The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The benefits of hand mixing bread

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The benefits of hand mixing bread

Frank Sally, an instructor at the SFBI (and my instructor in the Artisan II Workshop), recently published this article in Modern Baking. The article is short, but it has a lot of good information and a formula for hand-mixed sourdough bread. I thought it would be of interest to TFL. Here's the link:

Benefits of hand mixing bread 

Enjoy!

David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now why haven't I tried that before?    :)    

Yup, I agree!  Using my hands while I still can!  ...and a whisk.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I use wheat bran all the time (and I see wheat germ right next to it when it buy the bran), but never thought to use it as an ingredient.

Time to add the germ to the list.

Before long, everything in the market will be a bread ingredient.

(Was laughing at myself yesterday when building a formula that uses white whole wheat AND wheat bran. Why not just whole wheat proper, silly?)

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

curious enough to use lentils in my last bread after his bean bread - which apparently was a failure.  You are right Thomas.  Everything is fair game in bread including 'armadillo nectar' - with the possiblee exception of possum pelt :-)

I don't know about putting germs, even wheat ones,  in my bread after putting various bacteria, viruses and other wee beasties in bread on purpose.  We may be tempting fate :-)

I have to admit that when making a habannero and ghost chili vinagra (a la Daisy Martinez without the boiled pineapple skin juice) the other day I was thinking about how to use it in some bread - possibly some 'hotna hotna' bolillos.  My apprentice says this fact makes me nothing more than an evil scientist with bad intentions.  I say she's lucky that she is a Doxie Dog and not a possum.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I recall a tequila tasting some years ago where fried habaneros were placed on a plate of oeur d'oeuvres.

I tried one, thinking, "How hot could they really be?" Oh, the curse of the adventurous! Only later am I told: THEY'RE GARNISH, YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT THEM! I almost hired an attorney and filed suit. Mein gott! "Hot" doesn't being to describe the habanero.

But now that you mention it: Armadillo freshly-deadened a la Mack truck, slightly warmed-over from a couple hours in the noontime sun, marinated in nectar of said beast and habanero pepper for a fortnight, could be a welcomed addition as an accoutrement to a Dark Rye & Ghost Chili Vinagra Couronne. Don't you think?

;D

G-man's picture
G-man

When I was working at my second restaurant job I was tasked with managing inventory during the morning at one location, then pulling closing shift at another location.

Anyway, since I was doing inventory and nobody was there during the mornings, morning prep fell to me as well, which meant making sauces. One of the sauces we had was a habanero sauce.

It was all well and good, occasionally I had to taste it to make sure it was the right heat...I learned to endure heat pretty well. The problem came when it was busy and I was doing my prep work and cooking for a full lunch crowd on my own. I was mixing up some sauce, and I guess I got a bit hasty. Some of the habanero sauce jumped up and got me in the eye.

Now...I don't know if you've ever diced hot peppers and nicked your hand or got some of the oil in a cut, or something. It hurts so much worse than just eating the pepper. Let me just say that I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone who gets hit with pepper spray. I still have an urge to protect my eyes from pretty much anything.

Still, I love my hot sauce. If I don't have sriracha in the house, my kitchen is desperately understocked.

sarahyoung75's picture
sarahyoung75

This post is very informative. Thanks for sharing

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thanks for posting.

Juergen

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Thanks for posting, David.  Welcome and authoritative reassurance that going mixerless has real practical benefits beyond the sensual rewards of feeling the dough develop.  Now I can happily march into the weekend at the vanguard of the Carotenoid Protection Front.

And there's that toasted wheat germ again :-)    No autolyse though...

Tom

 

pdiff's picture
pdiff

I'd read your posts before about hand mixing and always considered it a "thing to try" sometime, but always seemed to find myself brushing it aside and falling into the comfort zone of what I knew and the mixer.  Then I bought Chad Robertson's Tartine and started following it closely.  I'm not sure I even remember how to use the mixer anymore :-) .  I guess there's a bit of little kid still in me that likes getting messy with the dough.

I've watched a few YouTube vids of old school European bakers using a trough for mixing and folding.  Have you every used or tried anything like this?  Looks fun! ;-)

 

Pdiff

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I don't use a trough, but I hand mix frequently. I use a bowl and the "stretch and fold in the bowl" technique. I like it best for high-hydration doughs - frequent folding during a long fermentation substituting for the longer machine mix which would be otherwise required to get the same gluten development. I do believe it results in better flavor.

David

varda's picture
varda

I read the article but I admit to a certain amount of skepticism.   Oxidation occurs when the mixing action pulls the air into the dough.    This must happen with hand mixing as well, and I wonder how much more it does with a home mixer at low speed than by hand.    Perhaps if you are talking about an industrial strength mixer this would be an issue.   I've seen the youtube of Jeffrey Hamelman using a spiral  mixer on dough, and you can hear the slap, slap, slap where the air is getting beaten into the dough.   That's not what my home mixer sounds like by any means.   This cries out for experimentation and scientific rigor.  Anyhow, I think it's great to hand mix dough, and I do sometimes as the spirit moves me.   Thanks for posting.   Food for thought as always.   -Varda

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Varda,

If you haven't already read it, the following blog post might be of interest to you:

http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=157

 

SteveB

www.breadcetera.com

varda's picture
varda

technique.   Thanks for posting.  -Varda

 

suave's picture
suave

My understanding is that he talks about larger mixers and longer mixing times.   And with all the variables that go into making a good loaf, - flour quality, fermentation time, hydration, shaping skills, baking to select mixing/kneading as a critical step.... I dunno.... I think that once that bakery cafe owner picks up that bag bleached bread flour he can hand mix all he wants, his bread is not going to be better than mine.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

When I owned the 20 qt mixer, I'd make big batches of one kind of bread (4-10) loaves.

It was great to be able to produce that much, but I grow weary of eating the same bread over and over again.

I got really tired of eating this bread (albeit delicious) after the many weeks it took to eat the lot:

Now that I don't own a mixer, I make a similar quantity of bread, but many different types. Instead of 10 loaves of fig-anise, I make 10 completely different breads. Hand-mixing's helped me grow a lot as a baker, whereas the mixer didn't help me grow at all.

(I suppose I could buy a small mixer).

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

I work my doughs by hand. I'm intrigued by stretch and fold but, for breads with long timelines, multiple stretch and folds, 45 minutes apart, would make them unworkable for my Sunday-only baking schedule. I am gone most of the day on Saturday, and although, I can work in initial mixing, kneading  and setting up  preferments, I don't have blocks of 3-4 hours to engage in stretch and fold.  Also, after my experience with no-knead recipes, I worry that "hardly any knead" would result in dull, unsatisfying breads that are almost complete strangers to me.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Whatever mixing technique you use has to work with your other time demands. I would encourage any baker to try hand mixing with S&F's at least a few times. The gluten development one can achieve with a long fermentation and S&F's astonished me the first few times I did it.

BTW, I sometimes do an initial short machine mix then do S&F's. This is a very common technique for SD breads at the SFBI.

David

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

I understand the advantages-I just need a three-day weekend in town or a couple of free vacation days to try it...

proth5's picture
proth5

the piece I reflected that this is nothing controversial.  A hand mix will often yield superior results in terms of color and flavor.  I've asked a lot of annoying questions to some pretty good bakers and I'll always hear something along those lines.

But a mixer saves time and sometimes you need to do that.  The improved mix was designed to overcome a lot of the oxidation issues found in intensive mix doughs - and I have seen some lovely yellow crumb and lovely texture come off a big spiral with only one fold during bulk fermentation.

But the point is well made about smaller shops being able to mix a fair quantity of dough by hand.  As I consider "what is absolutely needed" for the future - a mixer larger than my current one is way down on the list...

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Not to downplay these very interesting issues -- I  don't doubt the effects of hand vs. machine on physical dough quality.  But those like cartenoid oxidation sometimes remind me of the  debates among audiophiles about how this or that stereo system tweak produces a detectable difference in sound quality (e.g., the oxygen content of the copper in your speaker cables). It's in the ears (on the tongues here at TFL) of the beholder. Even if one did test, as Varda counsels, whether hand vs machine mixing differentially oxidizes carotenoids, it's more whether those effects are detectable to your or my or Frank Sally's palate that ultimately matters.  Some are born with (curse or gift?) ultra-sensitive ears and tongues that can discern differences that the rest of us may or may not. Viva la differences and let a thousand formulae bloom.

Tom

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I remember when I got my first CD player, and it was a pretty high-end one. I was perturbed by the loss of subtle tonalities compared to vinal recordings.

My taste is not super-acute. As we tasted the bread we had baked at the SFBI, Frank commented on differences in flavor that were imperceptible to me. Assuming that a hand mix does make a difference, the question remains: Does the difference matter? It's a classic cost-benefit issue. If I can get a slight improvement at no additional cost in convenience, I'll still go for it. If the difference is small, but the cost is a great disruption of other obligations, I won't.

For some who enjoy the process of hand mixing, it has additional benefits to improved flavor and crumb structure.

David

G-man's picture
G-man

I used to smoke quite a bit. It was a good day if I only went through one pack, usually it was more like 1 1/4 to 1 1/2.

One thing you don't realize when you do smoke is how much it screws with your senses, in particular smell and taste. When I quit, I was shocked at how much more I could taste and smell all around me. Things I never would've noticed before, like how much salt is in pretty much everything or the difference between a fuji , a honeycrisp, and a pink lady apple. That's when I really started to look into making all my own food. Storebought just didn't cut it anymore.

Now that my senses are more alive, it makes sense to me to chase the best flavor. By the same token, I can understand those who don't see the difference.

Still I think it's something that can be learned, in much the same way as we acquire tastes. Nobody really likes coffee or beer or wine the first time they try it (or maybe they do, I don't know, I sure didn't), but when you take the time to appreciate what there is to enjoy, you learn to enjoy the rest.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I enjoyed the article, David.  It reminded me of a teaching method used at an excellent artisan bakery about an hour away.  

I've taken classes there on sourdough, baguettes, and most recently pizza (and ate the best pizza I ever had in my life).  These are hands-on classes where the participants are given containers of premeasured flour, water and either yeast or levain, and salt.  And a bench knife.  No mixing bowls - but there are enough baker's tables in the place for everyone to find a spot.   We use the volcano method of creating a mound of the flour on the bench, then poke a well in the center for the water and mix by hand.  A great technique to learn.

I enjoy hand mixing (when I have the time) and am always amazed how the dough comes to life.  But I take the easy way out and use a bowl to contain the ingredients in my own kitchen.  

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Frank is an incredible bread maker and instructor. I really enjoyed meeting him at SFBI last year. 

Since SFBI I have almost totally gone to hand mixing, no matter what dough or how big the batch (never 12 kilos!). I think I get much more consistent dough for I mix to a more uniform development than in the world of the mixer.

Thanks for sharing, David!

Jay

wassisname's picture
wassisname

Reassuring thoughts for a mixer-less home baker, but… boy, there are still moments when a mixer sounds like an awfully good idea.  I won’t be removing it from my wish list just yet. =)

Marcus

GaryJ's picture
GaryJ

Thanks for sharing that David. Had a go at the method/formula yesterday, worked really well for me. I don't own a mixer so usually knead then stretch and fold. I have never forgone the kneading stage before but will do so again in the future. Great stuff.

Cheers,

Gary

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I've tried a number of things with hand mixing to achieve the loaf volume I once achieved with mixed dough:

  • kneading until my arms fall off
  • the ridiculous (to me) Bertinet method of “slap and fold until you pass out from exhaustion” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvdtUR-XTG0)
  • using some percentage of higher-protein flour (which will quickly teach you that higher-protein flour can wreak havoc with your hydration (more protein = a lot more absorption))
  • stretch and fold
  • cloche baking

Of those, only the last two achieve some approximation.

The quality of the breads don't really suffer, but then I like dense(er) breads.

proth5's picture
proth5

In some editions of Mr Hamelman's "Bread...." - there is a formula for a "Six Fold Un-kneaded Baguette"  - the hand mix method involved "strokes" with a plastic scraper with time in between.  I promoted this method during a long age discussion on the great baguette quest.  Dave Snyder gave it a try and did a better write up on it than I could (I always assume I can communicate methods telepathically, so my write ups are often sketchy in the extreme.)

The method takes very little work at all (takes time, though) and does result in a very well developed dough.  I often use this method when a mixer is not available and you can mix a surprizingly large batch of dough with it.

You should look up the archives and try this method if you haven't already.

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

It's about time I got a reprint, though. I have the 3rd printing and it's falling apart. 

Can't find it in the archives yet, but will search again after tomorrow's coffee. :D

Thanks for the pointer.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Here's the thread and the formula a couple of posts down:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10682/mystery-page-249-solved

 

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

My Hammelman edition has the No-Knead baguette process that I had to examine after these posts. It seems fairly indistinguishable from Chad Robertson's equally gentle in-bucket turning method (plus or minus a few minutes on the turning interval). Hammelman does it with a dough spatula in a bowl, Robertson in a square bucket with your hand.

And while I'm here -- one amusing caveat about the Bertinet slap and fold. We're out in the campagne, so no danger of disturbing neighbors. However, the combination of Peter Reinhart's fondness of "dough doesn't stick to wet hands" and the Bertinet slap and fold results in tiny dough comets affixed to every surface of the kitchen within range of the bench. Been there, did it, and now back to kinder, gentler, but still vigorous folds early in the process.

Tom

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That solved two problems for me:

You found the Six-Fold method proth mentioned and another method I knew I'd read about but thought lost forever: Desired Dough Temperature (p. 382).

Thanks 2x!

(And thanks proth for the reference. Looks easy enough, but I'll have to wait to try it. Too much dough in my life at the moment.).

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Thanks for the link, David.

I got a mixer after about a year of hand-mixing bread dough every week.  Now, I use the mixer about 10% of the times I make bread, usually for bagels.  I have used the mixer for Sourdough breads and they all came out very tasty and with good texture.  But the truth is, I like the feel of the dough and I don't like washing the mixer.  And then there's the threat of global oxidation.

Glenn

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Good point... Reducing global oxidation is a GREAT cause!

Perhaps I should bake with my oven door closed to reduce global warming.

...Working on taxes must make me goofy!

Jay

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

made global oxidation like the green scum on Great Aunt Minnnie's bicuspids and incisors or natural ones like the rusting cars in her Ozark Mountain front side and back yards?  Only she would eat my bread,  if she existed, but I'm more worried about the cars.  Those of us from the hills are naturally worried about our retirement investments in vehicles :-)

Yuki-Johan's picture
Yuki-Johan

i have a mixer but i love to work with my hands cuz the breads taste different. all the breads i have made so far have been mixed and kneaded by hand. when i started baking bread i used to be too rough and even punch down dough and get flat breads as a result lol as the time passed i have learned to use my hands better and properly to make good bread :) i use a customized version of stretch and fold technique which works really well. 

lumos's picture
lumos

Very interesting topic.  Thank you for sharing, David.  (and thank you, Juergen, for letting me know about this thread. :) )

On a similar note,  this is what I experienced, which I've already shared at UK TFLer's Get-Together .....  Sometime ago in my breadmaking class, I asked my students to bring their own dough which had been prepared the evening before and cold-retarded to the class so that we can practice shaping.   I'd already taught them two 'kneading' technique; Stretch & Fold in a bowl and  Bertinet-style Slap & Fold, so I told them they could use whichever technique they prefer.  One of them chose Stretch & Fold, the other Slap & Fold.  They used exactly the same formula I'd taught them, the same flour and because they live within 4-5 min walk from each other, the water they used came from the same local water authority, too.

Both dough looked and felt fine when they brought in, more or less the same degree of fermentation and strength.  So we proceeded with shaping,  proofed and baked in a same oven, at the same time.  But the difference of the outcome was amazing.  The one made with Stretch and Fold had so much better flavour and aroma than the other.   The difference of aroma was considerably more distinctive; it was nuttier, sweeter and more vibrant.   As for the flavour,  they were different but it wasn't as significant as that of aroma, though the complexity and depth of flavour was a little more prominent in the one made by Stretch & Fold.  When you ate it side by side, you could tell the flavour of Slap & Fold one was somewhat more muted.   Also, Slap & Fold one had paler crumb.

I'd known, in a theory, over-oxidation during kneading could spoil the flavour and that's one of the reasons I'd always prefered preparing my dough by Stretch & Fold, but never realised that could make such a big difference.  Since then, I'm almost scared of using Slap & Fold technique. 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

baker myself but for a different reason.  I don't want to scrub down the entire kitchen and get out a ladder to clean the dough off the ceiling and lights :-)  Maybe it is how I do it but high hydration dough is just plain slap and fold messy as all get out !

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks for sharing your experience. I am surprised by the difference you found between these two techniques. It's commonly believed that you cannot over-oxidize dough using any hand-kneading technique. Perhaps that's not true.

In the Artisan I workshop at the SFBI, our first exercise was comparing baguettes mixed using intensive, improved and short mixing. All were machine mixed. The differences in crumb structure, color and flavor were dramatic. I've never compared S&F with the Bertinet technique. Now I have another rationale for using S&F (besides it being less messy).

David

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

This is a stunning anecdote to be sure. It cries out for a test of the effect's reproducibility. Indeed lumos, if you teach breadmaking, then you can ask other pairs of students to repeat the "experiment". I fear there were too many uncontrolled variables here to draw a firm conclusion. Demeter knows, there seem to be limitless variables that effect bread quality, any one (or more than one) of which may have contributed substantially to the effect you attribute solely to Slap vs Stretch and Fold.
Personally I've not had great success with Bertinet's procedure. It appears miraculous in the video (and in the other one online of a younger french baker demo-ing it to a group of Asian women), to the point that I've wondered whether it was 'cooked' a bit.
Our dogs started barking during one of my slap 'n fold sessions. And my wife yelled from the office something along the lines of "What the hell are you doing in there?". That was actually kind of hard to answer.
Tom

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I don't know about dough over-oxidation and I've not noticed bits flying around the kitchen, but I only ever tried the slap & fold technique a couple of times because it scared the cats half to death and made my husband run into the kitchen to see what had blown up.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I would love to see you make an instructional video featuring your cats and husband!!

David

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

It wouldn't be fully instructional unless it included the one cat who loves to sneak tastes of the sourdough culture and then races around the kitchen vomitting afterward.  That would take place in the preparation phase of the video.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Evidently, there is an entire class of home baking experiences out on which I have missed due to the lack of a feline presence in our household.  Thanks for sharing yours (experiences, not cats).

David