As a kid, I was fascinated by dough troughs, and traditional baker’s technologies. I tried making some dough troughs out of wood, but I was never satisfied with my product. In the kitchens, I made do with stand mixers. Here, at the Tulip Patch, the mixer habit carried over, but I was still on the look out for a dough trough.
We eat a lot of fresh produce, and I bought bins to store produce at the local “cash and carry” restaurant supply outlet. It turns out that they are the “dough trough” that I have been seeking for 60 years. Somehow they are better than the generations of mixing bowls that I have tried.
They are plastic, rectangular, with good lids, ~ 4” deep, holding ~6 liters. After a couple of dozen batches of bread in them, I find them to be faster, easier, and more convenient than either of my stand mixers.
These days, my method/technique is to put a weighed amount of fresh ground flour in one corner of the trough, make a well in the flour, put weighed amounts of starter/yeast, and (honey, oil, other) in the well, and a weighed amount of salt in the other corner. I add warm water to the well and stir, gently mixing flour into the slurry. The very wet mix comes together and forms gluten rapidly. I stir and add water until I have incorporated all the flour, and salt. I knead in the trough for a couple minutes. Between the stirring of water into the flour and the little bit of kneading, the dough will pass a window-pane test.
I let rest in a warm place (usually a Styrofoam “cooler”) for an hour, do a stretch and fold in the trough, and an hour or so later it is ready to begin shaping and forming for the final rise in banneton or pans.
I find the trough(s) to be of convenient size for batches of dough ranging from 500 gm to 2- kilo. If I must bake 4 kilo (9 lb.) of bread today, I use 2 of my produce bins as dough troughs. They are inexpensive and I use them for other things such as storing produce. They do not overload my little kitchen scale. I do not have to clean the mixer kettle/hook. And, stirring water into a well in the flour develops gluten and makes a dough faster than my mixers.
At my 1-hour stretch and fold, I reserve back 100 grams of dough, that I keep in the refrigerator. That “old dough” gets added to my next batch of dough. I find this old dough method to be the easy approach to sourdough. The salt in the dough and the cold storage, means the starter will remain in good condition and quite active for a few days. In the next bake, it provides flavor, texture, and improved keeping qualities. I find the old dough approach to be less effort than most modern recipes for “sourdough”.
My other adaption to a plastic dough trough is use of a nylon bench knife
Let’s face it, if I want really good bead, I have to go to a bakery, or bake it myself – the bread at the grocery store is not as good as the bread at the bakery. (I live in a place where a local grocery store gets daily deliveries from 2 of the best bakeries in the SF Bay Area – and I stand by that statement.) Therefor, I try to arrange my baking so that it takes less effort than buying the same quality and kinds of bread. I can mix dough and set it to bulk ferment while I prepare my wife’s breakfast. It can be a yeast dough for lunch or a sourdough for dinner. Yesterday’s bake was whole-wheat focaccia for lunch and whole-wheat dinner rolls. Today’s bake is a Korean style, whole-wheat sandwich bread.
However quick and easy it is to make bread; I will always be looking for an easier method/technique to make better bread.