The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

High dough strength

seolinogue's picture

High dough strength

Hi FL fellas!

My name is Sebastian and I have a bakery in Cartagena, Colombia. I’m a chef and I started peeking in the artisan bread baking scene in the past few years. 

I have an obsession with bread, idk, it’s  just magical. Can’t describe it to be honest. After a couple of orders from my friends I decided to open up my own bakery, and so I did.

We are basically doing yeasted breads with fairly hydrated doughs (70%). I need to be honest with you guys, I’m new in all the high hydrated doughs stuff. 

So cutting the chit chat and getting right to the point: I haven’t been able to make a fairly opened crumb bread using our local flours. The flour available in my town in Colombia are all made from hard wheat with high Protein content therefore the doughs are very elastic and lacking appropriate extensibility. The results are almost always dense with chewy crumb and won’t open up properly when slashed (specially baguettes!).

I’m going to make some baguettes tomorrow using a double hydration technique found on a thread in this forum and see if I can improve the hydration on the dough (I’m currently adding all the ingredients and just mixing 4 mins in first speed then 2.5 minutes on second speed with 70% hydration).

So, do you guys have any advice on how I should use this strong flours with tons of additives to achieve good results in terms of crumb and texture???

Should I autolyse and hydrate the dough more to achieve tenderness? 

Is double hydration a good tool for what I’m seeking here??

is it necessary to use high hydration’s with high protein flours?

Throw everything at me guys! Ask away!



bikeprof's picture

Great to have you join the forum...

Do you know what the protein content of your flour is?  It would help to know just how strong it is in thinking about how to deal with it.

You are thinking along the right lines...autolyse (perhaps even an extended one...worth experimenting with) should help with extensibility...and to some extent, higher hydration.  If you do pursue the latter, then you may need the double hydration to get proper development (time would be a substitute, as always, for more/more intensive mixing).

You should also consider fermentation as part of the picture, as what you are describing may have to do with that (photos would help to get a better diagnosis).

Finally, adding a portion of weaker flour if what you are using is very strong should help as well (or reaching for further possiblities...trying a small bit of spelt flour (5% or so), which always adds some extensibility).

Best of luck in Cartagena!

bikeprof's picture

...some additional thoughts on the is not all that uncommon in France for bakers to mix the flour and water the night before and let it autolyse overnight for their for thought on possibilities...

seolinogue's picture

Hi and thanks for taking the time to answer. Protein content of the flour is between 12.5% - 13.5%. Its also bleached, has ascorbic acid (which adds more strength, i know :( ) and its been enriched. Ash content is less than 0.7%.

I did a double hydration test today (80% hydration) and I got a fairly nice thin window pane test. Im using a basic recipe followed by an overnight bulk fermentation:

Flour 100%

Water 80%

Salt 2.1%

Active dried yeast 0.3%

Procedure: Mix in first speed using 65% of the water for 4 minutes, mix for 2.5 minutes in second speed and add the remaining water in 4 additions using the second speed (bassinage). DDT: 16°C. Fold once after 30 minutes then bulk fermentation for 8-12 hours at 5°C.

Will take it out in the morning, shape the dough and then throw it in the oven. I´ll post photos later.

Regarding the addition of the flour, spelt is not available in most of the country. I can only find Rye (not whole Rye), whole wheat and common flours. Any suggestion?

¿How much time would you suggest for an adequate autolyse regarding this particular case? I´m trying to do my dough on day 1 and then bake the bread on day 2 so I dont get complication with my daily deliveries.


pmccool's picture

Poolish, a preferment of part of the flour in a formula, helps increase the extensibility of a dough.  Hydration is typically 100% or higher, forming a very soft dough or a batter.  A pinch of yeast is sufficient, since you want the fermentation to proceed slowly for several hours.

You are fortunate to have high quality flour to work with.  It is easier to reduce a dough's strength than it is to increase it when all you have are weak flours.

Another thought is to blend the flour with some other form of starch.  The blend will have a lower protein percentage than the pure flour, which will make the dough and the baked bread softer.


bikeprof's picture

+1 on the poolish...using to 33% of the total flour weight...improved flavor and extensibility

seolinogue's picture

Hi, and thanks for replying. I have done tests with poolish on the past. It indeed helps with extensibility although I have not been able to obtain adequate texture to shape a tartine and so on.

¿What procedure do you suggest to start with? I have done 68% hydration with 20% of the flour being fermented in the poolish, no autolyse, no double hydration. 3 minutes in first speed and 2 minutes in second speed. 1.5 hours bulk fermentation, shape baguettes or some other bread and ferment for 1 hour (baguettes) or 1.5 hours for larger pieces.

Using the procedure above I still fight with my dough when shaping, although I obtain better crumb and texutre inside the bread.

¿Any suggestion?

bikeprof's picture

I'm not sure I follow what you are doing for mixing on day 1 and baking on day 2...but with a really strong dough with ascorbic acid in it, it should handle even a shaped overnight retard.

If you look around (in standard references like Hammelman, Suas, etc.) the basic poolish formulas are pretty consistent...something like this (ignore the durum, and the IDY is a lower than most standard formulas, and I do a short retard for about 1hr in fridge, just to make handling and scoring easier, and to fit my schedule):

In your case...yes...more water, and a potentially much longer autolyse (1hr+...perhaps even mixing the final flour and water (nothing else) when you mix the poolish, and let that sit for 8-12 hours).

And again...timing/control of the fermentation remains a key factor in getting the right texture, so while you are noticing the dough strength as an issue (and it surely is)...there may be others... you have access to ANY weak wheat flours???  What do you use for baking cakes/pies etc.?  Mixing a portion of that kind of flour to get down closer to 11.5% or so could help

seolinogue's picture


I´m sorry to be responding after 1 month. Had some family complications. Good news is I´m buying a new flour now (13% protein content or so) without any additives (no ascorbic acid, ADA or bleachers) and my results are getting better and better.

I will try a baguette with poolish this week and I´ll let you guys know. By the way, I do have Hammelman´s book so I´ll take a closer look.

Another thing, do you guys make any correction to get the Desired Dough Temperature in terms of batch size? For example, in my experience I´ve seen that its not the same 2kg of dough vs 10 kg of dough. For me it seems smaller batches just heat up faster, idk, what do you guys think?

NZBaked's picture


The flour we get from our very hard red wheat is usually 13-14% protein.

There is a dirty, quick fix to increase extensibility...

The reducing agent L-cysteine.