The Basic Structure of Doughs, Batters, and Their Products

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Wheat flour is strange and wonderful stuff! Mix pretty much any other powdery ingredient with water and we get a simple, inert paste. But mix some flour with about half its weight in water, and the combination seems to come alive. At first it forms a cohesive mass that changes its shape reluctantly. With time and kneading, reluctance gives way to liveliness, a bouncy responsiveness to pressure that persists even after the kneader lets go. It’s these qualities of cohesiveness and liveliness that set wheat doughs apart from other cereal doughs, and that make possible light, delicate loaves of bread, flaky pastries, and silken pastas.