The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Gluten formation vs. sourdough acid

misha's picture

Gluten formation vs. sourdough acid

Overall my understanding of bread fermentation/proofing is:

The gluten is a net that holds a lot of the "ingredients" you need to bake a delicious loaf. You are basically trying to shape/bake the dough at the optimal point where a lot of good stuff is trapped and the gluten is strong enough to hold it in there during baking, but also the gluten network is weak enough to be stretched/shaped and rise in an oven.

There seem to be 3 main "buckets" of achieving this: knead up front, S&Fs during bulk, or "do nothing".

Knead up front

This is my understanding of Trevor Wilson's position in his book: 

When you add LABs to your mix via the starter, that is when the gluten network is strongest (so he recommends kneading). After that, you can do S&Fs to target a specific crumb "look" but you're not going to strengthen the gluten because LABs are now generating acid which is slowly degrading your gluten (hence your dough becomes more extensible, all the claims about sourdough being better for people with gluten intolerance, etc.). 


The Tartine recipe and Kenji's article about the no-knead "movement" are examples of this. Those seem to say/show that gluten networks can be formed during the long bulk fermentation - the enzymes weaken protein bonds and re-arrange them into strong gluten networks. So my assumption is the S&Fs sort of help push that process along. OK, I think I get that... 

Do nothing

And now you have the "do nothing" recipes where you just do one fold, max. And here's where I am just completely stumped. How do you still get a good structure/crumb without kneading and just doing one fold? 

Can someone help explain where I am off track here?

phaz's picture

The actions needed for gluten are none - time can take care of it. Enjoy!