By Lin Carson

Mixing

A baker performing a ‘stretch to a window pane’ test

Dough mixing: the crucial step for beautifully structured bread. There’s a lot that goes on in a short period of time. What exactly is happening on a molecular level?

Several things. Air molecules are being added to the dough, which keeps the product from getting too dense. Meanwhile, the ingredients are being altered. Bread flours are typically made from a hard wheat, with dense particles that slow water penetration. However, as the dough is mixed, these particles rub against one another. This exposes a softer layer for hydration.

Why Hydration?

For one thing, it helps with product quality and consistency. But also, along with homogeneously mixing the ingredients, hydration is what causes gluten development. Gluten proteins are a key piece in dough structure and strength. However, they need to be hydrated to function best, because only then can they release their elastic and extensible properties. To help accomplish desired hydration levels in high-speed mixers, dough conditioners are used.

Methods of Mixing

When it comes to dough mixing, there are a number of ways to get the job done. There are a variety of mixer types out there:

  1. Spiral mixer
  2. High speed and twin spiral mixer
  3. Horizontal mixer
  4. Low speed mixer
  5. Continuous mixing
  6. Hydrator

Find out more about these types of mixers on BAKERpedia’s mixing page, or read up on gluten and hydration!