The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

mixing technique - clearing the bowl?

cranbo's picture

mixing technique - clearing the bowl?

So I've been baking breads for some years now and experimenting with various recipes. 

Today I've been working on these English Muffins as well as my version of Theresa Greenway's Griffin's Bread.

The versions I'm making are 62% and 68% hydrations respectively. 

Most of the time I use a KA mixer with C-hook to knead.

Both doughs clear the sides of the bowl reasonably well, but neither of these totally clear the bottom of the bowl. I ran them both for maybe 1 minute at KA speed 2 to combine, then about 3-4 minutes at speed 3. 

In the case of the muffins (which use about 70% preferment), there was about a 2.5" diameter circle at the bottom, and I added some additional flour (about 10g) and it shrank to about 2". 

In the case of the sourdough (which uses about 82% preferment), it stuck to a large circle at bowl bottom, probably 5-6" around. I had to add probably 30g of flour to make it clear the sides better, leaving about a 2-2.5" diameter circle at the bottom of the bowl. 

My questions are about hydration and mixing to clear the bowl: 


  1. Am I correct to assume that all 62% and above hydration flours will never totally clear the bottom of the bowl? 
  2. What hydration typically will clear the bowl bottom? 
If I was more accurate with my starter maintenance, I'm sure this would be less of an issue (I think my preferment hydration varies anywhere from 60-85%, because I eyeball it). I just want to get a better feel for the behavior of hydration and my mixing machine, so that I can make adjustments as necessary. At least I've learned not to add more flour to sticky ryes, I've ended up with quite a few bricks over the years. 



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, cranbo.

The dough clearing the sides of the bowl and the bottom depends on the hydration of the dough and the degree of gluten development. It's hard to say at what hydration level you should expect your well-developed dough to clean the bottom of the bowl, because it also depends on the strength of the flour.

The lean breads I make with strong flour (12.7% protein), will clean the bottom of the bowl at 62% hydration. But most of my breads have higher hydration and use lower protein flour, so they typically leave a 3-6 inch diameter disc of dough at the bottom of the bowl after they are mixed to the degree I generally desire. Do note my use of words like "most" and "generally." There are exceptions to every generalization. There are doughs I do not develop fully by machine but depend on stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. There are some high-hydration doughs that I develop very fully by machine and may take 13 minutes of mixing at a speed that voids my KitchenAid warrenty.

I hope this helps.


cranbo's picture

OK, that helps confirm my instinct. 

Short of making lean doughs with varying levels of hydration to confirm, I just wanted to make sure I'm on the right track. 

I typically try not to add additional flour to make the lean dough more manageable, to keep to the letter (and spirit) of the recipe. 

Thanks again for your feedback!

Janknitz's picture

Seems weird to learn how to make bread from a machine, but the directions in the KA book are so clear and specific, they help the beginner over the first major hurdle--learning to understand what the dough must FEEL like.  

But for years ALL my breads were the same consistency--a bit on the heavy side, small, even crumb, somewhat dry.  Because I learned from the KA I thought that ALL breads had to clean the sides of the bowl and the bottom too, and I was constantly adding too much flour to achieve that.  

It took me a long time to understand that different doughs had different hydration levels, and along with that, different degrees of dough development.  It takes a lot of practice handling doughs that are not as dry and well-developed, and to leave behind the dependency on the machine for techniques like stretches and folds that start with a very shaggy or sticky dough.  But, OH--the possibilities are endless and the results are amazing when you step away from what you've learned from the KA!!!!

The KA is a good teacher for beginners, but as you spread your wings, you're going to be amazed.  

cranbo's picture

Yes, one thing I have learned about using my KitchenAid (thanks to txfarmer's posts) is about knead times. 

I think in the past I tended to undermix and underhydrate my doughs. Nowadays I lean more towards slightly higher hydrations and significantly longer knead times at higher speed (e.g., now typically around KA speed #4 for at least 7 minutes, but up to 10 minutes if necessary). As a result, my dough textures have become muck more to my liking (lighter and fluffier), and my dough behaviors much more predictable. 

hanseata's picture

I agree with David. 75% hydrated whole wheat doughs clear the bottom just fine. Higher percent rye doughs will never clear, and higher hydration doughs neither.

I also would not only go by whether the dough clears the bottom of the bowl or not, but by the feel of it. Some stickier whole grain doughs might not clear the bottom of the bowl completely, but are, nevertheless, not over hydrated.

And the more experience you have the less stickier doughs bother you. You can always knead in a little flour later, if it is really necessary, but it is very hard to incorporate more water once the dough has firmed up.


cranbo's picture

Karin, you're absolutely right.

I have definitely noticed that over the past year I've become much more in-tune and comfortable with a certain level of stickiness of certain doughs. 

I've come to realize how tough it is to communicate what a dough should feel like in writing. The feel for dough and its behavior only comes from hands-on experience.  It's one thing to read about the techniques here on TFL, and it's another to experience creation of a lot of loaves. The same applies to use of kitchen equipment (hands, mixers, scrapers, etc). 

hanseata's picture

I remember also, how anxious I was when my dough seemed a bit sticky, adding more flour - and producing bricks!

And with kitchen equipment you usually only know whether it works well or not AFTER you bought it.