The Fresh Loaf

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Adjusting hydration for machine mixing (esp Ankarsrum)

Flash Jack's picture
Flash Jack

Adjusting hydration for machine mixing (esp Ankarsrum)

Hello. I’m new here.

Can you give me some guidance on hydration when converting from the manual process of S&F to machine mixing (specifically the Ankarsrum). Or, indeed, whether it is necessary.

I just got this new machine. It is a beautiful thing.

I’ve had good results using S&F for a basic sourdough based on Ken Forkish’s method. It has what I take to be a fairly high hydration level of 78%. Although the dough has been somewhat tricky to handle (especially to shape into baguettes) it has worked well.

My first attempt with the Ankarsrum is underway and looks to be a disaster.

I mixed 650g AP flour, 505g water, 160g starter, 33g salt and 3.3g diastatic malt in the Ankarsrum slowly at first with the roller. I usually do an autolyse but in this case I didn’t. After a couple of minutes I increased the speed to medium-high and mixed for about 10 minutes.

The dough was in no way coming together. I rested it a few minutes then swapped to the dough hook on medium-high.

Result: no better, little change.

The dough is now resting in a sad, wet puddle. I’ve given it a couple of S&Fs over the past hour. I don’t hold out much hope.

I expect it is too wet and abused to come good. I’ll leave it overnight to see if it self-resurrects.

So I have two questions: to what degree should hydration that works well in an all-S&F recipe be reduced for mechanical mixing? I’ll try again tomorrow at say 65% and by trial and error might get it right. Is there a useful rule of thumb to use as a starting point?

Question two: I’ve been reading up here about the Ankarsrum and I see that some (many?) people S&F after machine mixing. This seems to defeat the purpose of the machine but I am happy to be schooled. What is the relationship between hydration/mixing time/dough type and post-mixing S&F?

Any advice for a novice appreciated.


barryvabeach's picture

Jack,  I have an Ank, and with the roller, have never had a problem with high hydration doughs coming together.   I normally autolyse, but I don't think that should be an issue, since you are using AP, and i am typically using 100% home milled wheat. 

As to S & F,  some suggest that machine mixing is done just until the dough has gathered some strength,  and the final gluten development is done using S & F to avoid overoxidation of the the dough.   I mix further than he does in the video,  usually 2 to 3 minutes on low to mix the ingredients, then a higher speed till the dough has come completely together and does not stick to the roller -  that is usually 6 to 8 minutes for a loaf of 454 grams of whole wheat.  

Keep at it,  the Ank it a  great machine,  I have owned a KA, a Bosch Universal, a Bosch Compact, and a Bosch Concept -  I have never had a dough that the Ank couldn't handle with the roller and scraper.

Flash Jack's picture
Flash Jack

Thank you Barry for the encouraging words. That's a useful video.

I've read the thread here on 36-hour baguette. Inspiring and informative. It also confirms something I've come to think: time heals all wounds in dough. Or at least most. My sad gloopy pile has begun to come together after about 10 hours of self-healing on the bench (house is cool). It won't be my best effort but, hey, it's my first effort with the Ank and at least I won't have to pour it away.

I do kind of wonder why I just laid out AUD1200 on a machine when, with patience, dough practically mixes and raises itself. The life force of yeast is indomitable and structure persists.

After a long time of mixer envy, the lure of the Ank was irresistible. It's a marvellous piece of engineering and industrial design and I'm sure we have happy days together ahead.

Thanks for taking the time to help a novice.

barryvabeach's picture

Jack,  it is extremely well engineered, and can do many things besides kneading dough,  I hope you come to appreciate it as much as I appreciate mine. 

idaveindy's picture

So far, you've said two things changed:

1. Mixing in the Ank vs hand-mixing (implied, you didn't explicitly say).  Saying "S&F" does not require that you hand-mixed.

2. No autolyse this time.


Is it possible anything else changed?

Is this bill of ingredients _exactly_ the same as what you hand-mixed previously?

Anything new added, or something left out, or quantities/percentages changed?

Did you change _brands_ of anything?  That is my likely suspect, if you changed flour brand.


If no ingredients, percentages, or brands changed, then the autolyse must have been it.

Was your previous autolyse with or without the levain?


Another possibility is that you weighed/measured something incorrectly, or made a math error when applying baker's percentages to your formula... just plain ol' human error.

Flash Jack's picture
Flash Jack

Dave, I excel at human error so I'm not ruling that out. Especially given that I was in a state of excitement.

Ingredients unchanged.

Perhaps a testament to the power of autolyse? I usually autolyse just the flour and water (no levain).

I do hand mix when doing things the usual way (provided that a Danish whisk or, sometimes, a spoon is considered also to be 'hand').

You're right on pulling me up on changing at least two variables. By way of exculpation, I was trying out my new, beautiful, just-arrived, lustrous, expensive, gorgeous machine. First-night nerves.

Thank you for helping.


idaveindy's picture

Like a kid at Christmas.

For me, it's every time a package is delivered from Amazon.

GrainBrain's picture

Jack, congrats on your new machine. Am sure you have found it powerful and quiet. In the case of 78% hydration, or higher, I have found the dough hook more useful. Sometimes I play with moving it back and forth toward the center of the bowl. You generally will know you are starting to build strength when the dough forms a beautiful figure 8 pattern around the hook. I believe you can choose to work the dough to the desired strength in the machine, or only go partially and use S&F for the last stage. No doubt you will get varying opinions on this approach.
One of the most helpful points I can offer is to develop awareness of how your flour absorbs water. I know it may sound too basic, but as you know from your autolyse experience, the dough feels quite different after just 20 minutes.
My hunch is that you are adding too much water too quickly.
I have experienced this as a problem not only in an Ankarsrum, but also using a FAMAG. Flour can only gulp water at a certain rate. I'm basing this on your report of a "sad, wet puddle." To me this suggests the flour could not absorb all the water before you started mixing. Too much excess water actually impedes gluten development. The proteins slide past each other without being able to bond.
Try holding back 20% of the water until you see some strength developing. Then, instead of adding the remaining 20% at all once, let it trickle in slowly, with pauses in between. 
For every flour type you use, the rate at which it can absorb that much water will differ. Be willing to proceed as if this were an experiment. I believe you will arrive at how to add water at the right rate for each flour type and each Forkish recipe.

Flash Jack's picture
Flash Jack

Dear GrainBrain

Thank you for that thoughtful reply.

I'm sure the machine will be a winner. I'm impressed by its build quality.

There's learning ahead for sure. I'll play around with the roller or the hook. As you say, opinions vary but experience is the best guide.

I expect you are right about too much water too quickly. Next time I'll be less impatient and give it a good autolyse stage. Your 80/20 approach seems sound.

I'm beginning to think that, within reason, no autolysis can be too long. I'm considering having on hand a bucket of flour with water to around 65% and dipping into that as needed (adding what's required to get to the right percentage). Maybe if I plan ahead I can work around my impatience.

Meantime, thanks for the tips.