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Dough Tips

Dough Tips | Sourdough Tips | Metric Conversions

Follow these tips and techniques to make your old "tried-and-true" recipes even better.

  • Buy a dough thermometer and use it.  Your dough should come out of the mixing bowl or off the table after mixing at 75 to 80 degrees F (23.8 to 26.6 degrees C).  If the dough temperature is higher than this, flatten it out, place it in a oiled plastic bag and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.  After the cool down time place the dough still covered on the kitchen counter for its first rise.  Too warm a dough is very detrimental to good bread texture and taste, as it will burn up the yeast and a off color and "yeastie"-beer taste will occur and the loaf size will be greatly diminished.
  • If the recipe you have gives ounces, hundredths of pounds or gram weights, use them and weigh your recipe.  You will be amazed at the consistency of your bread baking.  Do not try to use ounces as they are too big for any accuracy when making 1 to 4 loaves.  Professionally, grams or hundredths of a pound work the best.
  • Use only non iodized salt.  Iodine attacks the yeast activity, slowing down the first fermentation.  Orange, lemon or grapefruit peel as well as cinnamon and alcohol will have a retarding effect and too much will stop the yeast activity completely.
  • Never warm your dough in any way, during its first rise, room temperature of 65 to 85 degree F (18.3 to 30 degree C) is a perfect environment for proper fermentation.
  • Use a lightly oiled plastic bag, place the dough inside, close bag, giving plenty of room for expansion.  Let the dough rise the first time undisturbed by drafts.  Never use a dry or moist cotton cloth to cover the dough as it wicks the moisture out of the dough and causes a skin to form which will limit the expansion of the dough and you will end up with a smaller loaf than you desire.
  • Do not overload your oven, as good air circulation is essential for proper baking and loaf color.  Watch crust color and if bread is browning too rapidly, either turn the oven down 25 degrees F (or use aluminum foil to tent the loaves).
  • Rich doughs need special handling.  After the mixing of the dough and approximate, one (1) hour rising time, slow the fermentation down by refrigeration.  [Rich doughs that have a lot of butter or eggs should be refrigerated from one (1) and up to twelve (12) hours]. This cooling down of the dough will have many beneficial effects, if the following tips are followed:
  1. A. Greater loaf volume will be achieved because you will get what is called greater "oven spring".
  2. B. Cold dough is easier to handle when forming into the final desired shape as high butter and high egg doughs tend to be soft and hard to handle.
  3. C. The cooling process gives a slower first rise, which will have the beneficial effect of a clean flavor and longer shelf life to the final baked product.
  4. D. After the dough is removed from the refrigerator, form the dough into desired shapes and let it rise in a draft free place until the dough doubles to triples in volume, as specified in the recipe.  Bake according to the recipe, watching the color of the cracks.  If the cracks are the proper golden brown color the bread is done.
  • Handle dough gently.  Do not beat the dough down after the first rise (first fermentation) one quick openhanded bang will do. Over molding could cause breaking of the surface tension and will result in a smaller finished loaf.
  • Use less yeast, 2% is a starting point.  If you want large crumb structure with random bubbles as found in artisan breads, give longer fermentation time and go down on the % of yeast used or go to a sponge and dough method and go down even further on the % of yeast used. Time is everything.
  • When a strong crusty bread is desired use a lower protein flour such as 11.5 to 12.5%. The lower the protein content the lower the moisture absorption rate of the flour, thus thicker crust results. If a thin delicate crust is called for, use a stronger protein flour, 13.5 to 15% since the stronger the flour the higher the absorption rate the thinner the crust.
  • Cinnamon has a direct effect on the yeast activity and in large quantities it will stop fermentation completely. Keep high percentages of cinnamon out of the dough itself and in fillings where it can have only limited effect on the yeast activity.
  • Check the dough temperature as it comes out of the bowl, the optimum temperature for good yeast activity is 76 to 80F (26C). Rarely can a baker control the room temperature or the flour temperature but the water or liquid temperature can be controlled easily by using a dough thermometer and checking a water temperature of the water to be used. Charts for the proper water temperature to be used are found in many professional baking books or by requesting one from International School of Baking. Specify C or F or use the following formula:
Dough Temperature Desired 82 F 26.6 C
Multiplied by 3 (Constant) 240 F 115.5 C
Machine friction Average 25 F -3.8 C
Flour temperature (vairable) 75 F 23.8 C
Room temperature (variable) 75 F 23.8 C
  175 F 79.4 C
Subtract (Constant) 240 F 115.5 C
  -175 F 79.4 C
Water temperature required 65 F 18.3 C

Under warm baking conditions, ice is often necessary to achieve proper water temperature.

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