As some of you may remember, several months ago I made my first sour dough starter. From that starter, I have embarked on a tasty journey in bread making. During that journey, I have learned a few valuable lessons which I would like to share with you today. To assist those who may stumble upon my original article, I will also be linking this article to my original posting of Baking with Your Sourdough Starter.
When I first began making bread many years ago, I did it the old-fashioned way and kneaded it by hand. I read that by using this method, it was almost impossible to over-knead your dough. Well, I erroneously carried that belief over to how I prepared my dough using a machine. Once the dough came together, I would let the machine knead the dough for an additional five minutes or more and guess what, I consistently ended-up with a dough that rose very little. Yes, the bread was still very good, but it was not as light and fluffy as I wanted it to be.
The result: I only use the machine until the dough is completely mixed and then I let the machine go for maybe another 30-45 seconds. After that, I shape it into a ball and let it go for its first rise. It took quite some time and research for me to discover this little secret, but since I have started doing this, my dough has not failed to rise.
Next, I was always under the impression that when you are adding the flour, the dough should not be sticky when squeezed; meaning that when you squeeze it, your fingers will come out clean. Now, I would add flour until the dough reached this "dry" consistency and I soon discovered that this was causing the bread to turn-out "heavy". You see, I am constantly working to make sure that my bread will come out as light and fluffy as possible, so once I discovered that more flour meant a heavier bread, I began to research what I needed to do.
It was only few weeks ago that I discovered that the dough is supposed to be sticky. So, over the next few weeks when made the bread, I made sure that the dough ended-up being sticky (meaning that when I handled the dough, it stuck to my fingers). Since I began doing this (along with not over-kneading), my bread has come out lighter and fluffier.
As I continue to make bread every week, I am constantly trying to improve how it turns out and even though I will mess-up every now and then, I will strive to make sure that the dough also rises.