The Fresh Loaf

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double hydration technique

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Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Despite failing to post about it, I'm still at my quest for a perfect, hole-y ciabatta.  The last two weeks were interesting, to say the least.  

If you recall, two weeks ago I baked Craig Ponsford's ciabatta (a la Maggie Glezer), with results that were just about perfect.  Last week I tried to replicate the experience.  First, the formula and proceedure:

Biga:

  • 300g King Arthur AP flour (the original calls for 200g Bread Flour and 100g AP) - 91%
  • 15g Whole Rye Flour - 4.5%
  • 15g Whole Wheat Flour - 4.5%
  • 185g Water - 56%
  • 0.016g Instant Yeast - 0.005%* 

*(originals calls for mixing 1/2 tsp yeast with 1 cup water, then measuring 1/2 tsp yeast-water into the biga. I have a scale with 0.01g graduations, and just measured 0.02g. )

Final Dough

  • 325g King Arthur AP flour
  • 342g Water
  • 12g Salt
  • 1.55g Instant yeast (1/2 tsp)
  • Biga (All)
  1. Mix biga ingredients together until smooth.  Biga will be quite stiff.  
  2. Allow to ferment for 24 hours, or until tripled (Two weeks ago I didn't keep track, last week I only waited for a little more than double, possible a mistake).
  3. Combine all final dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the hook for 5 minutes.  Dough will be very gloopy.
  4. I gave it 30 stretch and folds in the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Not sure if this had any effect--I'll probably skip in in the future.
  5. Ferment 3 hours.  At 20, 40, 60 and 80 minutes, dump the dough out onto a well floured work surface to stretch and fold.
  6. Divide the dough in half, making two oblong shapes.  Fold each oblong in thirds, letter style (this will produce something vaguely square).  Gently stretch each dough piece into an oblong, and place on a well floured couche (I omitted the stretch last week--I think this was a mistake), seam side down.  Yes, down.  Cover with plastic, but try to keep the plastic off the surface of the dough.
  7. Proof 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500 degrees (or with my POS oven, 535)
  8. With wet fingers, make small dimples all over the exposed surface of the dough.
  9. Flip the loaves onto parchment on a sheet pan or peel.  Slide the loaves into the oven, turn temperature down to 450 and bake for 35 minutes, using your favorite steaming method for the first 15.
  10. Crack the oven door, turn off the oven, and wait 5-10 minutes more before removing the loaves to a cooling rack.
This formula is fun to make.  This is the dough after mixing:

First Fold, Before and After

Second Fold, Before and After

Third Fold, Before and After

Last Fold, Before and After

Ready to divide and proof:

Dimpling

Exterior:

Crumb:

This bake was...puzzling.  As you can see, these loaves were awfully tall for ciabatta.  The crumb was tighter than the previous week, more akin to a batard.  The flavor profile was a bit difference as well--the sour and whole-grain notes were stronger, while the poolease-y flavor (what I think of as pain a l'ancienne flavor) was more muted.  Indeed, if I'd stuck a couple of sourdough batards into my oven, and pulled these out, I'd have been neither surprised nor displeased in the least.  Since I in fact loaded a pair of conventionally leavened ciabatta...well, color me puzzled.  

Cut ahead to today.  I had intended to take another stab at the Ponsford recipe, but a number of circumstances prevented me from putting together a biga in time.  That 24 hour fermentation time is tricky to work around.  I did have time for a poolish, so instead I took another stab at SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta, with some modifications inspired by the Ponsford Ciabatta.  It went like this:

Poolish:

  • 190g KAF AP flour
  • 190 Water
  • 0.36g Instant Yeast (1/8tsp)

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour
  • 190g Water
  • 15g Olive Oil
  • 10g Salt
  • 0.36g Instant Yeast (1/8tsp)
  1. Mix poolish, ferment 12 hours.
  2. Whisk poolish with 150g water and oil.
  3. Add 30g flour and whisk vigorously until slightly frothy.
  4. Add remaining flour and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Autolyze 30 minutes
  5. Sprinkle salt, yeast and remaining 40g water over dough.  Mix by hand until smooth (I started with the wooden spoon until the water was incorporated, then did about 60 stretch-and-folds with a spatula).
  6. Proceed as in the Ponsford recipe from step 5, except omit the 3rd fold, and the letter-fold after dividing.

The results:

Curiouser and curiouser!  Excellent crumb this time, much better than my two previous tries.  The dough seemed much stronger than on my previous two attempts, and I think the crumb is a result of that.   The dimpling technique may be a factor as well, hard to say.  Also rather tall for ciabatta, although not as ridiculous as last week.  Crust was nicely crispy.  Flavor was clean, sweet and creamy.  I think I liked the Ponsford ciabatta's flavor more, but it would be somewhat deceptive to say that one was "better" than the other, because they're really very different.  

Proposition: An open crumbed ciabatta requires a strong dough.  Getting a wet dough like ciabatta to be strong is the trick, but multiple stretch-and-folds will do it.  

Happy baking, everyone.

-Ryan

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Well, I quite failed to get around to blogging last weeks' ciabatta attempt, and now here it's Saturday and I have another bake to describe.  

Last week I made another stab at SteveB's double hydration ciabatta.  If you recall in week 1, I got very nice flavor and crust, but an unimpressive crumb.  I also found the process, which involves almost 30 minutes of mixing, rather cumbersome.  The first time I modified Steve's process to add a French fold halfway through the rise, and I figured this time I either needed to modify the recipe more, or stick strictly to Steve's directions.  I went for the latter, cutting down the mixing time, and adding 2 stretch-and-folds to the rise.  The results, however, were quite similar to week 1:

 

 

Crumb was perhaps a little better, flavor a little worse.  So much for modifications.

Anyway, this week I took a shot at Craig Ponsford's ciabatta, as interpreted by Maggie Glezer, as interpreted by these two blogs (the first has better directions, the latter had weight measurements).  This formula involves a very stiff biga with a little bit of whole grain and just the teensiest bit of yeast, which is fermented for a full 24 hours (28 in my case).  Hydration is just north of 80%, and it takes 4 stretch and folds to make it behave.  

The results, however, were phenomenal

And here's the kicker:

 

You may notice the loaf on the right is a little funky looking--it stuck to the couch a bit, and I failed to get it all on the parchment when flipping it over, and so I had to manhandle it a bit to clear the couche and slip a scrap of parchment underneath.  

As you can see, nicely caramelized crust (nice and crispy too), crumb wonderfully open (nicely chewy too), and the flavor...oh the flavor.  This was one of the best tasting breads I have made, period.  The combination of a big dose of poolease-y nuttiness, a tinge of sour, and notes of whole grain in the background was just heavenly.  

I think this formula is a keeper.  Beyond getting fabulous results on this occasion, I enjoyed making it.  I like doing stretch-and-folds, feeling the dough and watching it mature and come together.  Even if it gets the same results, I'd take a recipe with stretch-and-folds over one with none and a long mixer time any day.  Just a matter of personal taste there.

There's still some work to do--I still need to work out my flipping technique, and I still have some kinks to work out in the formula itself, in order to get the exterior shape more even (enough kinks that I'm going to refrain from posting my take on the formula just yet).  But this is a positive step for sure!

Happy baking, everyone,

-Ryan 

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.


For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.


A modest goal, I hope.  We'll see how it goes!


I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas.  If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it.  If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one.  Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.


Let the adventure begin!  For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta.  Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense).  I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc.  In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].


Formula


Total:



  • 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)

  • 380g water (76%)

  • 15g Olive Oil (3%)

  • 10g Salt (2%)

  • .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon,  .14%)


Poolish



  • 190g Flour

  • 190g Water

  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast


Final Dough



  • 310g Flour, divided

  • 190g water, divided

  • 15g Olive Oil

  • 1/8 tsp inseant yeast

  • 10g salt


Procedure



  1. The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours

  2. On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.  

  3. Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.

  4. Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast.  Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.

  5. Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.

  6. Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3 [2] and mix 10 minutes.

  7. With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more.  Mix a total of 10 more minutes.

  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours

  9. [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]

  10. Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.

  11. Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]

  12. An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees

  13. Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment. 

  14. Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven.  Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.

  15. Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.


And the results:


Exterior



Crumb


 


Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor.  Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.


I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc.  Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping).  But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.


Food for thought (and for dinner!).


Happy baking everyone,


-Ryan

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