There are several phases in the production of dough, each of which has an equally important role in producing high-quality bakery products. Resting the dough after kneading is one of these phases, but why is it necessary?
We need to let the dough rest after kneading so that the gluten developed during mixing relaxes, which makes the dough easy to stretch and shape. It usually takes 10-15 minutes of rest for the gluten to relax. Doughs that require resting include yeast doughs, puff pastry, and filo dough. For types of dough that contain a significant amount of fat - mostly butter - resting is also important so that the fat remains cold and solid in them. Therefore, flaky pie crust, puff pastry and shortcrust dough must be rested in the fridge.
Doughs that have not been rested after kneading spring back when you try to stretch or shape them. Properly rested dough is more likely to keep its shape during baking.
What is gluten and why is it important?
Gluten is a complex protein, consisting of glutenin and gliadin. It is found in wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and flours made from these grains. Gluten is an elastic substance that can bind water. It makes the dough stretchable and pliable. It, therefore, plays a vital role in all types of dough that need to be shaped.
The hard wheat varieties from which bread flour is made have a high gluten content. The soft wheat used for cake flour has a low gluten content.
In order to understand why the dough needs to rest, we need to know what happens during kneading. For the leavened dough, kneading has several important functions:
- Mixing the ingredients. Flour absorbs moisture and hydrates
- A network of gluten strands develops in the dough and provides its structure.
- During the dough mixing, the yeast also hydrates and starts the fermentation.
The first rising phase of leavened dough after kneading is also called bulk fermentation. During this time, the gluten developed during mixing becomes relaxed. The carbon dioxide produced by the yeast doubles the volume of the dough. The gluten structure is what makes the dough resistant to the stretching caused by the carbon dioxide gas. It’s also important to degas the dough in order to get rid of some of the carbon dioxide and refresh the gluten structure to prevent it from collapsing.
Then comes the second rising period of the dough, also known as proofing. Related to this, I recently wrote an article about why dough should rise twice.
Although the gluten relaxes during the resting, each subsequent manipulation of the dough will result in the gluten structure being tightened again. Therefore, the dough may be difficult to shape as it does not stretch, but springs back to its original size.
In such cases, we must give the dough another 10-15 minute rest period so that the gluten relaxes again and shaping becomes possible.
Shortcrust pastry (pie dough)
Shortcrust pastry has a high fat content, mostly butter, like the Linzer dough traditionally used in Austrian and Hungarian confectionery. Instead of butter, pie dough is sometimes made with margarine or even lard, or a mixture of these.
While mixing the shortcrust pastry, the fat encloses the flour grains and prevents the hydration and development of the gluten. This makes the texture of the dough crumbly.
The shortcrust pastry must rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes after kneading so that the butter in it hardens, otherwise, it will not be possible to stretch and shape it well.
Pasta, puff pastry, and filo dough
The gluten strands formed in the dough during kneading are elastic and therefore resistant to shaping. After kneading, it is very important to rest the gluten in order to get a dough that can be easily stretched and shaped. Unrelaxed gluten strands will tear.
This applies not only to the leavened dough, but to all types that need to be rolled out or shaped, such as puff pastry, pasta, and filo dough. These types of dough need to rest after each subsequent stretching and folding, as well as before baking, otherwise, they will shrink in the oven.
When the dough is kneaded, the ingredients are mixed and the gluten is developed. Since gluten is elastic, it makes stretching and shaping the dough impossible. Therefore, after kneading, the dough needs a short rest in order for the gluten to relax and the dough to become moldable.
The resting phase after kneading is equally important in the preparation of leavened dough, pasta, puff pastry, filo dough, and shortcrust pastry.