Today marks the start of a Bread Making thread in the Members Forum. The thread will encompass one technical post discussing each of the 15 stages of professional bread making. members are welcome to post their experiences and pictures. Some of these stages are critical stages that cannot be avoided (e.g., stage 6: bulk fermentation), others are optional (e.g., stage 3: the autolyse). The 15 stages are:
Weighing of ingredients
Addition of other ingredients
Stretch, fold, degas
Most home bakers bypass steps 1, 3, 7 and collapse steps 2, 4, 5 into the following workflow: step 2 (weighing of ingredients) followed by: flour is in the food processor, yeast and salt (dry ingredients) are added to the flour and mixed, water is added to the flour + yeast + salt. The dough is then mixed and kneaded. If that workflow sounds familiar, the good news is that you can greatly improve your dough by tweaking it. For example, (i) never add the water to the flour, the flour should be added to the water instead; and (ii) do not add the salt before the dough (water + flour only) has had a chance to develop its gluten structure naturally (step 3: autolyse). The reasons for these tweaks come from science. Salt affects the structure of the gluten structure; to fabricate a highly stretchable supple dough, do not incorporate salt before that stretchable supple gluten structure has had a chance to develop. In fact, a successful step 3 autolyse produces a dough that passes the "windowpane" test without any kneading (stage 4) or stretch, fold, and degas (stage 7). This becomes very important when working with high hydration dough such as for sourdough bread, as high hydration dough can be challenging to work with and manipulate.
So for all of you home bakers who have been baking bread throughout the pandemic, join the conversation in the Members Forum and learn the fascinating chemistry behind the art of making the perfect loaf of crunchy, chewy, satisfying artisan breads. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced baker, there will be something in there for you to learn, and there will be something in there for you to contribute to the learning of your fellow members.