Dough mixing advice.

You just need to measure in the minors, throw them in with the flour, water and yeast into the mixer, step back, and out comes a perfect dough. Uhh, yeah right. As I’m sure you know from experience, a lot of thought and precision needs to go into dough mixing. The concept is simple enough:

Flour + Water + Air + Energy → Dough

Yet controlling and adjusting those factors to get a very specific outcome can be difficult. To know how to adjust, you need to know what’s taking place. The goals of mixers are to:

  1. Incorporate air
  2. Hydrate dry ingredients
  3. Homogenize the dough by evenly distributing all the ingredients
  4. Knead the dough, encouraging the interchange of disulfide bonds and the formation of  hydrogen, hydrophobic bonds, salt linkages and Van Der Waals forces
  5. Develop the gluten by aligning the network and transforming the dough into a cohesive mass

Here are three common ways to mix dough:

  • Sponge and Dough Systems: The sponge is mixed and then fermented. The final mix is to develop the dough.
  • Straight Dough and No Time Systems: Dough mixing happens only once.
  • Continuous Mixing Dough Systems: Requires a blending step. After a set time in a fermentation and holding tank, a continual mixing and developing step occurs.

Stages of dough mixing

  1. Pick up: dough is sticky, cold and lumpy.
  2. Initial development: dough gets warmer, smoother and drier.
  3. Clean up: dough is at maximum stiffness and comes together as one cohesive mass.
  4. Final development: Dough is at the correct temperature and handling quality (gluten film is visible, and the dough is ready to be discharged from mixer).
  5. Letdown: The gluten matrix begins to degrade. The dough is too warm and sticky, lacks elasticity and has too much flow.
  6. Breakdown: dough is beginning to liquefy. At this stage, the dough is not salvageable and cannot be used to make bread.

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