Many of us who had made baked goods had probably worked with dough that kept springing back to its original size when we wanted to roll it out.
My article aims to explain what makes a dough challenging to stretch and shape, and how to solve this issue.
The dough may spring back while rolling out for the following reasons: • Insufficient hydration: There is not enough water in the dough, so it is too stiff and difficult to shape. • In dough that has not rested for long enough, the gluten is tight, so it springs back. • Doughs made from flours with a high gluten content are too elastic and therefore difficult to stretch. • Overworking the dough leads to overdevelopment of the gluten and also results in dough that is difficult to roll out.
A well-made dough is sufficiently elastic and extensible at the same time, these two properties must be in balance. A dough that is too elastic keeps springing back, so it is difficult to shape and will probably tear in the process. On the other hand, overly extensible dough that shows no resistance during shaping has a poor structure and will not hold its shape.
The stretchability of leavened dough
Hydration of the dough is important
Water is an important component of leavened dough. When the glutenin and gliadin proteins in flour are mixed with water, they form gluten, which develops into a complex network. This gluten network provides the structure of the dough.
Hydration is the amount of water proportional to the flour. Hydration of around 60% (60g of water for 100g of flour) results in a dry and hard dough. Some doughs, such as ciabatta, can be up to 90% hydrated. It is difficult for gluten to develop in dough made with too little or too much water. You can also use milk or fermented dairy products instead of water when making the dough.
Another important role of water in the dough is to activate the enzymes in the flour. Protease enzymes are of great importance for the stretchability of dough, as they partially break down the gluten. This makes the dough more relaxed and easier to stretch.
The effect of ambient conditions on dough hydration
The recipes usually specify precisely the amount of flour and water needed for the dough, but in each case, we must take into account the conditions prevailing in our own kitchen.
If you live in a dry climate, you will probably need to use a little more water, while in high-humidity areas, you may need less to get a good dough consistency.
The stretchability of the dough also depends on the type of flour
Doughs made from flours with a high gluten content are highly elastic, which causes them to bounce back and make them difficult to shape. The gluten content of bread flour is usually high, around 14%. All-purpose flour, which has a protein content of around 11%, is more suitable for making bread dough. Flours with a higher gluten content require more water in order to make well-stretchable products from them.
The protein content of wheat depends on the growing conditions of the plant and the geographical location. Wheat that is grown in dry soil usually contains more protein, but this can vary from season to season. However, the quality of the protein mostly depends on the genetic characteristics of the wheat.
The type of flour also affects the mixing time of the dough. Whole wheat flours need to be mixed longer because of the sharp bran particles that damage the gluten strands.
Flours with a high gluten content require a longer mixing time than those with less protein. Enriched doughs also require longer mixing times due to the added butter and sugar, as these ingredients make it harder for gluten to form.
The overmixed dough is also difficult to roll out
Overworking the dough with manual kneading is almost impossible, this is more of a mistake associated with the use of high-performance kneading machines. Overdeveloped gluten makes the dough hard and stiff, making it difficult to roll out.
Stand mixers with a dough hook such as Kenwood Chef, or hand mixers with kneading spirals can make mixing dough easier. However, be careful to mix the dough moderately and avoid overdeveloping the gluten. Mixing for too long eventually breaks down the gluten, causing the dough to become sticky and lose its strength.
How can we prevent the dough from bouncing back?
You can try autolysis
Autolysis means that the entire amount of flour and water required for the dough is mixed in advance and left to stand for 20-60 minutes. During this time, the flour hydrates and the gluten develops without mixing.
After the resting time, add the hydrated yeast or sourdough and the salt. It should be noted that the kneading time is shorter when you use autolysis.
Autolysis is a method often used and recommended by professional bakers, which results in a dough that can be stretched more easily. However, it is important to note that this method can only be used with flour made from gluten-containing grains.
Let the dough rest after kneading
During mixing or kneading, a gluten network develops in the dough, which gives the dough structure. Freshly developed gluten is elastic, which means it springs back.
In order for the dough to become extensible, we need to let it rest for about 15-20 minutes. During this time, the gluten relaxes. However, every time you degas or fold the dough, the gluten in it tightens again. After each manipulation, the dough must be allowed to rest so that it can be rolled out.
So if your dough resists shaping, let it rest for another 15 minutes and then it will become extensible again.
The stretchability of some non-leavened dough types
Just as in the case of leavened doughs, gluten provides the structure of puff pastry, filo, and pasta dough. Since these doughs can also spring back when we want to stretch them, they must also be rested for at least 15 minutes before rolling out.
• One of the possible reasons why the dough is difficult to roll out is if you used too little water to prepare it, or if you chose flour with too high a protein content. • As a result of mixing, gluten develops in the dough, which is elastic when fresh and causes the dough to spring back. In such cases, it must be rested in order to become stretchable. • Overworked dough is also difficult to roll out. Over-kneading rarely occurs when making dough by hand, it is more likely to be caused by the use of mixers.
It is worth trying different types of flour, as well as experimenting with the hydration of the dough, the preparation technique, and the resting time. This way you can find out what works best for you.