The Fresh Loaf

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Dough is dry can I add more water after mixing

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Littlebrooklyn's picture
Littlebrooklyn

Dough is dry can I add more water after mixing

My starter grew so much this morning that it went right over the top of the jar and all down the sides so I decided to quickly make a loaf of bread, not realising that I had obviously lost some of the starter with all the mess.  So I weighed out the 460g of flour and then went to weigh out 300g of starter but if I wanted to keep 75g for my next loaf I only had 280g of starter.  I added 230ml of water and 10g of salt and mixed it in my food mixer but when I took it out it seems to be quite dry.  I've kneaded it a little but and now put it in a container and not sure what to do next, apart from throw it away, which seems a bit of a waste.  Can I just add some more water to make it a wetter dough or is that not the answer.

I know I need a bigger jar but everytime I try to use a 750ml jar for some reason the starter never gets going.  If I use the 600ml one that I got with the starter it seems to work fine, which I really don't understand.

Lyn

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

If still dry add another until it is the correct consistency. I would have used the starter needed for the recipe and just fed what was left enough to build up to what you need next time. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

It is common practice to add a little water if the dough feels too dry. In fact, holding back a little of the water from the recipe, and adding it in incrementally, going by feel rather than the measurement, is the preferred way to get to the right amount. The problem is on the other side. Since every other ingredient relates to the flour, if your dough is too wet, adding flour may be a mistake. So, if you do add water (and I think you should) just add a little bit at a time, and knead it in well before deciding whether to add a little more. Keep going until it feels right.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Actually, I think it is better to reserve some flour rather than water because if you are going to be flouring surfaces when kneading you wind up adding that flour to the dough and extra flour makes for denser bread. 

Littlebrooklyn's picture
Littlebrooklyn

Thanks very much for the advice. I have added some water and will see how it goes. I think the idea of holding back a bit of flour to use for kneading is good, never occurred to me to do that. I am still so new to this sourdough it gets confusing at times!

Lyn

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

There are two ways to look at this. The real baking snobs will say you should never use flour for kneading, or at least not a significant amount of it. But, if you are going to use that flour for kneading, do hold some back for that purpose. I suppose the best way to do it would be to measure out the flour in the recipe, then take your hold-back out of that, so the total can never be too much at the end. If you know about bakers' math, it should be evident that changing the flour amount either up or down changes the entire recipe, since everything else is measured against the flour. Changing the water amount will only alter the hydration level. And water cooks out.

Alternatively, you could follow a "do better next time" process like mine. I mix all the ingredients up, and whatever it is, at that point, is what gets baked. I don't make repairs or modifications at that point unless there is a serious concern. I simply take note of my mistakes, and resolve to do better the next time. I figure that by the time I've reached the point that I've messed up the dough and it needs fixing, I've already followed the wrong path and it's better to start over at the beginning doing it right. The idea is that if I practice doing it wrong, and trying to fix it, then every time I bake I will get better at both doing it wrong -and- at fixing it. Not bad, I guess, but I'd rather practice planning it better to begin with, and following better the plan, so that I learn how to control my outcome from the start, instead of from the middle. "Practice doesn't make perfect - Perfect Practice makes perfect!" Think of it like an arrow, the way you point it at the beginning is the path it will take to the end. Besides, some of the world's most successful inventions were the "accidents" and "wrong engineerings" that happened along the way to trying to invent something else!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Dough is dough and it needs to be properly hydrated. Some flours absorb more water than others. So if you follow a formula and you make that bread often enough but you change the flours and find the dough is not properly hydrated, because it is too wet, you add flour. Plain and simple. Yes, the consequence is your formula is different. But that doesn't mean you just change all of the ingredients simply because baker's math "dictates" it. In any case it is unlikely that a TBSP of flour would impact the amount of salt or yeast to any appreciable degree when making 1-2 loaves. But it could very well be needed to get the right dough consistency. Not saying bread will be ruined if not the proper consistency but I am saying I don't see why you would bake whatever you have without fixing the problem if it is fixable.  But everybody does as they do. I just make Tartine Basic country loaves using various flours. This last time I used 200 grams of flour blended in my blender. Came out great. But the normal amount of water didn't work as it just didn't absorb. I didn't add flour nor did I care that water was left in my mixing bowl.

i wouldn't add flour because the the 50 grams of water was assed with the salt and it seemed too late to try and in incorporate more flour. Plus, it just didn't seem necessary as I don't worry about high hydration. Worry more about low hydration.  

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

Agree completely, the formula is a guide but there's so much difference between flours ect that I always go by look/feel, my 1 rule in cased of doubt being 'better too wet than too dry'.