How can I make this very low hydration bread more home baker friendly?

  • How can I make this very low hydration bread more home baker friendly? Julio

    The recipe is something like that:

    • 400g of flour
    • 180g of water
    • 2g of yeast
    • 7g of salt

    Part of the flour and water can be used to prepare a biga or a poolish, let's ignore that to keep it simple.

    Kneading everything for 8-10 minutes, which is not too much for this low hydration (45%) will result in a dough that will not pass any gluten test. To develop the gluten, the only way is to roll it down, bend it and roll it down again. For about 20 minutes. Then it rests only for 1h and it's baked.

    Kneading could be done in a bread machine; what I really want to do is to develop the gluten in a more efficient way. With so little water, more time will not help as with the kneadless bread recipe. How can this

    By the way, this bread is very common in the center of Spain, where is known as pan blanco or pan candeal and it's famous for it's dense crumb.

  • An even, dense crumb is going to be partly developed by the kneading process (and partly by the low moisture). If you want that character in the final loaf, the method probably can't change too much. You should be able to develop some gluten by leaving it to sit a few extra hours. However, this type of passive development lends itself more to an uneven, airy crumb. So it's a trade-off between some longer, passive time with possibility of a slightly different texture resulting or shorter, active time. I guess it depends what your priority is -- ease of making or character of the loaf.

    There are also compounds that can increase gluten production and are not uncommon in commercial breads. Using a bit of fava bean or soy bean flour can apparently facilitate the gluten production in a more natural way, but I have no idea how much you need to add nor how it will affect flavour.

    I recommend reading this nice explanation about gluten development.

  • A trick is to not ignore the biga/poolish stage and use the end of that stage to develop the gluten.

    After you've let the biga sit, hold back about a third of the remaining flour and let your machine do the work of kneading the bread for as long as you feel will work for you. The dough should be normal to a little wet at this point. When you have the gluten really developed, then add the rest of the flour and work it in, by hand if you need to.

    You won't fully develop the gluten that is available in the final flour, but you also will have forearms that don't ache.

baking bread
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