The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Highest Hydration Possible

ericlindley's picture

Highest Hydration Possible

Hi!  I've recently gotten into higher-hydration breads, and tried to make what I think is a 100% hydration ciabatta.

The crumb turned out nicely shiny and gelatinous, and the crust was very thin, papery even

Pictures and recipe on my bizarre baking blog:


The point, though, is:

I'm wondering what the highest hydration is that would let a bread hold up to baking, and what gets lost as you start to get up there.

I'm guessing the crumb goes from shiny to gummy, and the air bubbles start escaping, but are there tricks and payoffs to these wet marvels?




pmccool's picture

The wettest dough (colloid?) that I have ever baked with was a focaccia from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Bread Bible.  I don't remember the exact number, but think it was either 113% or 119% hydration.  The recipe calls for 20 minutes of mixing by machine and it only started changing from soupy to dough-like at about the 18-minute mark.  When you pour (yes, pour!) the dough from the mixing bowl into the baking sheet, it looks (in Ms. Berenbaum's words) "like melted mozzarella cheese".  Very weird stuff, but it made a great focaccia.


ericlindley's picture

that sounds amazing—I need to get my kitchenAid out of storage.... Just out of curiosity if you wander by this post again: did you notice anything particular about such a high hydration when you baked it that you don't think you could have gotten otherwis


Frittering away my time playing Fantastic Contraptions,

wondering if I should have stayed an Engineering major, myself,


pmccool's picture

Things I noticed:

- This is not the recipe for people who like to 'play' with their dough.  It's pretty much a matter of pouring it into the baking sheet, and trying to spread it out without tearing it.  (I took another look at the formula and it is 113.5% hydration.)

- The texture after baking was perhaps more "cake-y" or spongy than focaccias made with lower hydrations.  The crust was already softening as the bread cooled because of the high water content.

- It made great sandwiches but, then, so do other focaccias.

- Since part of what I enjoy about bread making are the tactile inputs from stirring, kneading, shaping and slashing, I will probably steer toward other recipes that let me take a more hands-on role.


johnster's picture

I've had that same problem with my ciabattas and the very wet country loavese described in the KAF Artisan Breads video: the breads' crusts get very soft, shortly after pulling them from the oven, even though the internal temp is 205...  I've tried using Susan's trick ( of leaving the loaves in the cracked-open oven for ten minutes after turning it off once the loaves are done baking.  This makes the crust a bit more firm, but still not the texture that I'm after.  (The whole reason I make these very lean breads is that wonderful contrast between a beautiful crunchy crust and the divine taste of nicely fermented white flour.....)

Any feedback would be appreciated.

By the way, the snow is falling beautifully out here in Boston, metro-west, but there is no smell of bread rising in the kitchen...  :(  We've got a Portuguese Pot Roast that's laid claim to the oven for the entire afternoon, so I'm snowed into a bread-less house.....

Wishing you all a happy and safe New Year!  And, Floyd, thank you for this wonderful site.  It is a pleasure visiting, here.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You could try just baking normally and when ready to eat, take a cold loaf and pop it into a hot oven for 7 minutes to serve a chrispy crust.   That way there is no time for it to get soft again.


ryeaskrye's picture

Not sure about ciabattas, but as I've read the flavor of bread develops over time, I usually bake 2 loaves at a time, underbake the second by about 5-10 minutes and let it sit for up to 4 days in a paper sack while the 1st loaf is eaten.

I then wet it down completely with a spray bottle and pop into a 375° pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes.

Invariably I get a much nicer, crunchy crust that lasts and the crumb still seems fresh.

I'm an amateur, and I'm not sure what the wiser folks here will say about this, but I like the results I get better than using the freezer. 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I don't even bother with the spray bottle.  I turn on the tap and give it a two second douse, then fast into the hot oven on the rack.   I can hear the crunching now.... 

Jan 1st is the day we make "Family Fish Soup"  Everybody contributes, everybody tastes, everybody adds stuff, and everybody eats!  The whole clan is informally invited and the pot is huge!  The second day is even better, the flavors get more rounded and the bread gets toasted or re-baked.  It works out great causing family get togethers and everyone instinctively knows an open house atmosphere exists when fish soup is involved. 

What's in it?   You name it... crab, shrimp, muscles, fish chunks, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, Korean radish, chili, bell pepper, leeks, parsley, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, etc....  (I can only tell you what I saw get thrown in.)   Simple soup fonds get made, sieved and added as required and as the days goes by.   Every year it's a little bit different but it is always delicious!  Late at night it gets put outside to cool down.  Around lunchtime it gets brought up to a boil.  Great stuff!

Got to get back to my dough,  Mini

trhoma6432's picture

I have never thought of this method. While making the crust good and crisp will it take away from the crusts chewyness? How bout the texture of the crumb, what is the effect on that? Very nice idea.

hansjoakim's picture

In relation to high hydration doughs: Has anyone ever tried the double hydration method described by Suas in AB&P?

It sounds intriguing, and could be a great way to develop gluten in high hydration doughs. In short, you mix all the flour with enough water to develop a 66 - 67% hydration dough. Knead this, and then gradually keep adding the rest of the water.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, hansjoakim.

Happy New Year!

SteveB blogged on this technique last Spring. See:

The Gosselin baguettes about which I recently posted use this technique, but the additional water is added after an overnight cold retardation.