The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bassinage vs straight dough

tttt1010's picture

Bassinage vs straight dough

I'm watching this video on Pan de Cristal by Bread by Joyride Coffee

He uses the bassinage technique to add water little by little to increase the dough hydration. I'm wondering what the purpose of this is versus mixing all of the liquid with the flour. Does adding water bit by it help develop the gluten more somehow?

gavinc's picture

Bassinage method is used when mixing wetter doughs. Hold back about 10% of the liquid. The gluten will develop more readily in this drier environment. When the dough has attained the degree of strength you seek, slowly add the remaining water. Hamelman says that he finds this to be particularly effective technique when he mixes at home with doughs whose hydration is above about 70 percent.


tttt1010's picture

Disregarding the cost of time, would this technique be superior to all others for high hydration doughs? Or is there some scenarios where this would create a worse bread?

gavinc's picture

I only know of this technique. I don't know the others, so can't comment on them.

JonJ's picture

I've had doughs where I started too hydrated for the flour and could never recover, it just never built the gluten.

Think that, with bassinage, I could get those same doughs to the same hydration and the outcome would be much stronger.

So, I do believe that the order in which you do things matters even though the final dough will have the same recipe/hydration.

mariana's picture

Sure, there is at least one such scenario. At 110% hydration "all in" mixing method gives you a variety of pourable batters and batter breads, including pancakes, waffles, crumpets, muffins, and yeasted batter breads baked in loaf pans. 

Using bassinage method of continuous hydration will dramatically change the structure and the very nature of the dough, it will no longer be a batter, and will make all the resulting breads "worse", not typical, let alone prohibitively expensive to make. 

Continuous hydration technique of mixing dough or resulting breads are not superior to anything. If you look at the recipes for such breads, you will see that they have more water than flour, i.e. the baker essentially charges you for the weight of water when they sell you such bread. They are also very empty, airy, the baker sells you a large batch of air inside crust. These breads would be very time and labor consuming to make, i.e. expensive both for the baker and the consumer, similar to croissants, where layering and airiness is created by tons of fat, a total opposite to batter breads at 110%hydration which are quick and easy.

tttt1010's picture

Hey mariana. The topic of bassinage is on my mind again. I am wondering how you would determine when bassinage would be appropriate. From my experience, with hydrations that my flours can easily handle (<90%), bassinage has made no difference at all. So to find out when bassinage would be useful, should I try to push the hydration as much as possible in one go, and then add more water bit by bit? 

mariana's picture

Hi tttt1010! Good question.

It depends mostly on your flour, on your tools, and on your goals.

Obviously, sometimes we use flour that is delicate and it needs bassinage, or strong and it can take it all in at once. The difference might be minimal, as between 10% and 11% protein bread flour, but it would force you to chose this ot that method of introducing liquids and dough softening ingredients (butter, sugar, etc) to make the same quality dough and the same bread if you seek stability, repeatability, as in bread production for sale or gifts.

Again, your tools matter. High speed mixing allows us to develop gluten even in very high hydration doughs in one step. If we knead on low speed or by hand, bassinage is unavoidable. The same is with batters and liquid dough as for pancakes or some liquid starters, for example, mixed by hand where high speed mixing is inappropriate. It is easier to blend to homogeneity a thicker portion first, and add the remaining liquid last. 

Finally, our goals. Fluffy,  coarse, muffin-like crumb, or translucent, high volume, croissant-like crumb will require different approaches to mixing. Is your goal to block gluten or even destroy it if there is too much of it, or have a maximum amount of gluten and to develop gluten and to what degree? Ask yourself that as you plan your bakes.

Even when you refresh your starter or prepare your poolish, you can choose a one step or two step water addition if you want your starter or sponge to stand tall longer, accumulating acidity and aroma without falling. It will be bubbling then when it reaches its maximum volume but it will not fall or recede.

My flour is very dry and even so I would not mix a 90% hydration batch of dough in one step, even at high speed, in food processor. I would mix a stiff portion first and develop it and a minute later add ice and adjust its hydration to the level the recipe prescribes in that bread. I really like building my bread dough gradually. That is probably the final factor. You choose what suits you, your personality and your philosophy as a baker. 😊

I will push my dough hydration as low as I can while it is still remains kneadable, and then add the remaining water. This is opposite to your question where you ask about pushing hydration as high as you can first, and then adding the remaining water. Why? Mostly because I love low protein bread flours, tender breads, and aim at maximum gluten formation first and for that I need a lower hydration dough first. For me high protein flours are like punishment from above, because there I would have to block gluten formation or even destroy some of their gluten first with very liquid preferments - which is a form of two step bread dough mixing :)

Always consider your goals and your level of comfort. Some people like to babysit their dough and attend to it every fifteen minutes all day long while others don't. Nor do they need to because the same dough and the same bread could be achieved in a variety of ways.


Best wishes,


tttt1010's picture

Thanks mariana for your informative reply. My goal is to make very high hydration lean breads with strong protein flour, such as Pan de Cristal. From my experience, when kneading by hand, there is no benefit in bassinage, since the Rabaud mixing method can develop gluten for very high hydration doughs. I follow Bread by Joy Ride Coffee on Youtube, and he does use but bassinage technique for his 106% hydration Pan de Cristal video. However, in his most recent 100% hydration Pan de Cristal video, he simply mixes all of the flour and water at once. I am wondering if the multi step method of continuous hydration is even needed for hand mixing. It feels a bit like a relic from professional bakeries that use machines to mix doughs, but doesn't have much if any applications of hand mixing.

mariana's picture

The proof is in the pudding. If you get the results that you are looking for and you like the method of one step hydration that you use, then go for it. 

I learned the two step hydration and continuous hydration as part of the curriculum and only much later I started using it because I had to, the weak flour at the time forced me to. And even later I started to rely on it consistently. I rarely do all in, one step these days. It's like I do it out of respect for the flour and for the bread, it is less damaging to the gluten and it gives me tastier bread that stays fresh longer.

I gave you a broad answer because of my experience with flours, mixing tools and hundreds of different breads. With one kind of flour, a pair of hands and one bread or one kind of bread your choices are not as many. Mostly because your flour is so strong and your method of mixing is Ribaud's. You barely develop your gluten and there is a lot of it so it works for the bread that you like, for pan de cristal. It won't work for other breads though. Other breads, other flours and other bakers would require continuous hydration.

Just enjoy your own path, see where it will take you. Godspeed!

Cliff's picture

That is straight out of Hamelan's book word for word.

Do you find it a challenge to work water into an already developed dough?

albacore's picture

Bassinage is just a technique for effectively developing gluten in high hydration doughs, especially if using a mixer.

Say you have a recipe with a final hydration of 80% then if you mix straight away at 80% hydration, you will struggle to develop hydration effectively with such a wet dough.

Much better to mix at 68-70% hydration, first at low speed, then fast, until gluten is developed and then trickle in the last of the water (bassinage) to bring the hydration up to 80%.

I guess the same technique can also be applied to hand mixed dough, though it's always messy to get the bassinage in by hand.



dcm1988's picture

The mixer you are using matters as well. A typical planetary mixer will struggle to incorporate the bassinage while a spiral mixer typically has an easier time of it. I have known bakers who would add the bassinage by hand, then head back to the mixing bowl after incorporation. 

TMac's picture

For what it's worth, having done bassinage different ways, the way I've finally settled on is pretty easy. I use a KitchenAid to develop a 70-75% hydration dough and mix to almost complete gluten development. I finish by hand kneading and slap and foids on the counter, but instead of using flour to prevent sticking to the counter I wet the counter surface. That, and the wet hands I use for the last few minutes are enough to raise the hydration to any level I desire (the amount of water necessary to raise 70% to, say, 100 isn't actually that much, although I don't usually go that high), it has the added advantage of being able to get the feel of the dough so I can tell when it has reached just the right stage and feels the way I want it to...silky smooth, extensible, and windowpaning.  Might work for you too.

EDIT: Interesting... just came across this video in another post here by Ibor. The guy uses a somewhat similar technique you might find it useful as a visual.