Omid I would like to borrow your brain for a few minutes. A discussion was/ is underway about hand mixing neopolitan dough. The method of mixing and "correctly" hydrating the flour, or " effective hydration" is shown again in a different light compared to your Santos mixer. Will you explain the "point of dough" or the "point of pasta" ? It very easily may not be something explainable, but you are a world traveler, scholar, and a very well versed person. Could you explain to someone stranded on a desert island with Antimo Caputo Pizzeria flour, a diving arm mixer, yeast and a cell phone how to know when the dough is ready?
Peter referenced a post by Marco, and he used the following words :"It is very difficult to explain how to recognize my dough point. I just happen to know by experience. I could tell you that when the dough start coming away from the side of the bowl, but still stick to the bottom, that is a good sign."
I await your words of wisdom.
I wish to crank up the diving arm mixer with knowledge, not blindly. http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13913.0.html
Dear Jet_Deck, I remember that the very first time I made dough at the age of sixteen, my mother looked at it and asked me, "Is this dough or a patchwork?" From a professional point of view, "point of dough" or "point of pasta" can be a very technical subject. If you were to ask your question from the technicians at Antico Molino Caputo, I would not be surprised to see them answering it in fully technical and quantitative terms, such as the "W" factor, P/L ratio, and so on. Moreover, in my view, the point of pasta is of philosophical (critical thinking) importance since it is—after a point, which may not be pinpointed with precision—subject to interpretation! While it may be easy to delineate the point of pasta, it may not be as easy to precisely define it. And, your concern is definitely not unique to us pizza devotees in this wonderful forum. Some pizza lovers belonging to Italian forums of the same kind also wonder about the same issue as us. You may like to check out how Italians go about this subject in one of the Italian forums at the following links (use "Google Translate" to read the content in English):http://www.pizza.it/content/34punto-di-pasta34-ed-idratazione-x-pixior-ma-non-solohttp://www.pizza.it/content/punto-di-pasta-un-impasto-con-metodo-poolish-come-riconoscerlo
As a prefatory remark, first, I would like to posit that the point of pasta (il punto di pasta
) is a real locution, not an ignis fatuus
or purely subjective
perception of reality as some are inclined to think. I say "not purely subjective" in the sense that, from a multi-cultural perspective, the point of pasta is a concept that other bread cultures, besides the Italian,—such as many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures that I have known—employ in order to describe the same
phenomenon. And, this commonality of conceptualization and terminology are pregnant with the implication that such cultures share a common, concrete experience when it comes to formulating dough.
Second, the American Heritage Dictionary defines the English word "dough" as follows: "A soft, thick mixture of dry ingredients, such as flour or meal, and liquid, such as water, that is kneaded, shaped, and baked, especially as bread or pastry." In terms of etymology of the word, "dough" is a derivative of the Gothic term daigs
("a kneaded lump"), second stem of deigan
("to knead"), which in turn is a derivative of the Indo-European root term dheigh
, meaning "to build", "to form", or "to become
". (The English word "lady" is also derived from the same root term, qualifying a lady as a mistress [master] of a household that is the "bread kneader", amongst other cultural refinements.)
I think here is the pivotal point: "to become"! The point of pasta is indubitably the point at which a corporeal transformation
(a becoming) occurs. But, how can this transformation or becoming be characterized? While the experience
of the transformation seems to be the same for dough kneaders, the interpretations
of the same experience are many. Hence, my construal will be one amongst many. Consequently, I will keep my interpretation as general as possible in order to maintain a level of objectivity.
The way I construe this experience (i.e., the point of pasta) is the point at which the mixture of water and flour are no longer a mélange. The metamorphic dough formation is no longer a hodgepodge of dissimilar
ingredients, that is the liquid and solid elements. A unification
of both elements is achieved to a point whereby one cannot tell one element from the other. Furthermore, I would stipulate the point of pasta as follows:
1. A kneaded mixture of water and wheat flour reaches the point of pasta when the mixture visibly and tactilely reaches a state or degree of homogeneity
in terms of constitution, shape, texture, and temperature;
2. A kneaded mixture of water and wheat flour reaches the point of pasta when it reaches tactilely a state or degree of consistency
(i.e., an agreement, coherence, or uniformity throughout the texture of the mass);
3. A kneaded mixture of water and wheat flour reaches the point of pasta when it possesses a structure
of its own, rather than being amorphous (lacking organization and definite form);
4. A kneaded mixture of water and wheat flour reaches the point of pasta when there is a relative skin formation
—or when the mixture is encompassed by or embodied in its own skin. (I believe this statement correlates with Mr. Marco Parente's statement: "[W]hen the dough start coming away from the side of the bowl, but still stick to the bottom, that is a good sign." A "good sign" because now the dough skin, as opposed to the walls of the bowl, can contain its own dough mass.);
5. A kneaded mixture of water and wheat flour reaches the point of pasta when it reaches a degree of flexibility/plasticity
, and elasticity
6. Having thus far entertained the attributes that are detected through the senses of sight and touch, let us also not underestimate and ignore the subtle and gentle attribute of dough aroma
, detected by the olfactory. Often people laugh at me and do not take me seriously when I talk about this topic, but I have known a blind baker who completely relies upon his acute sense of smell at different phases of making dough. For him "seeing is believing" is obsolete; he must smell it in order to believe it! When he bakes his dough, he firmly stands right by the oven door, focusing his nostrils on the rising aroma in order to determine when the bread is baked. Amazing!—he sees the world through his nose. (Have you seen the movie "Perfume"?)
So, as cheese is a manifestation of milk, I would assert that a degree
of homogeneity, consistency, structure, skin formation, flexibility, extensibility, elasticity, and aroma of dough are manifestations of point of pasta. And, as beef stake lovers have their own personal preferences as to how lightly or intensively a piece of stake should be cooked (rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done), the intensity or degree to which the above-referenced attributes are developed during kneading is also a matter of personal preference. In addition, the percentage of hydration, type of flour, kind of mixer, method of kneading, the type of pizza or bread intended to be prepared, and etc.—they all can have minute or substantial impacts upon the above-referenced stipulations
. Therefore, Mr. Marco's statement makes sense: "It is very difficult to explain how to recognize my
dough point. I just happen to know by experience."
Please, notice I mentioned in the preceding paragraph that the "kind of mixer" you use will have an impact upon how and when the above-enumerated attributes are reached. So, to make dough with your diving arm mixer may take some trials and errors, especially if you are not cognizant of the virtues of your machine. Incidentally, the thesis of this post reminds me of the crucial point that if you are the type who kneads the mixture of water, flour, slat, and leaven non-stop
until it arrives to your point of pasta, how can you determine whether the point has been reached if the dough mixer does not allow you to easily and safely access, touch, and feel the dough while the mixer is running? My wife's Kitchen Aid mixer almost broke one of the metacarpal bones in my left hand about a month ago when I cautiously tried to feel the dough while the mixer was in operation. That was foolish! The bone is still in the process of healing.
I hope I have clearly articulated my thoughts (although I doubt it because of my constraint of time) on the subject. Good night!