Jul 22, 2010

Become One with the Dough

The one thing that separates a newbie baker and a master baker is their ability to sense the dough. What I mean is knowing the proper balance of liquid to flour. Oddly as it might seem... If you learn to become one with the dough then you can throw away your measuring cups and scales (to a point) and use your hands.

Many many many beginning bakers become too stressed over perfection. Perfection on measurements, time, and temperature, but the funny fact is that if you learn basic techniques then you've mastered the recipe. Now I will admit when you bake things like cakes or sweet pastries, you might want to be a bit more of a stickler on perfection.

"Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again" -Julia Child

If you are use to savory cooking, you know you can wing a recipe and get away with it. In baking that is not so much, but there are some tricks that you can use! I only use these tricks in bread baking, noodle making, and some easier cookie recipes (such as butter or sugar cookies). The best part is that you don't need a bowl; you can do it right on your counter top.

Dough Volcano:
  1. Measure out your wet ingredients and make your wet mixture.
  2. Add your leavening agents and salt to the wet ingredients. Make sure to measure them correctly! This is very important! If you are making noodles, you can skip this.
  3. Eye-ball the amount of flour in the recipe and dump it on your table. Make it into a volcano and indent a well into the middle.
  4. Pour about an fifth of your of your wet mixture into the middle. 
  5. Swoosh your finger (in the middle area) around and mix it with the flour that falls from the sides.
  6. Repeat step 4 & 5 until you have used all of your wet mixture and have a sustainable dough (not too runny) . You can add more flour if need be to get the texture that your recipe has described. (ex: tacky >  not sticky, ect)
  7. Knead the dough according to your recipe.  

    • Make sure not to destroy your volcano. It will take a while for you to develop a dough, but it sure beats just eyeballing and throwing flour and water into a bowl. 
    • Your volcano will start to fall apart. No problem! Just pat it and push it inwards! It will bread sooner or later. If your mixture in the middle is sustainable, then go ahead and start kneading.
    Hopefully this has helped you feel the dough. By using my technique you will have flawless creations (or at least close!). The real benefit of using this technique is that you will have a pretty close proportion of flour to wet mixture. It's also good when you are rigging your own recipe!

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