The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.


JulianLuttrell's picture


Hi all,

I have been baking bread for a few years now, and decided it was about time I resurrected my account here. I hope this post is in the right forum - I cannot see one that addresses kneading.

I bake mostly sourdough loaves, and have, over the months and years, refined a no-knead formula that works for me all the time - I get an oven spring, crumb, and crust that seems good to me.

Now I want to try baguettes. Every baguette recipe calls for some kneading so it’s time to dust off my kneading. And boy am I having problems.

In the no-knead recipe I use Shipton Mill Number 1 white bread flour. The mix is 430g flour, 280g water, 150g 100% hydration starter, and 10g salt. I let this autolyse for 60 minutes then stretch and fold a couple of times in the bowl (no more because it already lifts out of the bowl at this stage). Then leave overnight in the fridge before preshaping in the morning when the dough has good strength, holding a ball shape fairly well when left to rest for 30 minutes.

So now I tried a longer knead in the bowl. Still a gently stretch and fold technique. And the effects have been disastrous: the longer I knead it the sloppier the dough gets. That “magic moment” when it all comes together never arrives (I stopped at 15 minutes). After preshaping in the morning the dough ball developed a hollow in the top immediately, and spread out like a pancake after 30 minutes of rest. 

What am I doing wrong?

Abe's picture

Hopefully you'll find your answer soon enough. Very friendly and knowledgeable crowd. I'll leave the answer for the baguette experts but just thought i'd say "hi" and bring it to their attention. 

You're in the UK, I see. I'd say drop the hydration however you say the longer you need the sloppier it gets. If the hydration was too high then it should start off too wet to handle. Although it can't harm to drop the hydration to 60% and see if that helps. Other things to watch out for and try is not to use an over ripe starter. So giving your starter a healthy feed and catching it just as it peaks. And finally, perhaps dropping your starter percentage in case it's over fermenting. 

Hope this helps.  

Benito's picture

I’m not familiar with your flour but I know Abe is.  In general especially if you’re new to baguettes, I’d start with lower hydration and then for the lower protein flours of the UK relative to NA a bit lower still.  I calculate your hydration about just over 70%.  Why don’t you drop it to 65%, that should give you a bit of a stronger dough more quickly with less kneading.  So keeping your levain the same drop the water in the dough to 253 g from 280 g that should give you 65% hydration.

In general we found in the baguette community bake we did two summers ago that lower protein flours are great for baguettes.  They help get that thin crispy crust that is a positive characteristic of a good baguette.  We also found that you don’t need to over develop the gluten because if it is really strong, it is more of a challenge to shape.

If you’re really interested in baguettes, Alan wrote a summary in PDF form of the progress and bakes and learning of four of us bakers who participated in the community bake that pdf summary is here.