The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Higher-Hydration Sourdough Problems

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

Higher-Hydration Sourdough Problems

Hi folks,

I've been wanting to try higher-hydration doughs, so I recently upped the hydration in my go-to recipe by 15%. My recipe is as follows:

 

Leaven: 39g starter, 237g water, 191g flour (note: I did not up the hydration in my leaven; that remains the same). 

Dough: 1178g flour, 738g water, 4tsp salt. (So I guess that's a little over 60% hydration?)

COOK: Made leaven the night before. Following morning, mixed in leaven with water, then flour. Autloyse for about 40 minutes.

Kneaded very briefly with wet hands in order to cohere the dough. Then I placed it in a tall plastic pitcher to bulk ferment, with stretch-and-folkds every twenty minutes for an hour then every thirty minutes for another hour. A little over two hours for bulk ferment, all told. 

NOTE: I have never really worked exclusively with stretch-and-fold before; up until now I've kneaded and then incorporated some S&F into the bulk ferment. But this dough was too wet to knead. So this is really kind of my first time working exclusively with S&F. 

I'm wondering if I didn't do it right. After a couple of hours, when I dumped the dough on the counter for shaping, it was like liquid dough. I mean, it was still obviously dough. But it was VERY runny, certainly more so than anything I'd ever worked with. 

With some difficulty, I was able to get two boules out of it. Let them rest for five minutes then put them into banneton baskets with flour-rubbed cloth liners. They proofed for another two hours. EASILY the best proof I've ever gotten---they rose right up. 

Preheated the oven to 500 with a combo cooker (really about 480, my temp is a bit off), then dumped the loaves one after the other into the combo. They were too sticky, I didn't use enough flour, resulting in the dough getting stuck to the liners. Lot of difficulty getting them out. 

Once in the combo and after being disentagled from the liner, the boules spread out like puddles. Still clearly dough but very loose and spread-y. I slashed what I could with my lame, and in they went. 

Well, they rose better than I expected, and the crumb actually ended up being quite good. But obviously they're not anywhere near what I want them to be. I'm used to a much, much better rise than this. Can anyone give me some tips? Am I not S&Fing enough? Is my bulk ferment too short? Help!

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Does this include the leaven? Have you broken everything down, including the leaven, to flour, water and salt? 

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

in the recipe above, "dough" includes leaven. Thanks!

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

it sounds like your recipe is:

1178g of flour (INCLUDES 191g flour in the levain + 20g flour from the seed starter = 17.9% prefermented)

738g of water (INCLUDES 237g water in the levain + 19g water from the seed starter) = 62.7% overall hydration

12g of salt (1.02%)

Now, I'm assuming that this is your normal recipe, and that your current experiment was to increase the hydration by 15%, bringing it up to 77.7% overall.  Is this correct?  Also, where are you located?  If you are using North American flours, then this hydration might be tricky to work with, but is certainly nowhere near "too wet to knead".  On the other hand, it could be more than some European or Asian flours could handle.

Assuming that you are in North America, then I'd suggest that you check out Trevor J Wilson's Breadwerx site: http://www.breadwerx.com/ and specifically his video on kneading a wet dough: http://www.breadwerx.com/how-to-mix-wet-dough/  Following his suggestions (and a lot of practice!) will make it easier for you to fully develop the gluten even with higher hydrations.

Also - it looks to me like you didn't bulk ferment long enough.  If your room temperature is around 23 deg C, then you should be looking closer to 3-1/2 to 4 hours, and then a further 2-1/2 hours or so for proofing (obviously - watch the dough, not the clock!).  If you are shooting for the big, airy, irregular holes, then a bit longer in the bulk would allow them to develop.

Hope this helps!

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

I get you. No, the 15% increase was from 642g. Originally the dough recipe was leaven + 1172g flour, 642g water. I upped the water by 15%, giving me 738g. Does that help?

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

could be a little more or less depending on what the hydration of the seed starter.  I included flour in levain build (not seed) and main dough. maybe this is too much for your flour - not all flours can cope with this much hydration. your final dough ingredients come out at 62% but once the levain is added it is 71%.

you still have a nice crumb and crust! looks good to me.

Leslie

Edit just seen Laurie's comment and we have interpreted your recipe differently - is the 1178 g flour inclusive or exclusive of the levain build flour?

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

I missed your comment after Lechem's  so really Laurie is saying what I was trying to say so disregard my post... sorry I should have refreshed my screen first.

Leslie

Lechem's picture
Lechem

So you say you have increased the hydration. Is that increased to 62% or have you added 15% hydration onto that making it 77% hydration?

An all bread flour recipe at 77% hydration will be very slack and difficult to deal with not even taking into account the particular flour you're using which may or may not be as thirsty as other bread flour types.

Not all flour will have the same optimal hydration level. Hydration percentage is just a number and instead of trying to work to a number you should be working to the flour's qualities. The flour you are using can, in all probability,  take higher hydration than 62% but not as high as 77% hydration.

Why don't you increase slowly? A 15% hydration is quite a jump!

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

The 15% increase was from 642g. Originally the dough recipe was leaven + 1172g flour, 642g water. I upped the water by 15%, giving me 738g. Does that help?

Lechem's picture
Lechem

You have increased the hydration by 15% to make it 62%.

Now even for an all bread flour recipe this is a perfectly acceptable hydration and you should be able to handle it well. More hydrated than you're used to but it's still not high. Doesn't explain what you're experiencing.

Next question... What flour are you using?

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

That's why I'm thinking I didn't do S&F correctly. I guess it's hard for you to tell if I did or not, since you weren't there! Maybe I just have to keep trying.

I am using Bob's Red Mill APF. Works very well for me with kneading. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem

should be ok.

But we need to cross things off the list. How about getting the final hydration to a nice even 60% for starters. If you can try and get a strong bread flour 14+ % protein. If you can but don't worry if it's not possible.

It's beginning to sound like gluten formation. The strong bread flour will help. If you have a dough machine then just to see if this is the problem use this to form the dough and bring it to full gluten formation. If you don't then you'll need to see if it's your stretch and folds. Are you doing it right and are you doing enough?

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Just had a look and it seems that Bob's Red Mill APF = 11.76% protein. TBH it's not that high. If I were you I'd try and get a higher protein flour and see if that makes a difference.

TheBrickLayer's picture
TheBrickLayer

I may do that. I tried Bob's bread flour at one point and I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe I should check out King Arthur.

AlanG's picture
AlanG

My normal version of David Snyder's San Joaquin SD is 66% and the dough is definitely not runny or slack.  As was pointed out, your flour is probably not high enough in protein.  My normal recipe is 90% King Arthur AP and 10% Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Well, with all the discussion it's difficult to tell, but it seems you have some level of hydration between 62% and 71%; perfectly reasonable hydration on either end of that scale, really. A simple 1-2-3 sourdough is 100 grams of 100% hydration levain, 200 grams of water and 300 grams of flour, so around 71% and fairly easy to handle.

So my guess is that is it indeed the development of the gluten that is lacking a bit. You could try a 50/50 blend of AP flour and bread flour, for one thing. For another, do a bit more vigorous dough manipulation at the beginning, before the resting and stretch & fold period. I'd recommend either Bertinet's slap and fold method or Trevor Wilson's Rubaud method. Note that either one of these will take several (maybe up to 10) minutes to develop the dough to the smooth, stretchy stage you want. And either one is more easily done in a wide flat container or bowl, or on the counter / work bench. Once the dough is smooth and stretchy then you can rest it for around 30 minutes and then do two or three stretch and folds, 30 minutes apart. Then put it in the taller, narrower container you have and let it finish proofing (easier to watch the rise in this kind of container).

The things that will develop gluten are moisture, time and/or manipulation. You have a pretty short bulk ferment period so need to be a bit more aggressive with the manipulation. If you want to develop it without the intense work, then I'd suggest you let it sit at room temperature for four to six hours, then put it in the fridge for eight hours or overnight to let the gluten develop on its own. The extreme is "do-nothing" bread - around 95% hydration, tiny bit of starter and you mix it and leave it sit for two days with one stretch and fold somewhere during that time!

And just a further note - wet dough will indeed spread, well-developed or not. However, if it is sufficiently bulk fermented it will feel springy and pillowy rather than wet and sticky, so that's a clue when you're looking to see if it has 'finished' the bulk ferment. :)