The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

High Hydration - No-Knead in Disguise?

louiscohen's picture

High Hydration - No-Knead in Disguise?

I am trying to make mostly whole wheat high hydration breads, say at least 2/3's whole wheat and appropriate hydration, which is usually 75-85%.  I watched several videos on mixing wet doughs - my dough never seemed to look or behave like the ones in the videos.

So I tried the KAF No-Knead whole wheat bread, baked it in a dutch oven, and finally got some oven spring and a nice open crumb, pretty consistent from top to bottom with a nice wheaty flavor after 3 days bulk fermentation in the fridge.  It is a mixed blessing to find out that not kneading yields a better result than mixing and stretching-and-folding by yourself.

So I took a break from whole wheat and am making some pizza dough  (Note that The Artisan web site is great for Italian breads).  KAF sent me some of their Italian Style flour in place of the High Gluten I had ordered, so why not pizza.

The pizza dough formula has a range of hydration from 67 - 88%.  I went for the full wet, and mirabile dictu, the dough looked just like the doughs in those high hydration mixing videos.  After 2 10 minutes intervals of Rubaud's method  the dough looked just like the dough in the video.

After an hour of bulk fermentation at room temp, I put it in the fridge, where it has doubled in size.   It greatly resembles the No-Knead Whole Wheat dough, which was a 90% hydration.

I am starting to think that whether mixed by hand or machine, the very high hydration doughs make most of their gluten while fermenting and not during the actual mixing.  

When my next bag of WW flour arrives, I may try a high WW percentage and high hydration, mix by hand, and go for a 1-2 day retarded fermentation to get the structure.  



David R's picture
David R
  1. Success is good, don't argue with it. 🙂
  2. Something was going on, those other times, that still deserves to be discovered.
gavinc's picture

Have you considered a pate-fermentee using the bread flour component? Should help with the bread structure and flavour.  Just a thought.  I've never gone over 50% whole-wheat and 50% bread flour, so you are in unexplored territory for me.


barryvabeach's picture

Louis,  yes, dough gathers strength just by sitting,  high hydration may gather strength a little quicker, but any dough will.  Many bakers stop kneading well before the dough has acquired much strength, and just let it develop with a stretch and fold.   If you haven't watched the Hamelman series on youtube, you should,  but here is the section on mixing.  He stops mixing at around 3:10 in the video, and you can see it is not well kneaded, by the end of the video it is fully developed, mostly from sitting around.  BTW,  try making baquettes de tradition,  from Bread by Hamelman.  You do a short, 1 minute mix, no kneading, just 3 S & F spread out 20 minutes apart, and the dough looks fully developed at the end.