The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

High hydration

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Felila's picture

High hydration

I've been making ciabatta for several years now, using a recipe I got here. Pre-ferment, knead with dough hook in a Kitchenaid mixer, French fold twice, shape, rise, slash, bake. The usual :)

After all this time, I think I've finally mastered the recipe. All too often my bread turned out dry and flat, without much in the way of holes.

Problem one, I was letting it over-rise. I'd start a rise, go back to the computer, forget about the bread, realize with a start that I'd forgotten it, and find it climbing out of the bowl. I set a timer now. 1 hour between stretch and folds, 1 hour to rise after shaping. I'll cut that by a few minutes if it's particularly hot and humid here in Honolulu. I know that you should trust the bread, not the clock, but I forget the bread if the timer isn't beeping.

Problem two, I wasn't letting the pre-ferment go long enough. 16-18 hours is better than 12 (for me at least).

Problem three, I wasn't aggressive enough with the hydration. I get tender, delicious bread, with large holes, ONLY if I push the hydration to the point that the dough is almost impossible to handle. When I knead it with the dough hook, it should ball up around the hook, but stay stuck to the bottom of the bowl. When I turn off the mixer, it should slump back into the bowl. Forming it into a ball and oiling it for the first rise is challenging. After that, as the gluten develops, it gets easier to handle.

Bread would be better if I raised it in a banneton and used a peel to slide it onto stone or tile, but it's OK as it is. I let it rise on an old baking sheet, without any support.

I wish I had a camera to show you the results. Finally, boastable bread. Only took a few years.


Scott M's picture
Scott M

>>>>>Bread would be better if I raised it in a banneton and used a peel to slide it onto stone or tile, but it's OK as it is. I let it rise on an old baking sheet, without any support.

Glad it worked out.

Most high-hydration breads benefit from either a basket or a couch. I've got a medium-weight cotton quilt that I plan to employ as a couch one of these days.


ronhol's picture

I'm using the ABI5 no knead technique, and after 6 months, I'm finally getting some decent results.

It seems to take a lot of experience to master this craft.

I've not attempted the ciabatta yet, but plan to, as I really love it.

I've had 2 different ciabatta's that I bought locally, and they are as different as night and day, and both equally delicious.

One is soft and tender with large, 1/4-1/2" holes.

The other has a chew to both crust and crumb, with somewhat smaller holes, (probably 1/8") but makes an unbeatable meatball sandwich.

I had one loaf that was resting in a silicone loaf pan on top of the stove rise like a giant mushroom. spilling over, from the oven heat after I forgot it was resting for several hours.

I carefully popped it into the oven, expecting it to fall from overproofing, and lo and behold, it turned out to be the best loaf EVER!

The big scar in the middle is from the large meat thermometer I stuck into the loaf. I've since got a nice small thermometer to check internal temps.

It had large 1/4" holes, a great chew to the crumb, and a nice chew to the crust.

I have yet to duplicate it though. lol

I'm going to try putting a loaf pan in a 170 degree F oven for an hour or two before baking, and see what happens.

Reading the books makes it all seem so simple, but getting consistent results is not easy!

As far as pictures, I take them with my phone, then email them to myself, download, re-size in paint, and upload to TFL, voila!

margieluvschaz's picture

Hi ronhol!  I was wondering if you could share your recipe/ technique- your loaf looks like what I've ben trying toachieve for  a sourdough sandwhich loaf.  I would  really appreciate it.


ronhol's picture

Be happy to share, but I am not using a sourdough starter.

I am using the no knead technique from the book "Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day"

Here is a link to their website, and it shows the basic technique.

I have changed it some, however, such as I weigh my flour and water. 24 ounces water to 32 1/2 ounces flour, and I reduced my yeast from 1 1/2 tablespoons to 2 teaspoons, since I used almost 1 pound of my left over dough from my last batch as a kind of sourdough starter, so I added less yeast.

Also, I use dry yeast, not fresh.

Another thing I did, was to put my dough into the loaf pan the night before, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the frig all night, then remove, let rest on counter for several hours before baking.

I have had great luck doing it this way.

This particular loaf sat on the hot stovetop, receiving heat from the oven for several hours, till it expanded all over.

I had forgot about it, and feared it was ruined, but it turned out to be my best ever loaf.

Good luck, let us know how it works!

margieluvschaz's picture

thanks I have that book so I'll try to make a loaf soon.