This section is from the book "A Treatise On Flour, Yeast, Fermentation And Baking Together With RecipesFor Bread And Cakes", by Julius Emil Wihlfahrt. Also available from Amazon: A treatise on flour, yeast, fermentation and baking, together with recipes for bread and cakes.
The sponge system of bread-making was so universally in practice until recently that the doughing in this respect needs but a short explanation.
After the sponge is ready the remaining water is lifted on, in which the salt has been previously dissolved. After the dough is mixed smooth then add the lard and mix thoroughly. If sugar is used, dissolve same with the salt.
After the dough is mixed, allow to rest for one hour and fifteen minutes to one hour and a half, that is, until it will sink back when the hand is inserted into the dough and withdrawn quickly; then cut the dough over, laying the same dry while working; allow to rest from 10 to 45 minutes, according to quality of bread desired.
A sponge dough should never get full proof the second time after the first proof is worked out of it; but, by laying same occasionally together, it can be kept in good condition until all is scaled off and moulded into loaves.
For straight dough - which is the more simple way of making bread - the yeast is dissolved in part of the water, the salt in another, then all the water lifted in a trough or machine and the flour added. The dough should be worked for at least ten minutes before the lard is added, and as soon as the lard is added and the dough worked smooth with the same, then allow to rest for proof.
It is a wrong theory to add the lard at the first stages of doughing, as it will not give wanted results and the flour will not absorb the same quantities of water as if the lard is added after the dough is partly mixed smooth.
A dough is bad or good in the ratio to the perfect incorporation of the flour with other ingredients, the temperature at which dough is made and kept and the quality of material employed. All these points need their due consideration.
The temperature of the bakeshop during the operation of moulding is another important feature, as a dough ferments more while it lays on the bench than at any other stage. This shows that aerating of a slow dough often hastens fermentation and ripeness of dough.
So, the same as the sponge has its different stages of ripeness, a straight dough also has its different stages of ripeness.
A dough that would be over-ripe for a 1 1/2 lb. pan loaf would not be ripe enough for rolls or a hard crusty bread and, again, much depends upon the oven. Therefore, no strict rule can be followed to meet all instances.
A hot oven can stand more fermentation or a more over-ripe loaf, as it will help to keep up the loaf in the oven, while too hot an oven for a green or young loaf would hinder the latter to develop and be apt to give too much color. This is the same in the sponge and straight dough systems, and the important point, therefore, is that each baker must know his oven and that he must bring on his dough to meet his baking facilities.
The best all-around system, and likewise by far the most prominent one, is that known as the "straight-dough method."
Very few who worked straight dough system ever return to the longer system of sponge dough. Shorter systems for the manufacture of bread are decidedly gaining ground. Sweetness and palatableness in bread are bound to continue to prevail and this is best obtained by the straight dough method, which also gives the largest yield and by its simplicity of method is by far the best for commercial purposes.
Generally speaking, sponge is best used for fancy breads and straight dough for the average bread, for in this manner the advantages of both systems can be best appropriated.
A straight dough should never be made without the use of a thermometer, to get uniformity day after day, for after the dough is once made the temperature of the dough is not easily affected. In this respect the sponge has its advantage, since if the sponge is too quick, colder water can be lifted on for dough and vice versa. If the sponge is too slow the water may be heated, but should never be more than 112 F., since it otherwise may scald the sponge.
It must be remembered here that "Practice makes perfect," and a master baker must watch all conditions closely and guide his work according to his findings, since there are so many different items that are apt to change the march of a shop, and the water is not one of the least to be considered.
Sometimes water is hard and, again, in other shops soft, and this has just as much to do with the fermentation as has the temperature of the water. The softer the water the quicker the fermentation, while hard water will require more yeast.
The boiling of water sometimes has a softening tendency, but not always. A baker that is forced to bake with hard water should keep his temperature a little higher than if softer water is used, and here it must be stated that the cooler the fermentation is brought on the more resistance will be in the dough and the better the flavor and uniformity of bread.
Therefore, such changes cannot be effected only by heating water, but also the quantity as well as the quality of yeast used must be considered together with temperature of the water.