The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

High-Hydration Dough and No Big Holes

danthebakerman's picture

High-Hydration Dough and No Big Holes

My name's Dan, and I'm a relatively new baker. I love baking bread, and I can bake Challah, Brioche, Whole-Wheat, Rye, and other various breads with relative ease. (Mainly because they are easy.) However, everytime I try to make a loaf of bread (a baguette, boule, sandwich loaf, whatever) with big holes, I get none. 


A few of you have suggested that I look at "DonD" recipes, in the past few days I have made a batch of "Baguettes a l'Ancienne with Cold Retardation". 

Personally, I used King Arthur AP flour for this recipe, I used plain bottled water (with no additives). My house has coal heat (I live in in Central New York State), so I added a few extra drops of water. (Coal is a dry heat afterall.) 

So... here's what I experienced with the recipe.

1.) The Autolyse - You're supposed to mix two different types of flour (AP and Dark Rye) with ice cold water and mix for 1 min. My Autolyse was dry, far too dry to even be a bread dough. But I went with it anyway, I'm only following the recipe directions.

2.) The Next Day - I added the extra water & yeast, mixed it for a few minutes, then added the salt. I got a very wet & sticky dough flecked with the rye, you definately needed wet hands to handle it. I stretched and folded it as needed - I noticed the mass of dough getting a little stronger after each fold, but it was still super sticky. 

3.) I proceeded to get a bowl - sprayed it very well, I covered it and refrigerated it for the time necessary. 

4.) The Next Day - I got the bowl out of the fridge, did various things for about 30 mins (to take the chill off a little bit), I didn't notice the mass getting any bigger, but I proceeded anyway. The dough stuck pretty well in the bowl, and I tried to get it out as gently as I could. I oiled my work table very well, then got a dough blade and divided it into 3 pieces, and followed the next few steps. 

At this point, I have 3 "masses", about 1'' wide and 6'' long. 

Now, it says to proof it on a couche for 45 mins, and I did just that. I floured it very well, but it stuck like glue in the meantime. I tried to ease it very carefully, but I ended up stretching the dough a bit, probably about 2''. 

I carefully transferred the first dough piece onto a piece of parchment, I slashed it with a lame 4 times, and I loaded it onto my baking stone. I quickly got preheated water and poured it into my cast-iron skillet then closed the oven door immediately. I baked it until it was a dark caramel color, the temperature was fine, and it smelled like baking bread.


My Result - A Flat anamorphous loaf, no big holes and way too chewy. I will admit, it did have good taste, but it honestly looked horrendous.... 

I know that my yeast, my water, and my flour are all good. I've used all of them in previous bread recipes with all great successes. My refrigerator wasn't open a lot, neither was it crowded with stuff. My oven was set at the exact temperature called for, and I used exactly the amount of water required for steam. 

Now I THINK I know the answer to my own dilemma - I may be handling the dough too rough and it pops the bubbles required for the big holes. 

Greg D's picture
Greg D

If the air in your living space is exceptionally dry from coal heat, might your flour also be exceptionally dry?  I live in the Pacific NW and in the middle of our hot summers my flour is very dry and the rest of the year is is very moist due to our constant rains and high humidity.  You would be amazed at the different amounts of water required in the same recipe made in summer vs. winter.  From your description it sounds like your dough needs more water.  As you said at the end of your post, it could be that you are overly degassing the dough during the benching or shaping process, but I would start with adding additional water and see what happens. 

Happy Baking.