Shaping a fragile dough
I am intentionally using the term fragile as “wet” is a very relative and somehow loaded term.
I made this bread with 73% hydration dough, half all purpose, half whole spelt, 0.4% instant yeast. The dough bulk fermented for 5 hours, getting only two folds, 10 and 30 minutes after mixing. By the end of the bulk, the consistency of the dough was resembling poolish – very wet, wobbly and filled with big air bubbles. Exactly the kind of dough that was too scary for me to shape.
However, I found a remedy – shaping 3 times, 10 minute apart. For the first pre-shape, since the dough was so slack, I used a floured bench scraper to gently stretch and fold from four directions, then flip over and let the dough rest. Flipping is important since the bottom of the dough is very wet and you would like to flour it and have it drier for the next shaping. Before the second pre-shape, the dough already became much more manageable. I flipped the dough again using the bench scraper and then used the bench scraper to lift the sides and then handle the folds with my fingers – making a round. For the final shaping, the dough was already very strong and easy to make into a batard. The final bread has much stronger structure than I anticipated from this slack dough.
Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there…