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Following Mise en Place, the goals of mixing and kneading bread recipes are to not degrade (overmix or overheat) the dough while uniformly incorporating the ingredients, develop the gluten, and initiate yeast fermentation, later ended during bread baking. How they are achieved has to do with the raw materials that go into mixing the dough and the type of bread recipe being made.
Mixing and kneading can be done, by hand or machine, such as a stand mixer or bread machine.
MIXING BREAD RECIPES
The goals of mixing are to:
1. UNIFORMLY INCORPORATE THE INGREDIENTS;
2. DEVELOP THE GLUTEN; AND,
3. INITIATE FERMENTATION
1. UNIFORMLY INCORPORATE THE BREAD RECIPE'S INGREDIENTS
There are four best-known methods known for mixing yeast bread recipes. Within these types, there are numerous mixing methods, each one having one advantage over another. Some doughs require cold water, some warm, and mixing times relate to the types of ingredients, mixing method and equipment used.
There are four best-known yeast bread mixing methods:
- DIRECT (STRAIGHT) BREAD DOUGH MIXING METHOD
- INDIRECT BREAD DOUGH (SPONGE) MIXING METHOD
- BATTER BREAD (NO KNEAD) MIXING METHOD
- RAPID MIX (BREAD MACHINE) MIXING METHOD
DIRECT (STRAIGHT) BREAD DOUGH MIXING METHOD
Everything - the ingredients and the yeast - are added to the mixer at the time of mixing. No pre-ferments are involved and, the yeast has gone through any previous fermentation. This is typically done with bread recipes using commercial yeast. Direct doughs rely more on their ingredients than on fermentation for their flavor and texture. Breads made from them tend to be smooth looking loaves, with soft crusts, with fluffy insides, typically with a fine, even grain (air holes). Examples are Pan or Loaf Breads, but also can include yeasted rolls, coffee cakes, and pizza crusts.
Commercial yeast comes from the grocery store is found in a dehydrated form, such as active dry and instant active dry, known under various brand names. There is fresh cake yeast found in the refrigerated case of the grocery store, but is sometimes difficult to find.
The importance of mixing the bread's ingredients in the right order:
SARAH SAYS: Those used to make everyday sandwich bread or rolls, instruct you add the dissolved yeast and water to the flour and mix, called Direct Doughs. At the end of mixing, you find out that your dough is too dry or too wet. So, you naturally add in more flour or water to correct the dough to the right consistency.
The amount of flour (water) used in a bread recipe is always variable; that's because flour absorbs different amounts of water depending on its protein content, where and when it was grown, the brand and age of the flour and lastly, the weather. I have found that most baker's have trouble knowing how much flour or water to add or not add in advance? You don't because it's hard to predict. (Only the flour knows for sure!).
When making any bread recipe using wheat flour that is mixed and/or kneaded with water or other moisture containing ingredients, gluten is created. The right amount is necessary in a bread recipe because it serves many functions, but once you start mixing the dough over and over again to add in ingredients and correct it, it's easy to overwork the dough and create too much. This leads to a dry and flavorless loaf that doesn't rise very much when baked. Sounds familiar, huh!?
Sarah's Foolproof Way to Mix Bread Dough:
SARAH SAYS: To avoid overmixing the dough, I recommend adding the pre-measured flour to the water and dissolved yeast, rather than the other way around as stated in most recipes. You will stop adding flour when the dough has reached the right consistency.
What does that mean?
Learning how to mix the dough so you get its "right consistency" or what is specified in the recipe, is the most important aspect of bread baking, can mean success or failure. For example, the objective in mixing MODERATELY STIFF DOUGH is to end up with dough that is tacky, not sticky or wet. It should also be pliable, soft and moist. By sticky, dough will stick to your finger as you pull it from the dough and some may stick to your finger. If that happens, the dough is too wet. By tacky, I mean when you touch the dough, it feels like the glue on the back of a "Post-it-Note" - your finger will stick to the dough when you pull it away, but it will come off easily and not take dough with it. For example, I use this technique in my Classic White Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe.
INDIRECT BREAD DOUGH (SPONGE) MIXING METHOD
Bread recipes made from them are also known as Artisan, hearth, sourdough, European-style, ethnic, natural or rustic breads. Indirect dough is built in two or more stages, utilizing a Pre-ferment and Sourdough Starter or batter or dough fermented in advance and added to other dough as part of the building process. Once all of the ingredients are assembled, the dough is treated as a direct(straight) dough beginning with kneading and ending with baking and cooling, although including techniques unique to the type of bread being made. Most pre-ferments, with the exception of Sourdough, use commercial yeast, as opposed to wild yeast. (Bread can be made with both a sourdough starter and commercial yeast.)
SARAH SAYS: Sourdough or naturally leavened bread is one of the oldest forms of bread making around; from man's first bread to the 19th century, when commercially available baking powders and yeasts were available, all bread was leavened this way. The term "sourdough" has become generalized in common cultural usage to refer to any sour bread, be it one leavened with a starter or with packaged yeast. This makes the term "sourdough" a difficult term to use. See our Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter Recipe
The Indirect Bread Dough (Sponge) Method extends fermentation, allowing for more complex flavor to be teased from the wheat molecules and helps make the bread recipe more digestible. The pre-fermented breads, other than those made with a Sourdough Starter, have a mild-tasting tangy or wheaty flavor, fine irregular air-pocket (cell) structure and a less crusty crust. On the other hand, Sourdough bread tends to have more "sourness" or "wheatiness", a crustier crust, and a unique crumb with irregular air holes.
SARAH SAYS: Examples are Whole Grain Wheat Bread from a Starter Recipe, Challah Bread from a Starter Recipe, Skillet Pizzas Tutorial, Kalamata Olive and Rosemary Boule Recipe, or Crusty Sourdough Loaves Recipe, and more Sourdough and Starter Bread recipes.
Temperature of the starter?
Have the pre-ferment at room temperature if mixing the dough by hand, otherwise it needs to be cooler if mixing with a stand mixer; the temperature of the dough increases between 1 to 3 degrees F for every minute of mixing. When dough overheats, gluten breaks down and off flavors start to develop. Take it out about 30 minutes before using a stand mixer; 45 minutes before using a bread machine; and, use it cold from the refrigerator if using a food processor, which builds the most heat. Refrigerate it 15 to 30 minutes before mixing the dough if it has not been refrigerated, before.
SARAH SAYS: Whatever method you use, make sure you avoid letting the yeast and salt have direct contact with one another; salt will kill the yeast in such concentrated contact. Instead, I mix the salt in with the second or third cup of the dry ingredients in the final stage of the dough, and never in with a sponge or firm starter.
BATTER BREAD (NO KNEAD) MIXING METHOD
This is the simpliest of all of the mixing techniques. They are made from thick batters or doughs beaten or mixed vigorously in one bowl. No knead doughs ferment for a longer period of time to further develop their gluten and flavor. An example is the Dutch-Oven Buttermilk No Knead Bread Recipe.
The basic steps to making them are:
1. The yeast is first dissolved in the bowl and any remaining liquid ingredients, such as eggs, honey, or milk, for example, are added;
2. The fat and a large portion of the flour is stirred in and beaten vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon or in an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. The result will be a thick, rough, lumpy batter not stiff enough to hold its shape;
3. The remaining flour is slowly added until a stiff and sticky dough is formed. Beating continues until the dough is smooth and stretches whenever stirred. The stretching is caused by the gluten strands being developed, which are elastic and extensible (stretch) by nature;
4. With a large spoon, the batter is poured it into a greased lidded container, such as a casserole or Dutch-Oven. The batter is then allowed to rise; and,
5. Afterwards, it is baked in a hot and well-preheated oven until lightly browned and well-risen. Batter breads take on the shape of its baking container.
How do Batter or No-Knead Bread Recipes Work?
It’s where you let the fermentation process, in a sense, knead the bread dough for you. Very moist dough, made from a simple mixture of bread (or all-purpose) flour, yeast, water and salt, is left alone to ferment, some 12 to 18 hours at room temperature (preferably 70 degrees F), and then folded one or two times, rather than go through a lengthy kneading process. It is rested and then, shaped, and allowed to rise another two hours. It is baked in a very hot oven. There are lots of variations, of course.
The bread dough has to be well-hydrated for this to work. The carbon dioxide bubbles produced by fermentation raise the dough and also cause it to have a holey, sponge-like appearance. The bubbles also bounce around the wheat flour’s hydrated protein molecules called gliadin and glutenin, whereby they hook up and form long elastic gluten strands.
Harold McGee Says: best known as the author of “On Food and Cooking” (Scribner, 2004), what he thought of this method. His response: “It makes sense. The long, slow rise does over hours what intensive kneading does in minutes: it brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment to maximize their opportunity to bind to each other and produce a strong, elastic network. The wetness of the dough is an important piece of this because the gluten molecules are more mobile in a high proportion of water, and so can move into alignment easier and faster than if the dough was stiff.” (The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work, Dining & Wine Section, New York Times, Mark Bittman, November 8, 2006, July 18, 2009.)
There are several advantages to No-Knead Bread Recipes: Certain flavorful carotenoid compounds in unbleached flour that are normally lost through oxidation during vigorous kneading are preserved – meaning the color of the bread is less white (bleached) which is said to improve flavor. Long, slow fermentation actually boosts the digestibility of grains and seeds, as well as enhancing flavor and resulting in more irregular air holes and crustier crusts, depending on the type of ingredients used.
RAPID MIX (BREAD MACHINE) MIXING METHOD
This method differs from others in that it is used primarily with bread machines. Inside the bread machine is a nonstick pan with a mixing / kneading paddle, usually located on the bottom. The machine mixes and kneads the bread, allows it to rise, then bakes it in the same pan. Ready-to-use mixes come with these machines, or you can use a recipe. The simplified process consists of placing warm water, flour, yeast and salt into the container, closing the lid and pressing a button. Fresh bread can be made within 2 to 4 hours.
2. DEVELOP THE GLUTEN IN THE BREAD RECIPE
Two partial proteins, gliadin and glutenin, among other proteins, are found in wheat flour. When hydrated and mixed (agitated), they link to each other and form gluten strands, a more complex protein, providing structure and flavor to the bread. Wheat four is defined by the potential gluten forming proteins it contains or gluten percent per cup; ingredients can strengthen or weaken the bonds. The higher the protein percent, the longer it takes for the gluten bonds to form, and are contingent upon their hydration, mixing methods and other ingredients, and temperature, resting time (autolyse), among other perimeters.
Autolyse bread recipe technique:
The use of autolyse results in more volume, better cell structure, and a more supple crumb in most types of bread, such as regular French bread, white sandwich bread and sweet yeast dough, but especially with recipes using sourdough starters. It is a hydration rest within the mixing of the dough, and before kneading, giving the flour a change to absorb the water. Autolyse is the slow-speed premixing of the flour and water in the recipe (excluding all of the other ingredients), followed by a rest period. The other ingredients are added when mixing is recommenced. This develops the gluten in the dough and improves the extensibility of the dough, thereby rendering it easier to shape. The crumb of your bread is also likely to come out with a minimal loss of flavor since it has not been highly oxidized by all the mixing, with a more open crumb and higher in moisture.
The term was coined by French baking professor, Raymond Calvel in his book, The Taste of Bread.
How do you use the autolyse technique? Simply combine the flour and water from your recipe in your mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic or a damp towel. Walk away for 20 minutes to half an hour. During this time, the flour absorbs the water and the gluten strands have begun to develop. Now you can mix in your pre-ferment, your salt, and the remainder of your yeast. The dough is also less sticky and easy to stretch (more extensible).
3. INITIATE FERMENTATION IN THE BREAD RECIPE
Yeast activity and fermentation are triggered by hydration. Packaged (commercial) yeast or active dry yeast must be hydrated in water first, both fresh and instant yeast will absorb enough liquid during the mixing and kneading process to activate. Yeast is typically mixed into the flour ingredients directly before adding the liquid. Sourdough starters attract wild yeast to feed from moistened flour or with added crushed fruit, such as red or black grapes because wild yeast is present on their skins.
How does yeast fermenation work?
>KNEADING THE BREAD DOUGH
After the ingredients have been mixed, the next stage is to knead the bread dough. Note that kneading is not done in a classical sense if the bread recipe is for a Batter or No Knead bread (just letting the dough develop the gluten over a long period of time on its own); the mixing method and rising period in essence, serves to mix and knead the bread dough. "The Turning Method" is used with wet and sticky doughs, measured by levels of hydration, also known as Rustic or Artisan bread dough.
As you knead, the dough is developed further: the gluten strands that have begun to develop become realigned and strengthened into a strong network, more air bubbles are incorporated into the dough necessary as nuclei for the carbon dioxide bubbles, and the ingredients to be redistributed for the yeast to feed on resulting in a more active fermentation. This enables the dough to expand to it fullest during the rising and baking steps.
It takes a good 8 - 10 minutes to knead dough with lightly floured hands on a lightly floured countertop. (I use a kitchen timer to help me keep track of the time!) Kneading can also be done with a stand mixer on low speed by dough hook for 5 minutes or pulsing for 45 seconds with a food processor. Bread machines also knead dough as part of the bread making process. Then, the dough can be removed to let rise in the next breadmaking step.
When the dough is kneaded, it should reach the "right consistency" depending on the type of recipe being made. For direct dough recipes is it typically: Kneading is done until the dough looks shiny and elastic and is extensible (stretchy). Sometimes additional flour is added to correct the dough; even though you may have mixed it correctly, as you knead it and incorporate more of the flour, and the flour hydrates more from the water or liquid in the recipe as you develop the gluten, you may find you need to add more flour so it remains "tacky".
SARAH SAYS: The words smooth and elastic, as the end feel of the kneaded dough, are often used in recipes, which leads us to believe the dough should be stiff. It should be smooth and how I describe as "feel like a baby's bottom" - silky smooth and soft - without small lumps of flour on its surface or its surface tearing that indicates its too dry. Dough flecked with bran because it has whole wheat flour in it, will show some small tears on the surface; bran acts like little scissors and cuts into the dough.
The most common reason for dense breads is the addition of too much flour, so I find most of us add flour to get a smooth feel. You must learn to work with slacker (wetter) dough, which is somewhat sticky. It's the moisture content in the dough that turns to steam in the oven that helps to give it the oven rise, creating an open, light and airy texture and crumb, and more flavors.
Rounding bread dough:
After kneading, form the dough into a ball, called rounding. The smoothness comes from proper kneading while the roundness comes from proper formation.
Windowpane Test for bread recipes:
A “windowpane” test is used by some bakers to determine whether the dough has been properly kneaded. It entails pulling off a piece of dough and stretching it into a thin "gluten window". It should not tear, and if held up to the light, it should be translucent.
SARAH SAYS: I do not use this test because it’s not always reliable; dough with whole wheat flour or with lots of grains and seeds always tear when stretched and others, such as Pugliese, become stretchy at a later stage during rising and folding stages.
The Turning Method for bread recipes:
With weaker – or less developed – doughs, such as wetter and stickier, Rustic or Artisan bread, the Turning (Folding) Method is used. It is essentially a kneading-fermentation-punching down step. See Stage III.