When you’re baking bread at home, it’s very beneficial that you know how to properly hand-mix dough. The process in artisan bread making, as well as ingredient selection, are key. The method is the same regardless of what kind of bread dough you’re making – whether it’s pizza dough, sourdough, wholemeal dough or steamed buns, you can use these techniques. Measure your flour, sugar, salt, and water. Then in a large mixing bowl, put your flour and crumble with cold butter.
Other than adding flavor, salt is also responsible for controlling the activity of the yeast and assisting in the development of gluten. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water. Combine the ingredients with a dough scraper, until it forms together. Hand mixing will also allow for subtle adjustments; add a little more water or sprinkle a touch more flour if the dough is too wet.
Place the dough on a bench, and start folding the dough together. Pick up the dough and throw it onto the bench, then fold it over and pull away. This way you’re aerating the dough by lifting and folding it. Do this for 2 minutes. Then hand-shape the dough into a ball and let it rest for 2 minutes. Repeat this process 4-5 times. Make sure you check the gluten structure after you’ve worked the dough.
When the gluten strands are weak, you can end up with heavy, dense bread. So a gluten test will determine if the gluten is properly developed and strong enough to trap the gases created by the yeast, just like the way balloon skin traps air. Once done, cover your dough and step away from it for a half-hour.
- 2 1/2 (11.04 oz) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup (4.41 oz) (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup very cold water
- Cut the butter into small pieces then place into the freezer along with the food processor bowl and blade for about 10 minutes.
- Once the food processor bowl and blade are chilled, add the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse a few times to combine.
- Add the chilled pieces of butter and pulse for 1 second about 8 times until it looks crumbly and the butter is the size of peas and the mixture crumbly.
- Use a tablespoon measure to add 3 tablespoons of cold water to the dough, pulse for 1 second; repeat this process until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl and comes together.
- Place the dough on a floured work surface and use your hands to bring it together into a ball, do not knead. Work the dough just enough to form a ball.
- Cut the ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months