What is it and why is it important to be aware of it?
We often have questions about how to achieve a good amount of burst during baking. Although this can be contributed to by a number of different points such as recipe and process, one of the most significant areas that affects burst during baking is dough tension.
Not convinced? Well we decided to do an experiment to demonstrate the effects of dough tension on the dough. In our experience, achieving the correct amount of dough tension during moulding is critical to achieve good volume and crumb structure in the final loaf.
So time for the experiment. For this we used a standard bulk fermentation recipe which you can find in our recipe section. The dough was mixed and then processed. A total of 60 minutes bulk fermentation and then dough was scaled off at 500g each and proved at ambient for 2 hours. The only difference between the two dough's was the amount of tension we gave during moulding. On the first dough we gave the correct amount of moulding pressure. On the second dough, we lightly moulded it before final prove.
So as the results show, the bread with the normal amount of dough tension has more volume and open uniformed crumb, which would be expected from this recipe. The bread with less dough tension is much lower in volume, and the crumb is dense. Both breads from exactly the same dough and baked for the same time and temperature.
How is this helpful?
Well as we said before, we have many questions from new bakers about why bread doesn't turn out they way they wanted. Generally the comments are about low volume and a dense crumb. Achieving the correct amount of dough tension during moulding is critical to getting more volume in the final bread. We like to refer to it as an elastic band. As you mould your dough, you add tension to the outside, a little bit like pulling back an elastic band. When the tension is correct, the tension converts during baking into a bolder loaf with more volume, which allows the crumb structure to be more open. If you imagine an elastic band where you didn't add tension to it, it would not fly very far when you let it go. Similar principle in your dough.
Other important points
However, there is also a possibility where you can add too much tension to the dough. This can lead to the dough ripping during moulding, and damaging the crumb structure in softer dough's such as sourdoughs, baguettes, ciabatta and so on. So it is important that you use your experience of working with your dough to ensure you achieve the correct balance of tension, but don't damage the internal crumb. There are methods to achieve this in softer dough's.
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