The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Tough High Hydration

Mad baker's picture
Mad baker

Tough High Hydration

As my loaf does its final rise before baking, I am somewhat downhearted. I thought I was making a nice High Hydration (85%) bread, but now, after closer to 100% hydration, and a 3 hour bulk ferment, I just preshaped a dough so tough I felt like it would knife me in the back if I gave it a chance...We are talking an inner-city gang loaf, here...

500g flour (bread flour), 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp regular yeast, bloomed in 100 ml warm water, and 250 ml water. It was already acting balky at the pre-autolyse stage. After 1/2 hour, this thing was almost snarling at me. So as I used my kitchenaid and bread hook to knead it, I gradually added another 50-60 ml. of water. Parts of the dough refused to play nice with the rest, choosing to sit on the sides of the kitchenaid bowl, so I would stop every couple of minutes, and using a silicone spatula, put the recalcitrant lumps into the center on the bottom of the bread hook, and start the mixer up again, only to see them move back to the sides of the bowl and stare at the rest going round...

After about 15 minutes of this, I pushed the lumps into the general populace once again, and cranked the mixer up to 8, deciding that when I make ciabatta, I beat the living dickens out of the dough, and by this point I was within about 50ml of the hydration I use for my ciabatta, so I felt I had nothing to lose, except those rude lumps on the sides...

Another 7 minutes, and like a ciabatta, suddenly the sound of the dough changed, the whole thing pulled together, and pulled away from the bowl, showing the 'dimple' on the bottom. Off went the mixer, and I bulk fermented my gang member dough for 3 hours. It more than doubled, and I could see beautiful bubbles under the surface.

So I grabbed my bowl scraper, and gently encouraged the dough out onto my floured counter. This was NOT ciabatta dough, hydration be damned. It didn't have that semi-floppy, want to ooze into a dough-puddle consistency. It was tough. Almost modeling clay tough...

So, it's now sitting in the kitchen, far away from any knives or sharp objects, rising for at least the next 40 minutes...

I truly don't expect it things to end well. Even with the bubbles I always strive for when making bread, this...thing looks like it will make good doorstop or Fendu-style blunt murder weapon...

So, where can I point the finger of blame? The bread flour instead of AP? The weather (it has become overcast and lightly snowed since I started)? Too much machine kneading? Not enough (?!?) water?

This is my first foray into bread flour. I usually use AP, or AP with a tablespoon of Vital Gluten added...Does the higher gluten content of bread flour translate into dough that you don't turn your back on?

I'll update later tonight after baking my Frankenloaf, just to let you know how chewy it ends up...Every loaf is an adventure, that's for sure!!!


Mad baker's picture
Mad baker

Surprisingly, it came out pretty good! Dense crumb, thin, but chewy crust. But it rose nicely, baked evenly, and tastes wonderful. A wee bit moist interior (with all the water, I'm not surprised!), but for all the heartaches it gave me pre-baking, I am honestly surprised at how good it did come out. Nothing like a ciabatta, tho. More like dinner rolls, almost. 

And actually, that is not a bad thing, as I started this loaf wanting to make home made grilled cheese sandwiches. The fine crumb and moist interior will help it toast up wonderfully in a frying pan. Now to see how future loaves come out with bread flour...

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Well, for starters even with the extra 50 to 60 ml of water (assuming you measured it), the total hydration is 80%, not 100% (400 grams of water and 500 grams of flour). But it still should not have been stiff. When this kind of thing has happened to me (and it has!), I usually find that I've made an error in measuring one or the other. I did that the other day, in fact - used the flour for two loaves and the water for one! Adding additional water after you've started mixing never seems to work out well either. Live and learn... :)

MichaelLily's picture

I'm about sure you mismeasured one of the ingredients.

jimbtv's picture

250 + 100 = 350g water. 350/500g flour is .7, or 70% hydration. Adding another 60g of water would bring it up to 82% hydration. Still a 70 to 85% hydration dough shouldn't act like you described.

Higher protein flours will tighten-up pretty quickly but really, 22 minutes in the mixer? My longest mixes with AP flour are 3 minutes (1 minute @ 300 rpm and 2 minutes @ 600 rpm) and even then I'm worried about over development of gluten. If I spent 22 minutes in a mixer, much of the time at speed 8, I'd be coming after you with a knife too :-)

Adding a little bit of water to a severely under-hydrated dough will act exactly as you describe - flat, dense pancakes on the side of the bowl that refuse to play nice with the other dough.

Like the other who commented before me, I am suspicious of a measurement error.