The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration level for a soft sandwich loaf?

ccsdg's picture

Hydration level for a soft sandwich loaf?

Hi all my first thread here. I am currently focusing on making soft sandwich loaves using sourdough. I own neither a kitchen scale (working on that!) nor measuring cups/spoons so my biggest cues are from hydration and feeling/observing dough behaviour. I've had a few successful high, soft loaves using dough at a hydration I would consider normal for me, but recently a couple of flat failures, both of which were higher hydration than I usually make.

Just wondered what hydration ranges would be for soft bread and why.

(the long version of why I'm asking)

In case it's another issue, my problem is that the dough does not rise very high  (maybe 1.5x) before the poke test tells me it is nearly optimally proofed. It does get oven spring, so it isn't over proofed, but not much (to a total of about 2x original dough after shaping). This despite machine kneading/stretch and folding to a very-nearly-third-stage windowpane. The crumb bubbles are also not "stretched" when sliced but "round", making holes rather than the sheet-like texture of my earlier loaves. I do use all purpose flour but I thought the high gluten development would provide enough structure. The only other thing I can think of is then the slackness of the dough caused by high(er) hydration, causing the gluten to rebind itself in a more relaxed manner during the proof...does that happen too?

CharSiu's picture

can cause slackness, yes, but I suspect something else is also the culprit. It's best if you use a higher protein flour as that strengthens the dough structure, allowing for a better rise without collapse. I suggest you try that out. 

Ideally, the hydration for sandwich bread is 55%-65%. I have heard that having a higher hydration can aid in rise (correct me if I'm wrong) as the dough is more malleable/weaker, making it easier for air to leaven, but it is not as strong, so it won't hold shape so well. And vice versa with stiffer doughs- they won't rise much. Higher hydration also results in a more uneven crumb with bigger holes (I don't know if that helps with your holes problem.) 

I wouldn't say there's a hydration range for soft breads. I believe it lies in the techniques and enrichments. Try searching for "soft and fluffy" here. I suggest that the next time you bake you write down notes so you can see what you did and learn from it.

But if it helps, one time I misjudged the hydration of a bread recipe and the hydration was quite low (I am guessing lower than the 55 ish range) The dough would not stick to anything. Being hopeful, I baked it anyway, and the crumb surprised me. Although dry, and despite having not risen much, the crumb was soft and fluffy. I don't know if it was a fluke or not... 

Daniel Rennal's picture
Daniel Rennal

If you're baking in a pan your crumb will always be more closed than if you were baking a free form loaf, I think it's just the way that's it's rising in a more constricted area, but also higher protein levels in the flour make for a more closed crumb.  But I've definitely had success with high hydration sandwich loaves in the past.

dabrownman's picture

is for sandwiches - does that make it sandwich bread?  I'm pretty sure it does.  The hydration depends on the flour used.  Today I have a  free form home milled 43% whole multigrain bread with walnuts and pistachios that has a y levain and a poolish at 84% hydration.  On Friday I have a 50% whole multigrain SD at 89% hydration.  I usually do 100% AP flour breads like baguettes at 68-70%  and 100% bread flour ones at 73- 75%

The more gluten in the flour the more water and the more whole grains the more water. 100% whole grain breads can be over 100% hydration like Mini's Rye at 104 %.  White bread over 80% hydration probably belong in a pan or called ciabatta - I think that is a Mini too - sure sounds like her!

Hydration in the 52-56% range are called bagels around here :-)

Happy Baking