Sunday, January 18, 2009

SFBI: hand-mixing demo

Frank was my instructor at SFBI in January for the Artisan I and Artisan II workshops. Here he does a demo of his favorite hand-mixing method. He likes this method best because it requires almost no effort. He says that even at 95, we should be able to do it. :-)
The photos are stamped Bombance instead of Farine because I first published them here on my French-speaking blog.  For a 2-kg miche, Frank puts in a big bowl:
900 g unbleached bread flour
628 g water @ 78 degrees F (26 C) for a 75% dough hydration rate (levain water included in the calculation)
449 g levain @100 % hydration
22 g salt
1 g instant yeast (he adds some in class to make sure the loaf will be ready to go into the oven as scheduled but at home there is no need to use any)
First he takes the water temperature. Since hand-mixing doesn't heat up the dough as much as a mixer and since the temperature in the lab is 66 F/20 C, he decides that the water temperature needs to be 78 F /25.6 C for a desired dough temperature of 73 to 76 F (22 to 25 C). The levain is at room temperature. When mixing dough at home, it is much less important to calculate the desired dough temperature exactly than in a bakery where fermentation times must be respected and loaves must look as much alike as possible from one day to the other.
Frank weighs the water then adds the levain to it.
He mixes the flour into the water-levain mixture...
...until a dough starts to take shape.
When a rough dough is obtained, he places it on the table...
...and starts hydrating it, a very important step which, in this method, takes the place of the autolyse.

To hydrate the dough, he spreads it on the table with the palm of one hand, then folds it over itself with a dough scraper.
He does that 3 or 4 times.
Then he gathers the dough...

...into a mass which he will stretch and fold (north to south, then east to west, then south to north, then west to east = one fold) for about 10 minutes, taking care to incorporate into the dough the little globs which fly away. There is no need to slap the dough against the counter.
The dough remains very sticky and wet but it relaxes progressively and we can see the gluten chains become more extensible and elastic.

Frank checks the development of the dough by stretching a little piece (gluten window). It is still a bit soft but he is going to let it rest and to fold it three times during the first fermentation (which will last 2 1/2 to 3 hours).
First fold :
The dough has become more stretchable. Frank folds it upon itself like an envelope, north to south, then east to west, then south to north, then west to east, then he sets it back in the bowl.

Last fold: the dough is now strong enough, so the last fold is only a half-one (north to south, then south to north).
The first fermentaion is over. The dough will be put into a big basket heavily sprinkled with a mixture of bran, bread flour and rice flour. The mixing lesson is over.


  1. Hi MC

    Love the notes about SFBI lessons! I'm reading through them. Great work and thanks for letting us know so many about it!

    May I ask a bit more detail about flouring the banneton? What is the ratio of the bran, bread flour and rice flour? Should I use other flour for the banneton if I bake other kinds of breads? e.g. Rye?


  2. Hello, Natalie, and welcome to Farine! I am glad you are enjoing the lessons. I sure did myself!
    I don't know the exact answer to your questions, but I will email Frank and find out.

  3. Hi again, Natalie! Here is Frank's answer:
    "For the banneton, we used equal parts of each type of flour: bran, rice and bread. It is for appearance as well as to prevent sticking.You could just as easily use rice flour by itself and then dust the miche with flour just before baking. It depends on the final appearance you are going for."

  4. Thanks so much for emailing your teacher and helping me find the answer!



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