I've always been a fan of the slap and fold method for mixing wet doughs (75%+ hydration), it just works very well for me. I usually mix my doughs for 15min to get the windowpane right. Recently, a friend of mine (whom I got into bread making) was complaining about how sticky his doughs became whenever he mixed them using this method for longer than 10min. I had never noticed this, mainly because I was under the assumption that wet doughs were supposed to be just that: sticky.
Last night I decided to be a bit more observant. After only 7min, the windowpane test showed that gluten development was perfect. The dough was not particularly sticky and easy to handle. Curious, I decided to go on for another 3min just to see what happened next. Lo and behold, the dough starting to become more sticky. It felt more like the doughs I was used to handling.
This was the first time I had paid attention this phenomenon, but of course I was not the first one to take notice. I found this paper called Dough un-mixing time, and the sticky dough problem associated with Sr31 wheats where the author examines this same occurrence. Although he does not specify mixing rpms, he does however test for dough stickiness with different types of wheat strains. The results showed that after a mixing for a certain amount of time, a peak development is achieved. After this point in time, the law of diminishing returns shines through, and the gluten starts to un-mix.
The degree at which the dough gets un-mixed is mixing time dependent. This time will vary according to the amount of protein and strain of wheat used. I have included a dropbox link with the article in case anyone wants to read it.
Bread never ceases to amaze me. Every time I make a new loaf I learn something new.
Happy baking guys!