I’m finally back to my How I’m Going to Learn series with some musings on the preshape-bench rest-shape step, even though they’re separate. I’ve been reading the posts from @fullproofbaking and @nmuvu. Do you know what I’ve learned? They think like bakers, and I want to learn that. It’s not just baker’s hands; we should be thinking about developing baker’s minds too.
Moving to low hydration has really helped me during preshaping. I stopped worrying about whether it should be loose or tight. I want my hands to learn to preshape. I’m probably doing a tight preshape, but my hands aren’t sure. They don’t know. They don’t have the knowledge. Neither does my mind. My left hand has learned that it can tuck the dough under as my right hand is turning my #campbellsdoughknife. I would never have learned this without moving to low hydration dough.
I’m learning and understanding that the bench rest is just another part of fermentation that starts with the levain I make the day before. I used to wonder, “How long for the bench rest?” I now just think about letting it ferment for a bit so that the gluten relaxes enough for the next step. Again, the low hydration dough helps because it’s already strong, even with 1-2 hour bench rest.
And then there’s shaping—the bane of my naturally leavened existence. My low hydration dough has now made it possible for me to think about what’s happening inside my dough and what I’m trying to do when I shape. I’m letting my hands feel the gas trapped inside my dough as I pick it up. My hands feel the gas as I gently stretch it and bring both sides to the middle and let the two sides stick together. I gently stretch and pull the top down over the middle and tuck it under itself with a gentle bit of compression. I then gently roll the dough trying to stretch the skin. I let my hands feel the seam as I tuck it under the loaf. I can finally feel that seam. I then use a little cloaking from the bottom and top to stretch the skin and seal the seam. I want my hands to feel the skin and the seam. I want my brain to understand and learn that feel too.