The Fresh Loaf

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Wet or Too Wet?

RalphP's picture

Wet or Too Wet?

Hi all,

Over the last year my girlfriend and I have had a lot of fun experimenting, with varying success, with sourdough.

This weekend we had one of our typical issues - a very wet / too wet dough.  The recipe was a simple one from a British guy's baking book - off the top of my head 400gr white bread flour, 200 starter, 275 water (cold), 10g salt.

When I mixed this ahead of an autolyse the result, and it remained the same way after, was a very wet dough indeed.  Neither of us fear handling a wet dough, but this was not just wet but felt wrong - rather like a thick cake mix?  It was only after about 10-15 minutes of kneading that it started to take on the slightly elastic quality that I'd associate with a standard dough as the START of kneading.  Before that it was just thing soft wet splodge!

My gut reaction when I first mixed it was to add more flour, particularly as my girlfriends starter has a high hydration, but I always remember 'the wetter the better'.. in fact the final bread was OK, if very flat once we'd freed it from it's proving basket and it spread during baking.  But what is the cause of a dough that is so wet it's not even stretchy / semi-solid. Is it as simple as too much water?  Am I missed a trick in terms of flour type or kneading?  I have had the occasional dough that went this way part way through kneading and i wondered if it was the result of using oil / water to cover the surface I was kneading on.


Any thoughts most welcome!  Thanks

drogon's picture

that works out at 75% hydration - I can't imagine any UK book suggesting a 75% hydration recipe - Which one? Wetter the better, but there is a point...

With UK flours this is extremely sloppy and hard to handle. I rarely go above 70% and my usual breads are at about 63%.

I did this recently:

I probably won't do another. It's not what I want in bread and it doesn't sell where I am either. Maybe if I was living somewhat posh & trendy it would sell, but here in deepest ruralistan it doesn't. The holes don't hold marmalade is the usual complaint I get.

Well done though - I'm sure it tasted just fine. The trick, I reckon, is the regular stretch and folds to do the gluten development rather than a traditional kneading type of thing.



RalphP's picture

Thanks Gordon - it was a James Morton recipe.  Interestingly it was the first sourdough we ever tried and the first time or two we made it, it worked really well, although the dough was tough to handle.  I imagine that the flour we use will have some effect - we've always used white for this recipe, but a range of different brands, but also we probably use quite a wet starter.  I'll certainly experiment with the stretch and fold method - as a research scientist by trade all this experimentation really intrigues me!  Agreed on the marmalade...

Wildfire's picture

I have just had something similar, I decided to bake it anyhow. I'll give the Tartine loaf a go tonight and report.

tgrayson's picture

"Wetter the better" is not a rule; rather, you should adjust the hydration to the purpose you have in mind.

How are you kneading the dough? The dough hook in a mixer often doesn't grab the dough well. Plus, extensive mixing will heavily oxidize the dough. Best bet is to use a series of stretch & folds. I've also found that a food processor can do a good job with wet doughs.

My own sourdough recipe is 68% hydration; I use the FP for 15 s then three folds spaced an hour apart.