High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

My wife and I were out at dinner with a few friends the other night and we got to talking about local co-op produce, cooking from more natural ingredients, and of course, baking bread from only the simplest of ingredients. Just four small ingredients come together to make something greater, something alive a true artisan craft. One of our friends said: “I want to make bread for the sustainability aspect of it, not so much as to make it a work of art or something to look at in wonder.” Sure, that’s true, at the heart of it bread is sustenance, something you eat to keep alive and keep you going. But isn’t there more to a craft than just simply producing something edible?

I thought about his words for a while and wondered to myself: why do I keep testing, experimenting, tinkering, and trying, with my bread? Isn’t it good enough to provide healthy nourishment? In a word, yes, it is good enough. But if it’s a true craft, then the crafter is always trying to do better, always trying to transform the simple inputs into something greater.

I’ve set this goal for a certain taste for my bread, and a certain look when it is served on the table (you can read more in my about page), but I also desire to use healthy local ingredients. In the past few posts, I’ve been talking about a locally grown & milled white flour north Albuquerque, New Mexico and I decided to order a 50 pound bag of the stuff from my local co-op. I think they were getting annoyed with me anyways… I kept emptying out their small flour canister each week.

The flour really is spectacular. I am not able to determine the actual protein percentage but it’s enough to hold up to this 81% hydration recipe, and I think I can still even push it a bit farther. The taste though… The crumb comes out so tender and light, it’s the best I’ve had outside of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

Let’s get on with this week’s bake I have a few small changes here and there and they have helped me improve my bread for the better. In continuation with the last entry, I wanted to try a high(er) hydration sourdough bread, bumping it up by 1%. Small increments, right?

Prepare the leaven – 10:00pm

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

  1. 34g ripe starter
  2. 120g whole wheat flour
  3. 132g H2O @ 73ºF (room temperature, a little extra as it’s been very dry here lately)

After mixing the above in a glass container, cover and set in a slightly warm area in your kitchen overnight.

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Rest up tonight because tomorrow we start the baking!

Mix the flour and water, autolyse – 8:30am

I think my levain has really adapted to these cooler temperatures at night, it certainly was ready to go at 8:30am in the morning. Lots of activity throughout and definitely a slight smell of sour in the morning. Brutus is ready to go (yes, that’s my starter’s name, he’s turned on me more than once but I still care for the aging microorganism).

Higher Hydration Sourdough Bread Levain

Gather up your ingredients and get ready to get your hands dirty.

Ingredients:

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
275g Levain 27.5%
800g Local Sangre de Cristo white flour 80%
200g Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour 20%
20g Salt 2%
810g H2O @ 88ºF 81%

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Method:

  1. Add 275g of the prepared leaven (you might have a little leftover) to a large mixing bowl
  2. Pour in the 760g H2O & mix until the levain is dissolved
  3. Add 800g white flour and 200g whole wheat flour and mix with your hands until incorporated
  4. Cover your bowl and let autolyse for 40 minutes
  5. After 40 minutes add 20g salt and slowly pour the remaining 50g water on top. Squeeze & mix until incorporated
  6. Mix a bit longer until the mass becomes a bit “sticky”
  7. Transfer to your bulk fermentation container
Final dough temperature: 78ºF
Ambient temperature: 73ºF

 

I’ve started to take note of not only the final dough temperature after mixing, but also the ambient temperature. This will hopefully help you adjust your timing based on your ingredient and ambient temperatures in your kitchen.

Bulk Fermentation – 9:30am

I’ve been having issues recently with a crumb that has been a little on the dense side for my liking. I’ve done a few bakes in-between my last entry and this one to try to figure out what’s been happening and, after doing a little reading and chatting with fellow bakers, have discovered one of the causes. Thanks to some discussion with Francis over at the excellent Tartine Bread Experiment blog, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve simply been overworking my dough.

More turns during bulk fermentation does not mean a more open crumb.

You really can’t rely on the “6-turns-and-it’s-good-to-go” approach for bulk fermentation. You need to read the strength of the dough as it’s developing and stop the turns once it’s reached optimal strength more turns does not mean a more open crumb. Now, there are a lot of factors that go into this, but if you’ve been following along with me through these posts, try it out for yourself on the next bake and see if your crumb opens up a bit more:

When doing the turns for one of your sets, if you get to the last turn and you’re really not able to easily grab the dough to turn it because it’s holding its strength so much it is basically in a ball, your dough is probably strong enough and you can stop doing turns and let your dough rest for the remainder of the bulk fermentation.

  1. 10:00am – Turn Set 1
  2. 10:30am – Turn Set 2
  3. 11:00am – Turn Set 3
  4. 11:30am – Turn Set 4
  5. 11:30am – 2:00pm – Rest on counter untouched

Note that a “set” here is 4 stretch and folds for me. I reach under my dough, pull up, and fold over the other side — I do this 4 times for one set.

For my dough and my temperatures I only had to do 4 sets of turns, with a few hours of rest afterwards.

By 2:00pm the dough had risen almost to the top of my bowl and was ready to be shaped (about 30% rise). It should be jiggly and fluffy, but don’t push the bulk fermentation too far or you essentially end up with one huge bowl of levain and it won’t be usable. Trust me, I have done this a few more times than I’d like to admit.

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Pre-shape – 2:05pm

Take the dough out of the 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. Let this pre-shape rest for 30 minutes.

Lightly dust your two linen-lined bowls with white rice flour.

Shape – 2:35pm

For this session I decided to shape one boule and one batard. For me, it’s much easier to shape the boule (but it’s not my preferred shape) and I wanted to ensure I had one shaped each way to test both.

Proof – 2:45pm

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

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Score + Bake – 7:45am (the next day)

Place your baking stone and your combo cooker (I place the shallow side up on the left, and the deep side down on the right) in your oven at the bottom 1/3 position and turn it on to 510ºF for a 1 hour pre-heat.

I bake the proofed dough straight from the fridge, this helps prevent the bottom of the loaf from cooking too quickly.

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.

Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven. For the batard I do a crescent shape along the center and for the boule I did a square-top as described in the Tartine books.

Place the dough into the combo cooker and cook covered for 20 minutes at 500ºF. After 20 minutes reduce the heat to 450ºF, leave the dough covered and cook for an additional 10 minutes. After this time, take the lid off and continue to cook at 450º F for an additional 30 minutes, until done.

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread Thin and Crispy

Conclusion

I might venture to say these are the best set of loaves I’ve ever made, even better than my fermentation entry. The overall shape of the two is just how I had imagined and the crumb is so very tender. The local Sangre de Cristo flour is really something special, I am very glad to have this resource near me.

Crust:

The crust was colored so nicely and was stunningly thin. That dark caramelized color and dynamic crust is so simple looking yet when pulled from the oven a smile instantly appeared on my face. Cutting this bread was very easy as the knife just slid right through.

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Crumb:

Finally, my open crumb has returned. Would I want it more open? Ok I think I ask that every single time, and I always say “yes”, but this time I’m happy with the result. It was so light and airy that any more openness and it might start dropping sandwich ingredients.

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

Taste:

Tender, moist, custardy, slightly sour, very complex. As I mentioned, this is some of the best white flour I’ve tasted and I’m going to be sticking with it as long as I can get a sufficient supply. These loaves are not going to last very long…

High(er) Hydration Sourdough Bread

And with bread like this I couldn’t help myself, I had to make a “whatever I have in the kitchen that sounds good” sandwich. I tossed on some local goat cheese, 1/2 a ripe tomato, chard & arugula, roast beef, and sliced avocado. The moist and light crumb of this bread, combined with the slight hint of sourness, really stood up well to the roast beef.

Yes, sure tasted good.

High hydration sourdough sandwich

Buon appetito!

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.



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