Yeast Dough

Grasp the dough and bring it toward you.

Flip the dough, then form a fist and push the dough away with your knuckles.

Q Repeat the process until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Rounding dough provides it with a skin to prevent the loss of too much carbon dioxide. Some formulas call for the dough to be folded over during rounding. This provides a kind of second punching after dividing. If the dough is not rounded, it will rise and bake unevenly, with a lumpy or rough surface.

When you round, perform each of the subsequent actions, such as shaping and panning, in the same order, so that the dough ferments consistently. The first portion rounded should also be the first piece to be shaped, and so on.

Bench Rest

Depending on the formula, at this time the rounded portions may need to be placed in bench boxes or left covered on the work bench. A bench box is a covered container in which dough can be placed before shaping. This short, intermediate proofing stage, called a bench rest, allows the gluten to relax. The dough becomes lighter, softer, and easier to shape.

Shaping Dough

Once the portions have been properly rounded and, if necessary, rested, they must be shaped. Shaping forms the dough into the distinctive shapes associated with yeast products.

Some general principles apply to the shaping process:

• Work Quickly Fermentation continues during shaping. Cover the portions you are not working with to prevent them from drying out.

• Shape Pieces in Order Start with the first piece you rounded. Keep the same order to ensure consistency.

• Use Very Little Flour A dusting of flour on your hands and the work surface will keep the dough from sticking. Too much will dry it out.

• Place Any Seam at the Bottom Seams, or the places where edges of the dough meet, should be straight and tight. The seam is the weakest part of the piece. Seams can open during baking and ruin the product's shape.

• Shaping Loaves Although bread loaves come in a wide variety of textures and tastes, there are essentially two ways to shape dough into loaves. Pan loaves are rolled and placed, seam down, into prepared loaf pans. In baking, loaves receive their characteristic shape from the support offered by the high sides of the loaf pans. Free-form loaves, such as braided loaves and artisan breads, are shaped by hand. They are baked, seam side down, on flat pans, and they can be baked directly on a hearth.

• Shaping Rolls Yeast rolls are like individually portioned loaves. Shape rolls with the same care used to shape loaves. This will produce items with an attractive, even surface and uniform size. Depending on the formula, rolls may be shaped and baked on flat sheets, like free-form loaves. They may also be placed in special pans that offer additional structure during baking. Cloverleaf and butterflake rolls, for example, are baked in greased muffin pans. Brioche (bre-'6sh) rolls, like brioche loaves, are baked in special fluted tins. Pan rolls, Parker House rolls, and knots are baked on flat sheets or in shallow baking pans.

When you pan rolls, allow enough room between the rolls to ensure even browning. Avoid crowding. Most formulas indicate how many rolls will fit on a sheet and how they should be placed.

Panning Dough

Shaped dough is ready for panning, or placing in the correct type of pan. Pizza is sometimes shaped directly on the pan. Other breads are shaped on the bench. Each formula specifies the size and type of pan to be used and indicates how the pan should be prepared. In general, pans dusted with cornmeal are used for baking lean doughs. The cornmeal keeps the baked product from sticking to the pan. It does not change the flavor. Sheet pans that have been lined with parchment or lightly greased are used for soft medium doughs.

Final Proofing

The final fermentation stage for regular yeast dough items is called final proofing. Proofing allows the leavening action of yeast to achieve its final strength before yeast cells are killed by hot oven temperatures. Yeast dough items are proofed once they have been shaped and panned.

Final proofing requires higher temperatures and humidity levels than fermentation—temperatures of 85°F to 95°F (29°C to 35°C) and humidity levels of 80% to 90%. The use of a proofer is essential to maintain these conditions.

The length of the final proofing time depends on the type of dough. Most doughs are fully proofed when finger pressure leaves an indentation that closes slowly around the center but does not collapse. Fully proofed items are slightly less than double in size.

Proofing time is shortened for rich and sweet doughs. This is done to keep the weight of the heavier dough from collapsing during baking. Some other items, such as rye breads, are also deliberately underproofed. Under-proofed dough is known as young dough. Overproofed dough, or dough that has more than doubled in size during final proofing, is called old dough.

Washing, Slashing, and Docking

Many yeast dough products require special additional preparations before baking. These preparations, called washing, slashing, and docking, affect the baking quality and eye appeal of the finished items.

Washing Applying a thin glaze of liquid to the dough's surface before baking is called washing. Depending on the type of item and the wash used, washing can lighten or darken the crust's color, and make the surface shiny and glossy. (See Figure 27.2 on page 721 for different types of washes and how they affect baked goods.)

Continue reading here: A Braided Loaf

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