The Fresh Loaf

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Wet dough for large holes is too soft...

emmett518's picture

Wet dough for large holes is too soft...

I have been baking naturally leavened bread using the La Farm Bread recipe in Lionel Vatinet's book, "A Passion for Bread".

When I use the listed amount of water for the recipe, the dough comes out really sticky and wet.  I could work with this, but the dough flattens out, such that it looks like a fat pancake when it goes into the oven.  If I cut the water, and make a dough that more resembles what I am used to baking for bread, the dough rises, and stands up, but doesn't have those large holes.

I called King Arthur, and they told me that if the dough sags, it has too much water, and that I had to find the sweet spot where the dough was wet enough, but not so wet that it flattens out.

Does anyone have any suggestions?  No idea how to figure out how much water is enough.  KA says the dough should feel like my cheek. 



suave's picture

Well, KAF people are correct - you have to find the sweet spot, and you have to do it yourself.  Cut water and try, and again, and again, until you get it right. 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Best to start off low-ish hydration and slowly add more water till it feels correct. Make a note of how much you have initially used and how much more you have had to add. Then you'll get to know the hydration you need for the flours you use. 

Large holes is not only about high hydration. It's just as much about how the dough is handled

tgrayson's picture

High hydration doughs take a lot more work to achieve the necessary structure to hold up. Without knowing the recipe, I suggest than when you shape, do it repeatedly until the resulting shape feels very tight.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is easy if working with weights.  Just take the total weight of water and divide by total weight of flour then multiply by 100 to get the percentage.   It does give an idea of what you're working with and something to compare when speaking and figuring the amount of water.  

Flours will vary in how much they absorb so the ideal range depends on type of flour.  Usually the higher the whole flour and protein, the more water the flour can absorb.  

For an AP heat flour, the water amount for dough can be from a stiff 50% to 65% and even up to a wet 70%.  With a wheat bread flour, the scale slides up to 60% for a stiff dough and goes upward to 70% and higher.  Whole wheat may start much higher.  

So how to use that information...   First add up the flour in the recipe and then the water.  Figure the hydration.  Since the recipe came out too wet, try it again with less water.  Maybe 5% less.  After adding the water to the flour, stir to moisten the flour then let the dough sit half an hour (autolyse) covered, to let the flour swell before kneading.