Texture of dough


There are two parts to my question. First, I have baked several different types breads (white, whole wheat, sourdough, pizza dough), but I continue to be confused as to how moist or dry the dough should be. Second, I also am confused as to when you know the bread gluten is properly formed.

Do different types of breads have different amounts of moisture thereby creating a different feel when kneading the dough?

For example, I recently made a pizza dough recipe that tells me to make sure the dough is tacky and a bit sticky when kneading by hand and should pull away from the side of the bowl, but stick to the bottom when using a stand mixer. However, I am not able to toss the dough by hand without it tearing even though it rolls out correctly and I can create a baker's windowpane with the dough. I have used both a kitchen-aid stand mixer and by hand with the same results. I use only bread flour to create the pizza crust.

One more example, I made a sourdough bread recipe (I am not sure if I am allowed to mention the company's name), and the final dough was really moist and could not stand up to the proofing process (it would just fall down if you touched it after it had proofed for a couple of hours).

I have read a couple of books about bread making and tried both hand and stand mixing, but I never feel as though I can ever develop enough gluten. FYI, I knead by hand approx 20 min (i use a timer) and I stand mix for approx 15 min.

Any help would be fantastic,

Ryan D.

badge posted by: sirryan101 on August 17, 2010 at 8:17 pm in Baking, yeast
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reply by: Mike Nolan on August 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm
Mike Nolan

There's no one answer to your questions.

Each type of dough has its own feel, ranging from almost soupy (for ciabatta) to very stiff dough (for bagels).

Many recipes do a very good job of explaining exactly the texture they're after. Peter Reinhart's recipes are quite good at that, he'll describe doughs as 'tacky but not sticky', satiny, etc.

As to when your gluten is sufficiently developed, that's also something you learn to feel for each recipe. The windowpane test works on quite a few types of dough.

Recently I've been reading Jeffrey Hamelman's book: Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. He goes into more detail than most books explaining gluten development during the various stages of making bread. (It may come as a bit of a surprise, but you don't want the gluten FULLY developed during the first knead.)

After reading his book, I'm rethinking a few of my recipes, I think I may be overmixing at first.

reply by: PaddyL on August 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Twenty minutes is a long time kneading dough. I usually knead for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on how much dough I've got.

reply by: sirryan101 on August 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for the reply. Does the book say what the gluten actually does in the baking process? After all, there are many no-knead breads, so what are the benefits?

reply by: Mike Nolan on August 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm
Mike Nolan

Gluten strands are what give bread its structure, which contributes to how it rises, the texture or crumb it has, etc.

Recently I've been making some gluten-free breads (because my daughter-in-law is gluten-intolerant), getting the kind of structure we're used to from wheat-based breads is challenging.

I've never made no-knead breads, someone else want to tackle that part?

(I suspect there's enough mixing, folding and rising time involved that you get adequate gluten formation without kneading.)

reply by: pjh on August 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

Dough will actually develop its own gluten, given time; as the yeast ferments, it gives off acetic and lactic acids, which serve to strengthen the gluten. That's how no-knead breads work: refrigeration slows the yeast, so it doesn't poop out, and it gradually strengthens the gluten via fermentation. PJH

reply by: birog on August 21, 2010 at 10:55 am

As others have previously commented,yes, different flours and different types of bread all vary in terms of moisture level. Whole grains tend to need more liquids as they absorb more. There is something called autolysis where the flour is mixed first with the liquids and allowed to sit for a bit (15 min or so) to rest before kneading. I find this is particularly good for whole grains, and I also add vital wheat gluten to breads that are high in whole grain. This link does a nice job explaining autolysis: http://www.abreadaday.com/?p=1159
Overkneading will break the gluten down too much and cause deflated and/or tough,hard bread, and I suspect that kneading for 15-20 minutes is overkneading. The baker's windowpane test should be able to be done closer to the 5-10 minute mixing time frame depending on the dough in my experience. Once you've got that ball of dough out for the windowpane test, roll it into a ball. Look at the texture - is it sticky? - add a bit of flour. Does it still have hard chunks?- Knead just until it is a uniform mass. Poke it with a finger and the indentation should quickly disappear. Does it flatten quickly after forming into a ball? - may be too wet. I look for a dough that feels somewhat like the soft area on my palm between my thumb and first finger. Once the dough has formed into a ball in the mixing bowl, and no longer has loose floury bits or wet spots, I start checking the dough and mix only a minute or two more until I check again. Pizza dough does not require heavy kneading, it can be a bit on the "shaggy" side - a couple minutes of kneading just until it forms a ball.
Tossing pizza dough is a real skill, and even though I make homemade pizza regularly and taught student in my Home Ec (family and consumer sciences) classes to make pizza, we just roll/pat the dough right into the pizza stone with excellent results.
If your sourdough dough fell, you may have overkneaded it, or need to add a bit more flour. Sourdough starter has essentially gone through the autolysis process already.
You may want to take one favored recipe from each category, make multiple versions of each tweaking the flour/liquid ratio and kneading times (and recording these) so that you find the right combination for your preferences.

reply by: sirryan101 on August 30, 2010 at 2:32 am

Than you for the informative responses. I like the idea of creating a journal of alternative ratios in a recipe. I feel though that I will need to get a scale with a tare function to conduct that the most accurately. My favorite cooking show is Alton Brown. Not necessarily for his recipes, but for his knowledge about little things that make a huge difference.