The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is It Luck?

taradeepower's picture

Is It Luck?

Stumbling on this site has lit a fire in me! I went from "making due" with conventional squishy bread, all the while dreaming of the German bakers back home in Canada, to braking ALL the bread my family of 4 eats. No small feat when my son is in the "toasted sandwich everything" phase.

But that's not why I started this thread. I'm curious, twice now I've been in the middle of combining the dough, like we're talking everything is in the bowl and 75% combined, just about to get into my 10 minutes of kneading, when my 1.5 year old does something destructive/life threatening. Obviously I rush off and deal with the crisis.

BUT, the dough that has resulted from this has been very light and well sprung in the end. Is it just luck that it's turned out so well, or does the fact that I proceed through the steps as though I wasn't stopped, essentially giving it a third rise the reason it's working out?

Anyone know? I'm green enough to want to know FOR SURE why things work, and not guess at it.

Thanks everybody.

taradeepower's picture

baking bread, not breaking it, curse typing on a touch screen!!

dmsnyder's picture

Surviving a toddler may require some luck, but what you describe with your bread is not just luck.

Gluten begins developing as soon as wheat flour is mixed with water. Stretching and folding the dough ("kneading") helps develop the gluten and organizes the gluten strands, but gluten will continue to develop even if the dough just sits there. In addition, as the dough sits, fermentation continues producing carbon dioxide gas, which makes the dough "lighter" as well as producing acid which strengthens gluten bonds.

If you like the results you get when you are distracted from your kneading, why don't you incorporate an "autolyse" into your routine? This involves mixing the flour and water only and letting this sit for 20 to 60 minutes before you add yeast, salt and any enrichments. You will find the dough to then develop faster with less kneading.

Happy baking!


taradeepower's picture

Well that's encouraging. Logically I've read all about gluten strands and hoped I understood it, but many years of fit starts, and disasters makes me doubt even the scientific processes of dough will work correctly for me.

Looking back it seems obvious that I was doing a strange kind of "autolyse" which I had considered doing before. I unfortunately don't have access to live blocks of yeast, so I have to prove my dried yeast in water before I start. Which limits me a bit. I think I'll give it a go though.

Thank you for responding.

taradeepower's picture

PS-I have TWO toddlers ;D

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

As you have discovered, the dough seems to just develop on its own.  Which is great!  Save lots of time kneading.  I also discovered this when my son was little, now he's 26!  I used to call it my "mix and forget" method.  Do it all the time!  Here, at TFL I picked up understanding to make use from the "forgetting" pauses of my recipes.  Interruptions are part of home cooking just as much as fitting in other duties.  It is very easy to stop what you're doing with the dough, put a lid on it (or shower cap) and come back, check the condition of the dough and keep working within a reasonable amount of time.  

I will mention one pause that didn't work well:  I had added a late addition of salt to a dough and was just starting to fold the dough when I had to drop everything.  I flipped the dough over the salt hoping the moisture would dissolve the salt while it stayed covered in the fridge.  I returned hours later and started to deflate and play with the dough.  There were large clumps of salt in the dough, hard rough terrible chunks of stiff dough with salt crystals stuck in them.  Using my hands was the best way to find the lumps and smash them.   I figured working the dough would blend it.  It did but my hands were a mess afterwards.  I had tiny cuts all over them and they were red and sore for days.   That was one dough in my long history of trouble shooting I should not have saved.  Not in that way. 

What I think happened is that the salt absorbed moisture from the surrounding dough dehydrating it and encapsulating the salt with a tough dough surface.  The salt was too concentrated to dissolve and remained crystalline.   Salt strengthens protein (and more specifically gluten) bonds in the dough.  Keeping that in mine, it is easy to imagine how the gluten structure in the dough tightened around the salt super bundling the salt clumps.   Removing the salt/dough lumps completely from the dough would have been the better solution and re-adding fresh salt.   

I still add my salt later to some recipes but I sprinkle out the salt when I won't be interrupted. :)

Welcome to TFL!