During the bulk fermentation, the gluten structure will begin to develop, which helps to trap air into the dough. As air bubbles start to develop, the dough will not only grow in size, but also become lighter and fluffier. It will lose its density and become more airy.
When you handle the dough after its bulk fermentation, it will feel quite different to when you first handled it. The dough will now be very light and have a ‘bouncy’ kind of a feel to it. This is the point at which it is done and ready to shape.
A dough that has been proofed properly will still have ‘strength’ to it when handled. It will feel alive by being a little stubborn in the shape it wants to be. You will find that it has developed stretchiness and elasticity.
Once the dough has proven for enough time, it will look different. Look out for the following signs: - Grown in size - Bubbles in the dough - Smooth surface - A domed surface