The Fresh Loaf

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HELP, mixing doughs to shaggy mass by hand

DanAyo's picture

HELP, mixing doughs to shaggy mass by hand

I am hoping there are tricks that will make hand mixing to a shaggy mass more efficient. When I watch Trevor mix his dough it looks like it comes together much more efficiently than mine. As with everything he does, he is so gentle. (I really like that)

My practice is to mix starter and water in a bowl and flour and salt in another. Then pour the wet into the dry and slowly mix using a Danish Dough Wisk. The problem is! I never seem to be able to fully incorporate all of the flour without working (squeezing) the dough between my fingers. NOTE - the dough in question is 71% hydration using all white flour.

I am at this very stage as I write this. I mixed as well as I “gently” could. I am trying a 20 minute rest before continuing my “gentle” process.

Any tips, how I can get more efficient at this stage?



UPDATE - as stated above the dough was rested for 20 minutes. It was much easier to incorporate the last bits of dry flour, but there remained small clumps of flour that was not completely hydrated. I was able to pinch and squeeze the dough to incorporate the whole, but it could have been smoother.

SOLVED - Mixing without the salt is very helpful. But here is something that seems to work better than anything else I have tried. I sift the flour. The ingredients appear to incorporate great after doing so. Lumps of flour are now a thing of the past :)

I realize this is a small seemingly insignificant issue. But the more I bake the more the insignificant becomes significant ;-)

WatertownNewbie's picture

To me, the phrase "shaggy mass" usually appears in a step that precedes an autolyse and merely means to get all of the flour in contact with some water.  I tend to use a 12-qt Cambro tub for mixing dough, and for the shaggy mass phase I use a dough scraper at the beginning and sort of brush the dry flour around toward the water and push the water toward the flour.  As the flour and water mix, I find the scraper useful for getting to the bottom of the pile (where there is typically still some dry flour).  Eventually I end up using my hand, but that is often at the very end of the process.  The time from pouring the water onto the flour until I put the lid on the tub is perhaps five minutes.  Shaggy mass does not mean any gluten development.  It does mean no dry flour.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and see if the flour hydrates better.

DanAyo's picture

That’s worth a try! Thanks, Mini.

WaterTown, you are correct to think autolyse, but that is not the case for this bread. I have no issues when mixing to shaggy mass for an autolyse, since there is generally a number of S&F shortly thereafter. If that where the case, the S&F would quickly and efficiently incorporate all ingredients. 

For this particular bake the ingredients are hydrated and left to ferment for 5 hr. After that a single S&F and then more BF. The dough is then shaped, proofed and baked.


WatertownNewbie's picture

Thanks for the clarification.  I agree with MiniOven regarding the salt.

What you described reminded me of a one-day bread course that I took.  We worked on standard wood benches and were given a tray of ingredients, including flour and water (and a dough scraper). The instructor showed us how to make a pile out of the flour with a bowl-shaped depression in the center, much as you would see with a volcano.  He showed us how to pour the water into the center of the volcano and use the scraper to work the water around the circumference of the inner circle.  Add a little water, use the scraper, a little more water, a little more scraper work.  Eventually all of the water had been added, and all of the flour was moistened.  Then we used the scraper to gather the dough into a uniform mass and covered it for a rest period.  Perhaps this approach would give you what you are after.

DanAyo's picture

Mixing without the salt is a great idea. And it definitely helps!

I also had a thought and it seems to work better than anything else I have tried. I sift the flour. The ingredients appear to incorporate great after doing so.

I think this one is solved.


leslieruf's picture

working the outside dry flours towards the centre. I don’t know about the effect or not of salt but that is worth trying for sure


Fausto's picture

Hi Dan,

To avoid the bits of dry flour I would start with two thirds of the water only as to have a more dense dough - it will crunch any bits left. Once it is all well incorporated, add the rest of the water.

As for the shaggy, sticky and all other inconvenients betwenn fungers, use your mixer!!! :) 


DanAyo's picture

Thanks, Fausto. I’ll give the 2/3 water a try.

That’s funny, “use a mixer”


alfanso's picture

2/3 seems too low, and dry - to me.  More like 85-90% of the water can be used initially, with the rest as the bassinage.  71% is not so high a hydration that you should need to bassinage, but if you wish, then experiment away...

Your initial incorporation of the ingredients, FW&maybe levain, does not have to be "gentle".  The soon-to-be dough doesn't care, the flour just wants an initial bath.  The point is to begin the hydrating process from dry to wet, and we aren't looking for any gluten development before autolyse is completed and the real mixing has also completed.

A lofty goal, but don't try to be Trevor, he has his unique zen-like methodology to aspire to.  The Trevors are few and far between amongst us common folk.  More like learn from him to move in that direction.  He has tons more experience and mixes behind him than any of us do or probably ever will have.

I mix using the pinch and fold method for initial incorporation along with a flexible curved scraper to address the sides of the mixing bowl and then under the dough mass to remove any dry ingredients.

When mixing levain in before the autolyse - quite valuable when using high hydration levains like 125%, I scale water first, then the levain into the water, swirl and mix those together and then add flour for the incorporation.

I know that folks go both ways on this, resolute in their own camps at times - but I do not mix water into flour.  If you inadvertently add too much water to the flour, you are stuck.   If you add too much flour into the water, you can scoop the extra grams off the top of the flour mound.  I've tried it both ways, and find no advantage to wet into dry, but the obvious disadvantage which I just mentioned.

I don't like picking dried dough off my finger hairs and having my hands sticky from hand mixing.  I wear vinyl gloves throughout the mixing and then shaping phases.  They can be bought in boxes of 100, powdered inside (my preference) or not, for less than $5 US.  Some folks prefer Nutrile or latex, but I don't like latex gloves and never tried the more costly Nutrile.