Bassinage of an Italian flour that turns to soup
So this morning I was mixing in levain with an Italian flour - https://granoro.it/le-linee-granoro/farine-e-preparati/ - the light green bag "per pizza" - soft wheat - type 0 - W250 - 10.7% protein.
Have had similar happen before with Italian flours in my kitchen where they have turned to "soup", however, this morning I kept my wits about me and watched closely what happened, and would love some insight from the experts here about what is going on.
In the mixer, on slow speed, on the dough hook, I was combining a dough with a yeast water levain made with the same flour. The main dough had also had about 1 hour of autolyse time, so both doughs were already well developed. Both doughs were not over-hydrated - the autolysed dough was at 55% hydration and the levain at 65% hydration. The levain did have the same flour, but the flour mix was 78% granola and 22% hard red wholemeal that is fairly fine. I was just trying to combine in the levain really. Ran the mixer for about 4 minutes and all was well, the dough was pretty tight but to my eyes it didn't look like much had happened - it was clinging to the hook for all of those 4 minutes, the sides of the bowl were clean, and the doughs may (or may not!) have been mixed together by this mixing action.
Then I thought I'd add a small amount of water, a very small amount of water mind you, just to help the dough mix and to assist with eventually adding the salt grains. So, I added about 4g, the dough did the 'whoomp whoomp' sound, fell off the dough hook, swirled around a bit in the layer of 'muddy' dough you get and then started to cohere again on the dough hook, all took about 30 seconds. But then I added another 4g of water and it was at this point that things went wrong. The dough did not cohere again, rather it started puddling worse and worse, I let it run for a total of 2 minutes but those 2 minutes were enough to turn the dough into the soup. I tried adding the salt then, but it did nothing to tighten this dough (as it does with other doughs).
It's interesting that this happened on a slow mixer speed with a fairly low hydration - 60% overall - and a fairly low amount of bassinage water - 8g. So my question is, in general is bassinage in a stand mixer like this an inherently bad thing? Should bassinage always be done by hand, or not at all? Or is it that the doughs were already fairly well developed and shouldn't have been in the mixer, or were too well developed for bassinage? Can a flour exceed its ability to hold water at such a low hydration with such a small amount of bassinage? The soupy dough 'runs' - it pours. It looks like it has lost the gluten that it had. In the past I've baked with it in loaf tins but it really doesn't produce a nice bread once it has broken like this.
I'm familiar with this type of thing.
What % was the levain used at and how was that fed and fermented?
Please reply with the proper handling of French flours (FF). In my experience, compared to American flours French flours are more delicate. Unless I learn better, long autolyse are not used with FF. Hydrations are also considerably drier than their American counterparts. What about machine and hand mixing?
Can you provide some general guidelines?
Indeed Danny, those generalities are correct.
The weaker the flour, the less water it will need for a given consistency. And sure these weaker flours will endure less fermentation time and less mixing tolerance compared to NA flours. In general those things are true but of course other factors play a part, like ash for example.
Mais Daniel, cette type de farine est vraiment italienne!
Thanks Doctor Mike, appreciate having your ear on this:
The yeast water levain:
I leave it to develop overnight (8-10 hours) and then chuck the tub into the coldest part of my fridge. This one was there for 4 days before using.
Before you go, "aha!" that is why the dough fell apart, please note that this method has worked well for me with other soft wheat Italian flours at low hydration and with the same hard red wholemeal about three times before. Even after 7 days in the fridge it has made lovely bread, remember yeast water does not necessarily drop to a low pH like sourdough does.
However, going over my notes this is the first time I've bassinaged like this, I said I've done this before with Italian flours, but it looks like the first time with a bassinage. Also, think I've gleaned from my notes that the other times have been with a raisin yeast water, not an apple one like this time.
And also I've seen soupy Italian flour mixtures before - with sourdough, to be fair, and one time with another flour from the same mill (the blue bag) so it might be the mill makes bad flour. This particular flour is sold on their website for 0.73 EUR per kilo, so it ain't expensive stuff. Up until now though I've just thought it went soupy because the hydration was too high for the flour, I have learnt to respect these sort of flours, but after today I'm not so sure that it is only about the hydration anymore.
In any case, I'm super stubborn. So what I've done is prep another yeast water build and I'm going to try again tomorrow. I'm thinking about mixing a saltolyse so I don't have to deal with incorporating the salt, and doing all of the mixing by hand. And obviously no bassinage. If that works though, don't know if I'll have learned much, so part of me wants to do the mixing in the stand mixer just to prove to myself that it isn't the mixer so much as the bassinage.
Thanks Jon, for the extra info, I didn't see this was a YW bread but this doesn't mean we can rule out the affect of acidity. The crucial piece of data I was seeking was the % at which this levain was used? Did I miss it?
Ah, yes. So the autolysed dough that it is combined with will be 180g of granoro with 100g of water (plus 8g bassinage!), 8g salt added later.
% preferment would be 380g preferment/410g total flour=93%
or, percentage prefermented flour:
230g/410g total flour = 56%
So, learning some things today. This is what the yeast water preferment in today's attempt looked like (it had 8 hours at room temp yesterday and then into the fridge):
And for good measure, this is the autolysed dough that it was placed on top of:
It also didn't work today. I tried to keep things the same as yesterday, only without the bassinage and even kept my hands dry when working with it. Initially combined the doughs by hand, then thought I want to see what the mixer does. It was with the dough hook for 3 minutes on slow, all fine, then added salt slowly by trickling in the grains for the next 60 seconds. 13 seconds later it had started to fall apart.
So, my thinking is that I don't think it is the salt here - as the day before it had already started to fall apart before I attempted to add the salt, at least that is what I seem to recollect.
It must be that there is too much preferment, the wholemeal in the preferment is cutting gluten (although as you can see in the pics, there was plenty), perhaps the salt, or this particular flour makes a gluten network that is particularly fragile and falls apart with mechanical agitation. (as I've said above, I can get this to work with another similar brand of soft wheat italian flour which is pivetti per pizza & foccace, just not this one). My 'problem' granoro flour says it is T55/550 equivalent if that says anything about ash.
Have got another bag of this stuff, and will play some more. Any ideas?
With such a large inclusion the pre-ferment is the problem here.
YW is acidic, but with a low TTA, however you are using a large portion of it and additional acidification during the levain fermentation is inevitable.
Technically speaking there is a physio-chemical mismatch between the mixtures that causes this soupy result. Acid and salt have significant physical effects on the proteins that will make them not want to play ball during mixing.
i have had this problem with KA bread/Ap flours. I have had all sorts of weird problems when I use a machine to mix my SD dough but not with instant yeast though. It was just delusional to watch my dough disintegrated while mixing using the bassinage technique. Initially it appeared to climb up the hook and then bam it just came down like a pile of goo. I stopped machine mixing since whenever I want to use a SD starter. Yours could be something different since you use YW.
Any chance of starch attack from enzymes in the wholemeal bran? Enzymes need water to act. More water allows more action. Agitation probably accelerates it.
way overproofed to me. It it was a levain I might not worry too much but its a good portion of the dough. Try chilling sooner, perhaps when the gas cells are tiny and just starting to show up. I might also dissolve the salt first in water to avoid questioning the abrasion of salt crystals on a delicate flour matrix.
Thats about all I can offer other than a liquid replacement of egg white (10% of flour weight) adding protein to the dough. I had low protein flour in China, hand mixed, was a long time ago but found I was adding egg whites to every recipe using that flour. I would just tare the scales drop in an egg white and add water, beat with a fork slightly.
It's clear from both Mike and Mini's replies that I needed to think of reducing the preferment and using a less developed preferment.
I'm certainly a determined baker, or at least this one has been bugging me, and this has also made me realize that my idea that a long initial machine mix can do no harm is not correct.
So what I did was simplify the recipe - dropped the wholemeal component; used a saltolyse rather than an autolyse upfront; and used a less developed preferment - this one was given 5 hours at room temperature - certainly more than the pinprick stage of bubbles, but lost track of time (and in any case for yeast water it is still an absolute baby):-
Even so, my first experiment with the less developed preferment 'failed': with 'only' 43% pre-fermented flour (72% innoculation) it still started disintegrating at 11 minutes on the dough hook. Now, I do know that 11 minutes is too much anyway but I was trying to understand it.
So, I tried again with 25% pre-fermented flour (40% innoculation). And since I wanted bread this time, after 4 minutes of mixing I stopped. The result is the seeded bread in the pic below:
There was still a little bit of flour left in the bag. I wanted to know how long I could run it on the mixer without any pre-ferment involved. So, I mixed up just flour and water, left it to autolyse for 35 minutes, then gave it 20 minutes on the mixer and it was still very strong. Trickled some salt into the mixer then to see what happened, and it was fine even after a couple more minutes. Then, since I had leftover preferment I mixed it with this autolysed dough on the mixer for 9.5 minutes (didn't make it to 11 though, as my poor mixer speed governor told me that that was going to be enough for the day!) The resultant bread is the unseeded bread in the pic (32% pre-fermented flour, 54% innoculation).
So, what I've learnt with this 'problematic' flour:
...is that you have a better chance of success if you don't overdo the amount of preferment in the formula, perhaps it is better still if you have a less developed pre-ferment (but I want to test that some more!), and also the method of developing the gluten before adding the levain/pre-ferment (which we see in some recipes here, like Eric's rye) seems to be a useful hack for frail flours like this.
Looks like you got some good results there Jon. Props for seeing it through!
I'm not sure I can join you on the finger pointing at the flour. It's a medium strength flour, cheap in cost, and so perhaps it might not be lovingly made but the performance specifics are clearly advertised and it is probably fine for those purposes.
Natural (non-inoculated pure culture) fermentation gives rise to uncertainties, unexpected results and inconsistencies and so that is what you have deal with..
And using such a large portion of pre-ferment that is subject to acidification is asking for trouble.
Dialling it down was definitely the right approach.
I have experienced this problem of breaking / splitting or ‘souping’ during mixing a good number of times and in those instances I was using strong flours and as you seem to suggest I too noticed how the addition of salt could magnify the problem. Because of this I am very much an advocate of diluting the salt fully before incorporation. In effect the salt-o-lyse would allow that to happen in your case.
Too many ions all at once can shock those gluten forming proteins!
Salt and acid kind of make gluten tense and rigid and un-wanting to form linkages with other gluten polymers. This is the effect of coagulation.
If you like experimenting, see what happens when you machine mix just flour, water and vinegar at different doses. Hopefully you will see how disruptive the acid can be when trying to achieve a smooth, cohesive elastic dough.
is also worth considering. Cutting it pretty darn close although there are many flours that will work near or after their dates.
Where would you go to pick up Italian flours in your neck of the woods? Are there really these Italian delicatesans everywhere in the world that sell these stocks of old flour along with all the other things that Italian delicatesans sell. I can't buy the 'better' brands like Caputo, but picking something like this up is relatively easy.
By the way, this flour is also cheap - 0.73EUR per kilo from their site. Not sure how much you pay for flour but in my part of the world that is that is a lot cheaper than our local stoneground flours! (The Italian deli has a fat markup on it, of course)
For white flour, probably not a big deal in terms of palatability and performance if stored well.
The problem with old flour generally, excluding spoilage, is the effect of oxidation over time, a greater concern with flours that include the lipid rich germ. However, with white flour we can expect additional oxidation to further toughen the gluten, which requires longer time / more energy input during mixing. A contributing factor ~maybe...