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Mixing and baking large batch ciabatta by hand

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tiffanybeng's picture
tiffanybeng

Mixing and baking large batch ciabatta by hand

Hi Guys,

I am the only baker for a cafe, and in the last few months we've begun making our own ciabatta for sandwiches. 

 So far, i've been mixing an 80% hydration dough. I mesure out the water then mix in the leaven and then add the flour into a big bowl. It weighs about 2olbs all together.

We don't have a mixer and I've been finding that mixing the dough by hand is creating a lot of lumps of flour that i'm having trouble getting rid of. I end up having to cut out the bigger lumps when I shape the bread into sandwich squares. 

Does anyone have any advice or strategies for making large batches by hand?

Ideally i'd like to mix a 40lb batch all at once (instead of doing two 20lb batches), but i'm having a bit of trouble handling that much dough in a small kitchen.

Any other ideas about increasing efficiency in any part of the breadmaking process would be appreciated as well.

Thanks a ton!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi tiffanybeng,

You might try the old French method of handmixing known as "bassinage".

For this you should hold back some of the water and form the dough first.   That way the gluten will develop more quickly too, as it is hard to develop in super-saturated dough.   Then you let the dough down with extra water later.

In all honesty if you are doing this on a regular basis, there is only one sensible option: buy a mixer!

Best wishes

Andy

Costas's picture
Costas

Hi there!

Try the method that deschribed in "tartine bread" book.

If you do not want to buy try a google search for "tartine bread martha stewart"

 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I would strongly urge you to lean towards the acquisition of a mixer.  While you can most probably achieve success using hand mixing, I am guessing that the time involved is much greater than is sensible over the long haul.  Once or twice is okay but on a regular basis it becomes A LOT of hand mixing.

Jeff

suave's picture
suave

You add all the flour at once, right?  Why don't you start by mixing 5-6 lb of dough, really wet, 100%,  and then add water and flour in ~ 2 lb portions, before finally bringing it to 80% with final 2 lb of flour.   So you'll go 6->10->14->18->20 lb.  I bet you'll get much more uniform dough and spend not more then 10 extra minutes mixing it.

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

talking about how when he got a mixer, he wished he would have sooner.

but until you get a mixer, sounds like you aren't getting your hands dirty enough. maybe try mixing the flour and water for an autolyse period? even if you don't let it rest before adding the levain, you should still be able to get it clumpless or at least less clumpy by really getting your arms in there and making sure all your flower gets hydrated initially. doesn't even matter if you add the levain to the water first, just get your hands in there and bust the clumps up from the start. dig down to the bottom with a sturdy bowl scraper to get the hidden ones. hold some of the water back as you'll be adding more as you work the dough.

and for me, 40 lbs is a whopping lot of dough. 25 is my max. 

Costas's picture
Costas

what do you mean by saying

"i'm pretty sure i heard mr tartine

 

talking about how when he got a mixer, he wished he would have sooner."?

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

i thought i had heard chad robertson on either 'splendid table' or maybe kcrw's 'good food' talking about how he had originallly mixed dough by hand always, but when he eventually got a mixer he had a much happier back and arms and was a happer baker.

i can't seem to find the episode, though, so i could be mis-remembering. 

tiffanybeng's picture
tiffanybeng

Thanks for all the advice!

I've been pushing for us to get a mixer, so hopefully that happens soon, as our production has increased as well.

In the meantime, the "bassinage" method is helping me out a fair bit.

On another note, does anyone know if it would be detrimental to mist the shaped dough with water to keep it moist (while it waits to go in the oven)? I live in a very dry city, and even leaving the dough out on the trays for about 10 minutes causes it to develop a crust.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

When I am faced with dry conditions, I cover the dough, at any stage, with bakers cloth (linen) and spray the linen with water.  I then cover the whole affair with plastic.

Jeff

judsonsmith's picture
judsonsmith

Hi Tiffany,

I used to mix a 70% hydration pizza dough by hand in a large plastic dough bin by copying the method I'd seen bakers using in videos when mixing dough by hand in an old-school mixing trough: Add nearly all the water first (I think its a good idea to hold back a little at first and adjust as needed), add enough flour to make a very wet poolish-like slurry and mix until very smooth; no lumps. Add the remaining flour in small increments making sure each addition is fully incorporated. If using bassinage is working well for you than keep on with that. Personally I always found that method more difficult by hand and easier in a mixer. In a small production setting and with the right dough (it sounds like both apply to you), I see no reason why you should not continue to mix by hand. The need for a dough mixer with small quantities of high hydration dough is over-exaggerated. 

I see that I've suggested the same process as "suave" already suggested, sorry for the redundancy and good luck with your mixing!

-Jud