That stated, I’ve at all times needed to take a extra organized take a look at the bread I used to be baking and to unravel a few of the points that I — and different dwelling bakers — have had prior to now. Chief amongst these are the dough’s slackness and its propensity to unfold right into a pancake-like loaf, baking up flat and dense, if even calmly mishandled.

This all has to do with elasticity and extensibility. Elasticity is a dough’s capability to spring again once you stretch it, like a rubber band. Extensibility is the flip aspect of this: the flexibility for a dough to stretch with out snapping again or tearing. Discovering the appropriate steadiness between these two is the trick.

With pizza dough, for example, extensibility have to be excessive to stretch a ball of dough into a skinny, crisp crust that retains sufficient construction to face as much as moist, heavy toppings. This identical extensibility in a country boule or bâtard may end up in dough that lacks the construction to retain its form. An excessive amount of elasticity, then again, and also you wind up with a dense crumb construction.

A couple of issues helped me obtain this steadiness.

Mr. Migoya recommended {that a} small quantity of acid might enhance the formation of gluten bonds; in side-by-side checks, a drop or two of vinegar or lemon juice made an considerable distinction in dough energy.

Just about each baker I talked to proposed including folding and stretching steps, and, in my very own testing, I discovered that Mr. Migoya’s suggestion of giving the dough a couple of tugs and folds each half-hour or so in the course of the preliminary two to a few hours of its lengthy resting interval labored finest. The extra tugs and folds you do, the extra construction the dough could have, leading to greater elasticity and a denser, extra compact crumb. (On a tip from Mr. Reinhart, I dip my palms in water earlier than dealing with the dough, a much more efficient technique of protecting your palms clear than flouring.) After that, the dough can relaxation on the counter till able to form and proof — at the least a couple of hours, however as much as in a single day is okay. Or, even simpler, settle it within the fridge in a single day or for as much as three nights earlier than proofing. (An prolonged relaxation within the fridge will lead to higher taste than a brief room-temperature relaxation.)

A ultimate shaping stretch earlier than proofing and baking is sufficient to give the dough the construction I like. The purpose is to create a membrane that easily wraps across the dough, much like how contemporary mozzarella or burrata has a taut pores and skin stretched round a softer, less-structured inside. Some bakers use a plastic or metallic scraper to tuck the dough into its ultimate form. Mr. Migoya recommends a versatile metallic putty knife, the sort you’d use to spackle a wall. I discover it best to work manually: I maintain my fingers collectively and use the perimeters of my palms to tuck the pores and skin beneath the ball, successfully smoothing out the highest. As with all steps right here, the much less you deal with the dough, the higher; fifteen to 30 seconds of shaping is an affordable purpose.

It’s necessary to notice that there’s no “appropriate” crumb construction, regardless of what strangers on social media could have you imagine. The present pandemic-inspired craze, for high-hydration sourdough loaves with a big, open gap construction, is ideal for catching pockets of jam or mushy butter. However attempt making a grilled cheese sandwich on bread that’s too holey, and watch because the cheese oozes out. Then, you’ll discover the worth in loaves with a tighter crumb construction. Figuring out that including further stretches and folds will produce a tighter crumb will help you modify your approach to fit your personal tastes.


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