The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How floppy is your dough?

Bread1965's picture

How floppy is your dough?

Today I'm making two breads that are otherwise identical except for hydration. One is 65% and the other is 75%. I'm trying to make a more open crumb bread and working on folding and shaping technique. I know you can get a very open crumb with a stiffer dough (or at least Trevor Wilson can). And the two doughs do indeed handle differently given the five percent hydration spread.

But I saw this on Trevor's instagram feed and it made me wonder.. Here's him shaping a loaf:  - I wondered why don't I ever get dough that "floppy" when I'm pre-shaping.  He comments that it's a 78% hydration dough. So there's the reason..

So here's my question(s) to you: if you have a "go to bread recipe", what's it's hydration.. where do you find your hydration sweet-spot? And is it because of how it handles or the taste that you like that hydration?

Normally I'll stick to 70.. but I'm starting to think I should maybe up that number.. maybe it will make it easier to shape (assuming I don't go over 80) by making the dough more extensible.

Thoughts.. ?

Danni3ll3's picture

when doing the preshape although it usually has stuff in it like bran or seeds. Today I made a dough that had 1035 g of water and 1315 g of flours/oat bran/rolled oats and the hydration came out to 79%. If I calculate using just the flours, it was at 94% which really isn’t accurate since the oats and oat bran soaked up a huge amount of water. 

If I did a bread with no add-ins, I figured out that my hydration would be 73-74%. Although,  I was once told by an artisan bread teacher that the dough should feel like your earlobe so I aim for that once everything is included. This give me a dough that I can handle comfortably. 

The other thought I had was that I include a fair bit of whole grain flour. That soaks up quite a bit of water as well as the ground flax I add. So my comments above really are like comparing apples to oranges when it comes to your dough and mine. It would probably be a better assessment if we used the same recipe and flour. 

I guess it all comes down to your level of comfort and what you prefer. 

Bread1965's picture

.. but with the add-in's it makes sense.. in hindsight it would have been interesting to also make a 75% hydration version as well.. I found the 65% hydration dough a bit too difficult to fold in the bulk stage.. Trevor suggests making a stiff dough in his book, and is trying to prove that hydration can be low and still provide an open crumb with good technique.. I'm thinking it's deceptively harder than he let's on given how stiff the handling is at that hydration.. 70 was better, but I think 75 will be the sweet spot.. it should provide a more silky, fluid dough to work with .. I think I'll move on to a higher hydration as I work through achieving a uniform open crumb..

tgrayson's picture

My standard Italian batard is 65% hydration and it has a very open crumb. It's pretty easy to do the stretch & folds, but I don't do much initial mixing...just do 15s in the food processor. I also wait about an hour between folds.