The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Mixing, type of mixer and softness of bread

  • Pin It
venkitac's picture
venkitac

Mixing, type of mixer and softness of bread

I took a class at SFBI recently, and I am trying to reproduce the same soft/spongy bread at home. One of the things I was told is to use lots of water in my dough, which I started doing. It certainly made my bread softer, but it is definitely not as soft as what I made at SFBI - doesn't matter which kind of bread I made, the same kind of bread, when I made it at SFBI, was much softer and had more even holes (but large - not a fine crumb, it was all artisan bread) . To check whether it's indeed the water content, yesterday I went nuts with the water, and I made the stickiest dough I have ever made (including the class) - I got excellent bread, but it is still not as soft or even-holed as what I got in the class. So I suspect it isn't the water-content any more.


I am trying to figure out what is different in my method at home, and I can think of only 4 things:


- kind of yeast or sourdough starter. I suspect this has nothing to do with it.


- Steaming/baking system - could be, but I suspect it has nothing to do with it. I may not get the same oven spring and volume at home, but I can't believe it can affect the softness or holyness of the bread.


- kind of mixer: at SFBI we used a nice spiral mixer and kneaded 10 kilos (22lb) of dough at a time. At home, I knead with a zojirushibread machine (or sometimes by hand) and knead 1 kilo (2.2lb) of dough at most, more like 650 grams (1.5lb) usually. I have a very strong suspicion that it is the mixer that makes the difference. At home, I can defeinitely get any kind of dough from short mix to intensive mix with a full windowpane from the zoji. But, I suspect that all improved mixes are not made equal. Do you get the same kind of dough in a zojirushi (or when mixing by hand) as in a real spiral mixer? I am suspecting the spiral mixer somehow produces softer bread..


- Instructor watching over my shoulder. This could ofcourse be it:)


 


Any suggestions much appreciated.


 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

While there are many possible answers, the first question that comes to my mind, and the most likely factor,  is about the flour you are using.  Is it the same flour that you used at SFBI?


Jeff

venkitac's picture
venkitac

I cannot get the same brand (they use harvest king) - but I believe the flour I use is good. I have tried Giust's baker's choice or golden haven, and nowadays I use central milling organic APF (which is much cheaper than giusto's because I can get it at costco). Both giusto's and central milling seem to have a good reputation. (One of the guys at sfbi recommended central milling as well). In all cases, I get good bread, but it is not the same thing..

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

In all cases, I get good bread, but it is not the same thing..


And I would say, assuming that all else is equal (a big assumption), that this is your answer.  Different flour, different bread.


Jeff

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Venkitac,


As you allude to in your post, spiral mixers are quite efficient when it comes to dough development.  Home planetary mixers just can't compare.  But there are ways to approximate an 'improved mix' using a home planetary mixer.  You may want to check out:


http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=157


 


SteveB


www.breadcetera.com


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, venkitac.


I agree with Jeff that the flour is a likely reason for the difference in crumb texture. If you really want to test this, here's a source for GM Harvest King flour:


http://nybakers.com/wheat.html


The gluten content is probably the important variable. Harvest King is 12.0% protein. If you want something close that might be available locally, you could try KAF AP flour which is 11.7% protein. It might yield an even softer crumb.


Happy baking!


David

suave's picture
suave

I seem to remember that a few years back, before the packaging was changed, bags of "Better for Bread" flour also said Harvest King.  I wonder if it is still one and the same.


Updated. Per www.pizzamaking.com: "I contacted baking author Rose Levy Baranbaum [...] and she confirmed that it's still the same Harvest King hard red winter flour. She also said it was identical to the Harvest King flour that is sold to professionals."

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I too have often (If not every time) whisked up my water and starter into a foam and added just enough flour to thicken it but still be able to whisk it, many times with the spices as well.  When I do this with a high percent rye, it's the wheat or spelt that gets the whipping.  Then I add the rest of the flour stirring with a sturd spoon or spatula.  I've mixed this way for as long as I can remember.   If I strickly follow a recipe, this is many times skipped over. 


One of my early recollections of my Aunt baking (she still does in her 80's) and she always used a Hamilton Beach mixer, was that she hesitated adding the flour.  She would give it high but sloppy beating ( I can still remember hearing it) in the beginning.  That can only be done with a slurry. There was a time when she profided special bread for thier local golf club steak dinners.


I generally mix lean doughs by hand; no fat, no sugar; just water, flour, spices and lastly salt.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Go to the URL SteveB listed, and the first thing that pops into your view is a remarkable photo of a crumb with more really large holes than I've ever seen anywhere else. That picture is what keeps me trying...

venkitac's picture
venkitac

Ok, I'm doing a science experiment right now, I got a bag of KAF AP, and I'm baking side by side with Central Milling. Let's see what happens, I'll post.


 


Steve/Mini: I don't use a kitchenaid etc, (don't have one!). If I knead, I always use my zoji bread machine. Let me try your technique on that one..Thanks!