The Fresh Loaf

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80% hydration = pancake batter

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rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

80% hydration = pancake batter

I was getting burnt, no-bounce sourdough loaves and thought this problem might be fixable with higher hydration. 


So I mixed an 80% hydration sourdough.  It  was so soupy that despite several stretch and folds, it remained the consistency of pancake batter.  I could not shape it at all.  I literally had to pour it into a loaf pan.


What am I doing wrong?  I used 400 g flour (including the flour in the starter) and 320 g water (including the water in the starter).  That results in a dough that is 80% water by weight.  Am I not using correct baker's math?

intelplatoon's picture
intelplatoon

this depends on the type of flour you are using. With an all-purpose bread flour, this will most likely be a soupy mess like you described. different flours can take in different amounts of water. a whole grain wheat flour will absorb much more water than an all purpose white flour or even hi-gluten bread flour. with white flours, i like to start out with somewhere around 73% hydration and add in more water 1% at a time until it feels like a manageble dough.


the ciabatta i make at work is 79% hydration with an all purpose bread flour. it is just barely handleable.  and results in very large irregular crumb structure.


 


hope that helps a bit

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

I used King Arthur unbleached bread flour, not all purpose flour (though, come to think of it, there was probably some rye flour and some all purpose flour in the starter but not so much as to appreciably lower the gluten content of the final product).

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

 .

BakerBen's picture
BakerBen

mrffrost, the original post stated 400g flour and 320g water - I believe that is 80% base on baker's math. 


I worked at a bakery where we produced a rustic baguette - it was mixed in a fixed bowl spiral mixer.  After 8 minutes mixing 3 on first and 5 on second I would scale it out of the mixer with an ice scoop at 10 pounds per tube.  The first fold after two hours required the table to be floured liberally and if you did not work quickly the dough would run off the table - it was really trickie to work with.  The second fold about an hour later would be a bit easier but not much.  Even after dividing the dough could be very loose and hard to shape.  Lot's of flour was required up until shaping - trying not to encorporate any raw flour but using it like a tool to be able and hand such a high hidration dough.  The resulting baguette had very large irregular holes and a hard and crunchy dark crust - it was fabulous and well worth the trouble.  It is not necessarily the type bread I would attempt and bake at home though - just not the right environment.  


Bottom line, I agree that the type flour plays a big role but if you want to work with high hydration doughs you will have to keep practicing to learn what works for you.


Ben

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

Your description was very encouraging and really gives me hope that I can try again and get better results, thanks you!

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

I appreciate the tips.  I honestly don't remember how much starter I used, but I do know that the dough doubled overnight.  I don't think lack of fermentation was the problem.


I gave the loaf to my husband, and he has been snacking on it throughout the workday, and he has emailed me or left me voicemails every time he hits a big bubble.  According to him, this is the laciest loaf I've produced yet.  So I do think more water helped with that -- but of course, there are probably a lot of other things I should be doing differntly, too. 


The comment about my hand skills is probably right on the money. I thought I was doing what Peter Reinhart was doing in his You Tube video, but this is my first stretch and fold attempt.  I suspect that when I get more experience with this technique, I'll know when I've achieved the right consistency.

proth5's picture
proth5

to say "what went wrong."


But I'll get out my soapbox and say that you don't fix things that are fundamentally wrong by going to very high hydrations. If you are baking at a 65-68% range you should still get good oven spring and nice openness to the crumb.  There are folks who do it all the time...


That being said, here's what you've left out:



  • percentage of flour in the pre ferment (that is the percentage of total flour that was flour in your starter)

  • state of the starter - was it vibrant, healthy and fully mature?  If it was, it would be full of bubbles and still have good elasticity left.  If it was waek or getting back to being liquid, it is over mature and will cause a very liquid dough

  • Maturity of the starter - I have been advised that the newly started starter should get to an age of 3-4 weeks before it is used in baking.  I had problems with my levain based breads when I started out years ago.  Those problems went away - never to return when my young starter put on a little maturity.

  • As mentioned above - the type of flour


Another big variable is you and your hand skills.  I am emphatically not a fan of extreme hydrations, but i can wrangle an 82% King Arthur All Purpose flour dough into line (there are some on these pages who wrangle 105% hydration doughs) with about 4 folds.  I've been doing this for awhile and am getting my hand skills back.


So, your math is correct - but just the raw numbers do not let us tell you with any certainty what is going wrong.


I would suggest fixing your issue at a more moderate hydration because something besides the amount of water is going wrong in your bread.


Hope this helps.

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

The starter is about a month old, has been fed every 24 hours or refirgerated during that time.  It was bubbly at the time of use and there was no hooch on top.   The starter is 100% hydration (I took this into account when calculating the total hydration of the dough).  I used King Arthur unbleached bread flour.  I let it rise until doubled in volume.  I know that water is a byproduct of yeast metabolism and tired doughs get wetter, but this dough had not risen long enough to get appreciably wetter. 


It's true that hydration alone is not my only problem, but obviously, 80% hydration dough should not act like pancake batter. 

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

I don't know what you mean by "elastic" starter but this starter was so stre-e-e-etchy that I had to be pretty artful in weighing out the amount i wanted to use to get an 80% hydration.


The higher hydration DID help with my other problems -- the crust was not burnt and the crumb did have some pea-sized bubbles inside, which is a better result than I've ever gotten before, but still, I couldn't shape it or slash it.

proth5's picture
proth5

the last factor is "How much starter?"


It seems like your starter was probably properly ripe - although it is hard to tell without looking.


Higher hydration doughs take longer to bake, so you may be baking your original loaf at too high a temperature or too long.


You really don't need to slash such a high hydration dough. Or one that is baked in a pan as the edges of the pan serve the same pupose as slashing.


Let me repeat however, that open crumb does not come from ever higher hydrations, but from getting the fermentation right.  High hydration can produce the lacy crumb that we see in ciabatta and other loaves, but is not required for a nice, open crumb.


If your goal is high hydration - then you can practice up your hand skills.


Good luck.

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

I just started a batch of ciabatta tonight and was worried that is was a little wet, but am glad to read the timing on high hydration will help in baking a better loaf. The dough is fermenting for a couple of days before I will bake it off so I will keep that in mind. Thanks proth5

varda's picture
varda

which I posted about a couple of days ago.   After the initial mix it was pretty soupy.   Then after 50 minutes I did a stretch and fold on the counter.    I covered the counter with flour, and then sprinkled flour over the top, but was careful not to mix the flour into the dough by shaking it off whenever it would have gotten worked in.   It took more than a single stretch and fold to tighten it up.   I pulled it out on all sides, then folded it back together.   Then gathered it into a ball and sort of tucked it in all around like a preshape.   Then bounced it around on the counter a bit.   It quickly lost its souplike character and became more like a water balloon.   After the second round of that 30 minutes later, it was pretty doughlike - but still like a water balloon.   Despite the high hydration it was actually slashable after proofing.     So I think a bit more than a regular stretch and fold is called for, but still not kneading.  -Varda

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

Varda, I appreciate the encouragement.  I will keep trying.  One thing I wonder is, Is there a reason why we stretch & fold very wet doughs?  Could one also just knead them with the hook in one's KitchenAid standing mixer?  (I'm wondering if a more vigourous pounding will develop more gluten & help firm up the batter -- oops, I mean dough.)

varda's picture
varda

I do mix for at least a couple of minutes in my Kitchen Aid, but I have never seen very wet dough come together by mixing alone.    The stretch and fold is a magical thing.   It transforms liquid into water balloons, sometimes with some extra tucking and a bit of gentle bouncing as I described above.   I don't know the theory, just the practice.   And yes, keep trying.   Sometimes after a lot of frustration you find suddenly that you've made a decent bread.   I don't think I understand how that happens either.   Just another bit of magical transformation.  -Varda

rhaazz's picture
rhaazz

Varda, thanks, that's the best kind of internet help, thank you.  (When I think back to how difficult life was before the internet and how many projects I abandoned because I couldn't get them to work per written instructions, I'm just amazed.  There are some things in life -- knitting is one, and bread baking another -- that are really hard to master without the benefit of some collective wisdom.)