According to standard official methods, recording mixers (Farinograph, Mixolab, Doughlab, Mixograph) can be used to monitor dough development. The purpose is to mix wheat flour into dough, under controlled conditions, and compare characteristics of the resulting doughs. We are looking for changes, or lack of changes, between flours. The quality of a loaf of bread (and many other bakery products) is strongly dependent on the mixing.
Absorption represents the percent water, based on flour weight, required to develop a dough to the target consistency or tightness. Bakeshop absorption is generally higher, because of the inclusion of ingredients other than flour. Hard wheat flours, typically used for all kinds of breads and rolls, will generally be above 60% absorption while soft wheat flours, typically used for cakes and pastries, will generally be 50-60% absorption.
Mix time, also called development time or peak time, represents the time required for flour to absorb water and form dough under standardized conditions. In general, soft wheat flours have a shorter development time than hard wheat flours. Bakeshop times may vary significantly from these standardized time, because of other ingredients, different temperatures and mixer types, and different optimum consistency.
Arrival time indicates the rate of flour hydration. It notes the amount of time for the dough to first approach optimal consistency. Departure time indicates dough break down, measured as the time before optimal consistency is lost. Stability time estimates how long the dough maintains consistency, and is one important indication of dough strength. It is easily calculated as departure time minus arrival time.
Another important indication of dough strength is mixing tolerance index (MTI) or the ability of the dough to withstand over-work. It is measured five minutes after the optimum mix time. The larger the MTI, the more susceptible the dough from that flour will be to break down from additional work.
Breakdown time is the third measured indication of dough strength, although it is not commonly used. It is calculated by finding when the dough falls a certain amount below its optimal consistency.
All of the recording mixers can also be used for measuring any dough, in a “non-official” method. A baker can put any type of dough, with appropriate weight, into the mixer and observe what happens. For example, a cookie (sweet biscuit) dough can be compared with varying levels of sugar to monitor consistency, providing information on anticipated processing changes.