Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Wet Is Your Dough or A Visual Representation of the Effect of Dough Hydration on Hearth Baked Bread

Left to Right: 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 110%
So I wanted to give a visual representation of the effect that water has on your bread.  The hydration level of your dough is directly related to the amount of flour in your dough. To figure it out you  divide the water weight by the flour weight. For example if you have 100 g of water and 200 g of flour, your formula would be: 100/200 = hydration level or 100/200 = 0.5 which means you have 50% hydration. Simple enough, right?

I seem to have 'misplaced' my notebook where I wrote the specific recipe that I used but the ratios were based off of Jim Lahey's 'No Knead' recipe (which I translated to weight measurements a while ago). I just scaled it down to have smaller loaves and - of course - I changed the water measurement. 

I decided on making doughs with 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%,  and 110% hydration. In order to eliminate as many variables as possible I did not knead any of the doughs...seems appropriate for using the no knead forumla. Anyway - I also skipped over some techniques that bakers use to make higher hydration doughs more...friendly to work with. I did not score the doughs. I did not use steam (pitching ice cubes). I baked everything for the same amount of time at the same temperature regardless of how 'done' it was.

The actual process went as follows: 
1. I scaled everything
2. I mixed all the doughs
3. I fermented the doughs at 24 degrees C for exactly 18 hours. This would provide adequate time for gluten to develop without kneading the doughs. 
4. I folded the doughs 2 times
5. I rested the doughs 15 minutes
6. I shaped the doughs into 'boules'. (I am using that term loosely)
7. I proofed the dough at 24 degrees C for exactly 2 hours.
8. Everything was baked for exactly 45 minutes and then cooled on a wire rack until room temperature. 


Clockwise from the top right: 60%, 80%, 70%, 50%
The 50% was not extensible at all and was rather difficult to shape. Things got progressively easier as the hydration level went up (go figure).

Clockwise from top right: 100%, 110%, 90%
This is where the hydration started to make shaping the dough more difficult. The boules are a bit larger because rather than holding a nice shape, they spread out.

50% - Notice the tight, round shape & fluffy, sandwich bread like crumb.

60% - Shape still holding pretty well, crumb starting to have larger bubbles. This looks like a store bought loaf of 'french bread' to me. 

70% - Maybe a bit more open structure than 60% but still pretty similar

80% - Losing its shape a bit, noticeable change in the crumb.

90% - Not sure why this one held its shape better than the 80%. 

100% - Less round shape, crumb looks moist, chewy crust.
110% - Flattest shape, open structure, moist interior, chewy crust.

Lets take another look at the first photo:
Left to Right: 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 110%
Here you can see pretty clearly that the crumb progressively became more and more open and moist - as well as the fact that the dough held its shape better as the hydration level went down. 60 - 80 were a joy to work with. 50 & 90-110  were not so much. I had a batch of 120% but it was more like a batter and...well it didn't survive. It could have though, if I was more prepared for it. Ill give it another shot sometime soon.

yay!

4 comments:

  1. Awesome post, which was your favorite and why?
    I wish I had time for that! I live vicariously through your bread making!

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  2. Jamie, thank you. Its hard to say which was my favorite because each loaf has its own application that it is best suited for. With that being said, in general I prefer the flavor and texture of higher hydration doughs. My pain au levain is a 70% hydration dough.

    As for not having time...the best part of the no knead technique is that it requires so little labor to produce - its perfect for small pastry departments in restaurant kitchens.

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  3. Very impressive post. Were these all baked in a hot Dutch oven like the no-knead method? That 110% almost looks like a Ciabatta.

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  4. Jon - I baked these on tiles in my oven. It would have taken way too long to do each loaf individually in a dutch oven. And yes, ciabattas are made with high hydration dough!

    ReplyDelete