Category Archives: The Straight Dough Method

The Straight Dough Method

The last stop on our tour of the Big Five Mixing Methods is what is known as the Straight Dough Method. It is the method by which nearly all bread in the world is made. And if you’ve ever tried making your own bread before, you’ll be familiar with it. It goes like this: a) mix flour, yeast and salt together, b) add water, c) knead until smooth, d) let dough rise until doubled in volume, e) punch dough down, f) shape your bread, g) let shaped loaves rise for a second time until doubled in volume, h) bake your bread. There, easy. The whole thing can be done in about three or four hours.

Only there’s a problem, and that is that the unadulterated Straight Dough Method produces pretty lousy tasting bread. Or maybe that’s going too far. I should probably say bland bread. Uninteresting bread, devoid of either much crust, much texture or much flavor. Which is why most serious bread bakers never employ it, except as a general framework for more ambitious bread-baking projects. For stand-alone loaves of bread, you can get far more interesting effects by employing starters (what might be called the Starter Method) and sponges (the Sponge Method), which allow the baker to culture large quantities of flavor-producing bacteria before the dough is baked.

All of which is not to say that the Straight Dough method is without its uses. As I said, the vast majority of the world’s bread production (i.e. all that which is made outside of the world of hard-core bread fanatics) is made this way. Flat breads are a notable example: from Middle Eastern breads like pita and lavash to Italian pizza and focaccia. And then there are day-to-day items like rolls and buns which, even though they are made via the plain-jane Straight Dough Method, are still markedly better when made at home and from scratch. But more on that later. Let’s talk about how the Straight Dough Method actually works…

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