I bought a NutriMill Artiste stand mixer and am considering not only incorporating the flour, water, salt, and levain but subsequently kneading the dough after autolyse instead of performing stretch and folds and even letting the dough rise in the mixer’s vessel during bulk fermentation.
I understand that the stretch-and-fold technique helps develop and align the gluten structure, aerates the dough, and evenly distributes temperature and fermentation’s microorganisms. This is particularly useful for higher-hydration doughs like that of my 75% whole wheat sourdough formula with 80% hydration.
However, while my NutriMill Artiste can easily incorporate, mix, and knead all ingredients, it seems next to impossible to perform the ‘stretch and fold‘ action manually in its mixing bowl because the bowl sports a center column necessary for attachments, including the dough hook.
But should I then try and simulate ‘stretch and folds‘ by running the mixer three times, some 20 minutes apart, on speed 2 for only a few seconds each?
Well, the following article convinced me otherwise.
I will use the Artiste mixer to incorporate and thoroughly mix the ingredients only, but not knead and/or perform any simulated ‘stretch and folds.’ These strength-building actions will be done in my plain, simple 12-quart Cambro tub by hand.
Using the NutriMill Artiste Stand Mixer
Process – Whole Wheat Loaves
1. Initial Mix and Rest
I begin by mixing most of the water and, little by little, all the whole wheat flour by pulsing the ingredients with the dough hook until just combined. I then allow the initial dough to rest for about 20 to 30 minutes. The dough hydrates during this autolyse, hopefully softening the bran of the whole wheat flour and starting the gluten’s development. I add the salt to the remaining water to dissolve.
2. Mixing, Speed and Time
After the autolyse, I add the levain, all bread flour, and the remaining salt water, and restart the mixer on slower speeds 1 and 2 to incorporate ingredients. The exact time of mixing will depend on the ambient and the dough’s temperature, the kind of flour, the humidity, and the hydration ratio of the batch. Generally, a few minutes of slow-to-medium speed mixing should suffice just to incorporate all ingredients. If the dough is sticky, I will refrain from the temptation of adding more flour.
After incorporating the ingredients, I get the NutriMill Artiste to thoroughly mix the dough on speeds 3 and 4 for 6 to 8 minutes to make the dough stronger. Whatever minutes, I want to see the dough clean off the bowl’s wall and thus show some gluten development. I perform a windowpane test to check how far the dough has been developed.
3. Bulk Fermentation
I then move the dough from the mixer’s bowl into a fermentation vessel large or wide enough for ‘stretch and fold‘ action during bulk fermentation time and perform the ‘stretch and fold‘ technique as much or as little as needed by the dough.
4. Divide and Pre-shape
After bulk fermentation has reached its breakpoint, I move the dough from the fermentation vessel onto a slightly flowered work surface, round it into manageable form, and divide the batch into two equal pieces.
To continue building strength, I turn the dough balls over and slightly flower their tops. I then grab one-quarter of the round’s outer mass, lift and stretch it out, fold it toward the middle of the dough, and press it down a bit to seal. I then turn the dough by about 90 degrees, take the next one-quarter section, fold it over, and press down to seal just the same. I repeat this task 4 to 6 times or more, depending on the perceived strength of the dough.
Then, I turn the batches of dough over again and form them into balls or oblongs, depending on their final shapes. I then let them bench-rest for some 20 minutes to relax the dough.
5. Shaping and Cold Fermentation
After pre-shaping the dough pieces, I gently shape the pieces into bâtards or boules (or one of each) and place them in bannetons.
I loosely cover the bannetons with small plastic bags to prevent the dough from drying out and place the bannetons into the refrigerator to cold ferment − usually for as long as 18 hours, before baking.
Watch out for Gotchas
Mechanical mixing will heat your dough due to friction. I keep an eye on the dough temperature and aim to keep it within the range specified in the formula. If the dough starts to feel warm, I pause the mixer to allow it to cool before continuing. I use iced water on very hot days to keep dough temps at around 78 F, plus or minus a few degrees.
Six minutes of mixing on 3 in NutriMill’s Artiste seems to raise the dough’s temperature by 2 degrees.
If the recipe includes other ingredients like seeds, dried fruit, or olives, I fold them in at the end of the mixing process or during lamination.
Pros and Cons of Using a Mixer
- Using a mixer is time and physically energy-efficient, especially for large batches.
- Mechanical mixing is a boon for people with certain kinds of arthritis and/or other bodily impediments.
- Buying a stand mixer is a lot more expensive than a simple Cambro tub.
- High-speed mixing might also heat the dough, which can mess with the fermentation rates. Use cold water to avoid overheating.
- Overmixing can lead to overly oxidized dough, which may affect the flavor and color of the bread.
- Cleaning up mixer parts is a bit messier than cleaning up a simple Cambro tub.