Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Not Too Hot, Not too Cold: Controlling Dough Temperature.


One thing I learned during my gluten free bread baking adventures is to keep an eye on the temperature of the dough. One of the most important skills a baker must learn is the ability to accurately control dough temperature. The benefits are clear and immediate: more consistency in fermentation, in bread flavor, and more predictability in the overall product. When you are baking gluten free bread and want to get consistency in your end product, you need to control the temperature of your dough. The quality of my bread really improved once I learned how to adjust the amount and temperature of the water to control some characteristics of the dough.

Temperature controls the yeast’s release of carbon dioxide.

Bread yeasts attain an optimum growth temperature in the mid-90°F range. One might think, therefore, that in order to favor yeast development, we should aim for bread dough in the mid-90s. This high temperature, however, would be at the expense of flavor development through the production of organic acids, which requires considerably lower temperatures. In general, doughs should be between 75°F and 78°F at the end of mix time. Some exceptions to this guideline are naturally leavened breads that will ferment in a retarder, which could have a slightly lower dough temperature; and sourdough breads, which benefit from a dough temperature in the low to mid 80s.

With the table below, relatively small temperature differences have a big effect on the yeast’s reaction.

60.8°F – 71.6°F
Slow reaction
80.6°F
Normal reaction
89.6°F – 100.4°F
Fast reaction
136.4°F +
Yeast destroyed

A few degrees difference in dough temperature can change the duration of the primary fermentation or the final proofing a lot. When baking bread with regular active dried yeast, the optimum (for speed alone) temperature is just over 27ºC/80ºF. Much hotter and the activity of the yeast declines. Above 35C/95F the yeast is effectively dormant or dead. The bacterial activity peaks at 34C/93F, so some bakers choose to ferment at 32C/90F to get a sourer bread. At 21C/70F the activity of the yeast has roughly halved, so the fermentation will take twice as long. The right temperature is the single most critical variable.


The temperature of the water controls the temperature of the dough.

Some recipes tell you to ferment the dough in a place that’s of a certain temperature which is helpful but what’s equally important, for controlling how quickly the dough ferments, is the temperature of the dough.

The factors that influence dough temperature are:
  • air temperature
  • flour temperature
  • water temperature
  • the temperature resulting from the action of mixing (friction factor)
  • preferment temperature (if you're using one)

After figuring these, we can simply and quickly establish the correct water temperature (the only variable over which we have control). The temperature of the first two factors is easily measured by using a thermometer.

The fourth factor, the friction factor refers to the amount of heat generated by the friction caused by the action of the dough hook and bowl on the dough. Some factors that affect the amount of friction generated during mixing are the type of mixer being used, the length of mix time, mixing speeds used, and the quantity of dough that is in the machine. Determining the friction factor for your mixer can be difficult indeed. It is the most difficult variable to quantify in the calculation of desired dough temperature. Once the friction factor has been established, the necessary water temperature can be calculated.


How to calculate the friction factor:

  1. Prior to making the dough, note the exact temperature of the room, flour, and water.
  2. After the dough is made, note the dough's temperature.
  3. Since we are dealing with three factors that affect the dough temperature; the temperatures of the room, flour, and water, multiply the dough temperature by three.
  4. Next subtract the flour, room and water temperatures from the sum of dough temperature multiplied by three. The result is the energy or heat of the friction generated.
  5. If using a preferment, multiply the dough by four, since there are four factors involved.
For example:

CALCULATING FRICTION FACTOR
Straight Dough
With Preferment
Actual Dough Temperature (after mixing)
78°F
80°F
Multiplication Factor
x
3
x
4
TOTAL TEMPERATURE FACTOR (TTF)
=
234
=
320
Minus Flour Temperature
71°
68°
Minus Room Temperature
73°
68°
Minus Water Temperature
66°
85°
Minus Preferment Temperature
71°
FRICTION FACTOR
=
24°
=
28°

Of all the factors that influence dough temperature, i.e. room, flour, water, and friction, the temperature of the water is the controlling factor in regulating the temperature of the dough.

How to calculate the required water temperature:


  1. Prior to making the dough, note the exact temperature of the room, the flour, and the friction factor. 
  2. Also, note the desired dough temperature. 
  3. Since we are working with three factors; the temperature of the room, the flour, and the friction factor, multiply the desired dough temperature by three. 
  4. Next subtract the flour, room and friction from the sum of desired dough temperature multiplied by three. The result is the required water temperature.
  5. If using a preferment, multiply the dough by four, since there are four factors involved.
For example:


CALCULATING WATER TEMPERATURE
Straight Dough
With Preferment
Desired Dough Temperature (DDT)
76°F
75°F
Multiplication Factor
x
3
x
4
TOTAL TEMPERATURE FACTOR (TTF)
=
228
=
300
Minus Flour Temperature
72°
68°
Minus Room Temperature
74°
68°
Minus Preferment Temperature


71°
Minus Friction Factor
24°
26°
WATER TEMPERATURE
=
58°
=
67°

Practical Tips for Consistency


You can reach and keep the temperature of your dough with the following techniques:
  • Invest in a good digital thermometer, one that is stable and fast.
  • Use hot water in the winter or cold water in the summer to get the dough to the right temperature.
  • The temperature of the water depends of the temperature of your room and the temperature of the other ingredients.
  • Try to keep the dough at a stable temperature. Try putting a bowl of dough on top of the oven covered with a tea towel and on top of a folded towel. Also a preheated and switched off oven to about 30ºC (use a thermometer to measure the inside temperature as your dial on the oven will probably not be very helpful) will work great.
  • Some people build their own proofing cabinet, using an old refrigerator or kitchen cabinet. With the help of a 40W or 100W light bulb on the bottom of the cabinet (heat rises from bottom to top!) you can easily heat the inside of your cabinet. You can use a simple mechanical thermostat to switch the bulb on and off to control the temperature.
  • When you do not have the means to control the environment temperature of your dough, in summer you can make your dough a few degrees colder and in winter a bit hotter to compensate for the rise or decline in temperature.


Temperature control is one of the fundamental issues in the production of quality bread. The baker who manages temperature well and manages time well, will produce a consistent bread from one day to another, and has enormous control over the flavors and textures of his or her breads. Ladies and gentlemen, start your thermometers!

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