High Hydration Sourdough Bread Guide

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Using more water in your dough will result in those bubbles that everyone is chasing.

I personally do not make bread like this very often, but it has its place. The more water is added the more difficult it becomes to develop gluten. That is why we are using the autolyse method which helps hydrate the flour and make the gluten development easier for us. The long cold proof gives this bread an intense flavour.

Remember that every sourdough starter is different and the conditions in every kitchen are different. Take the given fermentation times with a grain of salt as your starter may be more or less active and your kitchen may be cooler or warmer, so your proofing times may vary.

If your dough is very loose, then add more folds. Just space them evenly throughout bulk fermentation.

 

Ingredients

For the levain –

10g (0.35oz) sourdough starter

100g (3.5oz) strong white bread flour

100g (3.5oz) water at room temperature if your kitchen is around 20 – 22C (68 – 72F). If it is warmer or cooler, then adjust the water temperature by 1 – 2C (2 – 4F) up or down.

 

For the main dough –

300g (10.6oz) strong white bread flour

220g (7.75oz) water at room temperature if, your kitchen is around 20 – 22C (68 – 72F). If it is warmer or cooler, then adjust the water temperature by 1 – 2C (2 – 4F) up or down.

8g (0.3oz) fine sea salt

10g (0.35oz) caraway seeds *optional

To learn more about dough temperature control when using a preferment click here.

Method

  1. Make the levain by mixing all the levain ingredients and leaving for 12 – 16 hours to ferment.
  2. Make the autolyse. Mix the rest of the flour, water and, also the seeds to a shaggy mass until you do not see any dry flour. Leave to hydrate for 2 – 3 hours.
  3. Add your levain to your autolysed dough.
  4. Knead using the stretch & fold method for around 5 minutes.
  5. Spread the dough out, sprinkle with salt and rub it in with a wet hand.
  6. Keep kneading using the stretch & fold method for another 5 minutes or until you feel good gluten development.
  7. Place the dough ball in a bowl and take the temperature. Desired dough temperature 23 – 24C (73 – 75F). If your dough is cooler or warmer, then adjust the proofing time up or down accordingly.
  8. Proof for 1 hour.
  9. Fold #1.
  10. Proof for 1 hour.
  11. Fold #2.
  12. Proof for 1 hour
  13. Preshape.
  14. Rest for 30 minutes.
  15. Shape the loaf and place it in a well-floured basket.
  16. Refrigerate for up to 18 hours.
  17. Once ready pre-heat your oven and your baking vessel to 240C (460F) no fan.
  18. Straight from the fridge put your dough in your pan, score and bake with the lid on for 20 minutes.
  19. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 20 minutes. Your oven may be more or less powerful than mine, so keep an eye on your bread to get a perfect bake.

Watch the video here

Understanding the principles of bread making will let you be in complete control every time you make bread. It will reduce the failure rate and turn you into an even more confident home baker.

I highly recommend you check out the Learning page where I have detailed, easy to understand explanations on each step of the bread baking process and the principles behind it. You can find all the equipment I use and recommend in the Shop (UK) & Shop (US) pages.

Show/Hide Comments (4 comments)
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4 Comments

  1. Dagny

    Hi!
    Thanks for great recipes and instructions. Sorry for this long post! I haven’t yet tried this recipe but I have a sourdough starter that is approx 2 years old. I am going insane over a really annoying problem; my loaves gets gummy and chewy! I have done my share of research, and although I’m not sure, I think I have narrowed it down to the baking. That somehow the moist is trapped inside and remains after the bread has cooled down.

    For my bake yesterday I had 75% hydration (20% sourdough). I made one loaf of 500 g flour of which 125 g was spelt, 200 g APF and 175 g Manitoba. After autolyse for about an hour i added 100g of sourdough. After incorporating the sourdough I waited about 30 mins before adding 10g salt. For the next 2,5 hours I coil folded 4 times and eventually left it to complete the bulk (@approx 24 degrees). The total time after adding sourdough was 5-5,5 hours. The dough felt nice and aerated. I then preshaped and shaped the loaf before putting it into the fridge until the next day. I baked in a dutch oven 145 degrees lid on for 20 mins and off at 200 degrees for an additional 25 mins. I let it cool completely before cutting it.

    I get nice oven spring and the cross section looks pretty even and “bubbly” but the texture is moist/gel-like and kind off “shiny”. I will follow your steps in detail to see if it makes a difference. We do not have strong breadflour here in Norway so I believe Manitoba could be an alternative.

    Any idea what I could be doing wrong? Do I need longer baking time or higher temperature? Any feedback will be highly appreciated as both bread and sourdough are risking a long flight out the window sometime in the near future:-)

    (BTW I have tried some of your recipes with great success!)

    Reply
    • ChainBaker

      Hi Dagny.
      I think it’s not the baking of it. And your method is solid. Sourdough bread is chewy by nature regardless. But there are things you can do to make it less chewy. It is the cold retarding that makes it chewier still. So, I would suggest you trying to bake on the same day instead of refrigerating the loaf. The crumb should be lighter and softer.
      The shiny crumb is actually a good sign. It means that the starch has gelatinized and the bread is baked properly.
      Hope this helps.

      Reply
  2. Kelly

    Hi Charlie,

    I’ve been working on my starter getting ready to try this high hydration sourdough out. I noticed one tiny error on your instructions to adjust temperature 1-2ºC. If you want to make the same adjustment in °F it would be more like 2-4°F or exactly 1.8-3.6°F (not 33 to 35°F). Imagine you have 22°C (71.6°F) and you add 2°C so you have 24°C. This conversions to Fahrenheit would be 24*9/5+32 = 75.2°F which is an addition of the 3.6°F (not 106.6°F by adding 35°F). Just a minor thing, but when talking about differential temperature conversion, as opposed to absolute temperature, you can ignore the offset of 32°F in the calculation.

    Hope this helps to prevent errors for other of my fellow American friends using the Fahrenheit scale.

    Reply
    • ChainBaker

      Hi Kelly,
      Thank you so much for letting me know. I have corrected it. And I still can’t wrap my head around the Fahrenheit scale ;D
      Regards.

      Reply

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