What is the Final Proof?
The final proof is a continuation of yeast fermentation, which allows the moulded dough piece to relax and expand producing an aerated dough with optimum shape and volume when baked. Proofing happens in a controlled atmosphere with warm and humid conditions. Proofing temperature is generally higher than fermentation temperature, which is around 30-38 ℃ (86-100 ℉).
Proofing rooms are maintained at high relative humidity, greater than 85%. During proofing, starch is converted into sugars via enzyme action. The sugars feed the yeast and the yeast utilizes the carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide is retained in the cells formed in the protein matrix causing the cells to grow and the dough to expand.
Acids are also formed through yeast activity and contribute to flavor development. Enough proof time is needed, otherwise, the dough pieces are unable to relax sufficiently, which can result in poor volume and a dense texture. However, over-proofing may result in coarse texture and some loss of flavor. Over-proofing means the dough has matured beyond its capabilities to retain gas.
Final proofing time varies based on different types of doughs. For short mix doughs, final proofing time is short, up to 1 hour. For improved and intensive mix doughs, final proofing time takes between 1 to 2 hours. For breads leavened only by a sourdough starter, proofing times are even longer.
Measuring the height of the loaf is often used to determine when the dough is sufficiently proofed. To achieve its final volume, the dough expands by a factor of three or four during proofing. The temperature of dough coming out of proofer is around 34-38 ℃ (93-100 ℉). If the dough coming out of the proofer is 1℃ (2 ℉) lower than usual, your oven should be 5℃ (8 ℉) hotter with a ½ minute extra baking time.