Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bread Baking - Rest



When writing this post, I accidently posted a rough draft. Sorry if it caused confusion.

When mixing a bread dough, often a recipe will ask you to allow the dough to rest after mixing and before kneading. This resting period is called the autolysis. What is the purpose?

Adding too much flour to dough will make the bread dry and heavy. Recipes give an amount of flour but because flour varies in the amount of moisture it can absorb, the actual amount of flour used will vary.

Allowing your bread dough to rest before kneading gives the dough time to absorb water and fully hydrate. I find this resting time is especially important when using whole grain flours. Whole grains will absorb more water than white flour but they take longer to absorb water. If you mix and knead the dough quickly, often too much flour will be added and the resulting bread will be dry and crumbly. By giving the flour some added time to hydrate, you will likely add less flour and result in a more successful bread.

My usual method is to mix the dough with all the ingredients and almost all the flour. I may reserve back one cup of flour if the recipe is unfamiliar to me. I mix the dough briefly, maybe one minute at low speed in my mixer. The dough may look coarse and shaggy at this point. I then shut off the mixer and allow the dough to sit for a few minutes. Sometime only five minutes, other times up to half an hour.


 As a mother with young children, I find that this method works well for me. By the time I have the ingredients in the mixer and briefly stirred, there is probably some dire emergency that needs my attention! But I've learned to set the timer so that I don't forget the dough entirely! And who can really mind these interruptions?



When I come back to the dough, I mix for another minute. Usually the dough is much smoother at this time. I may need to add a little more flour. I then proceed with the kneading.



Not all bread recipes call for a resting period. You can add in a rest period, or not, as you wish.

Often you'll find recipes that add the salt AFTER this resting period. Salt does adversely affect the flour's hydration. But I usually add the salt with the all the other ingredients since I've had some bad experiences with forgetting salt in bread. Salt-less bread is barely palatable. If I do add the salt later, I sit my salt container on top of the mixer  lid to remind me to add it after the rest.



Do you allow your dough to rest? Do you feel that it benefits the bread?

7 comments :

  1. Thanks for adding this to your blog. I have never heard of this before. It's great info for me since I am a major newbee at making bread. When you add the salt later after it sits is it not harder to mix in? I ask because I don't have a mixer mine is by hand. I will be making your bread this weekend. Saturday to be exact. I will be trying the one with the egg in it. I still really like the miricle bread but would like somthing a little softer I think. And yes I will let it rise for the second rise and add the full amount of yeast required this time. Thanks for your blog it's been such a blessing to me. Your little one is just to cute for words. Hugs Anita

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  2. We just started making bead just two weeks ago...so we are just in the baby stages of learning...our first batch was good but over cooked the bread...the second batch was oh so so yummy and yesterday I made another batch...not sure if this was the problem...but for the first two batches we used regular yeast...yesterday hubby bought fast acting yeast...the granules are so much smaller of this yeast...I gave it resting times just like I had done with the other bread batches...but the bread did not rise up as much...??yeast?? not sure yet...we are making our bread 100% whole wheat...we are thinking of trying making some out of spelt flour...its all an adventure...

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  3. I do allow my dough to rest even when a recipe doesn't specifically say too. Mainly, because that is what I was taught but I thank you for explaining WHY it is important to do so. I even let my biscuits, not a yeast bread, but I let it rest for a little bit before rolling out and making biscuits. I have found that by doing so, they are lighter and fluffier.

    I've awarded you the Stylish Blogger award. You have some great information here. Head over to my blog and grab your award.

    God's Blessings continue to be with you as you educate those of us around you.

    Vickie

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  4. Anita-
    You are right. It is harder to mix the salt in - another reason why I usually mix the salt in at the beginning. I only mentioned it because you will see the salt with held until later in other recipes.

    Nadine - I always use instant yeast and have always had good success with it. Keep on trying. You'll get it!

    Thanks, Vickie!
    Gina

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  5. Does it matter if the dough starts to rise while it is resting? Sorry if the answer to this question is obvious, but I'm still pretty new with working with yeast breads :) I just recently stumbled across your blog and have really been enjoying it! Thanks!

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  6. Katie -
    It doesn't matter if your dough starts to rise. In fact, I would expect it to! And I love your questions!
    Gina

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  7. I agree with the idea on monitoring the amount of flour needed. I recently moved to St George Utah from South Dakota. The elevation change (from 1800ft to 3100ft) required some tweaking of my bread recipes.

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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