The Fresh Loaf

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How much kneading...

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nowhereman's picture
nowhereman

How much kneading...

Hello everyone - okay, I've been wondering about using the sponge method for baking bread, and have always got really tasty results (that is to my novice tastebuds!) much more so than normal 'quick bake' style loaves...What I'm wondering is, after fermentation, and after I've mixed in the rest of the ingredients, how much kneading should I be doing?


When I gather the dough to start kneading, it feels veery light and slightly sticky (tacky??) usually its doubled in size, and smells very beer-like. At this point in any loaf I would usually knead till smooth and elastic. Does the dough from sponge method need different treatment? I'm inclined to knead more gently, and stretch /fold a few times...what do you reckon?


 


cheers


 


Dan

Ju-Ju-Beads's picture
Ju-Ju-Beads

I'm with you, Dan.  Lately I've been doing less kneading and more 'stretch & fold' and I like the results.  I have done it both ways and either will work but the dough seems more responsive to gentle treatment, to me, anyway.


Judi

ssor's picture
ssor

Unless I am making a new recipe and following the directions I am quite casual about kneading. I often use a poolish made with the all of  whole wheat flour that will be in the recipe. I account for the water and add enough for 66 % hydration to the poolish and then add that mix to all of the rest of the flour along with a bit of yeast and the salt. I then mix by hand or spoon until everything is moistened and cover it and go away. After about a half hour with the dough still in the bowl I pull one edge over the mass for a fold and turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold again repeating this until I have made perhaps twenty folds. Not much energy used for this and cover it for another short while when I come back to it I dust it with just a little flour and scrape it free of the bowl and pour in about an ounce of melted fat and coat the dough ball and again cover it until it threatens to climb out of the bowl. That is when I remove the cover and gently thump the bowl on the table and watch the dough blow bubbles in the surface. This tells me that the gluten is well developed and i may shape it.

nowhereman's picture
nowhereman

Hi - I see you're using slightly more hydration than usual?;-) I havent tried going over 70% (now i know what it means!), as this makes the dough difficult to handle and shape, it spreads more than rises... Also, it seems to me that you are basically leaving the yeast to do all the work, which seems like a  smart move to me (and it goes with the natural flow of things too)..


About the fat - you just pour it onto the dough as a coating, or are you mixing it in somehow? what i do for some loaves is to use melted ghee, cooled to the same temp as the rest of the dough, or i leave slightly warmer, then sort of squidge that into the mix, but I wonder what this action does to the dough?


I see you shape lastly but do you knead at any point in your process?


 


Dan

ssor's picture
ssor

is about all it gets. The fat gets poured around the bal of dough against the sides of the bowl. Often poultry fat saved from a roast chicken or sometimes bacon fat.


By dividing the dough into the protions for each loaf and flattening and rolling then a 90 degree turn and flatten and roll again even very wet dough will hold its shape rather well.


Folding the twenty times I mentioned inflicts surprizing amounts of stretch on the dough. The original dough flattened to a 12 inch diameter and folded and then flattened again will be stretched 12 inches times 2 raised to the twentith power or a bit over a million times

nowhereman's picture
nowhereman

Hi Judy thanks for your reply - it seems that when i stretch/fold i get a lighter, moister loaf, and one with slightly more airholes than normal..I would say that the gentler approach seems in keeping with the whole 'living organisms' part of bread baking - for instance, mashing them whilst kneading too heavily seems a bit wrong to me :-) whats your view?


Dan

Ju-Ju-Beads's picture
Ju-Ju-Beads

I definitely agree.  I think I may have been over-kneading my dough without realizing it. Certainly my dough feels happier, both under my hand and on my palate, since I've reduced the kneading and increased the stretching/folding. I also find the dough remains workable with a far greater proportion of liquid, producing more air holes. 


I suspect that the kneading motion may have evolved from stretch/fold.  Think about it: 'Push the dough ball away' (stretch) 'then fold, turn, and repeat'.  Perhaps somewhere along the way we started taking out our aggression on the dough and 'mashing' rather than stretching.  


Folding the dough does, indeed, seem gentler and more harmonious. My bread is lighter, moister, more 'air-ish' as we say here.          


Judi                            

ssor's picture
ssor

about dough troughs. These were used for mixing and fermenting dough before we had machines. There is no way a man could mix and knead a batch of bread made with 100 pounds of flour if he had to dump it out onto a table and knead it by the methods we conventionally use for small batches. But bread was made by village bakers in such quantities on a daily basis. Place all of the flour into a trough and add the water and the leavin and the salt and get to work. Consider 100 pounds of flour would take 8 gallons of water plus a little. The left over dough from the previous day was used to make the new biga for each day's baking. So after you managed to moisten all of the flour, you would need a break. Thus you had autolyase. Then you get back to work and finish mixing by folding the mass of dough first from one end of the trough and then from the other working back and forth until you could tell that the mix was complete. Now you could sleep until about 2 or 3 and get up to shape all of the bread and heat your oven so that you can have fresh bread to sell when the people want bread for their morning meal.

nowhereman's picture
nowhereman

Aha - I understand thats got to be a lot of work, and the stretch/fold must've been the only practical way. I saw a programme , "edwardian farm" where thay were using troughs and it looked back breaking work, because they were kneading instead of stretching.


dan


 

nowhereman's picture
nowhereman

Judi, you say that with stretch/fold gives you more workable dough with higher moisture content? Thats quite interesting - I usually hydrate at 60% with all loaves, found that if I knead a 60% hydrated dough, it starts to toughen up and start to almost cook itself on the worktop - it begins to develop a 'skin', however, if I do a stretch/fold dough it remains moist all the way to proving...I guess my heavy handed kneading was drying out the dough? Or just not enough hydration maybe...might try 70% soon;-)


 


Dan

ssor's picture
ssor

I used to hydrate in the very low 60'sand found that i got better bread as I increased the hydration.If you are adding ay flour while you are kneading you may well be below 60%. Consider 20 ounces of flour and 12 ounce of water is 60% hydration. But 21 ounces of flour and 12 onces of water is 57% hydration. That could explain why your dough seems to get drier.

Ju-Ju-Beads's picture
Ju-Ju-Beads

Could be.  It is easy to add quite a bit more flour while kneading.  I do find stretching and or folding makes the dough more workable.  Each cycle of stretching makes a difference in the way the dough feels.  It starts out much like a very heavy, shaggy batter and ends up smooth, silky dough.


I have used sponges, and sometimes still do, when I have time and have been forgetful. Usually, though, I use a biga. It seems easier to me, needing less measuring, and I like the flavor I get.  I simply save about 1/3 of the dough after mixing, put it in covered bowl in the refrigerator and add it to the next baking--from which I save back about 1/3 to go into the next.  The biga stays good in the refrigerator for about 3 days.  If I wait longer than that to bake, it moves to the freezer


My current favorite loaf has 14 oz water and about 2 tsp honey. On the scale, I put 2 Tbsp dry milk powder, 1-1/2 tsp salt, 1 oz toasted wheat germ, and enough Gold Medal bread flour to total 19 oz.  That comes out to about 77% if my math is correct--NOT my strong point!  I stir it together with the remnant of last baking's dough and 1-1/2 tsp yeast and leave it alone to autolyse for 20 min or so.  Then I stir till the first bit of elasticity appears.  It's almost too thick to stir, but too wet for traditional kneading, so I just do my best with a stout old wooden spoon.  (I admit, I use the mixer on days when I'm stressed or impatient.  My grandmother always said "You can't make good bread if your heart isn't at peace.")   Next I'll save out some dough to flavor the next baking and sometimes add about 1/2 cup of KAF's Harvest Grains Blend.  That's it; the work is over.  Into a greased bowl it goes, to be covered with plastic wrap and set aside.  Periodically, when I think of it, I stretch the dough up from the bottom toward the top center, working my way around the bowl.  I usually do that several times during the first rise.  Each time it seems less like a batter and more like dough.  Then shape, being sure to get a good tight outer skin, and dust with either more flour, which will be partially absorbed into the crust, or with seed mix.  I cover my loaves with an old plastic bin while they rise and the oven and a stone heat to 450*.  When fully double, I slash, spray with water, and slide them into the oven, spritzing the oven with water while I'm at it.  I immediately turn the oven down to 425* for 10 min, then reduce to 400* to finish baking.  I usually put my bread on a sheet of parchment on a rimless cookie sheet to use as a peel and slide the parchment across onto the stone.


Happy baking,


Judi