The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Browndog: Underdeveloped Dough?

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Browndog: Underdeveloped Dough?

My dough is never hard to shape, that is, it never has so much strength that it seems to require a rest first. I do it anyway just because, but every time I wonder if my dough just isn't getting where it should in terms of gluten development. Is it under-developed if it isn't fighting back?

Browndog asked this question on another thread, and I wanted to add a little to the excellent answer she was given by Mariana, but I though I'd start a new thread because that one seems to be getting a little unwieldly. I apologize if this was inappropriate.

Browndog, if your dough does not have some spring to it, I think it is likely that your gluten is somewhat underdeveloped. You mentioned somewhere that you almost never get it to the windowpane stage. For most bread I make, I want it at a medium level of gluten development, which translates into being able to stretch a smooth windowpane that still has some opaque areas – a sort of "marbled" effect. For most doughs, a perfectly uniform translucent, paper-thin window indicates complete development, which is not what you want if you're looking for that open, irregular crumb. On the other hand, if you can stretch a membrane that is still mostly opaque, you've got barely developed gluten, which you may be able to develop further with a series of folds during bulk fermentation. Unless the dough is very soft (highly hydrated), I have good luck with mixing to a medium gluten development and often do not fold. Even without folding, gluten does continue to develop some during the bulk fermentation.

When following a recipe, try using the given mixing time as a guideline only, and look at what the gluten is doing. Speaking for myself, once I started doing this, my bread started turning out much better. There are a lot of things that can affect the mixing time, and mixing "until done" is what works best for me.

It is also possible that your dough is too wet. I know there is an opinion that wetter is better but in my experience this is not true. Too much water makes it difficult to develop gluten and makes the dough too weak. Again, recipes give only a guideline for how much water might be needed, and this can vary greatly depending on the flour you're using (as well as, of course, on the type of bread you're making).

 

 

 

 

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

This is somewhat elusive to me.  How does one author recommend a long machine mix while another author recommends an extremely short mix?  I understand there are many variables in this but I'm just confused.

 

Some people talk about not having to mix much at all and through stretch and fold they develop the proper gluten structure.  However I know I've read that the S&F technique is most effective in "properly mixed or already fully kneaded" dough.   Yet Hamelman sets these very minimal mixes like 1 1/2 - 2 minutes which makes me believe he is talking about either professional mixers that are much more powerful (yet doesn't state that) or is using a much higher mixing speed that I'm using (and also doesn't state that). 

 

Then along comes Daniel Leader's new book. Local Breads, that calls for mixing the heck out of dough on very high speed - much higher than I ever use.  And I know that can be quite detrimental to doughs both in fading its final color and actually breaking down gluten strands.  Again, we have the war of book authors stating completely opposing methods which is fine.  But how can this not be confusing?!

 

I agree with you on over-hydration and this coming from someone who learned on and loves high hydration doughs.  I learned this well the first time I made Vermont sourdough and saw that nice open structure.  I was surprised because it wasn't very wet dough and seemed very dense and heavy.  Isn't it Hamelman who talks about over hydration and flour simply not being able to ever completely absorb all the water introduced, in that case, thus causing problems during baking?  I swear I feel I'm on information overload from all these wonderful books and not sure where I read what!

 

It seems lately I have started having a problem getting that open crumb that was such a happy little accident before.  It might be in the way I started shaping and perhaps am pushing out too much gas despite seemingly careful handling.  I'm really not sure.  Sometimes I feel like I'm so close yet so far away.  I'd love to learn more about this from you so I appreciate this thread.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi ZB,

I agree with Susanfnp that the amount of water needed to get the same consistency can vary a lot depending on the flour. For example, I think I read somewhere that you are experimenting with Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour, and I found that flour seemed to want a lot more water than some other flours I've used.

I've had good results with a general strategy of fairly minimal hand mixing, followed by a series of rest and folds until the dough seems to become springy but hopefully not stiff. I have an aversion to pulling out my mixer, so this method is a favorite. However, I think it works better with fairly wet doughs. Since my favorite recipes tend to be things like focaccia, ciabatta, and whole wheat breads, and that recipe I posted for L_M a while back, where I tend to use fairly wet doughs, I've ended up using that approach a lot of the time.

On the other hand, I used to make most of my bread with more conventional mixing and kneading at the beginning followed by not much handling thereafter. I think that method works a little better with less hydrated doughs than the ones I'm typically using these days, and I agree with Susanfnp, that it takes some experimenting to find the right amount of kneading, since the right amount is going to be affected so much by the type of mixer, the speeds, the shape of the attachment, the type of flour, the hydration at the time of mixing, and so on. Basically I think you just have to experiment to find the right amount of time and speed for the mixing/kneading, just as you have to experiment to find the right number of folds in the other technique.

I think there are a lot of ways to develop the gluten, and so different authors are just suggesting a recipe that works for them.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Bill (so nice to see you back, by the way, we've missed you), you make a really important point: do what works! This above all should be the number one rule. If the methods you (and I mean "you" as in "one", not you specifically Bill) are using are giving you exactly the results you want, who cares if it's the "right" way or if your way disagrees with the methods of everyone else? I think sometimes we get too hung up on being "correct" and fail to keep our eye on the prize.

With that in mind, I realize that when I offered the above suggestions to Browndog I was making an assumption that, in asking the question about whether her dough is underdeveloped, she wanted to change something about her dough. My apologies for making that assumption; from what I have seen of browndog's breads she is getting excellent results, in which case her dough is not underdeveloped, it is just right.

I agree with you, ZolaBlue, that the plethora of advice and instructions out there is overwhelming. I have found that the way I was taught to mix works well for me. This is in fact almost identical to what Hamelman describes (p. 11), with the difference that for most doughs, I mix a just tad longer and often do not fold, unless they are quite soft. (Althogh when I make recipes from his book I do fold as he says.)

Hamelman's book is geared towards professional bakers, and yes, I believe he is referencing professional spiral mixers when he gives approximate mixing times in first and second speeds. With different mixers the time needs to be adjusted. And note that when his recipes call for an exceptionally short mixing time (1.5-2 minutes in second speed), this is after the dough has undergone a period of autolyse. Autolyse does shorten the mixing time needed. Hamelman says: "Without a doubt, the length of mix time is very important, but you should always factor in the feel of the dough and its degree of gluten develpment when mixing" (p. 11).

One other thing I wanted to mention is that each bread has its own requirements. Some doughs are meant to be stiff (less hyrdrated) and some very soft (highly hydrated, like ciabatta). And some doughs will call for less gluten development, some more. This is how we can get an infinite variety of breads using the same basic four ingredients. It's helpful when the recipe tells you how the consistency and gluten development should be. I love that Hamelman always does this.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susanfnp,

I also more or less follow the Hamelman approach. However, I think I'm just varying slightly in the opposite direction, i.e. less mixing/kneading up front and more later, again mostly because I prefer not using a mixer and unless I want to get a serious workout, it's just easier to spread the gluten development out over time using more folding later on.

You mention autolyse, and you're right that I let the dough rest as a way to reduce the need for kneading up front. My tendency is to mix by hand in a bowl with a plastic dough scraper, then let the dough rest 30 minutes or sometimes more - often before adding any salt - and then do those "french folds" (again sorry don't have any other terminology for it) which is sort of an aggressive knead/fold that seems to get me to the point where the dough needs to rest or has to be kneaded more conventionally to avoid tearing it. After that, I go into a cycle of resting and folding. If the dough is very wet, the cycle can go on repeatedly for a number of times, but if the dough is less hydrated, it usually only takes a couple of folds. I agree that if you do more of your kneading up front, especially if in a good mixer, then folding might well be counterproductive, if the gluten is sufficiently developed to begin with. I think you can fold too much/too often and end up with an overly stiff dough that doesn't rise as well.

I agree that browndog must be doing something that works, regardless of the windowpane test, given the nice breads I've seen on her blog.

I think this all points out that there are many, many ways to do this successfully, and so it really isn't a matter of one author being right and one wrong at all. This would be a very boring hobby if it could all be settled by one authoritative source and if there was just one correct way to make any given recipe.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

This would be a very boring hobby if it could all be settled by one authoritative source and if there was just one correct way to make any given recipe.

Amen to that.

One thing I think we need to keep in mind is that methods developed and advocated by professional bakers are often driven by practical considerations needed to operate their bakeries efficiently. We as home bakers do not always have those contraints. I think most professionals would agree that your shorter mix/more folds technique is a great path to great results, and the reason why it is not done this way in most bakeries is simply that it is just too labor- time- and space-intensive. Again, it comes down to what works, given all the variables of a particular situation, as well as individual preferences.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I think I might have misunderstood what this thread was about.  I thought Susan was trying to impart a method of developing gluten to a certain level that is fairly consistent in producing specific results with certain types of bread.  But all of the posts seem to say just experiment to learn what works for us.  I guess I'll keep doing what I've been doing.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

That was indeed what I started this thread about. But the point about doing what works is that I don't want my suggestions to ever be understood as "here is the CORRECT way to do it." More like "here is something you might want to try IF you're looking to change something". That's all.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

I do appreciate your commentary on "do what works". It's very helpful to know what works for you (I mean you the person this time), as I've seen the beautiful results - same for ZB, browndog, and many others of course.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Good, Susan, and that is very helpful - sometimes I think I can't read English. Even though with all the books and info here which can be overwhelming it is a good overwhelming.  I actually love trying different methods throughout the process but I like it even more when I get a tidbit that gives me that "ah ha" moment!

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I agree with the more I learn the confuser I get! And I love that you started this thread Susan!

Zola, I too am getting much smaller holes and I am also working my dough to shape it for final rise much more than I ever did before.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I could use the advice myself.  When I was making standard white loaves, I was just fine.  But now I've moved on to 100% fresh-ground whole wheat (and sometimes other whole grains with less gluten), sourdough, and alternative methods (stretch-and-fold), and my results are not quite what I'd expect.  My latest loaf (Reinhart's 100% WW) was too wet, and the final crumb makes it not entirely suitable for sandwiches.  So something needs work.

But I have to agree with ZB and BZ about confusing information.  I keep telling myself that I should pick one guru, but it doesn't work out that way.  There are many excellent books and lots of great advice on TheFreshLoaf. But I put a little bit of this advice together with a bit of that advice, meanwhile trying to stick with the recipe directions in the book, and I end up with another fiasco.

Am I complaining?  Only slightly.  I just need to find my own way - somehow.

Rosalie

browndog's picture
browndog

Thanks for addressing this question. I do only hand-kneading and go by dough feel rather than window pane. It would be a good idea to start checking that way. I don't know about too much water; although I generally want to add flour and don't, my doughs are usually not mucky. Columbia, Country French, VSD, mid- to low 60s I believe, and manageable. I was using KA organic ap for a softer crumb but my doughs seemed so lank that I am currently (sadly) using regular KA ap. It seems to create a little firmer dough, but, oh! maybe my technique and starter are where the real improvement lies. I wish...

Well. I have had better results and baked my best sourdoughs yet since the weather got hot, whatever the dough is like. I agree with the apparent consensus here that we absorb what we can from each other and then find our own way in the end. Thanks again.

 It does bug me, though, the directive to preshape, let rest, and final shape. I do that, but  it never seems remotely necessary. There is nothing like an argument usually, from my dough about shaping, and it seems if this were a perfect world that there would be. Ah, me.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

I think the fact that your doughs do not fight you when it comes to shaping doesn't necessarily mean that the preshaping is not serving any purpose. My understanding of the preshaping step is that yes, it can make the dough easier to shape, but also that it allows for a tighter final shaping, giving a "taller" loaf. Usually this is what most people want for most breads, but maybe not always. As an example, in the classes I took there were a few things (hamburger buns and miches) that we did not preshape because we wanted the final shape to be a little more flattened.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm rotten at preshaping, mainly because I never did it, and I think not so great at shaping for the most part.  When I get a great loaf shaped I'm feeling lucky and trying hard to commit it to my memory bank. 

 

Maybe I'm mixing these up but my understanding of preshaping, which I am trying to make myself do now, is also to allow a rest period whereby the dough then is allowed to fill up with more gas.  That in turn helps retain a more open crumb, right? 

 

I guess I'm not experienced enough to notice how preshaping effects the tension of my final shaped loaves.  I would love to see a thread with photos on shaping.  For some reason I started off doing wonderful open crumbed batards and still  can but more and more I think the method I've adopted for shaping them (Hamelman) I'm either not doing properly (most likely) or it serves to deflate the dough a bit more than others. 

SDbaker's picture
SDbaker

For every rule, there are tens of work-arounds, but in a classic breadmaking workflow using classic traditional shaping procedures, preshaping is essential to getting the bread you are looking for.

Working from the bulk fermentation stage, degassing as nessesary and not working the dough, try to cut the bulk dough in as few pieces as needed to attain final desired weight of the individual final shape.  Adding the pieces together on the wettest sides available, work the mass gently into the preshape desired..boule preshape for a boule, batard preshape for batard or baguette.  The key in this stage is to degas if needed, and work only enough to get the rough preshape lest the gluten require a longer rest.  Conduct the final shaping, rest, bake. 

Again, there are many ways to work around pre-shaping, but if done properly it will yield a significant return on your efforts.

 SD Baker

Ramona's picture
Ramona

Bill, I do have a couple of questions for you.  I have been trying to use the french folds and the other folding as well.  I have watched your video several times.  If you have a really wet dough, then how long does it usually take using the french folds to make it develop the gluten and sustain a shape?  Can it be more than a day?  I am understanding what you are saying to mean that the stickiness will go away after continuing these french folds? Or am I not understanding right?  I have read alot of Floyd's comments and recipes and see that he likes a wetter dough.  To me, especially with using whole wheat flours, I would think this would be the way to go.  But when I tried using a wetter dough, I couldn't seem to get rid of the stickiness.  I finally gave in and added more flour.  Did I stop too soon?  Granted I know that I am asking questions that have a broad range of factors that have to be taken into account, but I feel I am just missing a puzzle piece and when I finally get it, I think I will finally be able to make bread with a little bit of confidence.  Thanks for your help.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Ramona,

With whole wheat, it just seems much stickier to me, relative to white flour dough, so you may just be experiencing a basic difference between whole wheat and white flour doughs. However, the stickiness does reduce a lot over the course of time from when you start until the bulk fermentation is done.

Waiting is important, as the progress of the fermentation will result in acids that will help the gluten to develop, at least at first. If you let it go too long, eventually, you the gluten will break down from the acids, but at first there is a benefit to the acid building up.

I only do the french fold maneuver on a wet dough after an autolyse. With whole wheat doughs, I usually premix the flour and water in the dough overnight in the refrigerator, separate from the levain and then combine the two along with the salt and any other ingredients the next day. This makes a big difference, as far as I can tell, to getting a whole wheat dough to come together nicely. The french fold maneuver for me is just a way to get the gluten formation started after the rest/autolyse after the initial mixing is done.

The rest of the time after that, I just do a series of conventional folds, and yes, with patience, the dough should become more and more manageable and less sticky and have a good consistency to form a loaf.

The time over which this all occurs is in the hours previous to shaping during the bulk fermentation. The bulk fermentation could take as long as 12 hours or thereabouts, if you use a tiny amount of starter, as I sometimes do when letting a dough rise overnight in a "one-step" method, where a tiny amount of starter is introduced to the final dough and allowed to rise over a longer period. The folding will be more beneficial in that case later on in the cycle, closer to shaping time, when the acids have had a chance to build up enough to affect the gluten formation, at least it seems that way to me.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

Regards, Bill

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

I appreciate this discussion.  I agree with ZB and BZ -- this is SO confusing for home bakers.  Without knowing the proper look and feel of dough at various stages of development, we follow every author hoping to find the magic formula to wonderful bread.  I agree with Susan that we should we do what feels right and what works for us  - but when all our knowledge is from books and when the authors are so contradictory, how do we know what's right?  I've tried various techniques in the past year -- have produced some decent bread, some bombs, but never produced consistent results. I pour through The Fresh Loaf looking for THE technique that will catapult me into a higher level of baking.  Sometimes this is frustrating, but on the positive side, each new approach provides more information and training on how to work with the dough. 

I recently purchased Dan Leader's new book, Local Breads.  Per his instructions, I've been kneading longer  to the point of windowpane (never did this before as I thought this much kneading would cause overkneading).  I've also, since it's been much warmer in my kitchen, paid more attention to water and dough temperatures.  I am not sure it's paying off in better bread, but I do think I am finally getting a better "feel" for the dough.

 Anyway here's my small attempt at Leader's French Country Boule.  Not the most open crumb, but the taste is quite good.  I added a bit more salt than was called for in the recipe and retarded the shaped boules overnight in the refrigerator to be get a bit more tang to the taste, and also to have the fresh loaves baked this morning for company today.  Here's my first attempt at photo posting -- hope it works.  Thanks so much to everyone for sharing your knowledge and experience.  Liz

  

       

      

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Liz, those are really beautiful boules!

Interesting that you are kneading longer. I too am kneading longer than I used to; I was once so afraid of overkneading that I was, it turns out, significantly underkneading. For me, it really does help to pay attention to how the gluten is developed, rather than watching the clock.

And I do think most authors ultimately are on the same page about this, not as conflicting as it appears. A lot of the success of the bread comes down to dough consistency (hydration) and gluten development. The confusion arises from several things, IMO.

One is that, as Bill pointed out, there are different methods that lead to the same ultimate result (autolyse or not, adjusting mixing time, fermentation time, and number of folds).

A second thing is that authors must make generalizations that will result in the best results for the greatest number of readers. Equipment, specific flour (even specific lot of the same brand of flour) and other ingredients, and environmental conditions can all affect how long to mix the dough, as well as how long to ferment, bake, etc. I'm guessing that the judgments one author makes about "average" may be a little different from another's.

Another, perhaps most significant, problem is that how the dough is supposed to feel is extremely difficult to describe with words. Kind of like trying to explain to someone what "blue" is without being able to show them the color. Even photos, while helpful to illustrate gluten development, cannot capture it fully, and do not give any idea about the consistency of the dough.

So what to do? I realize it is not practical for everyone, but if you can find a way to take a hands-on class, I think this can be enormously helpful. If not, maybe just keep experimenting and reading.

Here's a suggestion, maybe it will help, maybe not: Make up a batch of dough for two loaves (if your oven is small, make the loaves small so they can bake at the same time). Mix the dough until you think it's "done," whatever that is. See how the dough feels and what the windowpane is like. Then remove one loaf's worth and continue mixing the rest for another, say, three minutes if using a mixer, or five minutes by hand (these times are arbitrary, so feel free to change them). Again notice how the dough feels and how it "windowpanes." Keep the two doughs separate (and straight in your mind) throughout the fermentation and baking, and see if you notice any difference in the breads.

 

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

browndog's picture
browndog

I agree with everone, Liz. I can smell them from here. They're beauties and so tempting.

Well, I like being told to knead more. I LOVE it, in fact. Hearty cheers.

edh's picture
edh

Liz, those are gorgeous!

As I was reading your post (and all the others above; great thread!), I was saying to myself "yes, that's what I'm going through." But, seeing your pictures, it's not so much the same...

When I started messing about with artisanand then sourdough baking last winter, I had a period of about 3 months of untrammelled success. Everyone suddenly thought I was a brilliant baker. Then it all stopped, and I still can't figure out where I went right, and then where I went wrong!

Of course, killing a starter by feeding it orchid food by accident was a pretty easy mistake to figure out, but for the rest...

Still, I'm with whoever said above, it would be a boring hobby if we all knew just what to do right away.

Oh well, the more I learn, the less I know...

edh

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

I had to laugh, when reading your post.  I too had thought I had "Lost my Mojo" due to an weeks long interuption of my regular baking schedule.  I felt I couldn't quite get back into the groove and the breads I was turning out were more by "rote" than skill.  However, I realized that most serious regular home bakers posess a feel for their respective breads.  They just get distracted.  Once the distractions are over the finished product and subsequent feeling of accomplishment return. 

_______________________________________________________

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I'm sure all of us have gone through our ups and downs. We try all sorts of methods looking for the time we say hah!! I've got it. One day the bread fairy came and sprinkled the magic flour and poof...I could see and feel the dough was right. As far as the sourdough connection, I'm still not sure how I got to having a starter that after refreshing, quadruples in 5 hours after 2-3 weeks in the fridge. I tried so many methods, I could never tell anyone how I got to the point I'm at!  I think I've tried every variable and suddenly found my safety zone..for how long ..who knows :  ) but I'll take it while I've got it.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Ed repeat after me..."A sourdough starter is not an orchid..." :( Sorry to hear about the demise of your baby. {{Ed}}

Who all here is using a liquid starter versus a firm starter, please?

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Susan:  Thank you for your excellent recommendations. I will, indeed, try your kneading experiment during next weekend's bake. I will also pay attention to the stages of gluten development that you mention indicated by the three levels of translucency in 'windowpaning".  Can I assume that if an author suggests to knead the dough to the level of windowpane and there are no additional folds suggested,  I should aim for translucency? 

My kneading problems have been further complicated by the fact that I use a DLX mixer; most books provide directions for a Kitchen Aid. Since the DLX is a much gentler mixer, I do believe it requires longer mixing times (and sometimes higher mixing speeds) so I really need to go by the feel of the dough rather than straight mixing times.  I have been thinking about taking the Artisan series at SFBI in order to gain the "hands on" experience that you mention is so beneficial.  I know their website states that the classes are a mix of professional and home bakers, but I've been a bit intimidated. 

Thank you all for your kind words about the Country French Boules.  I think by following Leader's advice to knead longer, I finally got some decent looking bread. But, as we all know well, there is no straight path to bread baking nirvana!

Thanks,
Liz

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Can I assume that if an author suggests to knead the dough to the level of windowpane and there are no additional folds suggested, I should aim for translucency?

Liz, hopefully the author gives you some guideline, in the form of a photo or well-crafted description , of what a windowpane means to them, and I would go by that. For most breads, even those I am not going to fold, unless otherwise directed by the recipe author I aim for what in my terminology is a "moderate" development, as described above. Both Peter Reinhart's (in BBA) and Maggie Glezer's (in ABAA) photos look to me like moderate development because you can see kind of a marbled appearance, although the surface of the pane has a smooth texture.

Please do not be intimidated by taking classes ast SFBI. Yes, there are professional bakers in those classes but plenty of home bakers, too, and anyone who is a regular reader/poster/baker here on TFL will not have any trouble keeping up. And the people at SFBI are truly the nicest people in the world. I found it to be a completely non-threatening learning environment.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susanfnp,
You mentioned last week that in class you had made dough and placed some of it in the cooler shaped and some unshaped I believe. I don't recall seeing the results of that demonstration and it would be interesting to know things worked out. It sounds like you had a great experience at sfbi.

When SD Baker attended I recall he came away with some very strong ideas about how to improve his products by making basic changes in his methods. Did you come away with any nuggets you can share?

Eric

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Hi Eric, In class we made four retarded breads: ciabatta and baguette that were retarded during bulk fermentation, and white sourdough and whole wheat sourdough that were retarded after shaping. We didn't do any single dough that was retarded both before and after shaping.

The salient points, for me, of the retarding discussion were

1) retarding is a brilliant technique for controlling the baking schedule;

2) it can be done in different ways, each has advantages and disadvantages (mostly wrt scheduling, floor space, cooler space, etc., so more relevant for a production baker than a home baker);

3) here are some formulas that work well for retarding (you can see the ciabatta here, BTW; I made it at home over the weekend)

4) some doughs work better to retard before or after shaping; e.g., wet doughs like ciabbata are better retarded during bulk fermentation, while stiffer doughs do better if retarded after shaping. I'm still trying to get my brain around the theory/science behind this. Also, rye and whole wheat doughs are generally too weak to retard, but using sourdough strengthens them so they can withstand it.

5) retarding does not improve flavor (I know this is a controversial statement :-) but does make it a little more acidic, and produces a redder, more blistered crust (my understanding of why this happens is around here somewhere).

As far as sharing nuggets, I think the most dramatic "aha" moments I had came when I took the Artisan I class that SDBaker so beautifully summarized in his daily reports. Generally, the suggestions I make here, for whatever they're worth, as well as the things I post on my Wild Yeast blog, are a result of things I've learned and would like to share. A good example, again, is my recent post on ciabatta, which not only is an example of bulk retarding, but of a technique I learned at SFBI for adding the water in stages so you can get a highly hydrated, but still quite strong, dough.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You know when you read something a few times and understand it but don't get the impact for a while. That's what just happened to me about adding the water in stages with slack dough. It makes perfect sense to do it that way!

Thank you Susan for your thoughtful discussion and effort. The SFBI is a goal for me in the future. It's so generous of you to take the time to share your experiences during the class.

Eric

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Thank you for your suggestions. I will pay more attention to the author's guidelines on gluten development. And, when I do my kneading experiment I will try for different levels of windowpane.

Also, thanks for the encouragement about attending SFBI. I am working up to it! Just visiting the Bay Area for a week would be a treat for me!

One more question -- with normally hydrated doughs in the 65% range how much do you degas the dough during folding (when you do it) and during shaping? Glezer seems to advocate for extremely gentleness trying not to degas and Hamelman suggests gentle degassing to redistribute the air bubbles. I've been leaning more toward the Glezer extreme gentleness method with no degassing and end up with different sized holes, some rather gaping. There are times after proofing when I have giant air bubbles just beneath the surface of the outer skin. Should I be expelling the gas? Perhaps I shall try the Hamelman gentle degassing approach to see if it produces a more even crumb but would be interested in hearing how you handle the dough in the later stages.

Thanks so much! Liz

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Liz, I'd say for most doughs I degas assertively (but not aggressively, if that makes any sense). I don't really want huge air pockets to remain in the dough once it's shaped, unless it's a ciabatta or some other dough where you want large holes in the crumb. I usually press the gas out at preshaping and again at shaping. At folding I don't do anything special because it seems that just stretching the dough for the fold expels enough of the gas.

If the giant bubbles you describe are producing an undesirable result for you, you might want to try degassing a little more, shaping a little tighter, and yes, popping them if they're there still there after proofing.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

fleur-de-liz's picture
fleur-de-liz

Thank you, Susan, for your comments on "assertive degassing". It does, indeed, make sense and I will implement your suggested methods.   I shall also try to shape a little tighter.  Thanks again.