Gustavsen’s “Knife & Trowel” protocol for hand mixing dough

Many people proclaim that “hand mixed dough” yields a superior, lighter and airier crumb structure. After lots of trials and comparisons, I have reason to believe this is true. That is not to say that various other methods and protocols don’t yield a superior crust also, but for the ease and low cost of equipment this method probably resulted in some of the best crust I have made to date. This is not a recipe, but a mixing method that can be used with a typical pizza or bread recipe.
This method or protocol may be unconventional by some of the tools that are used, however it is similar to many time tested ways. The tools that are used, have been used for centuries to mix and manipulate materials with similar consistencies albeit in trades other than baking.
Some of the fringe benefits are: easy clean up, fast and thorough mixing, along with an overall reduction in actual mixing time. This method is not scientifically proven or otherwise endorsed by anybody but myself. My reasons for sharing this method or protocol is to simplify the process and help people achieve better and more repeatable results. Repeatability is one of the most difficult things to achieve. The consistent results I have been able to achieve are substantial.
Some of the most obvious benefits are: fantastic oven spring, (at lower temperatures) better dough handling and easier peel unloading (a big issue in ovens such as the 2stone) Fermentation also tends to be more consistent.


The crumb structure shown in the picture above is airy and loose. The cavity at the top actually has an inside window pane, which demonstrates the type of textures that are possible.

I have broken the protocol into 7 main groups as follows:

Tools + Equipment
Recipe + Raw Materials
Measure + Mix
Knife + Trowel
Rest + Slap + Fold
Ferment + Fold
Ball + Proof



A marble or granite slab (a large counter top or a loose piece of marble will work, but you will lose out on the thermal heat sink qualities of marble or granite if you use a plain countertop)


1 500 ml Erlenmeyer flask
1 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flask

These are both available on amazon. ( you can use another mixing container, but will lose out on the scientific mixing qualities that these proven flasks have.


A good size mixing bowl for measuring out the flour and covering up the dough ball during resting periods.


Fine mesh sifter


Electronic scale ….preferably accurate to 1/2 a gram


Two 6″ stainless steel drywall knives ( if you want to go on the cheap, regular steel will work, but you will need to wipe them with oil after use to prohibit rust)


12-16″ stainless steel masonry trowel (regular steel will work, 12″ is ok but if you have the room, 16″ is better) also available on amazon.


A thermometer for getting accurate temperature readings in your fridge.


Graduated plastic storage container for accurate fermentation volume readings.


A typical ingredients list as follows:

540g all purpose pastry flour 7.5 % protein
400 g high protein flour 13-14 % protein
30 g whole wheat flour
30 g stone ground rye
550 g (ml) water for yeast
100 g (ml) hot water for salt)
100 g (ml) crushed ice to cool down salt water
3.5 g IDY ( or 6-9 g of CY) less if you are going for longer fermentation times (48 hrs +)
19 g sea salt
(add flour to reach lower hydration dough if desired)

Use all purpose or bread flour as substitute, or blend as desired.
Water quality may change the yeast quantities, depending on the mineral content of your water.
Use sugar or oil as desired. No more than 5% sugar or 6% oil.
Use minimal oil to coat bulk fermentation container. Dust flour on final dough balls.



Measure out the yeast on a piece of wax paper


Measure out the salt on a piece of wax paper


Pour the yeast into the large flask, zero out scale and add the cold tap water.


Pour the salt into the small flask, zero out the scale and add the hot water.


Mix the yeast into the water by shaking and rotating the flask, and do the same with the salt.


Add the crushed ice to the salt water to cool it down (you should have a total of 220 g in the flask when complete.


Weigh out all the flour ratios (in the sifter if it’s big enough)



Make a 24″ well (or smaller if you are lacking the space) using 250-300 g of the flour. Use one of the 6″ drywall knives in a circular motion, continuing in a circular motion until you have the desired radius.


Pour the diluted yeast from the flask into the well and start sifting in the flour onto the yeast/water slowly, allowing it to sink into the water.


Finish sifting in all but 100 g of the flour and let it slowly sink in for a minute.


Start mixing the flour and water in the well.


Continue mixing all of the mixture together with the drywall knife, using the second knife to clean off the other as needed, and add the salt water and continue mixing with the drywall knife.


Now proceed mixing with the masonry trowel in a back and forth motion, squeezing the wet dough into a thin layer on the table until it becomes homogeneous. Add in the rest of the flour to reach the desired hydration where you can see that you will be able to slap and fold. (it should be wet so you will be able to slap and fold it through the rest of the rest + slap + fold phases.



Scoop the dough into a mound and give it a few “slap and folds”


Cover the dough with the bowl and let it rest for 6 -7 minutes (you will do this a total of three times)



Slap and fold the dough for 45 seconds to 1 minute.



Repeat a second rest period followed by a 45 sec – 1 min slap and fold.

Repeat the third and final rest period followed by the final slap and fold, no more than 1-1/2 min.


The dough should now be smooth and ready for the cold bulk fermentation.


Lightly oil the graduated container and place the dough ball inside with a fine coat of oil on top.



Place the container in the fridge.


Check the temperature. Proceed with bulk fermentation and folding as desired. I usually wait till it has doubled and “punch down and fold again”. After it has doubled you can ball and proof or continue on with repeated cycles of punch down and fold, depending on how your dough is holding up, or for how long you want to ferment it. (longer fermentation schedules require lest yeast)



Remove the bulk dough from the fridge and cut up the dough into the desired dough ball size. I run mine at 8 oz for a 12″ pie.


Dab the dough ball into flour and turn the un floured side under until you end up with a floured smooth tight skin on top.


Your dough ball should look something like this.


Press the dough ball down a bit with your flat hand so you close off the bottom of the dough ball if needed. (if you don’t do this your dough ball may tear when you start opening it up)


Place the dough balls in the dough tray (or plastic container if that’s what you use)


Lightly dust the dough balls and seal the top with plastic wrap. (or the lid if you are using individual containers) Let them proof at room temperature as long as needed before using them, or put them back in the fridge if that’s the protocol you are using.

Below is a very crude video of mixing with the trowel

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