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Rubaud Levain, High hydration, process points query.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Rubaud Levain, High hydration, process points query.

This was opened in another thread, but because it deals specifically with MC's work with the late M. Rubaud's work, and I am trying to stick as closely to her approach as I can, I thought a "clean" thread would be appropriate.  Mods, I obviously understand whatever you'd prefer to do with it.  Thanks.

So, I am following MC's "rustic batard" very closely, at least I intend to as more as I move forward.  

This is an 86% dough.  I developed a levain following her information exactly; even with salt, I am extremely pleased with this levain and consider it now a treasured gold.

In her formula, she has an indication for bin-folding after an hour (I am using coils and jelly-rolls, at least if I've understood mariana, Trevor, and Adam Pagor's discussions and demonstrations correctly).  Rest an hour, another bin-fold.  

I can't tell if she again rests an hour then turns out, or turns out immediately after this second fold.  Given she says her bulk took 3.5 hours, the math tells me she rested an additional hour then pursued her bench folds.

She indicates taking a series of one "north-south" fold, followed by 10 minutes, repeating to the point of desired strength going into pre-shaping.  I am making the assumption these are letterbox folds, though as seen below I veered from MC here.  I don't want to any longer.

I am going to try this exactly, even if I have grave doubts I'll pull it off.  Maybe a bit about my dough characteristics would be useful:

I do gain gluten and strength from an extremely slack dough to begin with.  Today I used the KA mixer, something I almost never do - 10 min. at Speed 1 per dmsnyders thread on Rubaud pain au levain - but then continue with Rubaud folds for 3 series over about 45 minutes.  Then into the bin.

I did jellyroll and coil folds every half hour, instead of the hour of MC's formula.

MC's formula, which I believe is very, very close to Rubaud's himself, calls for 40% pre-ferment levain.  I built to that and used it, and the aliquot showed full development level (150%) at just under 3 hours.  I pulled it and went to bench.

The dough is very sticky.  Not tacky, but sticky.  Basically, extremely loose, billowy, gassy, sticky dough.  I could in no way do any true log shaping as it was just way too sticky, way too loose and gassy.  With my hands sticking and gathering up dough, I tried depending on a long bench knife, well floured; mildly better

Proof took 2 hours.  Turned to score, and it spread out not completely, about as high as a traditional miche.  Scoring failed and I just baked off with steam as per normal.

I understand the issue of specific flours and the effective limits of hydration (thank you, mariana, and phaz as well).  Nevertheless, I'd really hope to get a good showing with hydrations in mid-80's, if only to learn more.


1. One question on MC's series of bench folds.  Won't the temp drop off considerably?  Does that matter?

2.  It seems she sticks to the hourly bin folds but then the bench folding can be variable, and this is where she develops strength until she judges it's ready for pre-shaping.  Am I assuming correctly?  Discussion on this technique - bench folding for final strength development (as opposed to bin folding, to the same point of development)?

2. Given the above, any thing sticking out, any guidance?  Not looking for the ease and strength of a 65% hydration, but enough to rid stickiness (accepting tackiness), and make it possible to shape good logs (let's use Trevor's Tartine style bread video.  God, to have those hands) for batards or boulots or ovals.




jl's picture
jl (not verified)

Thanks for the link! I think I may have come across her blog at some point, but haven't really read it. Will definitely do now.

The way she presents the formula is very confusing though. I personally like the way Hamelman does it more. For one, you can see the hydration at a glance. In this formula the levain accounts for 40% of the dough. Which means the total hydration is 80% or, if you count the germ as part of the flour (like Hamelman does), 78%.

1. If you use dough temp (in conjunction with time) to judge dough maturity, I don't think it matters if the temp drops at the end of bulk fermentation. You've basically gotten it to the point where you want it. And you're probably not relying on time alone to judge when it's proofed. On the other hand, if you use dough temp to achieve a certain flavor profile, I'm willing to bet there are very few people in the world who would notice that the dough fermented a while at a lower temp.

2. I think If you did it in the bin, you wouldn't be introducing dry flour into the dough.

3. Don't grab the wet parts! :D DanAyo posted a nice video not long ago. I think the shaping part is especially educational. Note how he drags the dough across the floury surface of the bench to prevent it from sticking. He also periodically dries his hands in the flour.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Thanks a ton, jl.  Lots here for me to sit down with and as my brain doesn't work as sharply as it once did (things start piling on in a big, sharp mess), between you and mariana - well, let me just say I know what I'll be doing into some point of an indeterminate future!

II never came across the thread or video - many thanks for that one.  Very keen points, it seems at first glance.  Valuable.  I'm grateful.



mariana's picture

Hi Paul, 

from what you wrote I can't figure out exactly what you did. You provide no blog entry or account in that posting about what exact quantities you used, which flours, the exact process and illustrations. So we simply don't know what is it that you were baking and can't compare it to what we know from Gerard, Marie-Claude and Trevor's writings and illustrations to show you where exactly you did something different with different outcome.

It doesn't look like you were following Rubaud with his 55% levain and normal consistency bread dough, nor Mary-Claude with her 65% levain and soft dough. Neither worked with extremely slack dough, it is simply not used in French bread baking for pain quotidien or pain de campagne which is what Rubaud's bread was - a blend of white and whole grain flours. 

French bakers use normal bread dough, it is not wet, it is never 'extremely slack' as you describe yours, nothing outrageous. It is simply soft, a piece of soft dough. Marie-Claude says that specifically: "The dough should be soft" (by the end of mixing it in the mixer).

You can see it in videos of Gerard Rubaud, chunks of stiff levain cut with dough scraper and normal consistency dough, and you can calculate it from Marie-Claude's formula.

If she didn't make mistake in quantities reported, her total dough hydration is 78%. Not 85%, but 78%. And 23% of her dough is whole grain, it absorbs more water than white flour, so that makes soft and cohesive dough, not "extremely slack" at all. 

Flour total is 130g (70+18+9+3+5.6+24.4 comes from levain), only 19% of flour is prefermented. 24.4/130=0.188

Water total is 101g (85.6+15.6 water in levain)

101/130 x 100% = 77.7% hydration

23% whole grain if her levain is purely white flour based. 

So, that's that. If you want to bake French bread, and your flour moisture and absorption is the same, follow the recipe and method that Gerard and Marie-Claude described. Their bread is very French. 

Another thing is that you want to experiment, you want to harness those high hydration very slack doughs that Trevor shows. This is a different bread and should be addressed separately.

If you follow one recipe but introduce multiple tweaks, then you are not learning from Gerard, nor from Marie-Claude, nor from Trevor, you are not copying them, you are simply experimenting and because you introduced so many variables in your experiment, you don't know which one was responsible for that result: a sticky dough impossible to shape into good logs with failed scoring. 

- 1. One question on MC's series of bench folds.  Won't the temp drop off considerably? 

- If it does, then it is beneficial. Colder dough is much easier to strengthen. Her dough spends a lot of time at 18C/64F: the last 30 min of bulk fermentation, when she bench folds it every 10 min and then 30 min of bench rest after she divides and pre-shapes dough. A total of 1 hr at 18C/64F. Obviously, it would cool down all the way to 18C/64F . 

- 2.  It seems she sticks to the hourly bin folds but then the bench folding can be variable, and this is where she develops strength until she judges it's ready for pre-shaping.  Am I assuming correctly?  

- I would think so as well. She barely kneads her dough in her mixer: a few min of mixing her stiff dough with levain to homogeneity on 1st speed, then 1 min after she adjusts her dough consistency to 'soft' by adding a bit more water.

A baker usually thinks backwards, not the way you described. The baker knows when the bulk fermentation ends beforehand, i.e. that his or her dough must bulk ferment for 3.3hrs at such and such temperature to achieve the proper level of acidity and maturity, so s/he would start bench folding about 20-30 min before bulk ends to build strength by bench folding prior to dividing and shaping.

The way you describe it sounds as if bulk fermentation could be extended indeterminably should bench folding happen to be done million times, which is not the case. 

- Given the above, any thing sticking out, any guidance?  Not looking for the ease and strength of a 65% hydration, but enough to rid stickiness (accepting tackiness), and make it possible to shape good logs (let's use Trevor's Tartine style bread video.)

- Stick to one recipe for one bread and learn to bake that bread. If you vary something, vary only one thing, not many of them, and watch their videos to see how their levain and dough looks, how stiff it is, how soft it is, and imitate that, regardless of how much less water it takes, and read their dough consistency descriptions and record what you are doing with images and numbers and words, so that you can spot where you differ from the recipe.

Bread baking for eating is different from bread baking for the sake of learning or experimentation. Bread baking for eating relies on tried and true recipes and routines which you learn to stick to. 

From your description: "The dough is very sticky.  Not tacky, but sticky.  Basically, extremely loose, billowy, gassy, sticky dough." it sounds as overhydrated, overmixed and overfermented. Extremely loose is not what Gerard had, nor Marie-Claude. Theirs was simply soft.

If you changed dough consistency drastically, towards more liquidy, soupy, extremely slack, all fermentation accelerated. And you kneaded it for a long time in mixer as well. And you did many more folds of different kind, which adds to mechanical stress on gluten. 

- I'd really hope to get a good showing with hydrations in mid-80's

- It's not the number "mid-80s" that matters but dough consistency, Paul. Your flours, your wheat germ, and your water for some reason even at 77% hydration and 20-30% whole grain give you extremely slack and fragile dough with loose consistency by the end of bulk fermentation, something that doesn't happen to the rest of us. Either your flour is too moist or your water is too soft, or your whole grain milling and your wheat germ are unique and spoil dough, who knows.

You either "stick as closely to her approach as I can" or you "get a good showing with hydrations that make extremely slack dough", but not both at the same time. I don't think you can pursue both in one bread. 


Gadjowheaty's picture

This is MC's indications for her rustic batard:

MC-Rustic BatardCreated with BreadStorm™
Unbleached all-purpose flour70.00%
Whole wheat flour, freshly milled, sifted18.00%
Whole spelt flour, freshly milled, sifted9.00%
Whole rye flour, freshly milled, sifted3.00%
Levain @ 64% hydration40.00%
Wheat germ5.56%
Sea salt2.00%
Total Flour100.00%

As I interpret it, 40% pre-ferment, 86% hydration.  By these parameters, I have "an extremely slack bread," and so in the absence of techniques on how to deal with this, I wanted to find out how to produce good bread at these high hydrations.  Not the reverse!  I am not in love with high hydration and want to match that to a bastardized Rubaud! I merely thought by all I've read that these were the parameters of play in the Rubaud approach.

I followed the levain development to the letter, as I did the rest of it - to the limits of my understanding - today.  Improving, but it was definitely a slack dough.  I'm very lit up by your descriptions that none of this actually is the authentic thing - because it's all I care about.  Then, move on.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Unedited open office spreadsheet. 

(Note:  MC says she makes looser levains to protect her wrists,  I kept 57ish %, which I thought was where M. Rubaud indicated):


Levain 1 Grams % Initial volume: 25 ml

Time:08:00 am

3X volume is 75 ml

Firm Chef 6.25 42.8% 30c=86F

24-25=75.2-77.0 F

Water 8.32 57.0%

Flour 14.60 100.0%

KA AP 10.22 70.0%

Hard Spring WW 1.31 9.0%

Hard Winter WW 1.31 9.0%

Cress Springs Spelt 1.31 9.0%

Cress Springs Whole Rye 0.44 3.0%

Fine sea salt 0.15 1.0%

Total weight (grams) 29


Levain 2 Grams % Initial volume: 50 ml

Time:3:15 pm-8:45

6 hrs, 8:15 pm, 125 ml; 2.5X

3X volume is 150 ml

Came back late – very high dome, 250 ML! On to Levain 3 at 9:00!

Firm Chef 30 65.2% Shiao-Ping: At 30 degree C, this build took 6 hours for me..



Water 26.00 56.5%

Flour 46.00 100.0%

KA AP 32.20 70.0%

Hard Spring WW 4.14 9.0%

Hard Winter WW 4.14 9.0%

Cress Springs Spelt 4.14 9.0%

Cress Springs Whole Rye 1.38 3.0%

Fine sea salt 0.46 1.0%

Total weight (grams) 102


Levain 3 Grams % Initial volume: 250 ml

Time: 9:00 pm


3X volume is 750 ml

Firm Chef 102 68.3%

Water 85.00 56.7%

Flour 150.00 100.0%

Baker's Craft Plus 105.00 70.0%

Hard Spring WW 13.50 9.0%

Hard Winter WW 13.50 9.0%

Cress Springs Spelt 13.50 9.0%

Cress Springs Whole Rye 4.50 3.0%

Fine sea salt 1.50 1.0%

Total weight (grams) 339




Main Dough Grams %

Firm Chef 339 39.9%

Water 725.00 85.3% 675 + 50.

Flour 850.00 100.0%

KA AP 595.00 70.0%

Hard Spring WW 76.50 9.0%

Hard Winter WW 76.50 9.0%

Cress Springs Spelt 76.50 9.0%

Cress Springs Whole Rye 25.50 3.0%

Fine sea salt 19.00 2.2% salt minus additions in levain builds.

Total weight (grams) 1933 4.3 lbs




Water 844.32 79.6%

Flour 1060.60 100.0%

KA AP 742.42 70.0%

Hard Spring WW 95.45 9.0%

Hard Winter WW 95.45 9.0%

Cress Springs Spelt 95.45 9.0%

Cress Springs Whole Rye 31.82 3.0%

Fine sea salt 21.11 2.0%


TOTAL DOUGH 1926 4.2 lbs



Autolyse 45 minutes Flours and Water 3-3:45 am. 5/31

Mixing Cut firm levain into 6 pieces and lay on the autolyse. Incorporate with Rubaud. Alternatively, mixer speed 2 x 10 minutes, developing dough; only after, add salt, mix through. Dough should be “soft.”. Then continued with full Rubaud.

Bulk x 5-7 hrs @78F Begin 6:45 am

DOUGH TEMP: 75.2 – too many things cooled down – water not warm, vessels sat out in ambient, cool rooms... Initial Aliquot Volume: 11 ml.

Want 50%/60% aliquot for stronger and more elastic dough, 60% = 17.5 ml. Bin fold jelly roll q 1 hr. x 2; bulk add'l hour after second fold.. Turnout onto floured surface and do north-south fold. Wait 10 minutes. Do another N-S fold, if necessary, to give enough dough strength for pre-shaping and shaping. Wait 10 Minutes, repeat if needed. Cover between folds.

Scale and Pre-shape 10 Pre-shape each piece into a round.

Bench 30 minutes

Shape 10 batard Shape each piece into a boule or batard.

Proof 2-4 hrs Proof en couche until expanded by 50-75%. Unload, score, proceed as below.

Bake 450 F. Normal steam w/o DO. 30 minutes or until done. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500ºF with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.


Notes Transfer the loaves to a peel. Score them, and then transfer them to the baking stone.


Using aliquot. Most allow the aliquot to rise 60% to account for (the faster) rise of the aliquot. 60%,

mariana's picture

Hi Paul,

thank your for providing your numbers and a write up. I went over them and compared them to MC's numbers. 

Your numbers give me 79% hydration.

Levain: 217g flours, 2g salt, 123g water total, 20% of all flour in that bread dough is prefermened in levain

Dough: additional 850g flour (no germ), 19g salt, 725g water


Total 1067g flour, 21g salt, 848g water

848/1067 = 79% hydration

21/1067 = 2% salt

This is a very normal hydration level for 30% whole wheat dough, it would give me normal dough, not even that soft.

My white all-purpose European flour which is much weaker than your KA APF and Baker's Craft Plus without any whole grain that absorbs a lot of water, gives normal dough at 75% hydration.


This is 75% hydration. Pure white flour, 10% protein.

You can shape it any way you want, it is not soupy or loose at all:

Central Milling Craft Plus shows rather normal consistency dough at 75% hydration as well: 


And bakes into a normal looking loaf of bread:


KAF APF performs the same. 

With 30% whole grain and 79% hydration it would look the same if not firmer. 

I can't imagine a very loose consistency, if I raised water in that dough only 4% more, from 75% to 79% hydration as in your dough. Unless you used distilled water, of course. Something is different, I just don't see what. 

From your description of the process, I see that you kneaded much longer than Marie-Claude.

She kneaded "a few min" on 1st and then 1 min after salt incorporated plus 5 very simple letter folds altogether.

You kneaded 10 min on second plus kneaded to develop dough after salt added, then 'full Rubaud' whatever that means. 

Her bulk lasted 3 hrs at 27C/80F and 30 min at 18C. 

You indicate "Bulk x 5-7 hrs @78F Begin 6:45 am" Your temperature of 78F/26C was only 1 degree Celsius lower than 27C, but your bulk lasted twice as long? Isn't that overfermentation?

How can bulk fermentation begin at 6:45min if your autolysis and 10 min of kneading ended at 3:55AM? 

You also say Proof 2-4hrs. The proof of much softer and faster fermenting dough and the sum total of fermentation  time is too long. It is either 7.5hrs minimum or 11.5 hrs long maximum in your case.

This is very different from MC's process. Hers was:

45 min soaking,

a total of less than 10 min on 1st speed mixing,

3.5 hrs bulk,

30 min bench rest,

then shape and proof.

The total fermentation time is only 3.5 hrs. Proofing time is not indicated, but most likely it is under well 2 hrs at 27C/80F, since she indicates: ready to be baked when the imprint of a finger bounces back quickly. There is no aliquot. 

Isn't that overfermentation of your dough as well? I think you mixed for too long and bulk fermentation times were too long and proofed for too long which might have weakened your dough, made it loose.

And then there is this question of dough consistency at 79% hydration. Why is it so loose? Your white flour is strong and very strong. Your whole wheat flour is from hard wheat, which is strong (winter) or very strong (spring). Spelt and rye are weak, but there is so little of them, they shouldn't affect the dough consistency at all. This is truly a mystery to me. 

Next time maybe take pictures? Thanks! 




Gadjowheaty's picture

I do also get 79% overall hydration, and if that's not slack, then I must be doing something very wrong here.

The "5-7 hours bulk" - sorry, that's my generic guideline when coming in at much lower levain percentages (10-20%).  For all I know, it's also from using a poor levain - I've never had as strong a levain as this.  My bin time with this recipe/process is indeed 3 hours, with (4) x 10 min. periods at bench, so close to MC's (right)?



 ps:  Oh - "full Rubaud," sorry.  My shorthand for the 10 minutes "diving arm" followed by a break of 10-15 minutes, in series as shown by Trevor, to develop dough.  It comes from my read of David:

"Rubaud mixes his dough by machine. Shiao-Ping mixed her dough entirely by hand. I started my mixing in a stand mixer, but continued developing the gluten by hand, as described below...

  1. In a stand mixer, mix with the dough hook on Speed 2 for about 10 minutes. There should be some gluten development, but the dough will be very gloppy. It will not clean the sides of the bowl..."

-my best guess as to technique, using the method Trevor showed.  ("Gloppy" stuck in my mind, too, I think, because that's my best guess as to what I was also seeing in my dough). 

Gadjowheaty's picture

BTW, since discovering only last night that member Trent here is Trent Cooper, successor baker to M. Rubaud at M. Rubaud's former bakery - who underwent formal apprenticeship with the late master - seems to me if anyone can speak with some serious experiential authority as to M. Rubaud's practices, well - Trent could.  Though I also know Trent is very much his own baker. 

I hope he drops in.

Gadjowheaty's picture


I just recalled my understanding of the "Rubaud method" first came by watching Trevor - specifically, he mentions this [Rubaud] method in relation to highly hydrated doughs - so I understood it to be a diving arm method used for highly hydrated doughs, and that these were typical of M. Rubaud's bread (then I see a nominal 86% hydration, per MC.) an  

How would you characterize the hydration here?..

You indicated the whole grain percentage is 23% - but I don't understand, as it's given as a consistent 30% throughout levain build and main dough - always 30%: NOTE:  I understand now.  Thanks.

You mentioned "Flour total is 130g (70+18+9+3+5.6+24.4 comes from levain), only 19% of flour is prefermented. 24.4/130=0.188"; NOTE:  I understand now.  Thanks.


jl's picture
jl (not verified)

The amount of leaven is 40%. Her leaven consists of 100% flour and 65% water. Which means the amount of flour that is pre-fermented is 40/1.65 = 24% of the flour. Since it is flour itself, but is not accounted for in the formula as such, the real percentage would be 24 / (100 + 24) = 19.3%.

That dough is actually super sticky at least at the mixing stage. Even pure rye is not that annoying.

Edit: Nope, couldn't shape it. Threw the whole batch out.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Thanks jl.  Very helpful info.

So far, no way can I at least get anything remotely workable following this formula exactly.  

Mix just enough to hydrate for 45 min. autolyse;

Mix minute or so on 1st to incorporate levain, "cut in small pieces like fluffy little pillows" and laid on top.

Mixed for a few minutes; add salt and adjust hydration (I added 50 ml to original 675 ml) and mixed an additional minute or two.  Mixer off.

Into proofing box set temp 80 with dough temp 74.

One hour in, extremely extensible with virtually no strength.  I got nothing but soupy dough by trying a "simple letterbox fold." 

1 hour in bulk:

Tempted to move to jellyrolling and coils, but will see this through.  This is with overall hydration of 79.6; pre-ferment flour 19.9%.

DanAyo's picture

Paul, the image of the dough being lifted up from the bowl looks like a well developed dough that is very extensible. Some flours make a dough very elastic and others very extensible.

Trevor writes that Rubaud is used on moderately wet dough. I have great success using Rubaud on doughs of 70-72% or higher. A lot depends on the protein content and also the protein quality (glutenin & gliadin). Another good Goggle Search.

You might want to lower the hydration and see how that affects the dough. 80F is on the warm side for BF, try 76F or so. When you get a chance, post an image of your “soupy” dough.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Thanks Dan.  Getting elastic strength in doughs like this (the image is 79%) is where I fall short.  It seems I'm getting good development, and from what I can tell the dough will have the quality of the higher-hydration doughs I've seen with Trevor and elsewhere - at a certain point - but whereas they seem to have a wonderfully elastic dough by the time of shaping, mine is still quite weak and so shaping is far short of the mark.

I can't use spelt or rye as my excuse, because I'm not using much (thanks on the mention of gluten quality - spurs me to google up into spelt and rye so I know more intelligently about their use).  I'm coming to realize there's no shortcut to practice!

I'll lower the hydration, and have actually gone to room temp which is currently 75-76 in our kitchen.  I've also changed to using chilled water just to calm these pretty frisky levains down.  One of these days I'll learn this is a variable product with variable, living ingredients and variable conditions.

Soupy - I might be using a bad descriptor.  I'll take pics throughout the next make so you guys have something better to go on.

Great help.  I really appreciate it, Dan.



DanAyo's picture

You may be failing to realize how skilled bakers like Trevor really are. Trevor at one time worked as a professional baker. He has probably shaped hundreds of thousands of loaves.

Getting super elastic dough with hydrations of 79% is probably not going to happen unless there is a large percentage of whole grain. The image of the dough in the tub looks excellent to me.

Images and/or short videos are super helpful...

Gadjowheaty's picture

Good reminder, no, great reminder Dan.  It's ludicrous to see vids of Trevor or Adam or M. Rubaud or anyone, yourself in that mix, who has put the miles down and expect to jump in far down the learning curve without the earned road time.

Very incisive general rule to carry forward.  Thanks.

Thanks on the elasticity comment as well.  This dough is 30% whole grain, though 9% is spelt and 3% is rye.  Could you tell me, given a dough like this, how you deal with shaping, proofing, even scoring - how you go from a well-developed but highly extensible dough, to a workable dough for the bake?

DanAyo's picture

“ Could you tell me, given a dough like this, how you deal with shaping, proofing, even scoring - how you go from a well-developed but highly extensible dough, to a workable dough for the bake?”
Watch a bunch of videos by expert bakers. Thank God for YouTube :-)

Gadjowheaty's picture

^^ :)!

Indeed.  Thanks Dan.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Whatever the reason, perhaps it's just my skill level or lack thereof. but shaping was utterly impossible.  Sticky, still, could not develop any tension, ended up doing what I could to get them into something of a batard shape but I expect these will be pancakes.

-70% AP (11.7%)

-18% WW

-9% Spelt

-3% Rye

-79.9% hydration overall

-20% pre-ferment flour

-Robust 3-stage chef/levains;

-Minimal mixing.

-Letter folds at hour 1, 2 bulk; continue to 3 hours then transfer to bench; 

-letter folds/10 minutes covered rest x 3

-aborted intended bench rest and went right to shaping; fail.  Too sticky to manipulate, no tension at all, flaccid dough that won't hold.  I strongly suspect it's just a lack of experience with doughs in this hydration range, requiring assiduous and diligent practice, practice and more practice. I'd like to believe so.



Gadjowheaty's picture

Can someone describe to me "North South" folds and "East West" folds?  Are these in essence 1/2 the standard 4-sided folding?

Thank you.



DanAyo's picture

“ Are these in essence 1/2 the standard 4-sided folding?”

The important thing about stretch and fold is stretching dough (elongating the gluten), but not more than the dough will allow. And folding the stretched dough over itself. North - south, left - right isn’t a deal breaker. Just stretch the dough out and fold it over the dough and change direction when to repeat that process.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Great.  Thanks Dan.



Gadjowheaty's picture

(This is moving more to asking for some input on specific process points; hence the title change.  Additionally, my comments cleaned up in order to make things easier to read.  Apologies for my unnecessary personal and other digressions, everyone).

Watching the short film MC produced, "Gerard Rubaud, The Movie," I note M. Rubaud begins by doing a series of a few minutes of what I know of as the "Rubaud method," the hand method that seems to emulate a diving arm mixer, and one which I learned from Trevor pretty closely**.

Yet in MC's comments and mariana, if you are still reading this (in addition to dmsnyder's thread; he notes Shiao-Ping mixed entirely by hand), I note at least a very little period of machine mixing.  From MC:

Total Mixing Time: 9 minutes maximum
  • Mixing is always done in first speed (Gérard has disabled the second speed on his mixer to make sure it wouldn’t be used)
  • 3 minutes maximum for the autolyse
  • 3 minutes maximum to incorporate the levain
  • 3 minutes maximum to incorporate the salt
  • Ideally these times should be further reduced if possible
Bulk Fermentation
  • Once the levain and the salt are incorporated, the dough is transferred to the wooden fermentation box where it remains for a minimum of 4.5 hours (room temp: about 78°F)

From what I can see in the movie, the dough M. Rubaud is working by hand already looks beautifully together.  Dry, satiny, not sticky or "undeveloped".

Can someone help me clear it up, as to his (pre hourly) mixing process?  Does he use a mixer first for a short period (as above - auto, levain, salt) (I note from Marie Claire she indicates mixing is only to bring ingredients fully together - not for kneading or developing in any way)  and then proceed into this diving-arm hand method for a few minutes, or in the film is he demonstrating his method can be entirely a hand process?

Just a couple specific questions with the above post ("North South" on his process, and perhaps Marie-Claire's information as well).  Appreciate any help.

**I note a slight difference between Trevor's method and M. Rubaud's method.  As I interpret them, Trevor keeps his fingers against the bowl while "diving" and uses his fingers like a shovel to scoop up some dough from underneath, then a slight slap down incorporating air, and a mild gluten stretch at the same time.

M. Rubaud on the other hand, while doing a few "scoops" as described above, seems to lightly grasp little mounds of dough in the middle of the mass and draw them up with his fingers and thumb, fairly gently "slapping" (too strong a word) them up and over.

Am I seeing these approaches right?

Gadjowheaty's picture

Trying to make these points easier to consider by making new posts.  Hope that's OK.

One of the things I notice from The Movie is that M. Rubaud (it seems to me) uses copious amounts of flour on the board, and dustings on the loaf during folding and even shaping. 

If that's correct, that is something I'm not accustomed to - the notion of "grey flour" as a kind of dry layer inside already developed dough.  

Could someone comment?



Gadjowheaty's picture

At the risk of driving everyone to madness, I am really hoping to get "the" simple Rubaud formula to work from - i.e., to put in place the working variables so that I can proceed to learn in a systematic way.  One of the reasons I'm so taken working from this bread as a learning bread is that it is the only bread he baked.  My goal is not to replicate his bread (I'd never be able to, anyway) but to "seize his mind," a concept drawn from the Japanese.  In other words, understand the reasoning behind his choices.  With one bread, I think, that's an easier task. 

Mariana, or perhaps another,

"It doesn't look like you were following Rubaud with his 55% levain and normal consistency bread dough, nor Mary-Claude with her 65% levain and soft dough."

I only now on re-read see you mention Rubaud's "normal consistency" and Marie-Claire's "soft dough."  Did you mean to distinguish these two, or am I reading to much into this?

I ask, because yes, as I have it, Marie-Claire's formula gives me main dough hydration of 85.3%, an overall hydration of 79.6%, 39.9% levain (baker's) in the main dough, and pre-ferment flour at 19.9%.

On page 29 of Calvel's Taste of Bread (Eng.), in a sidebar Calvel describes doughs by this table:


Dough Type

French Hydration Rate

Approximate North American Hydration Rate

Stiff doughs = pâtes fermes



Medium doughs = pâtes bâtardes



Soft or Loose doughs = pâtes douces



Superhydrated doughs = pâtes mouilles



Presuming Calvel's "soft or loose doughs" corresponds to the Rubaud pain au levain, we'd be looking at a hydration of 69% (American) or thereabouts - correct?  If so, this helps me better understand what mariana means by:

"French bakers use normal bread dough, it is not wet, it is never 'extremely slack' as you describe yours, nothing outrageous. It is simply soft, a piece of soft dough. Marie-Claude says that specifically: "The dough should be soft" (by the end of mixing it in the mixer)."

(I am not able to deal with the dough as originally stated in this thread - 85%/79.6% overall; but will put this aside to build fundamentals from "standard" hydrations regardless).

My chef builds are all 55-57% hydrations.  Would it be reasonable to presume M. Rubaud's bread, at least at one point in time, had an overall hydration of 69-ish percent?  Even with 30% whole grain?  Would it be reasonable to tack on some amount more hydration, given his flour blend is 30% of the flour contribution - e.g., 72% overall hydration? 

I see from Trent's data, he is using 75.8% hydration.  I am completely unfamiliar with baking logs such as this so am unable to interpret his data much, though it's coming.  Trent, perhaps if you're reading, is this

- (1) overall hydration, or main dough hydration? 

-(2) Is this figure:

-yours entirely (i.e., no relationship to Rubaud's formula);

-an adaptation from M. Rubaud's hydration; or

-his literal overall hydration?

I'd be grateful for any help pulling together a "model" Rubaud bread on which to focus my practice.  Thanks as always, community.



mariana's picture

 Hi Paul, 

It would be nice if someone else baked this bread along with you, maybe with the same flour and water, maybe with different flour and source of water for you to compare notes. I don't understand that bread too well, he didn't leave a written recipe of it, so I can't even make it in my kitchen, so I admire your efforts and can only cheer you from the benches. 

My comment about normal and soft consistency were to illustrate the point that whereas you can stick to % hydration with your starter, and measure flour and water on the scale, when you mix bread dough it is not the grams of water that matter, but consistency.

You should either look at the pictures or words in the text and add only so much water as needed to achieve that tactile and visual consistency of bread dough. 

Your words and your picture simply do not match words and pictures of Rubaud or MC. Their bread dough looks thick and normal in softness. Yours is really, really slack and oily. 

His fully hydrated and FULLY stretched dough, It doesn't stretch more than that. It is that stiff. 

It is very wet inside. But it is not soupy nor infinitely stretchy. 

 Source: Revisiting Gerard

Your fully hydrated and stretched dough with a staggering amount of water in it. Way more than your flour can handle and way too different from Rubaud's dough consistency, even if grams of water per grams of flour are the same. Your flour doesn't interact with water in the same way as Rubaud's flour did, you cannot ignore it, you should respect your flour and give it only as much water as it can handle, and write it down. 

By the way, you dough looks beautiful and has its own uses and benefits. The only problem it has, it is not French bread consistency, doesn't look like Rubaud's dough, or Calvel's dough on page 40 Engish Edition of the Taste of Bread. Calvel's dough and Rubaud'd dough are identical, the same consistency, even though their % water numbers are and should be different. They used different flour and different water, but baked similar breads with open crumb structure. 

I haven't seen photos of MC's dough, I assume she remembers what Gerard's dough looked like and how it felt to touch and was adding water just until she reached that look and that tactile impression from her dough. She recorded how much water HER blend of flours absorbed to reach that feeling. But it doesn't mean that my flour would be the same, or yours. 

You didn't follow the recipe in that part. You didn't add water slowly, while touching dough, to stop just as it becomes soft but not soupy. And then record how much of your water your flour would absorb to reach the desired dough consistency.

For some reason, you pay attention to numbers as a guiding rule, not to the dough. We don't bake and eat numbers, we shape and bake bread dough, don't we? 

You once mentioned that you doctor your water, you use distilled water with some salts added? Maybe that is the reason why your dough even from the normal flour from reputable providers gives such a slack dough. There is no gluten formation when you use distilled water. It weakens dough considerably. Try genuine hard bottled water next time and see if it anything changes. 

best wishes, 


Gadjowheaty's picture

Thanks for such a helpful post, mariana.  Lots to go on.

First just to clarify on water, I don't use untreated DI water.  What I meant to say is that our water is very soft (though too high in NA++), and so in terms of brewing it was best for me to begin with DI water and essentially "build" the water with salts to get the right profile, largely in terms of Ca, Mg, SO4, Cl, RA, etc.  Not ideal, and I've lived in cities where the water was a natural fit for certain beer styles (one place was ideal for dark ales as is, for example).  But it made for good beer.  I was just musing on doing this for bread baking, too - curious if any others do it (it's ubiquitous in the brewing world).

For the rest, thank you greatly.  I am making some progress, I think, in understanding bread baking is a complex system. Sort of like multidimensional chess, so to try to pin down anything by reliance on things like a few numbers, for example, is ill conceived.  Truth is my training as a French cook, for whatever reason, was extremely rigorous in strict adherence to chef's methods and recipes - one wouldn't dare to change a thing until one was well-advanced along the food chain.  Change nothing, replicate, master - then leave, improvise, express one's own cooking.

So I think it's all carry-over probably and I now see it's not very fruitful here.  It would be helpful to know what to look for in all the many variables, but speaking personally, absent that wonderful formal training or direct apprenticeship with a master, we do what we can.

For what it's worth, I'm letting go of the target "Gerard Rubaud's Pain au Levain," and moving more to mastering one type of crumb, the "lacy honeycomb" as described by Trevor in his book.  He gives great, actionable guidelines (man, I love this book), so focusing here, I think, is useful.


70-30 flour blend per Rubaud

75% overall hydration - the upper limit of what Trevor describes as the "sweet spot" for honeycomb pattern doughs.  I went to the high end in consideration of the substantial whole grain component.

"Pre-Mix," water, salt and dough overnight, as described by Trevor

Next morning, French fold 150 times.

Incorporate ribbons of levain with KA for a minute or two

Rest 25

French fold 200-250 times more (these, you'll recognize, I got from you, mariana - thanks)

Strong coil folds q 30 minutes x 2 hours, hourly after that to bulk finish

taut pre-shape

Strong stitch, log, batard shape

Proof on the shortish side 

Bake as normal.




Thanks again,