The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can I blame the Pineapple Express (humidity) for my slack dough?I

bnom's picture

Can I blame the Pineapple Express (humidity) for my slack dough?I

I baked Hamelman's Vermont SD with Increased Grains today.  It was, literally, a flop.  I've baked this bread before, and with higher hydration, and had excellent results.  Today I ended up with a slack sticky dough that stayed slack throughout - flat loaves with a spongy crumb.   True, I held back 4 oz of flour from the recipe but that was based on previous experience.  I also used an AP flour of unknown protein instead of my usual 12% protein flour.  But I suspect the reason might be the bizarre weather we've had in Seattle the past couple of days.  Record breaking humidity -- it's like Jersey hot and humid.  Apparently we're catching some tropical air current (the Pineapple Express).

I'm not used to baking in humid weather, so my question big a factor is it?  Do people who cook in humid climates routinely up the proportion of flour?

LindyD's picture

I've learned to always practice mise en place, but to hold back on adding all of the water when mixing the dough regardless of the weather conditions.   Based on how the dough comes together, I either add it all, hold some back, or add a teaspoon (or two, or three) more.  Whatever the dough says.

Humidity is a factor, but so is the flour.  That's one of the nice things about baking bread - it's really never routine.

pmccool's picture

makes me smile, bnom.

But, to your question, it is possible that the higher than usual humidity did affect your bake.  Before going too far down that road, though, I'd play some more with that new flour.  It may well have different characteristics than the flour(s) that you have been using.  At first guess, it may have lower protein than you have used previously.  Your description of the dough is consistent with that notion, since a higher-protein flour would absorb more water than a lower-protein flour.  So is your practice of withholding 4 ounces of the flour previously.  If the new flour is lower in protein, it will absorb less water and (probably) have less capacity to form gluten.  Both would lead to the sticky, slack dough that you experienced while using the same quantities of flour and water as before.

I'll put my money on the flour being the culprit.  I don't see higher humidity being more than a bit player in this drama.


bnom's picture

Seattle certainly has a humid atmosphere but it doesn't feel humid.  That's because our dewpoint in the summer is in the low 50s whereas in places like Atlanta it's in the high 60s.  But the other day, our dewpoint hit 66 degrees which was a record for Seattle in September.  

Weather aside, I suspect you're right about the flour.  I wasn't thinking about the absorbtion rate of the different flours.  I was really thrown because after autolyze the bread had a consistency I'm well used to working with.  It wasn't until after the first proof when I started pre-shaping it that I found it excessively sticky and by then I figured it was too late to try to correct.  

Lindy, to your point, it's interesting that you hold back water to adjust as needed whereas I hold back flour to adjust as needed.  I wonder if there's a significant difference between the two approaches?