The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Gluten Development

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hmbress's picture
hmbress

Gluten Development

Hi everyone.  I'm a novice bread baker, although experienced enough to recognize proper gluten development.  Today I'm making a light wheat bread (1/3 whole wheat, 2/3 bread flour) and cannot get it to the point where the dough forms the windowpane, and I can't figure out why.  The white bread I made last week had no problem.  My ww flour had been stored in the freezer for a year (maybe longer), could that be why?  Thanks for your help.


Stumped,


Heather

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Heather,


If you can give us a more complete picture of what recipe and method you're using, as well as equipment, we can provide more meaningful insights and less guesswork.


Tell us what brands of flour you're using, as well.  Photographs of the dough, even taken with a cellphone camera, are a plus.

hmbress's picture
hmbress

I'm using Reinhart's Light Wheat Bread recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, p 181, which is an enriched, standard dough, direct method.  Mixed w/KA Ultra (4 min on, 5 off to prevent overheating).  King Arthur whole wheat flour, and the bread flour is one of those 25lb bags from Sam's Club.


I didn't think to take a picture of the dough.  It's on the second rise and looks like it's doing fine.  I would just like a better understanding of what's going on here.  I'd like to figure out why I couldn't get the dough to make that nice windowpane - even with well over 30 minutes of mixing time.


Any insights you may have would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks,


Heather

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Heather,


I'm not trying to be obtuse . . . all the things I mentioned can matter a lot in figuring out why you have no windowpane.  I'm not seeing what you're seeing, and I can't feel the dough, so we try the best we can to use electronic means of putting me there.


I don't know Sam's Club flour, and I don't have a copy of your book, so I really can't comment much specifically about why you're having problems.  I have to guess.  Here goes . . .


Does the dough tear when you're trying to stretch it into a windowpane?  That might indicate underdevelopment.  Longer mixing may be required.


If the flour mix is a strong one, it may be starved for water.  Adding a little bit of water can help extensibility, which makes it easier for the mixer's hook to fold the dough as it turns.  I'm not advising that you make the dough wet.  If it feels very firm, add one or two (or three or more if necessary) tablespoons of water.


What percentage of the flour is comprised by whole wheat?


Is the dough supposed to be intensively mixed?  Intensively mixed doughs really stress the motor on most tabletop planetary mixers I have used, whatever their manufacturer might call them. 


Is there a lot of fat in the formula?  What is its weight compared to the weight of the flour?


Is there a lot of sugar?


How much salt vs. flour?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I don't know specifically about Sam's Club, but Costco bulk flours are usually bromated.


--Pamela

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Potassium bromate is a dough conditioner, but its effects aren't realized until the baking cycle, where it contributes greater volume.  That's why factory-oriented bread bakers like it -- it allows them to get greater height in the oven without making the dough too strong during the shaping process.


And those efficiencies are what made some millers and manufacturers look the other way when it was shown to cause cancer in lab animals.

arzajac's picture
arzajac

Forget about the windowpane, how did your bread turn out?


I have never found a use for the wiondows pane test.  In my opinion, you can have excellent gluten development but a failed windowpane test.  I think it's due to the bits of bran in the dough which poke holes in your window.


Also, the chewiest whole wheat bread I make is a 100 per cent hydration, 100 per cent whole wheat bread.  The dough is very sloppy, so forget about pulling it into a windowspane, but the loaf turns out very holey.


http://food.andrewzajac.ca/node/94

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Mr. Arzajack:


If you're happy with your bread, then whatever you're doing is fine for you.


When you recommend that someone else "forget" about the windowpane, you're offhandedly contradicting the observations of a centuries-old bread baking tradition that uses the practice to monitor gluten development in wheat-based doughs.  Unimpressive though it may seem, this is common practice among knowledgeable and experienced professionals who make their living at baking good bread for others.  It is not a technique that is controversial.


A whole wheat "windowpane" is different from one that can be made from a white bread, but the only significant difference is that there are flecks of bran interspersed within the gluten membrane.  You should still be able to make a fairly translucent, continuous window with an intensively mixed dough that has been fully developed.


I can't be sure why you have never achieved that level of gluten development, but the holes you refer to in your whole wheat sandwich bread (and which I see in the photos at your web site) can often result from underdevelopment of the gluten.  If the gluten is underdeveloped, it will be more difficult to create a translucent membrane that doesn't tear easily.


I agree that seeing the final bread would be useful here, but I do not agree that the windowpane test is not useful.


Dan DiMuzio

arzajac's picture
arzajac

Danny,


There's a big difference between contradicting and disregarding.  If I ever meet a centuries-old bread baker, I will be sure to not contradict her.


While a positive windowpane is a sign of well developed gluten, the opposite is not true:  A failed windowpane is not a neccessarily a sign of improper gluten development.  I can assure you that the gluten in my bread is very well developed despite not being able to create a translucent windowpane with it.


If you search through the posts here, you will find many people have had the same experience.  Perhaps it has to do with a much wider array of flours that are used in the kitchens as opposed to the professional setting.  I dunno.  But I would certainly recommend to anyone who is trying to bake artisan bread to not get hung up on somehting like a windowpane test - you can bake excellent bread without it.

SteveB's picture
SteveB

arzajac, I have to agree with Dan on this one... the windowpane test should not be dismissed out of hand, even when talking about 100% whole wheat doughs.  The windowpane test, by its very nature, defines the degree to which a dough is developed.  I would be very interested to hear how you can, using your own words, "assure [us] that the gluten in [your] bread is very well developed".  What metric are you using?


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Well, I'll side with Arzajac on this one.


I won't dismiss the useful of the windowpane test for many or the wisdom passed down from the bakers of yesteryear, but I don't think I've ever achieved a good windowpane.  Maybe I just don't know how to do it right.  I can say with confidence that the windowpane test plays an insignificant part of my baking.  To which you may reply, probably fairly, "Well, maybe that's why your baking isn't getting any better."  I'm fine with that: a home baker doesn't need to justify themself by  any metric other than their own taste.

SteveB's picture
SteveB

I wasn't asking for justification, I was asking for methodolgy.


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Andrew.


If you personally have "never found a use for the window pane test," that is not an indication that every other bread baker on the planet should "forget about it." It is a technique for assessing the degree of gluten development that is useful to many others, myself included. In fact, the degree of window paning (how thin you can stretch the dough before it tears) is specified in the formulas in several baking books, particularly those aimed at professionals. Some breads should have more complete gluten development than others after mixing.


If you have discovered another technique that does a better job of assessing gluten development than the window pane, please don't keep it a secret. Share it.


David

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

From a fair amount of reading through Dan's responses, I always feel that he is trying to teach rather than be rude to anyone. He is obviously a very busy guy, and when he adds his expert point of view, it is sometimes dry, terse, and definitely all business. I understand that.. and I think a lot others do as well, but even if he decided to be directly rude to me, I would still find education within his words. After all, he has other options than patiently trying to work through someone's problem. He could just respond 'go to baking school' or just not respond at all, both options which would be disadvantageous to the community of home bakers.


Back to the question at hand, there obviously IS a reason for the windowpane failure. It might be something simple, it might be complex, but it exists.


I whole-heartedly agree with you that that failure shouldn't stop the baker in his/her's path, and that the final product matters the most. The original poster had a question, very specifically why did it fail? Dan took your response as advisement to the OP to forget about that test now and forever, and that you find no use for it at all. While that advise is sound in this instance, it shouldn't be forgotten, and the OP is absolutely doing the right thing by asking what the solution might be.


I find windowpaning an invaluable tool. I use it in conjunction with the feel of the dough to teach my hands and fingers what they are 'seeing' for a variety of different flours and hydrations. I constantly test myself to feel the dough first, then verify it with a quick windowpane. I have also learned that you need several different windowpane techniques for different situations, specifically, how quickly you stretch the pane out. My pizza dough can just be yanked wide open, some of my hearth breads will windowpane nicely, but require a more delicate pull. Holding it up to a light source, you are not only looking for translucence, but you can actually see the dough structure as well. There's really a lot going on there, and I'm going to side with Dan (especially since the OP seems keen to find the answer) that the test does have significant value, and that it should not be abandoned. No rudeness implied.


- Keith

arzajac's picture
arzajac

Thank you Keith, I think you summed things up nicely.


I dissagree, however, with you on one point.  I don't think that rudeness should be tolerated.  This is a web-based community and if it's at all popular, it's because people are friendly.


We are *all* busy people.  We are all volunteering our time.  No one deserves to be treated rudely.  Having a contrary opinion is a reason to start a great discussion, not a reason to be rude.


Oops!  There I go with my crazy opinions again!


David and Steve, I have not discovered a way to measure the degree of gluten development, nor have I ever implied that I did.  I don't believe you need to measure/worry about the degree of gluten development to make great bread.  I think a lot of people here would enjoy their own bread more if they didn't fret over such things.


My bread is awesome.  I have high standards as do my wife and kids.   My bread used to be horrible, and now it's better than anything I can get in a bakery.  I managed to improve my bread without being able to pass a windowpane test.  That's my metric.


If ever you're in Kingston, you should come over and I'll bake you a loaf!

louiscohen's picture
louiscohen

In my limited experience, it looks as if the windowpane will indicate good gluten development.  But, that development isn't always done right in the mixer.  


Some authors (eg Hamelman) tend to recommend shorter mixing times and longer bulk fermentation, often with a fold, or stretch-and-fold every 30-60 minutes.  The dough may not windowpane right out of the mixer, but it will by the time the bulk fermentation is done; maybe after the first or second fold.  


I suspect that commercial bakers with a lot of production to get out will use longer mixing as a labor- and time-saving measure (from the mixer right to the proofer with gluten fully developed).  Hobbyists and artisan bakers who can charge a premium price for fine bread might use shorter mixing and periodic folding (or maybe a quick turn back in the mixer, for commercial quantities) to develop gluten without oxidizing the dough and destroying tasty compounds.  There might not be a windowpane until after all the folds are completed. 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Heather.


I make enriched breads seldom, but my understanding is that fat (shortening in your case) interferes with gluten development. I don't know that the 5.6% shortening in your recipe is enough to matter. Maybe Dan can comment on this.


Anyway, one technique used in more highly enriched doughs like brioche is to mix the dough for a while before adding the fat. You should be able to develop the gluten faster that way. Then add the fat and continue mixing until the fat is completely incorporated. 


I hope this helps.


David

hmbress's picture
hmbress

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to respond.  I have a lot to learn and appreciate everyone's willingness to share their knowledge with me.


The loaf I baked the other day looked fine but wasn't very tasty to me.  I don't have enough bread-palate vocab to be able to explain (any posts out there to help me develop my palate/vocab wrt bread?), but it just wasn't as good as I know bread should taste, especially since it was only 1/3 ww flour.


I'm trying another loaf today.  I put together 4 extra batches of dry ingredients the other day, so I can experiment a little to see if I can improve the outcome.


The recipe I'm using is:


2.5 C bread flour (Sam's Club)


1.5 C ww flour (King Arthur - was in freezer for maybe 2 years)


1.5T sugar


1-1/2 t salt


3 T powdered milk


1-1/2 t instant yeast


2T shortening


1-1/4 c water


 


Yes, the dough was tearing.  Someone suggested longer mixing - but believe, me it was mixed for a long time (probably at least 40 minutes total, 4 min on, 5-10 min off to let KA Ultra cool down).


The dough was pretty stiff - today I'm trying a bit more water.  This time the dough is still slightly tacky - last time I added flour to get it completely smooth but it was pretty stiff.


I didn't know anything about bromation before - good to know - I buy organic when I can in general so definitely want to avoid this as well.


If I don't get an improvement this time (so far I'm at 16 min total mix time w/dough hook and it's still tearing), I'll mix up a batch with the fresh flour I picked up at the store yesterday.  I'm also interested in trying the method (what do you call it) with no kneading, but longer ferment/folding.  I watched the video on that.  I have friends who rave about the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes" but was under the impression that that method couldn't possibly give as good of results as kneading.


Thanks again - I'll let you know how it goes.


Heather