The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

74% hydration soughdough

Benito's picture
Benito

74% hydration soughdough

I’m feeling more confident now with this sourdough recipe.  I’ve had pretty good success now that I’ve baked it a few times with the hydration lowered to 74% from about 78%.  This is Maurizio’s beginner sourdough recipe which fortunately we love the flavour of.  The only change this time was that I added 0.5% diastatic malt powder to the dough during the autolyse.  I believe it did make the fermentation go faster than usual as the dough appeared nicely fermented after 4 hours at 80ºF and with my starter it usually takes 4.5 to 5 hours before it appears nicely fermented so I think it does what it advertises.  Tonight we’ll cut it and taste it to see how it affects the crumb texture and flavour.  The other change I made during the baking process was that I baked it in my DO at the highest rack that I could still fit it on and place a cookie tray on the rack below to shield it from the direct heat.  Also, I’ve started to pull the bread out of the DO after taking the lid off and then placing the bread with the parchment onto the rack in the oven directly.  I’ve made this change to try to get the bottom crust to be baked more similarly to the sides and top as I’ve often found that the bottom crust to be much thicker than the rest of the crust and I’m hoping that this will help make it less thick.  Again we’ll see if these changes help.  I’ve continued to use slap and folds and coil folds with the dough and I think I’m building pretty good structure this way.

I also tried to score a bit of a pattern on the side of the loaf.  I will need to put a bit of flour on the dough prior to scoring in the future if I want the pattern to actually show, but not a bad outcome for a first try.

Benny

Comments

Benito's picture
Benito

I’m very pleased with this bake.  The crumb turned out great.  I think that the diastatic malt powder made the bread taste just a bit less sour and a bit sweeter but not actually sweet.  The crumb wasn’t gummy so I guess 0.5% diastatic malt is a safe amount to use.

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

One important lesson I've learnt so far is that, more often than not,  it isn't worth pushing the hydration too far. The dough is easier to develop and handle, and the final crumb isn't that much denser than its higher hydration counterpart. I think the trick of removing the dough from the DO after steaming works well. The crust is no doubt evenly coloured. My bread used to have the same burnt bottom problem since I bake mine in a cast iron pan. It's solved after I started lowering the oven temperature half-way through the bake.

Beautiful bread, Benny!

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Elsie. I agree about the hydration. It is much easier to handle moderate hydration and really I cannot tell a difference in the crumb. I suppose if I could handle high hydration well I might be able to see a difference in the crumb, but I’m happy having some success with my bakes now.

Benny

Bread1965's picture
Bread1965

Benny.. you're a good baker. And I'll use your idea of putting the bread on parchment paper next time I bake.... very well done..

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you, that is very generous of you to say as you are a very accomplished baker.  I’m still new and working on improving, but it is nice to see some success now.

Benny

isand66's picture
isand66

its always nice to experiment as that Is how you learn and get better.  I don't use a Baking vessel and prefer to bake directly on my baking stone with added steam.  

Your crumb and crust look excellent.  

Happy Baking.

Ian

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Ian, I am quite pleased with how it turned out.

Benny

ifs201's picture
ifs201

Beautiful! Your hard work is really paying off. 

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Ilene, it is nice to see some progress and improvement in our bakes.

Benny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Your breads have really taken a gigantic leap! Something changed for you recently. What do you attribute your success to?

Everything about your bread is fantastic. And then, you stepped it up with some razzle dazzle scoring :-)

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Danny.

I think that my bakes have improved because of a few different things.  One, I reduced the hydration to 74% from 78% and in fact I realized that in his recipe he gives the total water and then how much to hold back, I believe I didn't subtract the holdback water from the total amount and was using the total amount in the autolyze boosting the hydration well above 80%.  I'm not sure when I started to make this error but I corrected it in my last two bakes and then reduced the hydration below the original recipe.

I think I am now building better structure with the combination of slap and folds and coil folds.  I don't think that for whatever reason I was building structure well enough in the past with only the stretch and folds, I'm not sure why that is though.

I am now using Full Proof Baking's shaping method for batards and I'm careful to not use too much flour but just enough to reduce sticking so now I'm getting better tension on the surface of the dough.

Finally, I am scoring more successfully with more depth, I believe I was scoring too shallowly in the past.

One last thing, maybe the addition of the 0.5% diastatic malt helped more fermentation along a bit more quickly so I was a bit more sure that bulk fermentation was adequate to move onto final shaping.

Benny

Benito's picture
Benito

Oh I forgot, another thing I've been doing is spritzing some water with a spray bottle into my DO avoiding the dough, just to increase the steam a bit.

syros's picture
syros

I love Maurizio’s beginner SD recipe. Its a great one. Yours looks amazing 

sharon

Benito's picture
Benito

I love this recipe too, it has just enough whole grains in it without it tasting bitter at all.  

Thanks for the compliment Sharon.

Benny 

not.a.crumb.left's picture
not.a.crumb.left

and Benny this is a beautiful loaf inside and outside...you must have been dancing in the kitchen when you saw this! A stunner! I try sometimes diastatic malt but it often makes the dough go too fast...you inspire me to try again and see..... Kat

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Kat, you are kind, but you did just describe what was going on in front of my oven when I took the lid off the DO.  My partner thought something was wrong how I was making such a happy commotion.  Regarding the diastatic malt powder, I think it took a bit of the sourness off and gave it just a slight more sweetness to the crumb, but that may have been a placebo effect as well.

Benny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Benny, I have been playing with hydrations a lot lately. For 20% whole wheat my best breads are between 74-76% hydration. And 76% is a little high for me. 77% is completely too wet for me. The loaves won’t break an ear.

My last bake was set for 75% hydration, but the dough was not smooth or supple. I wait until after the levain is mixed and rested, then the hydration is adjusted when the salt is added. Waiting until this point seems best because the dough is constantly absorbing moisture and relaxing. When adding liquids, it is good to take into account the tightening affect of the salt. Anyway, 3 grams of water was added to the dough and almost immediately the dough surface smoothed out. But the dough didn’t feel quite extensible enough. After adding 4 more grams of water (bring hydration to 76%) the dough got nice and supple. It is amazing to me how such tiny changes can make large differences.

When working towards a perfect loaf 2%, maybe even as little as 1% of hydration makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE! It amazes me how sensitive artisan bread baking can be. Get is right and the bread excels. Miss the mark by a little and the bread disappoints.

Lower Hydrations
After much testing, many TFL bakers have come to the conclusion that high hydrations are not necessary for great breads with excellent crumb. It’s high time I begin to learn from them. Kristen bakes superior breads at 80% hydration, but that is waaaay beyond my present skill set.

I repeat myself. Your breads have excelled recently! You are on to something...

Danny

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Danny, it is only because of this website that I’ve been able to improve my bread baking.  I certainly agree that lowering the hydration a few percent has greatly improved my bread and also working to improve the structure has probably greatly improved the oven spring.  I also agree that the lower hydration hasn’t affected the flavour or texture and for me I’ll be sticking with lower hydration for a while at least.  Maybe sometime in the future I’ll try higher hydration but I’m not sure what the gain would be for the added difficulty in working with it.

Benny

syros's picture
syros

Hi Benny, 

Just a couple of tips from Maurizio - my DO is a Staub and he recommends not heating it more than 450 F - 475 max. He also suggested two sheets of parchment which I have started doing and it’s made a difference. I use a ceramic pizza stone on the lowest rack and make certain to place my DO on the rack above so that it is directly over the stone when the rack is in place. He suggests keeping the lid in the oven when you take it off, but I remove it. The last several bakes have been great - the bottom isn’t getting too dark - it’s a more even color, as you said. Haven’t tried baking it right on the rack. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I do love his beginner sourdough recipe. That’s the first bread I baked! Yours is a beauty!

Benito's picture
Benito

Sharon, thanks for reminding me about Maurizio’s tips, especially the one about two pieces of parchment, I forgot that one.  I did try lowering the temperature of the oven to 475ºF when reheating but then got poor oven spring.  I now have a baking steel which I bought to ensure that my pies have a perfectly browned bottom crust and I have that on the lowest rack and now have my DO on the rack above.  I was baking my breads on the lowest rack before which I realized recently was the wrong thing to be doing because it was over browning the bottom crust.  The problem now is that I changed two variables at the same time, baking on a higher rack and starting to take the bread out of the DO after taking the lid off so I don’t know if I don’t actually need to take it out to achieve the less browned bottom.

Benny