All ‘high hydration’ means is that there’s relatively more water in the dough than a lower hydration dough: ‘wetter’ doesn’t sound so glamorous. More water means that the dough is stickier to handle, softer (closer to a batter), rises faster and has more holes. Hydration is expressed as a percentage weight of water to flour. So the bread in the last post on sourdough was about 55%: middling wetness.
In this post I’m describing two recipes: one with 65% and one at 80% water. Wet wetness.
Baguette 1 – Semi-sourdough 65%
There’s a bit of back story with this one. I was desperate to play with my T55 Flour from Shipton Mill. However, other work during the day meant it was getting on for 16:00 and so, if I wanted to make baguettes that day, I couldn’t go through lengthy preparation overnight or even during the day.
So I thought I’d take a chance and make up a recipe for a bread that was part sourdough for flavour, and part yeasted for speed. I didn’t check any of the books for this recipe, so if any ‘proper’ bakers read this and the technique is not recognised then no one else is to blame. Suffice to say, it worked.
The T55 flour is made from French Wheat, ground fine. This gives it a light open texture, that ‘French’ flavour you may recognise from proper French bakers’ baguettes and a crisp crust.In the US, I’m told that the best equivalent is All Purpose flour.
For the sponge
10g (1/2oz) dried yeast
10g (1/2oz) sugar
150g (6ozs) warm water
50g (2ozs) T55 flour
For the sourdough starter
150g (6ozs) starter
50g (2ozs) rye flour (rye ‘gets away’, starts fermenting, quicker)
50g (2ozs) warm water
For the baguettes
950g (2lb 6ozs) T55 flour (the remainder of my 1kg packet)
525g (1lb 5ozs) warm water
10g (1/2oz) salt
In a jug or bowl mix up the ingredients for the sourdough starter and set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to 1 hour or so. Longer is better, mine hadn’t really got away very far and I would have given it longer if I’d the time. Make sure you use a container that has room for frothing up. (See my comment at the end of this recipe for thoughts on this)
In a jug or bowl whisk up the ingredients for the sponge and set aside in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Make sure you use a container that has room for frothing up.
At the end of this time, put your remaining flour in a bowl, or in the bowl of your mixer if you’re using a machine, and then add all the other ingredients. Mix just until the ingredients are thoroughly together and then turn out onto a floured surface. Here’s where the fun starts…
There’s no kneading to speak of – it’s a stretch and fold. Here’s famous baker and author Peter Reinhart showing how it’s done.
Do this stretch & fold initially for 2-3 minutes one S&F after the other. The dough will begin to firm up – honest. You can use your dough scraper to get under the dough and pull it out and then fold over.
Cover it with an oiled plastic bag and let it rest for 15 minutes
Do two stretch and folds.
Cover it again with an oiled plastic bag and let it rest for 15 minutes
Do one stretch and fold.
Now here you could do another couple or so of rest-stretch-folds. I was on a time limit so that’s all I did.
At the end of your stretch and folds, let it rest (‘bench rest’) for 10 minutes and then divide the dough into roughly four equal parts. You could weigh if you felt so inclined.
Shape your rounds into rough rectangles about 100-150mm square (4-6 ins) and then ‘roll’ them into cylinders. I say ‘roll’. Depending on how the dough is, this could be flop. Use your wet scraper if you need to.
Let rest for 15 minutes.
Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven to its highest setting. You may need longer if you’re using a baking stone.
Do the final shaping. With the palms of your hands (oiled or floured as needed) roll the cylinders out into thinner cylinders like you see on the video at the beginning where they show the book. You’re shaping and tightening up the dough. You need to roll them to a length that will fit in your oven.
Next you’re going to leave them to prove a little before baking. And you need to put them on something they won’t stick to. Close weave cotton tea towels will work (not ‘furry’ ones), or you can get professional couche from my friends at Bakery Bits. I improvised. My tea towels are not really big enough and the couche is on my present list below more bannetons. I’ve got some big heavy duty oven cloths and these worked just brilliantly. See them here from Nisbets catering equipment.
So when you’ve made your baguette shape pop them onto your cloth which you’ve well floured (ideally with rye or similar which sticks less). Do it like you see at the beginning of the video: they need support at the sides.
Leave for 25 minutes.
Then roll each loaf onto your chosen baking medium. I used metal trays lined with ‘Bake-o-Glide’ with two loaves to a tray. Slash the tops with a grignette, razor blade or very sharp knife with small vertical slashes down the middle of the loaf (I did left to right slashes and since been educated!).
Pop into your oven (I put them on my baking stone) and spray some water inside.
Bake for 25 minutes until brown and wonderfully crispy on the outside.
The crust was lovely and crispy, the bread had that ‘French’ taste and was soft & chewy at the same time with good holes in it. To be honest, we were delighted with the outcome. An authentic looking and tasting loaf. I’m not sure that the sourdough flavour really came through. I think that the starter would have needed much longer to develop. I’m going to do some more research and come back to sourdough baguettes at a future date.
Baguette 2 – Yeasted 80%
For this one I followed the recipe of Ed & Marieke ‘The Weekend Bakers’ here. All the links on that page are well worth following up on – it’s very instructive indeed.
The dough was definitely more challenging to handle. I didn’t find the early stretch & folds too bad to do. The dough defintely improved and got a lot bigger as I worked it.
However, I found the shaping stages much more difficult and this is reflected in the final results.
I still slashed the dough left-right: it wasn’t till after that Ed told me about the straight slash. Of course, if I’d read his blog information properly – I would’ve already known that – doh!
Here’s the result out of the oven:
The loaf to the left was cooked in the my second (non-fan) oven. I tried an experiment to try and get steam which didn’t work. I put a wet ‘cartouche‘ over the bread to make steam. It dried out very quickly and served to stop some of the ‘oven spring’ that makes the bread rise. Hence the flatter loaf. I tried: and won’t do it again!
Next time I’ll try ‘The Weekend Bakers’ recipe except with a 75% hydration to see what it handles like and how the crumb and taste are affected.