The common point of all these doughs is that their expansion in cooking is due to the gases produced from yeasts’ fermentation.
SOURDOUGH OR YEAST
The choice between the two ingredients – Sourdough or Yeast – is the first choice to make.
Using Sourdough requires appropriate knowledge of this ingredient and a longer production process. Still, on the other hand, you will get a much more digestible product with excellent flavors and a longer shelf-life.
Fresh o dry Yeast allows you to shorten the process and, if used in the correct quantity, it also gives a good result. The secret of having an excellent yeast-leavened product is to use small quantities of Yeast per kilogram of flour and allow long proofing times at low temperatures. In this article, I will better explain how much Yeast to use.
Another difference between the 2 ingredients is the alveoli in the baked product: products prepared with Sourdough, in fact, will have more irregular alveoli, and they are more stable during baking, making the product softer and lighter.
On the contrary, Yeast produces smaller and more regular alveoli; Moreover, they tend to be very delicate. For this reason, if you try to handle a yeast-leavened product during fermentation, it will tend to deflate!
Moreover, alveolation depends on Yeast’s type and the quantity of water used in the recipe (like a bread rich in water, such as a Baguette). Also, the type of flour plays its role. Flour with a good content of proteins and with good extensibility, in fact, will produce a more elastic gluten mesh, which can better support the development of alveoli.
YEAST, PREFERMENTS, AND SOURDOUGH
There are two main types of processing for preparing leavened products:
- The Direct Technique (or single dough) consists of kneading all the ingredients at once. Once ready, the dough will rest to start the fermentation before being baked.
- The Indirect Method (or double doughs), instead, is made of 2 distinct phases. First of all, we make the first dough, and once well ripped (after about 12 hours), we continue the process by adding all the other ingredients of the recipe. However, the first dough’s fermentation time can vary according to the type of dough, the temperature, and Yeast’s quantity.
The Biga (preferment): It is a stiff dough made of water, flour, and Fresh Yeast (1% of the weight of flour), which is generally fermented between 12 and 24 hours at 19°C (6°6F). The proportion between water and flour is about 0,45:1 (450gr of water for 1kg of flour). It is essential to stress that when we use the Biga in a recipe, we always need to add (fresh or dry) Yeast, as the Biga alone is not “strong” enough to ferment the dough. This technique’s typical use is bread and pizza preparation with a proportion of at least 40-50% of flour’s weight. To learn more, learn more about Biga and Poolish and How much Biga to use in Recipes.
Poolish: It is obtained by mixing water and flour in a ratio of 1:1 and Yeast in a variable quantity from 0.1% to 2.5% of the flour’s weight. Yeast’s quantity depends on the fermentation time:
- 0.1% needs 16 hours of fermentation
- 0.5% needs 8 hours of fermentation
- 1.5% needs 3 hours of fermentation
- 2.5% needs 2 hours of fermentation
I always suggest using a poolish prepared with low Yeast to improve the finished product’s digestibility and fragrance.
Moreover, the ideal quantity of Poolish is up to 20-25% of the flour’s weight. In this article, I will explain how to correctly prepare Poolish.
Sourdough: In this case, a good fermentation of the first dough prepared with flour, Yeast, liquids (water and/or eggs), and fat takes about 10-12h at 24-26°C (75°F – 78°F).
During this process, there is a considerable development of yeasts and partial digestion of sugars. According to the sugar and fat quantity in the recipe, Sourdough’s average quantity varies from 200-450gr per kilogram of flour of the first dough. For further discovering Sourdough, I invite you to read my article dedicated to how much Sourdough to use for 1kg of flour.
HOW TO MAKE A LEAVENED PRODUCT
For the preparation of leavened doughs, I suggest using a stand mixer or a professional kneading machine because the kneading process is pretty long.
Suppose you can choose the type of kneading machine. In that case, the first choice is undoubtedly the one with Double Arms for its remarkable capacity to oxygenate the dough and keep its temperature low.
Spiral kneaders are also the right solution. However, this type of machine tends to overheat the dough, thus degrading the gluten mesh.
In fact, the final temperature of a leavened dough should be between 25°C (77°F) and 28°C (82°F).
The development of the gluten mesh is primary for the success of the recipe. For a good dough, in fact, in the first phase of the process, we should mixed flour, Yeast, sugar and gradually add liquids to progressively hydrate the flour. Only when the gluten mesh is formed can we go ahead and add fats and salt; these ingredients, in fact, hinder the formation of gluten.
Once ready, whichever method is used, we have to let the dough rest for 45-60 minutes at room temperature to relax the structure and facilitate the next steps. This phase is called Bulk Fermentation.
After that, the dough is divided, shaped, and let to proof. The proofing duration is mainly regulated by temperature.
A standard proofing temperature is around 28°C – 30°C (82°F – 86°F), and I advise you to keep the dough uncovered and with the surface slightly greased (with oil or butter).
However, to lengthen the proofing time, it is possible to use cold temperature (+4°C, 39°F). Placing the dough in the fridge makes it possible to extend the proofing time up to 10 – 12 hours, favoring development during baking.
Baking leavened doughs require particular attention if you want to succeed.
A leavened product is correctly baked when the heart’s temperature is about 92-96°C (197°F – 205°F). Lengthening the baking time would cause excessive toasting of the product. In contrast, a shorter time could cause the cake’s internal collapse and the formation of mold in very humid products, such as Panettone.
In general, I suggest baking leavened products at medium temperatures around 170-180°C (338°F -356°F), further lowering it for large-sized products up to 150°C (302°F).
A classic oven without a fan is preferable because the fan tends to excessively dry the product. In this case, try to shield the fan if you can’t regulate it.
Once baked, some products such as brioches or croissants are polished when they come out of the oven with a weeping glaze made of powdered sugar and water.
Instead, Panettone and Colomba need to be cooled for 10-12h upside down to avoid the center’s collapse (given the recipe’s richness) and retain the moisture in the ramekin before being packed.