Mixing Part 2 (and the crumb from my last ambient bake).
I always used to wonder, “How long should I mix for?” I’m learning that it’s just up to me. I can just barely mix my dough together, and let time develop the gluten. For me, right now, I like to mix to where my gluten is well developed.
I like to “pull a window” sometimes, though I don’t always remember to do this. You can’t pull a good window right after you mix your dough. It’s best to let it relax for 5-10 minutes first. Your gluten is well developed if you can stretch a piece of your dough until it’s really thin and doesn’t break and make a hole (even if you poke at it). I like to get close to this point, but if I don’t, time will develop the gluten on its own during the bulk proof.
My current goal during mixing is to learn when my gluten is well developed by using my hands and my eyes. I do a lot of scooping and stretching my dough when I mix (the Rubaud way). With each scoop and stretch, my hands can really feel the gluten develop. It starts feeling smooth and even. I turn my bowl while mixing, so I can scoop and stretch around the whole dough.
I also use my eyes. A lot. I like to watch the top of my dough as I stretch it. It starts to get a nice smooth and almost shiny look to it. As I mix, I can see my dough start to change, to almost tear. It’s hard to describe this change, but it’s there. It can be subtle. I now stop immediately when I see this change and let my dough rest. I used to rest it for 10 minutes, but with this low hydration dough I’ve been letting it relax for 15 minutes before I start my scooping and stretching again. I usually only rest it once during mixing, but sometimes twice.
Every once in a while, it seems that my dough just doesn’t want to come together. I’m not yet really sure why. I was just talking to @chefchrisday about this very thing. I’m hoping now that I’m more present (especially with my hands and eyes) that this won’t happen to me anymore. As I think about it, I bet I overmixed my dough and should have let it rest more.
And I’m always thinking, “Be gentle. Respect the dough.”