The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

High hydration failure

pendragon's picture
pendragon

High hydration failure

Hi all,

I've been browsing around the forums for a while and I really enjoy reading about everyone's bread baking adventures. Unfortunately, my own experiences with baking sourdough to date have been more frustrating than rewarding.

I've been baking sourdough seriously for longer than I care to admit (about 3 years), and I could probably count my successes on one hand. I've had the most success with Trevor's low hydration recipe, but every time increase the hydration of my loaf, I start to run into trouble. It seems that my dough is always an unworkable puddle and nothing like what I see on youtube. Even if I shape the dough very tightly, it still feels very slack and loses its shape.

On top of that, the weather here in the southern hemisphere has really cooled down, so I'm finding it even more difficult to manage proofing times. I'm using an insulated box with a heat mat as a makeshift proofing box, but maintaining a stable temperature is really hard. Last bake, I'm pretty convinced I underproofed the loaf (it had a fairly obvious fools crumb), and I just popped one into the fridge this evening that poured onto my bench into a pancake. It seemed to have no structure at all, so I'm guessing it might have been overproofed.

Granted this is quite generaly, but can anyone offer some advice on where I might be going wrong? Also, does everyone who turns out consistent loaves have some sort of temperature control? I feel like even after all of the years, I don't have a good feel for when a loaf is proofed to perfection. Strangely enough, I have that intuition with commercial yeast, but sourdough still eludes me!

For reference, here's my process:

* 100g wholegrain flour

* 400g baker's flour

* 350g water

* 100g levain (taken from 35g ripe starter, 7g wholegrain flour, 28g baker's flour, 35g water)

* 10g salt

Mix flours and water and autolyse for 1 hour.

Add levain and salt and pinch them in.

Slap and fold 400 times.

Bulk proof for 7 hours in a proofing box (temperature fluctuates between 18 and 26 °C, but is usually around the 20 mark).

Given the fluctuation in temperature, I've been trying to improve my ability to assess when the bread is proofed. I generally wait until it's got small bubbles on the surface, it's increased in volume and it feels a bit lighter.

I then preshape and leave it for 15 mins.

Final shape and into the fridge overnight.

The next morning I bake at 320°C, covered for 10 mins, open for 20+.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

What flour are you using? Related question is, where in the world are you?

It's simply possible your flour can't take that much hydration.

pendragon's picture
pendragon

Thanks Ilya. I've actually switched around my brands a bit because I wondered the same thing. The thing is, I'm fairly certain that the brand I use now is also used by a bunch of local bakeries here in Australia. I use their organic baker's flour, which as I understand is roller-milled high-protein flour (it seems hard to find the specific % and strengths here), and I mix it with their organic wholegrain wheat flour, which is supposedly stoneground.

Also, in case you're wondering, I've tried upping the hydration quite a number of times in the past and I fully understand that I should be getting something slacker than a drier dough, but it seems I either underproof my loaf or I end up with a sloppy mess (overproofed?). I'm finding it incredibly difficult to achieve the strength I see in other people's videos for a well-proofed loaf.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Is there not even a nutrition label with protein per 100g? Perhaps one of the Aussies will chime in here.

If you share some crumb pictures it would be helpful to figure out what's going on with the fermentation. To manage fermentation you can try using an aliquot jar (small dough sample where you can measure the rise accurately) or just a straight sided container where you can see the rise. Then depending on the outcome you can adjust fermentation next time, for more or less rise.

pendragon's picture
pendragon

Okay, thanks! I'll give the jar a go. I don't have a photo of my last bake but I'll try to post the what comes out of my oven tomorrow.

pendragon's picture
pendragon

Forgot the link for my flour in my last message.

pendragon's picture
pendragon

Another question popped into my mind. It hovers at around 16 degrees in my kitchen at the moment, which is why I've tried to play around with using a heat source.

Is there a practical schedule that involves leaving it to proof at that temperature, without any heat source? It seems to me I could be waiting late into the night if I start in the morning and use 20% inoculation.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

You can start in the evening and leave it overnight.

Or try using the oven with light on to keep the dough a bit warmer.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you might want to try doubling the water in the starter and/or levain, switching to a liquid starter.  Get a bigger jar and use more starter or levain in your dough and less plain water in the recipe.  Could even try the gallon jar of liquid sourdough slowly perking away in the corner with the use some--replace some method.

About the dough turning to liquid, look up: pesky thiol compounds and see if that condition applies.

 I know that when I compare dough feel, I make my sourdough slightly stiffer than my yeasted doughs as they tend to loosen more as they ferment.  That is where folding during the bulk rise comes in to tighten up relaxed gluten strands in the dough. The higher the hydration often means more folding.  Folding also helps you get a feel for what is happening in the dough and how fermenting is progressing.  Cool temps will slow fermentation so more patience/time is required.

Baked at 320°C ?    Is that a typo?