Today I used a hand-held cement mixer to incorporate the 50% hydration levain that I usually use to a 60% hydrated autolysed dough.
Although I love working my breads by hand, I must admit that I'm not always satisfied with the quality of the final dough mix. Two preferences keep me doing the same moves over and over despite not being satisfied with the end result: 1) I prefer the use of a stiff levain for my breadmaking; and 2) I fall in love with my dough at some point during the mixing and I refuse to browbeat it into submission by slapping it silly all over the counter. Indeed, I feel a deep sadness coming over me whenever I witness, mostly on Youtube, bakers working their dough hard. I understand why they do it and I respect that. I can't help the sadness. I like to simply gently stretch and fold my dough a couple of times and that's that.
And then there's the question of whether to buy a real mixer or not. I just threw away a cheap Cuisinart dough mixer that I bought not long ago. I thought it would help with the mixing of the levain and the autolysed dough, and it did ... for a short while. I'm not about to buy another cheap mixer only to throw it away in a few months. And I don't want to spend 4 to 5 hundred bucks to buy a large mixer - no funds but more importantly no more room on my kitchen counter (or anywhere else in the house) for yet another contraption.
For some time now, I have been thinking about the cement mixer that we have been using to stir paints mostly and at some point, when I was preparing home-made food for my cats, to mix the various ground meats into a slurry. [I think nobody would want to come eat bread at my house now.] Anyway, I thought that perhaps a little nudging of my beloved dough with the thoroughly cleaned cement mixer would not be so bad. And that's exactly what I did - nudging, I mean. I did not mix the dough too hard, just so that it got a few good turns in the bowl. I simply made sure that both the autolysed dough and my stiff levain (and the added salt and maple syrup) became just one big lump. I wasn't quite sure when to stop since the movement of the cement mixer is nothing like that of a regular dough mixer. Visually, when I decided to stop, the dough in the bowl was just ugly to look at. No smoothness whatsoever.
I decided to stop nonetheless (owing to point 2 above - I was starting to feel bad for my dough). I transferred it onto my work surface, not quite sure whether I would have to scrap the whole batch or what. I gingerly folded the rather spiky dough, literally a couple of times, when lo and behold, it just fell into shape. I can't quite remember how that happened. I only know that the feel of the dough was gorgeous. I had never felt dough like that before.
The dough is now slowly fermenting in the fridge. Tomorrow, I shall shape it into two loaves and bake them in clay pots, oven starting cold - like I usually do. All being well, I'll post a photograph.
I don't think anybody would want to try such a crazy experiment. I just thought I would share this with you ... for laughs.