The Fresh Loaf

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Stuck at the mixing stage

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AramS's picture
AramS

Stuck at the mixing stage

Hey everyone,

I'm still a noob and I'm trying to deconstruct my trouble spots. I'm focussing on French bread from Reinhart's BBA. The end symptom is still too dense loafs.

I made the preferment in the machine (KA Artisan), and on the next day autolysed (water, flours) for about 1/2 hr. I hand kneaded everything after that, hoping to get a feel for it. 45 minutes or so of kneading, got to about 79 or 80 degrees, and could not pass the windowpane test. Shreds instead.

Stuff: Using King Arthur unbleached All Purpose and Bread flours, and instant yeast. I weighed the flours and water (measuring spoons for the small stuff though). Don't know what else to mention....

Oh. I gave up (probably bad choice) and didn't finish the loaves, so I can't say how they were this time. But this has been a typical experience.

One last thing. I have tried a few loaves by now, all too dense. For the heck of it I tried Ciabatta, but soaked the heck out of the dough. (I forget the % hydration, but it was wet and hard to handle). The results were so so, and the crumb was getting in the right direction, bigger holes, somewhat lighter. FWIW.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Aram

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Welcome to TFL, Aram.  Forty-five minutes of kneading had to make for tired hands!

Here's a link to a video  by Mark Sinclair, owner of the Back Home Bakery, which you might find helpful.

http://thebackhomebakery.com/Tutorials/KneadFold.html

Mark demonstrates kneading and folding.  Stretching and folding the dough is a great technique to learn, gives great results, and is certainly easier on the hands.

As you discovered with the ciabatta, increased hydration can lead to a more open crumb.  Did you use six or seven ounces of water for the French bread?

golfermd's picture
golfermd

Hi Aram,

 

We've all been there. It definitely sounds like over kneading to me. I just figured that one out myself. My last bread, http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/wholewheathoneybread came out like bread, not a brick. That was my 4th attempt at honey wheat bread. I kneaded by machine for 5 mintues and by hand an additional 5-10 minutes. I also cut the ferment to 60 minutes, and then proofed for 45 minutes.

Dan

AramS's picture
AramS

(LIL) Thanks, you guys.

Wow. My post was  disjointed. I'm not getting successful windowpanes. That's all I was trying to say.

Dan, thanks for the advice. I checked for windowpanes a number of times (long before 45 minutes). Never happened. So in addition to overkneading, could I be doing something else wrong?

Thanks,

Aram

Wynder's picture
Wynder

My problem with the windowpane test is that I never used enough dough...  get a good amount, maybe the size of a golf ball -- before, I'd tear off a tiny piece which would always tear apart.

Make sure you're quite generous with the portion you tear off.  Flatten it out around in your hands by your palms until it thins out, then gently stretch. 

I use my KitchenAid for breadmaking.  Once the flour and water/yeast come together, I do 4 minutes on speed 2, add the salt and 4 minutes on speed 4.  Even after 15 minutes of kneading by hand, gluten should have more than well-developed for baking a good loaf.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

There is excess kneading but there is only one kind over 'over kneading' and that when the dough turns into a sticky batter. You know when it happens, it's a very sudden change.

The windowpane test is not as straight-forward as it sounds and can be mis-leading. It can be hard to do with doughs on the firmer side. 

What's the hydration of the final dough?

AramS's picture
AramS

This loaf has 70% hydration.

Thanks,

Aram

mwilson's picture
mwilson

You should be able to pull a windowpane easily at this hydration. 

The pre-ferment maybe an issue...

But first tell me does the dough feel elastic when picked up?

 

AramS's picture
AramS

Thanks, I would have thought it should windowpane. It feels somewhat elastic, but not very. It tears easily. My problem (of course) is lack of experience. I don't know elasticity by how it feels in my fingertips -- yet!

The preferment is identical hydration. What do you think the pre-ferment issue could be? Maybe I overkneaded it?

Stupid question, but the flour is 50/50 mix of unbleached AP and unbleached bread Flour. I notice the bread flour is presifted. Since I'm using weight, that shouldn't matter, right?

Aram

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

If the pre-ferment is used past its prime it can cause tearing in the final dough. Are you following the recipe accurately?

To rule it out you could mix up a 70% hydration dough and knead to see if there is a difference in the feel of the dough.

If you weighing everything then there is no concern there!

AramS's picture
AramS

Thanks, I'll try that. Yes, I'm following the recipe faithfully. I think!

Aram