The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

From the UMFRK : why does it hurt when i knead..?

sebasto06's picture

From the UMFRK : why does it hurt when i knead..?

Hiya People,

Carried out with the unattended success of my first post and, notably enough, with Serenityhill's extended knowledge of our beloved Inspirator, FZ, opus,  i thought it'd be a good idea to try an develop a bit the very secrets laying behind my first successful attempt at making what looks and, definitely enough, tastes like an artisan bread.

As a matter of fact, i thought the best way for such a journey would probably be, as for any electronic project, to thoroughly document each and every step through it.

So, here it is.

Tonite, the cranky and deadly yelliow snow virus got on me again and, considering these two packs of whole wheat flour sitting in my cupboard, i just couldn't resist tryin to put some water on it.

So, i reserved about 20 grams of it, which i mixed with an equivalent quantity of water, a couple tablespoons of white granulated sugar, and a couple tablespoons of dry yeast.

Stuffed this into a jam jar, and poked the lid with a knife before setting the whole device on a plate, to make sure i wouldn't end up with a gas bomb in the morning : this'll be my poolish.

Then, i went on to the next step : autolyse, preferably long and cold from what i just learned doing my last batch.

Here we are : two kilograms (sorry for all of you anglo-saxon people, i just speak metrics but, hey, where doses the best bread come from ?) of whole wheat flour. Reffering to french standards, it's labeled 110 which, to my very knowledge, is far from being "whole". From what i actually read, a 110 gauge actually matches a semi-whole wheat flour standard.

So here we are, with 2 Kgs of 110 gauge flour and no idea of how much water to add into it.

I surely could go just as i did last time, stopping adding water as soon as my dough deels just right under my thumb, which provided me with about twelve delicious and lovely lookin loaves, but that wouldn't help me document my experience much.

So, i progressively mixed 1 800 ml of very cold water to my flour, before rapidly kneading it, filming it with plastic alimentary film, and putting it in the fridge until tomorrow morning.

One could say 1 800 ml of water is an awful lot, sufficient to make an overhydrated dough and, while brushing one's scapular aside, may proceed into concluding it'd gonna be just impossible to knead once properly worked.

Well, i must say this is untrue. Coz, you know what ? Autolyse precisely makes this possible...

By expressing all of the available gluten (the proteinic part of the flour, which gives it its "breadable" power) in the dough, a long and refrigirated autolyse both gives enough strength to your dough for it to be later worked out, and makes most of the embedded sugar available to the evil yeast we're gonna add to it in about, say, 8 or 9 hours.

But that's another story... See ya tomorrow, for the first sequel of this passionate journey !



"There is no hell. There is only France."

sebasto06's picture

Allright, here i am about twelve hours later.


I finally realized the twenty grams of flour i discarded for my poolish would be far from doing it, so i appropriately multiplied the amount of both flour and water by five, which allowed me to wake up this morning with a lovely, slightly acidic smell all over the house.

The poolish looks perfect, it nearly doubled in volume and got really fluffy. It sat on the counter all nite through at the ambient temperature, around 20 C° (about 68 F°).

But the really good surprise came from the fridge, where i let my pre-dough autolyse for the last twelve hours. As i took it out, i noticed several big bubbles over the surface, which made me presume there had been some wild yeasts embedded in the semi-whole wheat i bought. I tend to interpret this as a sign of quality and integrity.

I try a couple folds, just to check out the consistency, and here we go for the third great surprise : not only the theoritically unfermented pre-dough has indeed fermented, but it has also acquired a lot of strength on its own, just by sitting there, autolysing in the cold. The best proof is that after about only 8 folds, my arm gets really tired.

I'm definitely going to dig this autolyse question a bit deeper. If i were to make an educated guess, i'd suppose the autolyse allows for the gluten proteins to be dissociated from the rest of the dough, before getting puffed up by the lengthy hydratation step and ending up just about ready to be unfolded.

Anyway, even though my predough looked pretty liquid last night (i think we call this consistency "amoureuse", here in France), it almost looks like it lacks some hydratation today. Fortunately, my beloved poolish is ready to be added to the dough, along wih the 200 ml of water it contains, just in time to make my dough a bit less compact.

To my very surprise, it actually barely does and, after folding the dough about 10 or 12 times in order to intimately incorporate the poolish, it gets back close to its previous consistency, only a bit more souple. It barely sticks to the plastic scraper i use, which i guess is a very good sign for the forthcoming steps.

Time to be reasonable and stop messing with it. As we say here, "the better is the good's best enemy". Not sure it means anything in english, though.

So, i just film it thoroughly and put it back in the bottom of the fridge for a first 12 hours fermentation. Tonite, around midnight, i shall give it a few delicate folds, just to get rid of the gases in excess, give it some more strength and, above all, to make sure that when i wake up tomorrow morning, my whole fridge hasn't come to life, hehe... In the meanwhile, you may enjoy taking a look at this video, from another one of my favorite artists, the almighty Sage Francis

See ya guys tomorrow morning,


Daisy_A's picture

Hi seb. I look forward to your film. I'd like to see more visuals on the different stages of bread making.

As for the metrics - feel free to keep going with those. It makes your recipe easier to scale. Some of us even speak metric over here now!;-) Look at Andy/ananda's formulae. They are all in metric.

Ou autrement dit, notre langue maternelle est Impériale, mais nous pouvons parler métrique.

ciao, Daisy_A


sebasto06's picture

Hello folks,

Et merci, Daisy, pour ce gentil message. °-) Sorry about the absence of pictures, but the only comparable device i currently own is a tacky webcam, and the results are so awful i'm not sure they're even worth posting...

Oki, so here we are on day three. To quickly sum it up, the predough has first been put to a cold autolyse for about 12 hours, before gently mixing it with about 100 grams of poolish, fabricated at the same time as the predough. Then, 10 or 12 folds, before putting it back in the fridge for the afternoon.

Around dinner time yesterday, i had an awful feeling. It's the first time i use poolish and i was pretty anxious to see if the starter would be as efficient as the instant yeast i used until now. Plus, i reaiized i'd forgotten the salt, which gave me a good enough reason to take the dough out of the fridge and check its status.

I was indeed well inspired : my dough was awfully flat, it had been about 6 hours since i mixed the poolish, and the dough hadn't lifted one bit. No bubbles on its surface, no lift, i was pretty worried and much tempted to just grab my instant yeast package and radically fix the problem.

But i didn't. Instead, i got a feeling the fridge was too cold for my poolish to start working. So i just gave the dough about 10 folds, before letting it sit on the counter for a couple hours and, Eureka, it quickly gained about 50 % in volume.

Give it ten more folds, the texture is just gorgeous, and looks more elastic and kinda velvet like than my usual instant yeast recipe. Smellier, too, with a light but tenacious acidic fragrance. I film it, put it back to the fridge, and wait for a few more hours to check what happens.

This time, the fermentation process starts just fine and, around midnight (hence about 4 hours later), i take it out and discover it once again has gained about 50 % in volume. Ten folds later, i put it back in the fridge to let it sit overnite this time.

Here we are on the next morning, aka today, around 10 AM. I rush right out towards the fridge and discover while a huge smile fills up my face that the dough has doubled in volume, with tons of huge bubbles on top of it. It's almost scary in fact, as i begin to wonder if it's not gonna jump right out and grab my meat...

This very encouraging result makes me think the cold fermentation still is a good idea, even with poolish. The only issue may hence well be to give the starter enough time at ambient temperature to start its yeasty work.

So, i give it a dozen folds, just to discover that, A, the bubbles are not only on the dough's surface but that they've colonized the whole mass, and that B, the texture and consistency are just amazing. The gluten has obviously done a great job, as the innermost bubbles just won't resolve disappearing, even after 12 extensive folds.

To this day, this is without a doubt the best result i've observed. The dough has gotten an awful lot of strength, the smell and taste are gorgeous and, more important still, instead of going back to its initial volume as it usually does after a dozen folds, it seems like the dough has gained in size, about 25 % roughly.

So, i'm now filming it tightly and setting it on the windowsill, to encourage further fermentation before putting it back in the fridge until tomorrow morning, the cooking day.

I just can't wait to see the final result ! Be back soon...

See ya, folks,