The Fresh Loaf

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adding water while kneading

CSBaker's picture

adding water while kneading

So, I actually have two questions.  One is this:  it seems like just about every formula I follow ends up being a pretty dry dough, and a really tight crumb.  Ugh!!!  I don't know why that is, but I do keep reading that the wetter the dough, the more open the crumb.  So, can I just add water no matter what the recipe says?  Now, second question, speaking of adding water, can I add water throughout kneading.  Sometimes, it takes a little while (for me anyway) to realize that this dough is too dry.   So today, for example, I just kept dumping water, kneading, dumping water, kneading.  It never did feel like a very wet dough, AND, even thought I got a good rise, and a great oven spring, the crumb was really tight.  Sigh.

Here was the formula I used:

200 grams starter, 400 grams of water (which ended up being a lot more, as I said) 600 grams flour (I used 300 grams bread flour, and then a mixture of whole wheat and rye), and 15 grams salt.  

JimmyChoCho's picture

I'm going to assume that your starter is a 100% hydration starter which would put the final dough at roughly a 71% hydration which is a pretty wet dough IMO. Flours such as wheat and rye can absorb a lot more liquid than regular bread flour but even so your dough shouldn't be dry at 71% hydration. 

Could you please take us step by step through your process from mixing to the final baking. There are just too many variables that can lead to a tight crumb structure. In my experience at hydrations of 71% and upwards, breads resulting in a tight crumb structure is usually caused by either overproofing or mishandling the dough in it's final rise (which causes deflation).

bassopotamus's picture

Adding water once a dough has come together is a pain. I have to do it on occasion, and find it is best to let the dough sit about 10 minutes after I add water to absorb it. 


I agree with the above poster that your recipe sounds pretty wet already. I assume you are hand kneading based on your description.  I choose not to, personally, but one problem that hand kneaders often encounter is that, by flouring their work surface, they are incorporating a fair amount of extra flour. There are a couple solutions

1. Use a mixer. It doesn't care if it gets sticky.

2. Instead of flouring your hands and work surface, wet them. You will probably need a bench scraper as part of your routine. 

3. Start your dough with extra water to counter the flour you pick up during kneading.

4. Switch to a "no Knead" long cold fermentation recipe. 

PaddyL's picture

I've done that occasionally, when I've accidentally added a bit too much flour.  Just spritz the dough while you're kneading.