The bakers’ jargon demystified

Autolyse

In bread baking the term autolyse is used to describe the period of rest after the mixing phase of flour and water. This 30 minutes rest period is recommended to reduce the kneading time; this is also improving the flavour and the colour of bread. The effect on the colour of bread is indirect. Since the autolyse reduce the kneading time, the natural pigments contained in the dough (carotenoids) are not bleached by the oxygen during the kneading. This results in a better color of your baked loaf.

Diastatic malt

Diastatic malt powder is the “secret ingredient” savvy bread bakers use to promote a strong rise, great texture, and lovely brown crust. It’s a completely natural product made from sprouted Barley or Wheat, dried and grinded.

Diastatic malt powder contains sugar breaking active enzymes (mainly amylase). The amylase enzyme in diastatic malt powder breaks down starches into sugars, thus helping with rise, crust and crumb texture.

You can find flours that already contains diastatic malt, or you can add it to your usual flour (0.5-0.8% in weight).

Gluten network

Gluten is a mixture of proteins that can be found in wheat, barley, rye and oat. It is important in baking because it gives elasticity to your dough, helping the rise and the shape of you loaf. The gluten creates a network within the dough and it traps the gases produced during fermentation causing the dough to rise.

The flours used for baking bread should be then rich in gluten. The gluten network develops during the kneading phase. A flour is defined “strong” when it contains a high percentage of proteins (gluten).

High hydration

With the term hydration we mean how much water there is in a given amount of flour, or the ratio of water to flour weight. So a 100% hydration dough is made by an equal quantity (weight) of flour and water.

We have a high hydration dough when the hydration is 75% or more. E.g. 1 kg of flour and 750 ml of water.

Slap and fold

Slap and fold is a kneading technique, it consists in “slapping” the dough on the working surface, stretching and folding it over to help developing the gluten network and to “trap” air into the dough. The slap and fold must be done after the autolyse’s 30 minutes rest.

Stretch and fold

Similar to the slap and fold, but in this case you leverage the stickiness of the dough to stretch it and fold it over. I personally use this technique after the slap and fold, when the dough is much less sticky than at the beginning of the process.

Tension pull

This is a way to increase the tension of the dough surface: to do that, cup your hands around the dough and gently drag it towards you in a way that the edge closest to you sticks to the board and is dragged under the dough. Then rotate the dough and repeat.

A small video explains better this technique.

Tension pull

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