Friday, 6 September 2013

The Twelve Stages of Dough Making.

Becoming familiar with each stage of bread dough making means that you can be prepared for what to expect and how to compensate when baking gluten free. Having this knowledge divided into steps allows you to develop each stage specifically for gluten free without it all being too overwhelming. We already have so many other things to compensate and remember for gluten free bread baking and by following steps keeps it all manageable.

Stage 1: Scaling or Measuring

Scaling is the exact measurement of all ingredients and the French term, mise-en-place, applies to having all the ingredients scaled or prepped and ready before starting production.
It is important to accurately measure your ingredients by weight, as bread baking all comes down to science. Just the right amount of each ingredient will produce the desired result.
Measuring can be done by weight using a scale and with spoon measures for small amounts. When measuring liquids, make sure the liquid measuring cup is stationary and on a flat surface. Take the reading from the bottom of the meniscus (the curved upper surface of the liquid). Flour will settle and compact as it sits. Make sure to whisk flour before spooning it into the scale bowl.

Stage 2: Mixing and Kneading

Mixing involves combining and evenly distributing all the ingredients either by hand or by machine in proper sequence to form the bread dough, which is then further kneaded.
Kneading or working the dough by hand or by machine further disperses the ingredients and helps finish the mixing process. Kneading gives the bread structure by helping to develop gluten. This is still a relevant task for gluten free dough. By a small amount of pushing and pulling on a gluten free dough, works the binder and the proteins and starches within the gluten free flours, thus stretching and strengthening the dough, which in turn will help trap air bubbles formed during fermentation, allowing the bread to rise.
When hand-kneading the dough, it is best to reserve 1/3 cup (80 mL) of the flour from the recipe for this purpose. Doing so should help reduce the risk of adding too much flour when kneading, which will result in a denser loaf. To knead, flatten the dough by pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand. Then pull and fold the dough’s far edge back over itself. Turn dough a quarter turn and repeat until dough is smooth and even-textured.

Stage 3: Primary Fermentation

Primary fermentation, also known as the first rise, is the process whereby the dough is allowed to relax while the yeast grows and reproduces. This stage helps barely cohesive bread dough become more manageable – the yeast cells produce carbon dioxide, which diffuses into the dough's air pockets, slowly inflating and raising it as a result. This is also where most of the bread's flavor is developed from the flour fermenting.
At this point the dough can be left at room temperature if it is to be baked that day. The dough has sufficiently raised when it has doubled in size, and if you poke it, you leave a deep impression in the dough.
Or it can be retarded; that is, the fermentation period can be extended in a cool environment, usually a refrigerator. Doughs that have been retarded for twelve to twenty-four hours generally have more complex flavors. There is also a noticeable build up of natural acidity, which helps extend shelf life.

Stage 4: Punching Down

Punching down or deflating the dough, also called turning, refers to the general deflating of the dough mass by either gently pushing down or folding the dough, not hitting it as implied. The purpose is twofold, to increase the strength and tolerance of the gluten and to de-gas the dough prior to scaling. This is an important step to ensure the dough does not overproof. If overproofed, gluten will stretch to the point of breaking and dough will collapse, no longer able to hold pockets of carbon dioxide. The resulting loaf will be quite dense. After punching, the dough is allowed to rest before moving on to the next step.

Stage 5: Scaling

Scaling is cutting and weighing individual pieces of dough, which will become the actual loaves of bread. When you divide your dough into equal pieces you want to take care not to overwork the dough, because you will deflate it and it will have a negative effect on its overall rise.

Stage 6: Rounding

Rounding occurs once the dough has been scaled. Each piece is gently shaped into a round ball creating surface tension before moving on to the next step. This rounding allows uniformity in subsequent steps. Rounding also serves to build strength into the dough.

Stage 7: Benching

Benching is allowing the dough pieces to rest, anywhere from ten minutes to an hour at room temperature to overnight, if placed in the refrigerator to help retard the bread's rise. The time varies with each type of bread and with the amount of leavening used. During this time, the protein strands in the dough will relax, helping make the dough more extensible or be able to stretch more easily without tearing, when the bread loaf goes through its final shaping. Clean, dry towels or an oiled side down piece of plastic wrap placed over the dough during this period prevent a dry crust from forming on the dough.

Stage 8: Shaping

Shaping is forming the individual pieces of dough into their final shapes, free-form loaf, pan loaf, dinner rolls, and so forth. Shaping also forms the dough for optimal rise and containment. It is also the last chance to build strength into a loaf. The goal is to shape the dough without popping valuable air bubbles, losing carbon dioxide or tearing the protein strands in it.

Stage 9: Proofing

Proofing, also referred to as the final rise or secondary or final fermentation , allows the dough to rise one last time before baking. The yeast is still alive and continues to leaven the dough. Proofing generally takes place in a warm, draft-free environment either at room temperature or in a proof box, where temperature and humidity are controlled. At this point shaped loaves can be retarded for twelve to twenty-four hours and baked at a later time.

Stage 10: Baking

Baking is the actual cooking of the bread. When the dough is put in the hot oven, it undergoes oven spring, one last push of the yeast to make the dough rise. The actual temperature and time depend on the oven type (deck, rotary, convection, rack, and so forth) and the use of steam, although yeast breads are generally baked at a high temperature. Also temperatures and times will vary for different types of breads.
Just before baking, some breads need to be slashed, scored or cut to help release some of the trapped gas that could cause the bread to bake unevenly. It also promotes proper oven spring and creates an attractive look. In baking the bread, three vital reactions occur: the gelatinization of the starches, the caramelization of the sugars, and the coagulation and roasting of the proteins, all of which combine to create a delicious loaf of bread.

Stage 11: Cooling

Cooling begins when the finished bread is removed from the oven. The bread cools completely before it is packaged or sliced. Cooling racks are usually nothing more than wire shelves that allow air circulation on all four sides of the bread. Even breads baked in or on pans are quickly removed to a cooling rack so the bread bottoms do not become soggy from continued steaming. While nothing beats warm bread, it is advised to let your bread cool completely to room temperature before cutting. As it cools, bread will evaporate moisture, drying out slightly, which will intensify its flavour. Trapped steam will evaporate off the crust or be absorbed by the crumb of the bread, resulting in a moist crumb and crunchy crust.

Stage 12: Storing

Storing prevents the staling or starch retrogradation that begins as soon as the bread is removed from the oven. To preserve their thin, crisp crusts, some breads are best not packaged (lean breads in particular), but modern baking and distribution practices require many bakers to do so. Once a loaf has been put into a bag, the staling process is somewhat slowed down and the crust becomes soft. Wrapping and freezing help maintain quality for a longer period of time. Refrigeration, on the other hand, speeds up staling.


  1. Wow, Samantha, you have been creating a great resource for people who want to learn about gluten-free bread making! This blog is fabulous!

  2. Thanks Gina! I think its needed out there now. Gluten free bread making has changed so much and there is no source of this information so I thought right I get the ball rolling and dived into two years worth of collected and studied info and created this blog! And there's still plenty to come!

  3. Yes, Samantha, it's KNEADED out here! Wow, your bread looks soooo good !! Thanks!