The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration Levels - Tartine Loaf - Too Wet?

alpinegroove's picture

Hydration Levels - Tartine Loaf - Too Wet?

I have been making the Tartine loaf for a while with inconsistent results. The bread always tastes great, but I have been struggling to create sufficient surface tension, and the oven spring has not been satisfactory.

I decided to use less water this time (650 grams instead of 750 grams with 1000g flour). The dough was much much easier to work with, shaping and surface tension were accomplished easily, and the oven spring was impressive (see below). I attribute all of these to the the drier dough.

The Tartine book says that as bakers get more experienced and can handle softer, wetter doughs, they can raise the hydration levels.

Why are wetter doughs advantageous?

What will be different about the loaf I just made with much drier dough?


plevee's picture

I don't see a thing wrong with that loaf. The ears and grigne are great. The major advantage to wetter doughs seems to be bigger holes so that your honey dribbles down your shirt. ;>}

nycbaker11's picture

Nice loaf.  can you show us a crumb shot?



alpinegroove's picture

The loaf is still cooling down, so I haven't tasted it yet. I am very satisified with the result so far, but I was just curious why the more hydrateded doughs are preferable.


alpinegroove's picture

This is the second loaf of the batch.

The wholes are large enough for the honey to drip through...

So what is the point of extra hydration?

totels's picture

A fine looking loaf!

I don't know all of the benefits, but:

A wetter loaf requires less work (kneading, folding, degassing) to develop equivalent/similar gluten structure. Theoretically you should be able to use this more to your advantage to control flavor development to aim for more subtle differences between loaves. Controlling the gluten development allows you to control the fermenting duration and in-turn the flavor of the bread.

A note on your loaf; the dramatically uneven crumb suggests you need more frequent degassing/turning (did you do every 30min?) or that your turns aren't big enough. It is also possible that you skipped the shaped rise which instructs doing a rather big, by comparison, degassing.

alpinegroove's picture

Thanks for the info. That's interesting.

I didn't follow the recipe to the letter. Instead, I did the following:

1. Didn't prepare leaven. Instead, I fed the starter on Thursday night. Cool night. Warm day on Friday. On Friday evening, I used the starter (not leaven) to mix the dough.

2. Did a turn every 30 minutes for a total of 5 turns. Total bulk fermentation: 3 hours at 80F.

3. Shaped the loaves and let them bench rest.

4. Did the folding for the final shaping and refrigerated over night.

5. Baked them on Saturday morning, approximately 12 hours later.

What do you mean by turns that aren't big enough?

And what does the shaped rise refer to?

totels's picture

> What do you mean by turns that aren't big enough?

How many fold are you incorporating in each "turn"? My proofing container is square-shaped, I dip a wet hand into each corner and pull all the dough from the bottom up and over about 3/4 of the way across the top, if this still doesn't look like enough I will flip the dough over completely and punch down the top. You want to be gentle enough to keep most of the gas in, but tough enough to break up the extra large (and possibly even the just large) bubbles.

> And what does the shaped rise refer to?

This is step 4 in your above list, the final rise where the dough is in it's final shape before baking. Key element here is that you ideally will not be handling the dough again before baking, which means you can't degas once in this stage.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

When you split the dough, you should loosely round it up and let it rest for 15-20 mins. Then take the first round, and press it with your fingertips, working from the middle outwards. This will let you escort those huge bubbles out of the dough, while leaving the bulk of the desired gas still in the dough. This is known as handling the dough firmly, but carefully at the same time. Drop the firmly when you do the final shape, concentrating on carefully. If you like those holes, you can keep doing it whatever way kept them in...

You might get something from this video with Ciril Hitz:

At the 3:30 and 5:00 marks, he clearly shows the very quick degassing of the largest bubbles before final shaping. Note that he doesn't pop them. He works them to the edge of the dough, and then when he does the initial final shaping moves, they are expelled. This is not explained or slowed down, but if you watch carefully, it happens, and you can actually hear them popping.

Here is another video with Hamelman doing shaping:

He uses the palm of his hand to firmly 'pat' the large bubbles to the edge, rather than his fingers. Two different ways of achieving the same thing, by two masters. Hope that will help you!

- Keith

alpinegroove's picture

Thank you for the suggestions and the links. I hadn't seen these videos previously.

I certainly did not degas. If I remember correctly, the books specifically says that care should be taken not to deflate the dough.

But I will certainly try degassing next time.