Breadtopia recently published a blog that I wrote describing a bread experiment I did and its surprising results. I’ve now repeated the study on a different wheat and had even more unexpected results.
In both experiments, I tested the impact on a sourdough bread of the dough development techniques of autolysing and stretching and folding. I made two identical doughs, but I applied the techniques to one, while the other dough got the “no knead” treatment. The starter was added at the same time, and the breads were baked simultaneously in identical dutch ovens.
You can click on the photo above to read about the Breadtopia experiment and results, and to see more photos, including crumb comparisons.
In doing the experiment for Breadtopia, I brainstormed opportunities for further investigation. Specifically, I realized that the conclusions I drew could only be applied to the specific conditions of the study: the Breadtopia Select bolted flour, the long mid-70s Fahrenheit bulk fermentation (room temp, small percentage of starter), and the long refrigerated final proof.
Since then, I’ve repeated the study using a different flour: whole grain Einkorn, which is known for its lack of gluten formation.
My hypothesis was that the autolyse and stretching and folding would have a more positive impact on a dough made of this type of wheat.
I was wrong.
As you can see in the photos below, the bread on the right — the No Knead dough — had significantly more dough strength and oven spring.
These doughs were also fermented with more starter than in the Breadtopia experiment, and thus had a faster bulk, which I had hypothesized would make gluten development interventions more positively impactful.
Ingredients per bread
450g whole grain Einkorn flour
9g salt (1.5 tsp)
Here are photos of the process with timing info. The room temperature was 69-70F.
I ended the bulk fermentation 6.5 hours after the starter was added. You can see that the stretch and fold dough (S&F) on left has more popped bubbles, but otherwise they look about the same.
The differences became apparent when I scraped them onto the counter and preshaped them. The S&F dough was floppier to handle, and during the bench rest, it spread across the counter.
The doughs were shaped and in bannetons by 4:00pm and they proofed in the refrigerator for 3 hours and then at room temperature for another 45 minutes. (I marked the outside of the S&F basket and kept it on the left.)
From these results, it would appear that manipulating the Einkorn dough harmed rather than helped the development of gluten. Again, these results apply to this particular wheat, in its whole-meal state, and at this speed of fermentation. It is possible that I should have stopped the fermentation earlier, and perhaps the S&F dough would have been stronger. Or maybe if I’d only done 1-2 rounds of stretching and folding, S&F might have beat No Knead in strength.
While there are countless variables that impact the outcome of the bread, I think it’s safe to conclude that the gluten structure of a whole grain Einkorn bread is best built with minimal-to-no dough manipulation.
So, a shout out to breadnerds: As with any experiment, true conclusions can only be made if other scientists do the experiment, too, and have similar results. I encourage others to try a No Knead vs. S&F experiment and report on your results. You can tag me on Instagram @enunaveleta or let me know about your experiment in the comments below.