High Hydration Sourdough Bread

I think it’s important to add some pleasure to your life; without it your creativity won’t be at its best. When the stomach calls, satisfy it. Don’t eat a lot but eat well.Lapo Elkann

One of my favorite quotes from most likely my favorite article I’ve ever stumbled across in Monocle magazine. In a relatively jovial and concise article Lapo Elkann, and Italian marketer, talks about what good food means to him and his family and how it is the center of his daily ritual.

In the same fashion food to me is usually the center of my day and my interactions with my family and friends. I take care in planning and preparing food for each week and am usually planning out my week’s worth of baking and cooking well before it arrives. My cooking tends to revolve around what is delivered through our farmer’s market co-op which makes things interesting: you never know what you’re going to get. Baking, on the other hand, always has my staple homemade sourdough bread. This is made at least once every two weeks, usually every week, without exception.

Each week my bread is a chance for me to improve on my tireless quest for the perfect loaf. The loaf you pull from the oven and sit there for a minute to watch it cool, the loaf when cut shows a crumb so light and airy you can’t help but poke at it in disbelief. Dark and brittle crust, blisters and cracks along the outside, dynamic tears and rips on top, the impossibly open, airy, and light crumb that has a million and one caverns all adjectives describing what I’m after. They don’t all end up that way though, that’s the hard truth of baking: every batch, aside from your starter, is a completely new attempt. Bread flopped last time? Well take what you did, modify a single variable, and give it a brand new try that will result in a completely new outcome. This is both very frustrating and also very comforting.

More crumb shots

Ok enough of the philosophical treatise on bread and artisan crafts, let’s get on to the actual baking!

The bread I set out to bake for this entry was pushing my comfort zone with hydration, a high hydration sourdough bread at 80%. I know that to get the open crumb I’m searching for hydration has to increase, so I’ve decided to slowly increase the hydration level without making any drastic changes. Shaping becomes incredibly difficult as you get up past 80%, it becomes very sticky and a little more slack. The next few entries, much like this one, will result in some less-than-perfect results (still tasty, however).

Prepare the leaven – 10:15pm

My typical 100% whole wheat leaven, prepared the night before:

  1. 50g ripe starter
  2. 200g whole wheat flour
  3. 200g H2O @ 80ºF

After mixing the above in a glass container, cover and set in a slightly warm area in your kitchen. If it’s cold at night at your place like mine (around 65º F at night) you’ll need to experiment with an area that’s a bit warmer in your kitchen. For me, it’s on top of my refrigerator.

If you haven’t yet created your own sourdough starter, don’t fret, it’s actually very simple. Head over to my post where I discuss creating a sourdough starter from scratch very easily in 7 steps — easy stuff.

Mix the flour and water, autolyse – 10:00am

Even with the warmer temperatures on top of my fridge, my leaven still needed more time to mature. I’ll usually start around 8:00 or 9:00am but the “nose” of my starter was not quite sour enough, and it could use a few more visible bubbles. At around 10:00am things looked much better and I started for the day.

Sourdough starter ready to use

I did a quick verification with the “float test”, scooping just a bit of my starter into a glass full of room temperature water – looks like it’s floating, we are ready to go. I don’t usually do the float test at this point anymore, but sometimes it’s a good sanity check just to make sure things are progressing as expected.

Float test

Ingredients:

  1. 250g (25%) leaven
  2. 800g (80%) King Arthur bread flour
  3. 200g (20%) Great River Organics whole wheat flour
  4. 20g (2%) salt
  5. 750g H2O @ 85ºF and 50g H2O in reserve for next step

I recently discovered that I’m actually a bit lucky here in New Mexico as we have a great local flour mill that produces white flour from wheat grown up north around Taos. This Sangre de Christo flour is available at some local co-ops and I hope to have some to test with for the next entry. I thought I was out of luck and would have to eventually buy my own small home mill to have complete control over that part of the process… To be honest I’m still pining for a home mill and hope to have one in the future.

Method:

  1. Add the 250g of leaven to a large mixing bowl
  2. Pour in the 750g H2O & mix with your hands until the leaven is completely dissolved
  3. Add 800g of the bread flour and 200g whole wheat flour and mix with your hand until all the dry flour is incorporated
  4. Cover your bowl with a towel and let autolyse for 50 minutes
  5. After 50 minutes add 20g salt to the dough and slowly pour the remaining 50g water on top. Squeeze the dough with your hand to incorporate the salt
  6. Now reach your hand under the dough and pull a side up and over onto itself. Do this several times until you notice the consistency of the dough to turn sticky
  7. Transfer your dough to a large bowl for the bulk fermentation step

The final dough temperature after mixing in the salt was 78º F. Perfect.

Bulk Fermentation – 11:00am

During bulk fermentation you want to do about 6 turns spaced out 30 minutes apart. The first four turns should be fairly vigorous with the last two being more gentle as to not push out all the precious gasses built up.

  1. 11:30am – Turn 1
  2. 12:00pm – Turn 2
  3. 12:30pm – Turn 3
  4. 1:00pm – Turn 4
  5. 1:30pm – Turn 5
  6. 2:00pm – Turn 6
  7. 2:00pm – 3:30pm – Rest on counter untouched

During the bulk fermentation step, taking place over several hours, is usually a perfect place for me to take my dog out for a quick 30 minute walk and a post-walk espresso.

Intelligentsia coffee at home

By 3:30pm the dough had risen almost to the top of my bowl, was very bubbly throughout, and was ready to be shaped.

Pre-shape – 3:40pm

Take the dough out of the bulk container onto your work surface and sprinkle some flour on top before dividing. Divide the mass into two halves and lightly spin each half with your dough knife in one hand and your other hand. This will very lightly create tension as the dough sticks to the work surface. Invert a bowl on top of each shaped mass to keep it from drying out and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Lightly dust your two linen-lined bannetons with white rice flour. These bowls will hold our fermenting dough overnight in the fridge to proof (final rise).

Shape – 4:10pm

Due to the 80% hydration of these loaves I had to be very quick and gentle handling this dough. My hands were floured frequently, but I try not to flour the dough excessively. If you take too firm a hand you’ll push out built up gasses but you still need to shape enough to form that taut outer skin that eventually creates the crust of your loaf.

First, I lightly flour the top of one of the rounds, slide my bench knife under and with my other hand flip the round over so the floured side is now resting on the work surface. I then fold the bottom 1/3 up to the middle, the right 1/3 out and on top over to the left side, the left 1/3 out and on top over to the right side. Then, I finish the “envelope” by taking the top 1/3 out and down over to the middle. At this point I grab a little of the right side near the top, fold it over to the middle, grab a little of the left top and fold over to seal. I then repeat a little below that and continue onward down the mass. Visually it would look like little “X”‘s running down the top of the loaf. When you reach the bottom, pull up the top and roll it down to the bottom.

I’ve linked to this before, but you can see Chad (of Tartine Bread) do the shaping here. It definitely takes some practice.

Proof – 4:30pm

After shaping, gently place the dough into their baskets and into the fridge for an overnight proof.

Score + Bake – 8:30am (the next day)

Gather your tools:

  1. Razor blade for scoring
  2. Parchment paper
  3. Pizza peel
  4. Pizza stone
  5. Oven mit
  6. Lodge Combo Cooker

Place your baking stone in your oven at the middle position and turn it on to 510ºF for a 1 hour pre-heat.

After one hour, take one of your loaves out of the fridge and cut a piece of parchment paper to place on top of the basket containing the dough. Take your peel and then put it on top of those two and quickly invert it so the dough is now resting on the parchment paper and the peel.

I had a request in my last post to show what this looks like, and here it is. I’ve found this to be the easiest, safest, and best way to transfer dough to your combo cooker without dropping it in and causing gasses to press out. On the left side you can see my linen-lined banneton on bottom, piece of parchment paper above that, and finally the pizza peel on top. After you quickly invert, you’l see the right side picture below. Then you simply lift the banneton off and your dough is ready to be scored and slid into your pan from the oven.

Sourdough banneton

Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven.

Place the dough into the combo cooker and cook covered for 20 minutes at 500º F. After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 450º F and leave covered to cook for an additional 10 minutes. After this time, take the lid off and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until done. This modified baking schedule is something I’ve adapted from Tartine No. 3, their newest book. I’ve noticed this really helps to caramelize the crust and cook the dough more throughly.

Wonderful oven spring

Conclusion

Being one of my first takes at such a high hydration sourdough bread, I’m pleased with the results overall (see my next post on an even higher hydration for some better results!). I need to focus on shaping more confidently for the next round to hopefully achieve an even more open crumb. The taste here was really an unexpected revelation, the hydration level really brings out more of the subtle taste of the flour used and make the crumb nice and moist for days after baking.

Crust:

The crust on this loaf was nice and thin, and colored so exceptionally well. I believe the slightly longer autolyse time of 50 minutes helped out to bring out more of the sugars in the flour leading to more caramelization. The increased baking time also helped to color the loaf a little darker without burning the outside. Those dynamic “tears” on the top of the loaf between the sides of the slash are exactly what I’m looking for.

Tartine-style crust color

Crumb:

The loaf overall was light and airy, but I wanted more openness to the crumb. I’m still yearning for that impossibly open crumb and this loaf didn’t reach my expectations. Next time I’m going to test out an even gentler and lighter set of turns for the end of my bulk fermentation.

Crumb shot

Taste:

Very, very good! The taste is always just great, but this one tasted better than usual. I’m attributing this great taste to the nicely caramelized and thin crust. Additionally, the higher hydration imparted a very moist and tender crumb that has me swearing off bread less than 80% hydration in the future.

High hydration baked sourdough bread

I sliced this loaf up after letting it cool for a few hours and spread on some fresh basil pesto with a few cherry tomatoes for a quick & dirty bruschetta of sorts. A seriously good afternoon snack.

Fresh pesto, tomatoes, and sourdough

In my next entry I up the hydration even more and get an even more open and tasty crumb — definitely worth checking out.

Buon appetito!

 

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.
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  • Gingi

    Well done. Amazing pics. I have been waiting for your post. – imgingi.

  • elizabeth

    Will give this recipe a try soon. This weekend I’m making a batch of Country Blonde and a Mill Grain loaf. I’ll looking for some good flour, you’re lucky you can find some locally. I noticed Chad was putting his dough into a cold pot, have you ever tried not heating your dutch oven?

    I would love a Silvia! We use Bialetti pots, but someday hope to purchase a Rancilio Silvia. My husband likes your tamper, did it come with your machine? What is your favorite coffee?

    • Sounds great. Where do you get your flour from and why type do you use?

      I have actually always heated my dutch oven for the 1 hour preheat, I should try doing it cold and see if it makes a difference. I could see it maybe help to avoid burning on the bottom, but I haven’t had any issues with that.

      The moka is a really great thing, I have several in my house and always use them when traveling. The Silvia is such a nice machine — I’ve had it since 2008 and it’s a workhorse. I use it at least once a day, usually twice.

      The tamper I bought separately, it’s a Reg Barber. Very high quality and I very much recommend them.

      My favorite coffee that I get shipped is Intelligentsia. I’ve had a subscription with them for several years. I’d say, though, that I do like Stumptown coffee more but the shipping costs are just too high for me.

      Happy baking this weekend!

      • elizabeth

        Do you use only “espresso” blends in your machine, or do you just use whatever coffee tastes best to you? I guess grinding fresh beans is also important. I cheat and buy it already ground for the moka and keep it in the freezer, probably a big no no.

        • I use many different blends and sometimes single origin but a blend is usually best for espresso and cappuccino.

          Definitely get a grinder! It will make the coffee you make much better. I’d say it’s probably more important to get a grinder first and then the espresso machine.

        • I’ve been corrected by one of my astute readers that some believe blends are not the “best” for espresso/cappuccino. I’m going to give some more single origins a chance and see if I agree. But really, I think it comes down to whatever tastes best to you, like you said. At the moment, I’m a fan of blends for my cappuccino.

  • elizabeth

    I don’t really have any organicl flours right now, I’m using Hodgson rye flour, KA or Bob’s AP and Stone Buhr for bread and ww.

    I’ll have to look into Intelligentsia and Stumptown, I use http://www.cafemam.com.

    I don’t think I’ve tried the cold dutch oven method either, but I do sometimes have burning on the bottom, so I should give it a try.

  • I’ve found that sliding a cookie sheet on the oven rack just below baking vessel eliminates any issues with a too done bottom. I can then cook my loaf as long as I like for the top.

    • Wow, this is a really great idea — provide a layer of insulation against that harsh heat coming up from the coils. I personally haven’t had any issues with burning on the bottom, I think it’s due to my thick baking stone I have on the bottom, it provides some good insulation!

      This is the baking stone I use.

  • Oh, I have tried a cold pot, but prefer a heated one. I think it has a better crust. Beautiful post!

    • Thanks! I agree, a heated pot lends itself to a better crust.

  • matya

    hi
    great Explanations Thank you.
    But how does the bread come out without lots of flour on it?
    very wet dough requires a lot flour on the bannetons, dosent? Otherwise it will stick to the bannetons.
    another thing how do you shape the dough to a batard? in the book only the boule shaping is explained
    Thanks again

    • Glad you’re finding things helpful, always great to hear that.

      To avoid using a bunch of flour I actually line my bannetons with flour sack towels that are cut to fit. Up above you can see the white towels in some of the images. Then, I lightly dust those with white rice flour to prevent any sticking. I haven’t had any issues this way.

      I did the best I could explaining how I shape a batard up above in the “Shape” section of this post. Head up there and check the second paragraph out again, I hope I was clear enough as it’s very hard to put into words. I plan on doing a video post on my shaping technique at some point!

      Happy baking!

  • Bruce Heath

    Hello- thanks for the great high hydration sourdough recipe. A question …you say the hydration is 80% but I calculate it to be 105%. Leaven @ 250g, H2O @ 800g and flour @ 1000g. What am I missing ?

    • You’re welcome! I don’t usually include the H2O in my levain as part of the hydration calculation. I’ve noticed some bakers do, some don’t. But yes, if you did include that H2O in the calculation you’d definitely have higher than 80%.

      • Bruce Heath

        Thank you for your prompt reply…..it is VERY helpful as I was ALWAYS thinking the prepared starter was included in the ratio

        All the best and again a VERY helpful detailed recipe which I a appreciate

        • You’re welcome and happy baking!

          • Bruce Heath

            Hello,

            I have located a source for the Sangre de Cristo flour in Alamosa,Co. When the clerk read me the label he said it was unbleached wheat flour. Is this the one I want or is there another type of Sangre de Cristo that I should order?

            Thanks

            Bruce Heath

            • Bruce,
              The Sangre de Cristo I get is an unbleached white flour, but I bet it’s the same one. It’s grown & milled in northern New Mexico. As far as I know they only have an unbleached white flour.

              Give it a try, I think you’ll like it!

              • Bruce Heath

                Mauricio

                Just wanted to be sure…thanks

                Bruce

    • Jan

      It’s higher than 80% – true. But not 105% though… I doubt that anyone could make a bread with 105% hydrated dough.

      250 g leaven (100% hydration) = 125 g flour and 125 g water
      1000 g flour + 125 g from leaven
      800 g water + 125 g from leaven
      925 / 1125 * 100 = 82.2% hydration.

      Thats still high – but not 105% 🙂

  • Liz Bertol

    When proofing the loaves in the fridge overnight, do you enclose them in a loose plastic bag or leave them “naked” in the fridge?

    • I enclose them in plastic bags to retain moisture, otherwise they will slightly dry out and you’ll form a “skin” on the outside. I use these bags from Amazon — a little bit large, but food safe and they can be tied with rubber bands.

  • Chad

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I learned a lot when trying it for the first time. My loaf’s turned out very very good. However, now that I reviewed the recipe I realized I may have made an error. I used all (450 g) of the levin in the make up of the dough. Is the correct amount of levin 250g or the full 450g?

    Thanks.

    Chad

    • You’re very welcome, I’m glad it helped! You only want to use around 20% (15% – 25% is typical) levain when doing your mix. No worries if you included the full 450g, it just means your dough will ferment much faster and might have a more sour taste. Next time just use 20-25% and you’ll be set.

      Good luck, let me know how it goes!

  • Hilary C Ford

    I live in Australia can I purchase this flour you use frommexico or is there another stockist. Love love making bread thanks for all your advice Hilary

    • I live in the United States (New Mexico) and most of the flour I use can be purchased online, however, I’m not sure if they’ll ship out to Australia! If I were you I’d look for some local flour out there that has the same specifications as mine, I’m sure you’ll find some good quality in Australia.

      You’re very welcome, I’m glad my recipes are working out for ya!

  • Such helpful and beautifully presented post. Interesting calculation of percentages, I cam up with a different figure completely! This maths illiterate got 79% for this loaf and 74% for your basic Tartine (which also looks amazing!). What sort of oven do you use? Lots of great tips here, thanks.

    • Thank you! I should note here that I do not take the levain into account when doing my calculations, sorry about that. I should start doing that!

      I use a typical home oven, electric.

  • mtytslr

    Hello, your explanations are really good, thank you.
    Maybe you can help me.
    I tend to proof for about two hours after the shaping and then bake this way i get the flavors i love. The problem is that I have no oven spring and the bread comes out fairly flat.
    If I let the dough overnight in the refrigerator i have an oven spring, but noticeable vingar- sour flavors.

    How do you think I can get the oven spring and the sweet Tastes in ashort profing time?

    thank again

    • You’re very welcome.
      It sounds to me like your dough is underproofed. You will need to let it proof longer on the counter, or like you said, overnight in the fridge.

      How much levain are you adding into your dough? If you are around 20% or so that should be sufficient, assuming your starter is in good working order.

      I would first focus on your starter management to help remove some of that sour flavor in your bread. Do you feed your starter on a predictable schedule (once a day is preferable)? Does it smell overly sour when you feed it? If so you should feed it sooner or with more flour & water at each feeding. Additionally, you want to try to carryover on a small percentage of your mature starter at each feeding, say around 10-15%. If you keep a large amount between feedings that sourness will become more pronounced.

      Do those tips make sense? If you have any more questions please let me know I’ll try to help out more! Happy baking 🙂

    • mtytslr

      Thanks for the answer.
      You may be right that the problem is underproofing. I think it’s because I take the flour out of the freezer (keeping it there against bugs)so the dough is too cold .
      I saw your conversation with pipsbread about 100 Fahrenheit, I was shocked I know that dough can tolerate 78 Fahrenheit, can you please explain this.
      Dose Your bread taste more sour when you leave it over night than only after for 4 hours? Sincerely

      • I shoot for a “final dough temperature” of 78ºF. This means after mixing everything (water, levain, flour, salt) I take a temperature of my dough mass and I try to hit that temperature. The easiest way to control this is to warm up your water you use for mixing. If your flour is stored in the freezer or fridge it may mean you need to mix with warmer water so the overall mass reaches around 78. Does that make sense?

        Here is a good run down of what Pip and I are were discussing: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/dough-temperatures.html

        Why 78ºF? It seems to be the “optimal” temperature for fermentation for me. Anywhere from 76-82 is really acceptable, and even a bit outside of that, but according to research these temperatures are ideal for yeast/bacteria colonization and reproduction (fermentation).

        I hope that helps!

  • Mimmi Rantanen

    I have tried the recipe, however it was too soft (hydrated) to shape after bulk fermentation; I tried to twist and fold anyways and put it in the fridge overnight; and next morning it was still too jiggly and came out much larger in diameter for my dutch oven from the banneton.. I transferred it to a larger circular baking pan and covered tightly with aluminium foil to trap the steam, additionally threw some ice cubes in the oven (not on the baking stone). It will be a flatbread sadly 🙁 My levain was fine and the other same-day sourdoughs I made turned out fine with a nice crumb and caramelized crispy crust. Dont think my flour’s humidity would cause the dough to be too hydrated, so I ll reduce the h20 next time to 75% or so.

    • Yes, reduce the hydration and give it another shot. It sounds like perhaps this level of water is just too much for your flour to handle. Sorry for the “pancake” but you’ll turn it around next time!

      • Mimmi Rantanen

        The upside is, the flat loaf turned out perfect inside. I ate the whole loaf in a day with Nutella by myself. I have set a new batch of levain for tomorrow, and I will reduce the hydration 🙂 Thanks. My wholemeal portion had pre-added salt in it, maybe that affected the first phase as well. I ll see when I experiment more tomorrow. Cheers!

        • Sounds like a plan. By the way, you definitely do *not* want to add salt to your autolyse phase! Salt will inhibit some enzymatic activity. Just flour + water. Good luck today!

  • Hi, Lucia! Yes, I baked these in the same combo cooker as always. It does get cramped, and sometimes they barely fit… But I make it work. If you are afraid of your dough fitting, you could always scale your final loaves down a bit, say 25-50g to ensure they fit (instead of just shaping half the dough into one loaf, and the other half into another, you remove a bit from each). Lately I’ve been baking directly on baking stones and steaming my oven a different way, you can see how I steam my home oven here.

    Shaping a batard is somewhat challenging, and there are many methods. I’ve been working on a shaping method that I really like, and I’ll post an entry here when I get something filmed, but I generally follow the Tartine method. If you Google “Tartine shaping” you’ll find some good YouTube videos on how they “stitch” up the dough. This structural shaping really helps when you get to high hydration like this recipe suggests. If you are staying at a lower hydration level, say 70-75%, you could follow the method outlined by Jeffrey Hamelman in his book Bread.

    I hope that helps, please let me know if you have any more questions and happy baking!

  • Lucia, sorry for the late reply! I somehow missed this comment. Yes, I baked my batards in the same combo cooker, even though some of them really were cutting it close. If you really want to make sure things will fit you can scale your loaves down to 850g or 900g.

    I plant to have a video at some point for shaping, but haven’t got there yet. If you Google “batard shaping” you’ll find some good instructions on YouTube!

    I hope that helps, happy baking Lucia!

  • Scott Schmidt

    Hi Maurizio-

    Well, I’ve been reading along, practicing, and refining my sourdough (based upon this recipe) for the past year, and have finally made the The Perfect Loaf…well, almost. Beautiful oven spring in a batard shape, very open crumb, translucent interior, crackly crust. Perfect in every way, except for one final last niggling problem. I have tried every tool available to slash my bread, and they all sort of snag the loaf since it’s so wet. I have resorted to using a scissors to cut one line down the center of the loaf using a series of about 15 little snips. This works, and I get a good spread on the bake with the desired back-curling of the cut edge, but it’s in a zig-zag pattern if you can imagine that (I don’t think I can include a photo here). So my question to you is: How do you slash your loaf to get such a straight end-to-end cut that curls back so nicely? I’d love to hear how you do it so that I can sort out this one final problem, and finally reach that elevated state of sourdough Nirvana that I’ve been working towards for so long. Thanks for any advice.

    Rgds-

    Scott
    London UK

    NB – Your SkyView app is great!

    • Scott — thanks for the kind words and it sounds like you’ve been very dedicated! There’s something so satisfying about making your own bread, and great bread to boot.

      I use a standard, very sharp, shaving razor attached to a wooden stick (a coffee stirrer actually). I make sure to change out this blade frequently as they do get dull rather quickly. I’ll use one side of the blade consistently for about 10-15 bakes, flip it over for the same number, and then change it out. I use Feather Japanese blades if you’re curious, they’re extremely sharp. Recently I’ve picked up this lame from Amazon, it’s essentially a plastic holder for the razor but it helps keep it a bit more firm (this isn’t necessary by any means, but I like it so far).

      A few tips I can pass on: make sure you slash rather quickly and decisively. If you pause, even for a moment, the blade will sink in and start to snag. If you find yourself not scoring in deeply enough with a fast motion like this, you can always quickly cut a little more under your first cut to open it up a bit more.

      I always bake straight from the fridge — cold dough is much easier to score than warm room-temperature dough.

      Note that with higher hydration bread, like this recipe, scoring in general will be more difficult and will take more practice. Since the dough is highly hydrated it doesnt form the same rough skin as a lower hydration loaf would.

      I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions and I’ll try to elaborate more but this is how I do it!

      Also, thanks for the kind words about SkyView — it’s a labor of love! Happy baking 🙂

  • Scott Schmidt

    Hi Lucia-

    He’s a tip. I too have been trying to bake a batard in the combo cooker, but they tend to spread out and not rise too high because the bottom of the pan doesn’t confine the dough quite the same as if you’re doing a round loaf. What I did to solve the problem, and with great success, is as follows. Take the rim ring from a cake pan, 20cm in diameter (the kind you can buy in a cooking store where the bottom and the sides are each separate pieces – one a disc and the other a cylinder), and then bend it into an oval shape. Place this in the bottom of the combo cooker and then put the dough inside the ring. This confines the dough to an oval shape, and also causes the loaf to rise much higher because the expansion pushes the dough upwards and not outwards. Give it a try! It worked great for me, and resulted in a beautifully-shaped loaf.

    Rgds-

    Scott
    London UK

    • Scott–really great idea, I want to try this as well! Thanks for leaving that information.

  • Peter Arkson

    Is there a volume the bakingcontainer should be? The only combo cooker I
    found is 3.8 quarts, which is a good deal smaller than the typical 5
    quart dutch oven…

    • The combo cooker I use is the Lodge 3.2 quart, definitely smaller than the 5qt. DO but the Lodge will fit some rather large boules inside. It’s the same cooker many of the baking books recommend as well. You can always use a larger one if that’s what you have.

  • Veronika Bogumska

    Hello , I have tried baking my first ever sourdough bread by your recepie, taste is great, shape could be better ( my one was kind of flat as I used iron cast stewing pan with lid which is 4 l ) but both of them had quiet burned bottom. Anyway I could improve this please? Thank you

    • Hi! Glad to hear my recipes are working well for you. There are a few things you can do to try and avoid a burned bottom:
      – Preheat your oven, and your pan, for less time so it’s not quite so hot.
      – If you’re baking with your pan on baking stones, remove the stones (they add additional heat)
      – Sprinkle some wheat bran or cornmeal inside the bottom of your pan so the crust of the dough isn’t resting directly on it
      – Lower your oven temperature 10-15ºF when preheating

      I would suggest trying one of these each time to see if any of them help and if not then you can start combining them (e.g. preheat for 45 minutes only and then use bran/cornmeal on the bottom of your pan).

      I hope that helps — happy baking!

  • Bruce Heath

    Hello

    I will also be very interested in what Maurizio has too say

    Having had similar “problems” when I started out I make the following suggestions. Make sure your starter is well feed and has the rising power needed. At a minimum , it must have doubled in height, pass the float and smell tests. Choose a high protein flower to provide proper gluten formation. Follow the baker ratios..especially for salt. Salt is a great help in gluten forming. If you short your salt ratio your gluten will not be as tight. In your shaping phase, if the your boule is too flat..re shape and let it sit again for up to 1/2 hour to have it hold the needed shape. Time your baking so that your refrigerator fermentation is 16 hours and learn about the finger push test to determine if your dough is ready. To avoid burning the bottom , place your vessel on a baking stone and raise the oven tray one notch higher if your space allows it. I would strongly suggest using a Dutch oven. Don’t be discouraged….all problems that you mentioned are correctable.

    If all else fails , start baking with a lower hydration % for each loaf …maybe 72% is a place to begin …take it up 1 to 2 % for each of the new loafs until you have enough experience to see how the dough performs as the hydration ratio increases. Once you have chosen a proven high protein flour , Keep baking with the same flour brand and type until you understand how it absorbs water , forms gluten and rises. Once mastered , then on to the other wonderful recipes Maurizio has provide us!

    All the best

    Bruce

    • Bruce thanks so much for all the suggestions! I replied to the comment below with a few of mine as well.

      I find if I preheat my baking stones for the full 1 hour (or so) and use my Dutch oven on top of them I can get a darker crust as well. I’ll typically keep this same setup and just reduce the oven temperature 10-15ºF to help combat the burning.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

  • Veronika Bogumska

    Right fabulous people!
    Thank you for your suggestions , i am on my second batch of breads this morning, now at stage of authorise, my home oven isn’t very good one, I usually have to play with the temperate even when baking a cakes, so it’s more difficult with breads.
    I will definetly try put some semolina on bottom of my pan and between the bread and baking paper.
    I can’t raise the iron cast pot any higher in oven as its quiet large pot in small space, so it’s almost at the bottom.
    I also have ordered different flour as I was using just Alison’s brand( basic in uk) so going for organic doves one.
    As we own bar with homemade thin crust pizzas, we have pizza oven , electric one which go up to 450• or wood fired one to, which I am looking to use for my breads in future.
    Also please do you have recepie for sourdough pizza crust? I would love to try that !!!!
    Thank you so much for help again, cannot wait for my second batch ❤️❤️❤️

    • Good luck on this next attempt! I think the semolina will help quite a bit.

      I’m currently working on my sourdough pizza recipe and I hope to have it posted sometime soon — it’s getting really, really good!

      Happy baking, Veronika 🙂

      • Veronika Bogumska

        The bread was amazing this time over!
        I am eating so much of it, I will look like one?
        I cannot wait for the pizza recepie!
        Thank you for your amazing recepies! X

        • That’s great news, so glad to hear that! One can never eat too much bread 😀

          Happy baking and you’re very welcome!

  • Suzie

    Hello!

    I’ve been working on a plain white bread flour sourdough loaf, using either KAF Bread Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour. My starter is 100% hydration (half AP/half whole wheat) and fairly active I think. When I make a 75% hydration bread, it bakes into a nice shape, with little spreading. Whenever I try to up the hydration (77% – 80%) there is more spreading once its out of the banneton and after baking. What is happening? Can I do anything to remedy this? I’ve tried mixing for a minute longer (by hand) after the short (30min auto w/ leaven) autolyse. Does gluten strength decrease as hydration increases? I do 4 stretch and folds over 2 hours and generally allow it to continue to proof for another 1.5 -2 hours afterwards. Then retard for up to 12 hours.

    Also, whenever I’ve tried a longer autolyse (anything over 30 minutes) there is zero strength in the dough and the dough+bread have zero height. Is this the result of gluten degradation? How can I achieve a longer autolyse without this happening?

    Finally, after the short autolyse that I do, I add the salt and remaining water and incorporate. How much mixing and to what extent am I developing the dough at this point? I’ve seen videos that develop it quite far and others that barely mix it together at all.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi there! So yes, as you increase hydration the more slack your dough will become, and usually needs to be compensated for by adding in additional strengthening (either at mix time or during bulk fermentation). Your bread schedule sounds great and very similar to what I do. You could also try adding in one or two more sets of stretch and folds during bulk with the higher hydration recipe you’re using.

      The longer you autolyse (up to a limit) the more extensible your dough becomes, meaning it can stretch out more and more before showing resistance and the desire to spring back. If this is a problem you can shorten your autolyse time to counteract that. These are all related: hydration, autolyse & extensibility, and strength of your dough. You can see how each one impacts the feel of the dough and the goal is always to try and find that balance between them all, so the dough is extensible enough to expand out and allow it to fill with gasses but not so much that it spreads.

      Many bakers have many different approaches on how much to strengthen after adding salt. I like to mix the dough after adding salt just until it comes back together and I prefer to do the rest of strengthening during bulk through stretch/folds. It’s up to you!

      Also, @disqus_P26GsGRWwg:disqus sent over a few comments to your question, have a look above!

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions!

  • Bruce Heath

    Good morning…it will be very interesting to see what Maurizio has to say also…he is the informed word on this for sure

    It is difficult to pinpoint the real problem…but for sure high hydration bread is a challenge

    My trouble shooting suggestions are

    Make very sure your starter passes the float test….you may need to feed it up to three times before you use it

    Use a clear container / bowl …….If your starter is performing properly you will see many air pockets forming during the last two hours of the bulk fermentation

    Double check all your ratios…especially salt…salt is critical in gluten formation

    Understand temperature is an ingredient ! Re read his comments on what temperatures for what part of the process seem to work best

    Be sure your dough is only rising 20-30% during the bulk fermentation …

    You can do a “transparency/ window pane ” test ( see Internet for example) to determine if your gluten formation is good at the end of bulk

    You should thoroughly review his comments on shaping and Internet videos on shaping….especially how to do a four fold during this step…you need to create a taught shape before it goes into the refrigerator

    I suspect your shaping technique and what to look for during it needs improvement …especially with high hydration …mine certainly did and still does

    Re read how to do the finger push test on your refrigerated dough… To determine if it is ready for baking

    You may be over fermenting

    Reconfirmed your actual oven temperature and confirm your Dutch oven seal is tight

    If you are baking on a stone make sure it is proper temperature and insure you are using an effective steam creation technique during the first twenty minutes

    All else fails start working your way up the hydration ladder 2% at a time ..see how your dough looks feels and performs

    Do not be discouraged…all you have mentioned can and usually does happen to an artisan sourdough baker as he or she gains edperience

    All the best

    Bruce Heath

  • Bruce Heath

    Susie

    Also make sure you are not using water with chlorine in it and do not add the salt until after the autolyse is complete…no need to go longer than 30 minutes on the autolyse

    Suggest your follow M Tartine 33 recipe and process …that is a very good place to start

    Bruce Heath

  • Bruce Heath

    One final post…if you are interested in a longer autolyse then suggest you read the perfect loaf recipe for Country Sourdough with less Levain and longer autolyse. But I caution you…experimenting with bread baking is a wonderfully satisfying thing…but it can lead to extreme frustration until you have mastered a beginning artisan recipe…..understand the principles involved and can visually and by touch/feel see when your dough is on the right path and when it is not and what to do if it is not to correct ….then can “build ” on your success from there

    Enough from me…

    Bruce Heath