have been driving me crazy for weeks! I knead and knead and knead and knead and…well, you get the picture. My point is that the most development I seem to get is somewhere between “minimal development” and the middle picture.
    Do you have any tips for making the jump to the next level? I have a kitchen aid mixer but that didn’t seem to help too much…the window pane eludes me!
    Thanks!

  10. says

    I wanted by way of thanking a person because of this intriguing My partner and i definitely adored each and every little that. I have you bookmarked your web site to look at the most recent items you post.

  11. Megan says

    Hello,

    As one commenter tried to point out earlier, it appears that your captions on the pictures contradict your descriptions. The one on the left is fine, yes, (opague and underdeveloped,) but what that person intended to say, I think, is that your 2nd and 3rd photos have incorrect captions that show up when you “mouse over” them.

    The very thin, transluscent image says “moderate development” in the middle, and the last one on the far right that’s semi-opaque says “full development.” I believe you intended that last one to be the goal- moderate/medium development, as indicated by your text narrative.

    Thanks in advance for clarifying.
    Megan

  12. says

    Megan: Hm, I wonder if you are seeing the photos in a different order from my intended one. As far as I can tell, the captions are correct. The photo on the right shows full gluten development; the bright area of the dough is the uniformly thin and translucent windowpane (although it is “flecked,” due to my use of some whole grain flour in this dough). In the middle photo, the bright (thin) areas are more “streaky.” This moderate development is what most of my recipes call for.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 2 until the gluten has developed. I usually check mine after 8 minutes of kneading. Here’s a link to help determine when the gluten has developed. If you’ll oil your hands before working with [...]

  2. [...] Whisk the flours, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl, and mix in the butter until it’s pretty well incorporated into the flour. Slowly stir in the water until the dough begins to form a ball in the bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl of a mixer for about 6 minutes, or by hand on a floured work surface for about 10. You want the dough to be smooth, and to achieve that all-important windowpane effect. [...]

  3. [...] But baking has never been a subject I'm comfortable with. Give me a skillet, some pasta, and a well-stocked pantry and I can improvise countless meals. But if I'm supposed to bake something, I freeze. I immediately picture failure, a leaden cracker or a gummy mess. I hate the confusion of baking, the way it never quite turns out how it's supposed to in the recipe. I hate the way flour gets all over the place. And more than anything else, I hate the conflicting information, recipes never agreeing with each other, and how no matter how long I knead my bread I never get that damn "windowpane" effect that everyone talks about. [...]

  4. [...] if needed to make a firm but supple dough, slightly tacky but not sticky. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register at 25-27 C (77-81 F). Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough, rolling it [...]

  5. [...] Whisk the flours, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl, and mix in the butter until it’s pretty well incorporated into the flour. Slowly stir in the water until the dough begins to form a ball in the bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl of a mixer for about 6 minutes, or by hand on a floured work surface for about 10. You want the dough to be smooth, and to achieve that all-important windowpane effect. [...]

  6. [...] with my 100% whole grain bread to get the kind of crumb I wanted. Yesterday my dough passed the windowpane test perfectly and it baked up into the most beautiful loaf of 100% whole grain sourdough sandwich [...]

  7. [...] To make the dough, mix the yeast with a little warm water. Add flour, more warm water, salt, oil, and knead the mixture until you get a very pliable dough that forms a ‘window pane’ – when the dough can be pulled into a thin membrane that allows the light to come through (see photos here or here). [...]

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