Please could anyone assist me with this question: Has dough mixing time anything to do witrh the texture of bread?
I will appreciate a quick response.
If you mean kneading, it sure does....... qahtan
Mixing time definitely affects the texture of the bread. In a nutshell, the longer the dough is mixed, the more the gluten is developed and organized.
That's a good thing -- up to a point. Underdeveloped gluten means the gluten breaks easily and the dough will not be able to hold gas, i.e., it will not rise well, and the bread will be dense.
Gluten that is *very* well developed will give the dough a very regular texture, which may be what you want for some breads (e.g., sandwich bread), but often not for artisan-type breads where a more open hole structure is desired. And if the dough is very strong with really well-developed gluten, it too will not expand as much (think of how much harder it is to stretch a thick strong rubber band than a thin one). Also, the more you mix the more oxygen is incorporated into the dough, which breaks down some of the flavor- and color-enhancing pigments in the flour.
And if you mix for too too long, the dough will break down and become like melted bubblegum on a summertime sidewalk.
I am slipping backwards in my ability to get open crumb breads. I’m not quite sure what I am doing wrong but maybe it is multiple things.
I got a new DLX mixer which I love. In fact, I find it so enjoyable to mix with that thing I could just stand there and watch for hours. LOL. Ok, that is maybe exaggerating a little but I’m having fun!
Anyway, I thought maybe because it is supposed to be more gentle as in hand kneading I should increase my mixing time. So I just mix away usually for about 10 to 15 minutes. But if you read Hamelman’s book, he mentions mixing with spiral mixer (DLX type although he means pro mixers) for sometimes 1 or 2 minutes.
Then I read Reinhart who says it is almost impossible to mix dough too much. But then I read Glezer who says one should always strive to get at least medium gluten development and then use folding and then mentions some of the problems you just did about over development or too “high” of development of gluten by mixing. Then Leader says to mix until you get the window pane test to come out right. That takes me longer and I never know if I should just stop even when I'm just "almost" there.
I always do folding, or turning as Glezer calls it, because that is the book I really learned on. But for some reason I got this wild hair that I was not developing my gluten enough so started mixing longer. I can’t blame the new mixer and becoming mesmerized because I started doing that with my KA mixer.
Do you think that is my problem?
Or is it my shaping technique? I feel sometimes I push out too much gas in shaping because I’m trying to create enough surface tension to get the ears (which I’m not getting, btw). I’m kind of chuckling because my post sounds like I’m totally helpless, huh? :o) But I am really frustrated.
Any ideas? Or rather, is there any help for me. (help me! :o)
Zolablue, first let me say that, although I can empathize (a lot) with feeling like you're losing your baking mojo, I have always admired all of your breads and from where I sit they stilll look pretty darn great.
I can also empathize with feeling confused and overhwelmed at all the seemingly conflicting advice from every which angle.
I don't know how much help I can be, but here are some random thoughts. Sorry, I know it seems self-centered to lay out everything in terms of what I do, but that's really all I have to go on.
It is possible that your troubles have to do with mixing time, but also possible that they don't. One question that occurred to me is whether you are using a different flour, or even a different lot of the same flour? And if so are you adjusting your water to give you the right dough consistency, since every flour absorbs water differently? Or are you proofing more or less than you used to, or does your dough show signs of being over- or under-proofed?
If I am following a recipe from a book, I usually do what the author says, at least the first time, even if it seems different from what I would usually do. I think a lot of the things that seem like conflicting instructions from different authors are really just a matter of using different terminology to describe the same thing, or the same terminology to describe different things, as well as just doing things a little differently to arrive at more or less the same end result, or a slightly different result that is just as good. For example, mixing time can be affected by, among other things, whether or not there is an autolyse, type of mixer, dough quantity, hydration, other ingredients in the dough, how long the dough ferments (think No Knead Bread: no kneading, lo-o-o-o-ng fermentation), and whether or not it is folded. It is really helpful to me if the author includes some description of how the dough should look/feel/handle at the end of the mixing time, rather than just saying to mix for a certain number of minutes. Even so , I think it is very difficult to describe this with words or even pictures, and I don't envy the authors who must try.
If I am not following a recipe that specifically calls for folding, and unless the dough is very highly hydrated, and if I am after an open crumb, usually I will mix to develop the gluten to a medium level in the mixer, and then not fold it. By "medium level" I mean that I can get a windowpane but it is not completely translucent; the window is still marbled with a little opacity, but it does not tear and is largely translucent.
When you are mixing with the DLX are you checking a windowpane? You say you started mixing longer; did that coincide with when you noticed that you didn't seem to be getting the open crumb you want? For myself, I often observe I get a better crumb by mixing a little more rather than a little less.
As far as degassing too much during shaping, I'd be willing to be that you're not. But why not try two loaves with the same batch of dough, one degassed a lot and the other not so much, and see what happens?
Susan, gosh, thanks for your time and your remarks are not self centered at all. You have a lot more experience than I do plus you have a great way of delivering advice that is thoughtful and never overbearing so thanks.
Until my recent purchase of a bag of Wheat Montana’s white flour (not a factor here yet) I have always used only King Arthur white flours; bread, AP and Select Artisan which I always have in stock (hehe). I have never checked the lots but I go through so much flour I can’t even tell you how many pounds of the stuff I’ve purchased over the past year. I know it is important to KA to try and keep their flours very consistent but as nature varies I know the flour must as well. Still, I’m not even sure how often I would encounter a new lot number but that is something I’ll check.
I started out making extremely high hydration breads, mostly ciabatta, so that is what I have always been comfortable with. Recently though I have tried to cut back on hydration being more careful to try and stick to a recipe and resisting the constant urge to add more water. Hamelman’s VT sourdough produced such a nice open crumb with much less hydration I kind of veered in that direction.
Hmmm, wonder if I’m psyching myself out.
I generally never checked for the windowpane before I started baking Leader’s breads but he seems to mention it a lot so I follow. I guess there is some correlation there to when I started noticing a difference. I do check it on his recipes and even though I seem to be mixing a more gooey looking and feeling dough it seems to take forever to pass the test. I will think it is exactly right and poof, it will break. So I just decided I’m going to keep mixing and it is always a lot longer than he states it should take. Strange.
The thing I have noticed the most is I never did much autolyse unless it specifically said to. Now I am doing that more and I have noticed a correlation in that time frame but how would that effect crumb? I used to want to skip the autolyse in favor of just getting it mixed. I would always get such great open crumb without even trying. As for proofing, I thought I'd made a breakthrough when I realized I was way overproofing as slashed bread was spreading but maybe I'm underproofing now. (Gosh, I'm so confused! But still smiling.)
On degassing, you are probably right. Oddly I think I am even more careful now not to degas and but I just had to think of something it could be. Good idea to do a side-by-side. Maybe even do that with mixing and try part of it mixing less as I used to do and keep part of the dough in to mix longer.
I tell ya. I’m just stumped. As soon as I find a good class to attend I’m going to sign up. I think that would really be a great help.
It seems to me you've changed a number of factors - new mixer, lower hydration, more use of autolyse, length of final proofing time - not to mention seeking that elusive perfect windowpane test.
If I were to hazard a guess, I would target the new mixer first. I do think flour is the least of your worries since you stick with the same brand and KA is good about staying within their published specs for each type of flour.
It honestly seems to me that 10-15 minutes machine mixing is long, especially with the DLX which is probably very efficient.
I've experienced a similar thing - a bread recipe that performed perfectly suddenly doesn't turn out right. Here's what helps me...
Pick a bread recipe that you're very comfortable with and usually performs well but now is turning out not as great as you'd like. Make it over and over and take copious and exact notes each time on the ingredients and each step of the method. If possible, take photos at each step. Try to vary one and only one thing (as I said, I would target mixing times, maybe in combo with autolyse if the recipe calls for it). I know its boring to stick with one kind of bread for a bunch of bakings but I do think you need to reduce your sources of variability in order to understand what is making the most difference.
I sometimes think the windowpane test is over-rated. However, I generally use at least 20% whole grain flour in my doughs (often more) and the windowpane test is not as good an indicator of gluten development with that kind of dough. At any rate, I wouldn't obsess over it.
You're an experienced baker and your breads are beautiful. I'm confident you can solve your problem even to your exacting standards :) :)
Best of luck and do post back on your progress...
I agree with most of what subfuscpersona said, especially the part about being confident that you can solve your problem, ZB! Also excellent advice to pick a bread and do it repeatedly to tease out the factor(s) that make a difference.
I have to disagree, though, that 10–15 minutes is, per se, too long to mix. It depends upon the mixer and the dough. I am not familiar with the DLX, but it is not at all unusual for me to mix a total of 10 minutes or longer in my KitchenAid or in my one-speed sprial mixer specifically made for bread dough (which is VERY efficient).
As for the windowpane test, my personal experience is that my breads (including whole grain) started coming out much better once I learned how to do it properly (and this told me that, in general, I had previously not been mixing my doughs long enough). However, I'm a firm believer in doing whatever works, and clearly it's possible (viz subfuscpersona's breads!) to be an excellent baker without relying on it, if you have another way of telling when the mixing is "done." I do believe, however, that "mix until done" (however you test doneness) is a pricinciple that generally serves better than "mix for x minutes."
ZolaBlue, I'm sure you will be able to work this out!
...she bakes a much wider range of breads that I do (and to perfection).
I tend to be rather lax in my methods when making a bread that I'm familiar with and have done successfully before. Only when I'm trying something new do I become super compulsive about following the author's method.
But hey, Zolablue, we're both rooting for you!
Should these terms be defined in our glossary? Using them interchangeably seems confusing, at least to me.
Susan from San Diego
zolablue - I think that the DLX is supposed to be both more gentle and more efficient than the Kitchen Aid. You might check with the manufacturer or seller about how it compares with the KA, and ask for some usage recommendations.
Thanks to you all for getting in there with me to try and troubleshoot. I must simply forge ahead and experiment. Heck, I have a lot of successes but one tends to focus on the mistakes made but then I never want to get to the point where I think I have it mastered. That would be too boring.
Subfuscpersonna – I have to clear up any thoughts it could be my new mixer. NOT THE NEW MIXER!!! :o) Unless we are referring to me as the mixer – I think I’m all to blame here. I think I mentioned above but if not this has been happening off and on for quite a while now. Since I only bought my DLX (which I LOVE) three weeks ago that just isn’t it. And the first bread I mixed with my new DLX was bwraith’s wonderful sourdough pagnotta which I have finally gotten to come out the way I love it. See here (heehee):
I appreciate the advice to take more detailed notes. I keep a book and do keep notes every time I bake (unless I don’t…hehe) but probably could be more detailed. That’s very good advice.
As for 10 – 15 minutes being an overly long mix time I also have to agree with Susanfnp. Not only do many of the new Leader recipes I’ve made call for longer mixing and at higher speeds but many recipes of Glezer’s do as well. One that I have made numerous times is Maggie Glezer’s, Della Fattoria Rustic Roasted Garlic bread and it actually has a total mix time of 30 – 35 minutes and I think it is at medium speed. You can see my photos of that bread here which isn’t supposed to have an open crumb if you look at the book photo but it sure is fun to make and really good. It will give you zoo breath but what the heck!
Still, it is interesting how short the mixing times are in Hamelman's book. I probably don’t do the windowpane test correctly although it doesn't seem that it should be difficult. Guys, I will work this out. (boo hooo :o) I will just hang in there and figure it out. Just know when I see your wonderful open crumbed breads I’ll be screaming in the background!
I watched Alton Brown do the windowpane test once. He didn't just pull the dough apart, which is what I had always done. He sort of rounded his piece of dough, like he was shaping a mini boule, and then stretched it. I don't know if that makes sense, but it really did help to see him do it.
"I keep a book and do keep notes every time I bake (unless I don’t…hehe) but probably could be more detailed." Boy, do I resemble that remark!
Curious, I searched the web for a video demonstrating the windowpane test. I found reference to a pair in the KitchenAid forum, the first showing dough not quite ready, and the other showing it passing the test. The forum is at http://forum.kitchenaid.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17862 but the links in the thread didn't work for me. I finally got to the videos in question by going to http://s121.photobucket.com/albums/o230/bedkin/Food/breads%20yeast/knead/?
And I went and found THIS at youtube. Good Eats...pizza
I don't have cable tv and so can't watch Alton Brown on The Food Network. That may be a good thing. But this was a fun video. And I watched the second one also.
I noticed that he didn't pull the dough apart, but rather just flattened it out (like a pizza). I've just been pulling. Maybe his method will make a difference.
Della Fattonna Rustic Roasted Garlic bread after seeing it on a blog site and in the book. ZB..your loaf is absolutely beautiful!! and hey I love my buds at the zoo!!
I just mixed up Leader's WW miche and got a beautiful gluten window. I thought I was doing it the "right way" before but seeing the video (thanks) helped me by working the ball of dough out much thinner and stretching it the way he did. That was good!
Paddyscake - Thanks, I need to add a few more pictures of that bread because I've made it a few times and once I did oval loaves and those turned out pretty nice. It is really hard though to get the filling to be positioned correctly. Definately a work in progress.
I thought I would post an update since I finally had a breakthrough and hopefully if others see this it might help them too should they find themselves having a problem with the same thing.
There are a few things that contributed to my getting a denser crumb, which is not always a bad thing, btw. I love all bread open crumb or not. It is just that when you want an open crumb you want an open crumb!
I noticed this seemed to start with the various recipes I was making from Daniel Leader's book, Local Breads. Despite the errors I love the book only many recipes call for mixing much longer and at a much higher speed than the other books I use often which are Bread by Hamelman and Artisan Baking by Glezer. (Hmmm, makes me wonder if those speeds and times are also typos.)
This problem started while I was still using my KA mixer; partly due to the longer mixing of Leader's recipes but also because it was so inefficient with dough crawling up the hook and having to stop and start over and over I often mixed longer just from the sheer struggle. The overmixing just continued when I got my DLX because I was able to mix as long as I wanted with ease plus it is so much fun to watch. I think I was just plain whipping too much air into my dough. Also, many of the recipes I was trying had a lower hydration.
I decided to go back to the beginning of how I first learned to bake bread, mixing at a slower speed for less time, add more water, and fold 3 to 4 times during bulk fermentation. Voila! Beautiful open crumb.
Also, I don't worry ever about the gluten window because I think the stage of development is so subjective and that was just screwing me up.
This has been my big bread white whale (Doughby Dick? aack. sorry). I'm pretty happy with most aspects of my bread, but I've never really been able to get the open crumb. (Though there are plentiful, though fairly regular, smaller holes, and the texture is usually quite nice and not heavy.) I feel like I've tried all sorts of different modifications. My starter seems plenty active... when it's firm, it quadruples in 6-7 hours. I've been using the basic sourdough recipes in Hammelman, Glezer and Silverton, so hydration hovering between 65 and 70% (never adding more flour, and I live in DC, so, esp in the summer, things are pretty humid). In one post a while ago, I thought it had to do with how I slashed the dough (but the nice open crumb I got that time turned out to be only in the section of bread that I cut into first).
I also keep things very light on the mixing, as well... just a few minutes after a 30-40 min autolyse. BUT... I've never folded more than once during bulk fermentation... after that fold, the dough has seemed pretty strong. But maybe the dough still needs more strength.
How long is your usual bulk ferment?
Also, just how gentle are you with the dough as you handle and shape it? Many books say to be careful (except for Nancy Silverton, who likes to put the yeast back in contact with new flour, so isn't shy about flattening out the bubbles). But then the shaping techniques seem like they'd at least make existing bubbles a lot smaller. What do you think?
I'm certainly no expert on this. I just realized I'm about to celebrate my one-year anniversary baking bread on December 16...yay! So I still have plenty of experience I need to get under my belt. :o)
I can have a bulk ferment anywhere from 2 hours to 4 or even longer at times. Just depends so much on other variables, as you know. I just found that developing the dough by folding rather than to mix longer at higher speeds in my mixer works so much better for getting open crumb.
As for shaping, that is another component I should have mentioned. I have seen some people really slap that dough around and flatten it but I found if I'm more gentle during shaping that helps a lot, too. I still feel I need a lot of work to get to the point where I am really happy with my shaping abilities.
Plus I should add that I notice if I don't let the final proof go as long that helps immensely with oven spring and preserving the open crumb. At least I think that matters since I realized one day that I was seriously overproofing and when I slashed the loaf would just kind of spread. Ugh.
I hope that helps a little. Maybe you'll get some other responses to help you as well. I'm going out of town for the next few days so I'll check back when I return.
Bottom line, it isn't rocket science but, gosh, there are a lot of things to know and learn! Just keep baking more bread.
Thanks, zolablue. Well, you're certainly doing something right. AND you've had it turn out both ways, which presumably means there's a variable that you're changing that's within your control (and not just extra superduper starter, or perfect ambient humidity or whatever). And it sounds like you're zeroing in on the variable, which is exciting.
Your comment about the shorter final proof definitely rings true. I do tend to get better results that way.
I'm also going away this weekend (assuming 95 isn't completely snowed under and/or iced over). But there will be some hours on the NJ Tpk during which I can design a good experiment. Results hopefully next week!