Does hydration really matters?
I’m new in this forum and I have a question that perhaps with the expertise of all bread-fans here can be answered! :)
The thing is it looks like no matter what I do (I’ve tried countless combinations already) my bread always end up having a compact crumb. Not that it’s bad, but I can’t make it lighter no matter what!
I’ve heard many times that the trick is to increase hydration, so this is what I’ve done in my last experiment. Increased it up to 85%...
I follow a modified recipe from Ken Forkish (Overnight White Bread) :
100% - 500 gr Bread white flour (12% proteins)
85% - 425 gr lukewarm water
0.008% - 0.4 gr dry yeast
2.2% - 11 gr salt
· Mix flour and water leave it for 20’ of Autolysis
· Mix all ingredients – 6:45 am
· 9 times delicate coil folding every 30’ min (the dough looked great, super elastic and transparent)
· 1 laminated folding
· During these foldings the dough was kept in a Brod&Taylor proofer at a constant temp of 26°C (78.8F)
· After the last folding I left it rest in the proofer– 12:00am
· After 6h it rose its size to x2.5 its volume. It looked very bubbly and smelt great - 6pm
· Pre-shape, very basic. No flour used, only spray some water. 15 min rest
· Shape “envelope method”. It was complicated but I managed to do it ok. The dough achieved some tension and good shape.
· Put it in a 18 cm (7 inches) diameter round proofing basket
· Let it ferment overnight in the fridge at temp 4°C (39.2F)
· After 10.5h I prepared it for baking it. Finger dent test okish I guess. I looked fine – 5:30am.
· Unfortunately it got stuck into the proofing basked but I managed to release it. However, it looked horrible (as I expected because of the high hydration). I scored it (with a new blade) in a “+” form, spray a bit of water above the dough to provide it with more moist with the expectation of a better oven spring and lighter crumb.
· Put into a Dutch oven pre-heated at 250°C (482F) during 45’
· Bake for 30’ at 250°C (482F)
· Bake outside the Dutch oven for over 20’ at 250°C (482F)
The result is ok, but still it didn’t get the open light crumb I was expecting. The vertical circumference of the bread is 48-49 cm (19 inches), which is exactly the same I get with other levels of hydration (80%, 75%, 70%). I believe that if all else is kept constant, the vertical circumference is a good measure for the crumb openness level.
So, if with 85% hydration is so difficult to handle but gives the same results as 70%, why bother? It looks like to me that hydration is not really the key factor to get a good light crumb.
What are your views on this? Does anyone have some experience on this topic?
Here some photos:
When ready to bake:
After taking it out from the proofing basket and scoring in + Sorry for the bad quality but I got nervous and was in hurry thinking it would spread all over my counter!
Final result. It looks pretty ok to me
Crumb comparison with other I did yesterday with 80% hydration (85% top, 80% bottom). As you can see they are almost identical! and what it's even more frustrating, the ones I do with less hydration, 75%, look exactly the same!