Some methods suggest squashing the dough back down after first prooving. I have been doing this because it seems necessary to get the correct volume of dough at the end. Is this the wrong thing to do?
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I assume you are referring to 'knocking back'. This might be relevant for yeasted doughs where there is a guaranteed high rate of activity by the yeast. The knocking back releases some of the gas and possibly exposes the yeast to new feed.
I think in general with natural leavening, it is better to be as gentle as possible to maximise the volume of gas in the dough rather than otherwise. The main aim of shaping should be to develop a good 'skin' on the loaf to give it strength to support the rise during proving and baking.
Have a great festive season.
I think you have to ask yourself if you are pleased with the end result of your bread. If you are, then knocking it back after the first proof should be no problem, for you. If you aren't pleased, then don't knock it back. If you haven't tried making a loaf of bread without knocking it back, then I suggest you do this way you will have a comparison.
I believe making bread is unique to the area for which you live. The method is the same, it should be unique to the baker and not by anyone else's standard of what bread should be, or how you should treat the dough.
As long as you are happy with what you are baking, then that's all that matters.
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