After posting a video on Instagram about what to do when your dough doesn’t torque*, I got a few questions and I decided to write a post on the topic.
I just want to start with some clarifications: I am not a pro baker. Therefore, what I will discuss hereafter is based on my experience and on the solutions I applied to a dough that wasn’t coming right. I hope the following tips can help you, in case you face similar situations with your dough.
I searched the scientific literature, but I wasn’t able to find all the information I needed, although, I found something. If someone has valid articles/books to suggest, please don’t hesitate, I would be glad to learn more about this topic. Moreover, if pro bakers are reading this, you are welcome to add your comments and remarks (you can use the comment section). The idea is that this will be an “open” post, meaning that each reader can contribute to it. I commit to update it, giving credits to the people who will add valuable and supported information :)
Let’s get to the point, now: a dough that doesn’t torque. Bummer. I faced this problem last week, when preparing the dough for colomba, the Italian Easter’s cake. I have been preparing complex dough, like that of panettone or colomba, since two years and I never got in trouble with torquing, till the other day. I was in the first step of preparation, when the fats haven’t been added yet, but the dough didn’t torque. Level of anxiety was rising, along with panic and desperation…did you get with mood? How that possibly happened? It never occurred to me! What I was going to post on Thursday? “Sorry, folks, but my dough didn’t come right. Forget about colomba this year, we will talk about that next Easter” :P
Still, I used the same recipe and the same ingredients. I even bought the usual brands of flour, butter, eggs, and yeast, just to avoid bad surprises, and, despite that, my dough was in trouble… luckily, I manage to save it :)
Even if you are skilled with baking and you religiously follow the same recipe, this can happen, the dough might not torque. The good news is that you can solve this problem. So, before throwing your recipe to the garbage, here a few tricks to save your dough.
1. Use the right flour
If you used a weak flour, I am afraid there’s not much you can do: you have to start over with the right flour. Check my post on flours strength to have an idea on how selecting the proper flour. Generally speaking, for complex dough as panettone or colomba, you need very strong flours (about 15% in protein content).
2. Do not add more flour
OK, a table spoon is fine. But keeping adding flour as there is no tomorrow won’t get you anywhere. I know, it is a big temptation, but, please, refrain to do that. Actually, in case of highly-hydrated dough, a bit of flour dries the dough and promotes torquing. An excessive hydration makes water molecules competing for the binding sites of gliadin and glutenin. However, a massive amount of flour will result in a heavy dough, hard to digest.
3. Use the leaf-shaped hook
Problems with torquing start, usually, in the first step of preparation of panettone or colomba and after adding fats (butter, eggs, oil) to the dough. If the dough is very mushy, as in the first phase of preparation, it won’t torque with the traditional hook. As explained in point 2, an excessive hydration limits the formation of gluten network. In this case, it is better kneading the dough with the leaf-shaped hook till torquing. The leaf-shaped hook has a larger working surface than the regular hook and helps with torquing. As soon as the dough torques, replace the leaf with the regular hook, and let the dough torquing once more.
4. Extend the kneading time
Sometimes, you just need to work the dough a bit longer (e.g. 5-10 min longer, I won’t recommend much longer. unless you want to toast your kneading machine! :P). Longer kneading times help the formation of the gluten network. I read on some forum that overworking the dough might bring to gluten breakage, but I can’t find confirmations in the scientific literature...any idea?
5. Place everything in the fridge
If using the leaf-shaped hooked doesn’t help, stop kneading and put the bowl with the dough and the hooks in the fridge, for 10-15 min. After this time, knead the dough with the leaf-shaped hook till torquing. Place everything in fridge one more time and, after 10-15 min, knead the dough with the regular hook till torquing.
This method usually works and has saved me last week, with my colomba dough. Now, I ask myself: why placing the dough in the fridge helps with the formation of the gluten network and, consequently, with torquing? Probably, the cold temperature reduces the dynamicity of glutenin and gliadin that might have more time to interact. Also in this case, I search the scientific literature, but I didn’t find any explanation. Any idea?
6. Flip the dough over
If you already added the fats, you can try flipping the dough over a surface to help the formation of gluten. Put the dough then back to the mixing bowl and start kneading till torquing. I suggest to do not use this trick in the first step of preparation as the dough is too mushy. Again, why this method works? Maybe because the dynamicity of glutenin and gliadin is reduced? I urge a confirmation :P
7. Recover the “curdled” dough
Let’s admit it, if you get till point 7, it is not a great day to bake. You tried all the first 6 points and nothing worked. You have a last desperate thing you can attempt to save your “curdled” dough. You have to work a small amount of “curdled” dough with some properly torqued dough. The technique is described in this post, by the blogger Mani Amore e Fantasia. I never went so far, so I can’t comment on this. But the technique looks interesting and could really be the last hope, before throwing everything away.
I hope you find this post useful. If you have suggestions or remarks, please, let me know in the comments :)
*the term” to torque” refers to the dough wrapping around the kneading hook. This behavior indicates the proper development of the gluten network.
Peter R. Shewry et al., The structure and properties of gluten: an elastic protein from wheat grain, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B, 2002, 357, 133–142
F. Auger et al., A parametric and microstructural study of the formation of gluten network in mixed flour–water batter, Journal of Cereal Science, 2008, 48, 349-358