Working with Bread Dough
|Pizza dough after first rise, ready to shape.|
|Pizza dough pulled into a round, without deflating all the bubbles.|
|Herringbone strudel being assembled on parchment|
- Wood is a nice surface for working dough on, but is not required. Any clean, roomy, dry surface will work, including a table top or counter top. Stone counters will cool the dough down a lot, and make the second rise take longer. Silicon work mats are also nice.
- You will need a dough knife or "bench scraper" of some kind. This is really just a flat, not sharp, piece of metal or plastic. It is used to cut the dough and to scrape the flour and dough bits off of the work surface.
- Immediately after proofing, the dough is relaxed and easily stretched and/or rolled. Working the dough before shaping is unnecessary, and makes it difficult to roll out into long shapes, like ropes for braids.
- Spread a scoop of flour on part of the surface, then turn the dough out onto it. Don't flour the top of the dough. Cut into the required number of pieces for your final shape. The flour that clings to the bottom of the dough pieces should be ample for the shaping process.
- When shaping, generally tuck the sticky side in, and keep the floured side out.
Dumped out on floured surface, and cut
- When rolling into balls, the dough should be soft and springy, grip the work surface slightly without clinging to it, and not stick too much to the hands either. If it slides on the work surface, dust the dough off a bit, and scrape the flour off of the work surface with the dough knife. If it is too sticky, add more flour, but only sparingly.
- When rolling with a pin, roll on a silicone mat or a parchment sheet. If the dough keeps springing back instead of staying rolled out, wait 5-10 min for the gluten to relax, then try again.
- Any mark that is visible in the dough when it is laid out for the final rise will visible and larger in the final baked bread.
- If you want some large holes in your final bread, especially for pizza crust or a rustic sourdough, be careful not to flatten out any more bubbles than necessary while shaping.
- Shaping dough is all about tightening/stretching the outer surface of the dough; think about balloons here. Don't go too far, or it will tear. A tight outer surface will help a loaf rise, rather than only spreading. This will also make it easier to slash the loaf before baking.
- Once shaped, don't set the dough back onto the work surface. Set it onto the rising surface, i.e. parchment or dough couch. Braid ropes are rolled on the work surface, then braided on a parchment sheet.
As a general rule, I avoid bread pans. I think bread has a better texture when allowed to spread and rise naturally, rather than being forced to rise high when hitting the side of a pan. The exceptions are loaf pans when I want a sandwich bread, a tall pan for cinnamon rolls, and a rectangular pan to help make slider buns the right size for the little burgers.
Shaped loaves may be wrapped, frozen and stored before this final rise. Freeze the loaf on a board or pan of some sort, covered with wrap, then transfer to a freezer bag, vacuum bag, etc. Or, wrap in plastic-lined butcher paper, plastic side to the dough. Fold up the ends and tape down.
- Fresh or frozen: Place each loaf in a pan or on a piece of cooking parchment on a baking sheet or pizza peel. Spray the loaves lightly with cooking spray. Drape with plastic wrap, tapped down to stick to the cooking spray, but in a way that the rising loaf will lift the plastic without being restricted by it or trapping it. Let rise until doubled.
- Fresh loaves: choose a warm place like the area over the pre-heating oven, and allow about 45-60 min.
- Frozen loaves: leave out on the counter or table, and allow 6 to 8 hours for the dough to thaw and double before baking.
"Artisan" loaf, such as sourdough
- Heavily flour a baker's couche, or other smooth (i.e. not fuzzy) cloth.
- Place the loaves on the couche, with folds of cloth between each loaf (see the photo). Fold the ends of the cloth over the top of the loaves, and allow to rise at room temperature, which may take a couple of hours.
|Sourdough on a linen couche|
- Put a parchment sheet onto a pizza peel, slide it up close to the risen loaf, and gently roll it onto the parchment. Roll the second loaf onto the opposite side. I found this to be a tense moment, but it worked just fine.