Stretch and fold
I made a better-than-average schiacciata tonight, and I think I might have stumbled onto something. I did not ferment dough over night, and wasn't particularly gentle. While I did weigh all of my ingredients and proofed my fresh brewers yeast in water before adding it to the flour (thanks for the tip Jim), I did not do a great job of hand kneading -- I was late for tennis.
But, I stretched and folded the dough twice, using a serious letter-fold technique, where you also fold in the corners before completing the second fold. I sealed the seam both times.
The crust was definitely more crunchy -- not mushy, and the crumb had a nice hearth bread texture. It was springy in the crumb and well developed in the crust.
This could make you think that proper folding, which allows the gluten strands to line up, really makes a big difference? Stretch and fold, and forget the rest?
Re: Stretch and fold
Nice looking bread. You're turning pro. At least one North American baker, Jeffrey Hamelmann at KA, recommends cutting down mixing times and folding at least once during the bulk rise. The purpose, as you say, is to elongate the gluten strands, making for a better crumb and crust. Well done.
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