I had an odd experience making dough last night.
I haven't made pizza dough in quite a while. I used a bag of Ralphs store-brand unbleached bread flour I found in my cupboard, which was old, probably from the last time I made dough (on the order of a couple of years ago). I smelled and tasted it and it wasn't rancid, and as I hate to waste things, I thought, why not? and went ahead and made the dough with the flour, using my stand mixer.
When I pulled the dough out of the mixer, it had the consistency of Play-doh. There seemed to be zero gluten development. This had never happened before! I tried kneading it by hand for about 15 minutes, and that did nothing to improve the texture. Of course it didn't rise well either, and turned out like a brick when I baked it, although it was nice and crispy around the edges.
I was trying to figure out why this happened, and so to isolate the problem I tried mixing a small amount of the flour (about 1/4 cup) with water, and kneaded it with my hands. It still felt like Play-doh. The same amount of Trader Joe's all-purpose unbleached flour behaved normally, stretching and getting elastic as I kneaded it.
So clearly something went wrong with the bread flour, and I want to know what it was. What happens in the flour as it breaks down that would inhibit gluten development?
(And of course I'm making dough again tonight with the all-purpose flour so I can have a decent pizza!)