I figured I would continue what we started the other day, and finish up talking about the dough. I am by no means an expert in dough and the like, but I do know that there are many different types of flours, and using different ones, actually make a difference in what you’re making.
First the basics – dough which is flour and water, for the inundated, has the ability to transform into bread, and it’s all thanks to the protein (“de pro-teeen”…v’hamavin yavin) gluten.
Gluten, which is the protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye, is usually in a tight ball, but add some water, and presto – it straightens out. With the help of some kneading, it straightens out even more, and makes inter-tangles of gluten strands, and that is what sets apart these doughs from any other type of dough, and this helps us, because it is strong enough to hold the air bubbles that the yeast give off, and thereby allow the dough to rise.
Different flours can have different protein content, so one type can be high-protein flour and produce a chewier, tougher bread, whereas another can be a low protein and produce better cakes than they do bread. Another variation can be whether the flour is “soft” or not. Soft flour has nothing to do with the protein content, but rather with how finely they’re milled. The finer they are milled the easier they are to incorporate with water, and the less water you’d need. Cake flour is an example of “soft low-protein” flour, whereas bread flour will most likely be “hard high-protein” flour.
The other day I said that traditionally “oo Italian flour” is used for pizza, and that’s a high-protein flour. I have never come across this type of flour, so I used bread flour, and it was fine (because of the high protein content).
The next thing is the yeast, our own Mr. Saccharomyces cerevisiae. For all our astute/alcoholic readers, they’ll notice cerevisiae sounds awfully like cerveza, which is the spanish word for beer. That’s because these little buggers were originally taken from breweries and added to flour and water.
Whenever yeast feed on glucose, they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. When making beer, the alcohol stays behind, and the carbon dioxide goes by way of the bubble. When making bread, both get trapped in the rising dough, and both get cooked out during baking.
What really happens when dough rises, is there are little tiny air bubbles, that are trapped in the gluten mesh, and when the yeast release carbon dioxide, they cause the air bubbles to grow even bigger. The yeast will continue to produce carbon dioxide until they have no more food. Then when put in the oven, the hot air will cause the air bubbles to expand even more (“oven spring”) until they pop, at which point, the protein in the bread has already been set, and that’s how you end up with classic bread interior.
The downside to having yeast leaven your bread, is that yeast in general have a little of an off flavor. To maximize the bread flavor potential, we must do a “slow fermentation.”
Slow fermentation is just letting the dough rise in the fridge for anywhere from 8-72 hours (mine went for 36). This retards the yeast, and makes them much slower at producing carbon dioxide, and will also retard the yeast’s ability to produce lactic acid (another small, but sour, by-product of yeast fermentation). Slow fermenting also forms a better dough by a process called auto-lysis, which allows for better gluten formation, which in turn allows for a better, crustier crust.
All in all, if you’re planning ahead, and have the space in the fridge, try making your pizza dough (out of high protein dough of course), and let it rise in the fridge (you might want to use less yeast…it’s your experiment though, so do whatever makes you happy…the recipe I used, called for 1 tsp).
(for slow fermenting)
- 20 ounces (4 cups) high-protein flour (bread flour)
- .3 ounces (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) kosher salt, plus extra for assembly
- .2 ounces (about 1 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- .2 ounces (about 2 teaspoons) sugar
- Combine flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Whisk to combine. Add water and knead on low speed just until mixture comes together and no dry flour remains.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- Knead on low speed for an additional ten minutes. The mixture should come together into a cohesive mass that barely sticks to the bottom of the bowl as it kneads. Depending on the type of flour used, you may need to add up to 1/2 cup additional flour. If dough sticks heavily to bottom of bowl, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time with mixer running until it forms a mass that just barely sticks to the bowl.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic or transfer the dough to two gallon-sized zipper lock bags, seal, and refrigerate for at least 8 and up to 72 hours.
If you’re actually at this point, and still reading, first of all I think you’re the only person to make it this far, so I’ll make a deal with you – in the comment section – if you mention something about Raymond Calvel, the discoverer of “auto-lysis,” there’s a dish with your name on it coming up. Deal?
Second of all – I’m gonna let you in on a secret – you need to use a scale for this, and any bread baking. 1 cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 4 oz to 6 oz depending on how well you pack the cup. That’s a huge difference when making a dough.