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75% Hydration Sourdough Bread


It took me a lot of time to understand how much the quality of flour influences bread making. The protein content is an important factor and you can feel the difference only by testing it. Then comes hydration. Every flour is different at the same hydration level. This is why, when you are so motivated to replicate a recipe you saw in a video or read in a book, you put it into practice and you end up with a disappointing bread. Yes, indeed, you followed the exact quantity of ingredients, yes, you followed the steps very carefully, but your resulting bread is a kind of failure. 

The quality of flour is of huge importance. This does not mean that high protein flours are the best in the class. High proteins = high gluten but do not mean quality gluten. You might have nice experiences with medium or even low protein content flours that behaves extraordinarily. 

Near the flour quality, there are other important things to consider: time, temperature and not the last, the baker's skills. All these and others as well may influence how great your bread will be.

Bakers skills may influence how the bread turns out to be in the end. A skilled baker would recognise early if the dough goes off track and might have the right tools at hand to save a dough from failures.


A dough of 75% is at the limit between medium to high hydration for bread. For a beginner, 75% hydration is hell, while for an experienced baker is too low to achieve certain objectives.

For me, 75% hydration is just the perfect high hydration dough when working with strong bread flour. For a weak flour, it is too much. You need to adapt the hydration to the flour you are using to get the best out of the flour qualities.

I baked before 85% hydration. It was a target I set for myself and I managed to do it how I liked it. But handling that dough was putting me nervous. Maybe indeed it requires practice but my preferred hydration for a high hydration dough is 75%.

I invite you to watch me doing this bread on the video I made for this recipe.


Ingredients:

  • 175g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 716g strong wheat flour (14% proteins) 
  • 100g spelt flour
  • 590g water
  • 17g salt 

Directions:

  1. [Day 1, Saturday, 8:30] Scaling. Start by scaling your ingredients using a balance and put them on the table to ensure there is nothing is forgotten.
  2. Mix water + flours. Mix only the flours with water until well combined. Do not knead at this stage, just ensure there is no unincorporated dry flour resting in the bowl and that's it. I used warm water heated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. The exact temperature is not that important because, during the autolyse, it will arrive at the right temperature. For this recipe, the dough needs to stay during the resting periods at 28ºC. I actually set the bread proofer to 28ºC and kept the dough inside. However, due to the manipulation of the dough at room temperature, the dough temperature was 2-3ºC less.
  3. [Day 1 Saturday, 9:30] Sourdough starter. Add the preferment over the dough and mix with a standing mixer for 10 minutes.  After mixing, let the dough relax for 45 minutes.
  4. [Day 1 Saturday, 10:15] Salt. Add the salt and mix for 5 minutes. Then, let the dough relax again for 45 minutes.
  5. [Day 1, Saturday, 11:00] Divide and Stretch and Fold. Take the dough out of the bowl put it on the slightly wet table board and divide it into 2. Stretch and fold each piece on the board and place them in squared glass bowls. Let them sit covered for 1 hour.
  6. [Day 1, Saturday, 12:00] Lamination. Take each piece out of the bowl and do the lamination. Let the dough rests covered for 1 hour. 
  7. [Day 1, Saturday, 13:00] Coil fold 1. Start now a set of 4 coil folds performed straight in the bowls. Do the first coil fold set in each glass bowl and let them sit for 45 minutes.
  8. [Day 1, Saturday, 13:45] Coil fold 2.  Do a second set of coil folds in the glass bowls and let them sit for 45 minutes.
  9. [Day 1, Saturday, 14:30] Coil fold 3. Do a third set of coil folds for each dough and let them sit for 45 minutes covered.
  10. [Day 1, Saturday, 15:15] Coil fold 4. Do the fourth set of coil folds for each dough and let them sit for 45 minutes covered.
  11. [Day 1, Saturday, 16:00] Shape the loaves on the lightly floured board. Place the dough face down into well-floured bannetons. Repeat the process for the second piece of dough. Let the bannetons still rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing them in the fridge overnight. 
  12. [Day 2, Sunday, 10:30] Score. Before scoring, you need to preheat the oven at 240ºC. I baked these loaves in a wood-fired oven but in a classical oven, you should follow basically the same temperature. Inside the oven, I also heat 2 Dutch ovens.
    Take the dough out from the fridge and reverse the banneton on baking paper. Score and decorate the bread as you like.  Immediately after, slide the loaves in the hot Dutch ovens. I also place a small ice cube inside to create more steam inside.
  13. Bake at 240ºC for 20 minutes with the lid on. After these 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake at a reduced temperature (~220ºC) for 30 minutes. In the wood-fired oven, the exact temperature is difficult to control, so during the bake, it went gradually down from 240ºC to 200ºC at the end of the bake.
  14. [Day 2, Sunday, 11:15] Cool. The bread needs to cool for at least 2 hours until it reaches room temperature. The cooking process continues slowly even after taking the bread out of the oven, so this is why it is important to not skip this step and to resist cutting it too early. If you can, of course...
  15. [Day 2, Sunday, 13:15] Cut. Now is the big moment to enjoy a slice of bread... 

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