The Fresh Loaf

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80% Hydration Baguettes (Yeast) - First Attempt

ElPanadero's picture

80% Hydration Baguettes (Yeast) - First Attempt

My regular baguette recipe (from my local Artisan Bakery) uses about 66% hydration.  This is my first foray into a much more difficult 80% hydration.  This was a real challenge and the results far from perfect, but the experience gained along the way is invaluable and worth the trouble.  I would say without any hesitation that these have been the tastiest baguettes I have ever made and the closest I have come to that genuine baguette flavour expectation.

For anyone out there wanting a first hand look at how the stretch and fold method develops the dough structure, this is a great way to see and "feel" it.  From the outset it all looks and feels hopeless but one has to have faith in the processes going on within the dough and if all is done carefully the rewards are very satisfying.

I halved the recipe on the Weekend Bakery site which I believe was adapted from a recipe here posted by Akiko, and I used T55 flour and fresh baker's yeast for my attempts.

Pre-ferment (Poolish) -   190g T55 Flour, 152g water, 3g yeast

Main Dough - 190g T55 Flour, 152g water, 6g salt, 1.5g yeast

Upon mixing the main dough I had what can really only be described as a rather thick looking cake batter.  Hard to believe anything could be done with it !

There then followed a series of 4 Stretch and Folds interspersed with 45 min rest periods.  The structure gradually developed over this period.

After 2 S+Fs the dough looked like this, sloppy but coming together:

Another 2 S+Fs and we progress to this:

Hard to appreciate from that picture but I could in fact lift all the dough out in one piece if I tried.

I split into 2 portions and pre-shaped, rested 10mins and then shaped as best I could.  This was a little more difficult than my usual 66% baguettes.  I popped then into a baguette tray (my oven dimensions prevent me from making a full sized baguette) and looking at them was more reminded of ciabattas than baguettes !

Normally I'm very happy with my baguette shaping but at 80% it's a whole new ball game.  Too little flour on the work surface and the dough wants to stick everywhere, too much and you can't get any purchase to tighten the outer skin.   What I ended up with wasn't very pretty to be honest.  Nothing like the surface tension I would normally achieve nor an even finish.   Next time will be better.

After a 30 min proof I was ready to slash and bake, but remembered that scoring would likely be hopeless in the current state.  One quick test slash was enough to prove this as the blade just dragged the wet dough.  So, into the fridge the tray went to cool for about 5-10mins.  This definitely firmed up the dough some and allowed for much better scoring.   Unfortunately, I only have a flat lame and for baguettes I should really invest in a curved one to create proper "ears".  I scored as best I could and popped them into a preheated oven (fan 240) with a cup full of water thrown in for steam.

The oven spring was pretty good and after about 25-30mins they were golden and ready to come out.

With a domestic oven I sadly can't get the kind of finish a baker's oven produces with dark crusty edges.  Still these looked 1/2 decent for a first attempt and the crumb inside was light and fluffy yet strong in its structure.  It could stand a good squeeze between my fingers and still spring back.

Compared to the source website results however, my crumb has much smaller holes.  This could well be the result of me being heavy handed with the S+Fs and / or in the final shaping which was a little awkward.   Nevertheless, the taste of these with just a little butter is fantastic.  Definitely a keeper for future baguettes.

For those of you who have mastered 80% baguettes I welcome your advice and comments on areas that I can improve here.  These are clearly worth mastering and putting in my repertoire. 


ElPanadero's picture

Thanks for the feedback.  The recipe is one that purely relies on stretch and folds so no initial mixing or kneading as such.   Looking back at the recipe however, I'm conscious from what you said there that I didn't spend long enough on the first stretch and folding which was supposed to be 2 mins.

As for the pans, well with a domestic oven i can only make mini-baguettes of course and it just doesn't seem worth the "faffing" to use a couche and transfer peel for that scenario.  I've never had a problem with the trays, it's just a case of having the right amount of dough to match their size so that they rise and bake into a uniform shape.  In the bakery of course it's couche and transfer all the way.

I'll have another go at these and try to develop the dough more at the initial S+F.  Cheers.

suave's picture

You know, pale crust and grayish crumb suggest to me that you might be overfermenting your dough.

dabrownman's picture

something for sure is not quite right.  80% hydration isn't baguettes when using all white flour - that would be an ton he dry side cabatta but the holes don't look right for that either.

Kin Arthur;s white baguettes are 66-67% hydration,  Even txfarmers fabulously great white SD baguettes are only 75% hydration here  She doesn't get to 80% hydration until there are a lot of whole grains in them - and her holes are still huge.   Don't ever look at her whole grain bagettes and see what kind of holes she gets on those - makes one feel inadequate when our white baguettes don't have holes tha large:-)

The key to her success is using a long cold autolyse in the fridge (12 hours) to develop the gluten instead of manipulating the dough, being very, very gentle with the dough, using as few of stretch and folds as possible and knowing when to stop doing them, then a long cold proof in the fridge.  It takes 40 hours to make ther bagges but there are no better looking or tasting baguettes to be found on this planet if you ask me. But they are SD and not commercial yeast.

To me the cumb looks like you had to work the dough quite a bit to get the gluten developed at such a high hydration. Then the commercial yeast really sped things up after that causing a uniform crumb that had small holes.   I'm thinking your baguettes will be much better lowering the hydration down to 72% to start adn work your way up to 75%.  Do a long autolyse first like txfarmer to let time get the gluten developed for you and then keep the S&F's to a minimum - look how few she does and the very long time there is between them.  with commercial yeast the time between the folds will be shorter .  If you are going for a long cold proof using yeast you will also have to cut back on the yeast some.  No real need for the long proof using commercial yeast but it might be worth a shot at lowering it some and see if the flavor is improves any with a cold retard or make the poolish wth just a pinch of yeast to try to get better flavor.

I'm thinking that a long autolyse, lowering the hydration and working the dough as little as possible will solve your crumb problems.

Happy  baking


ElPanadero's picture

for the feedback folks.

DA, I normally make baguettes at 66-70% hydration.  These were just a recipe I saw on a website and I wanted a crack at trying to handle that higher hydration.  I will certainly try your suggestions for my next attempt.


PetraR's picture

I prefer your crumb structure very much to the other one in this thread.

Yours looks as if it has bite to it, this is how we like our Bread in Germany.

The other one consists of holes, how can anything be spread on it without falling through.

A Poolish is made from equal parts of Flour and Water.

So you made a preferment.

I LOVE the look of your crumb and shall try this recipe:)