Testing different hydration levels with low protein flour (10%)

Baking your own sourdough bread is not about blindly following a random recipe.

So many things can affect your bread: the temperature, the humidity, how strong your starter is, how long you let your dough proof, your kneading technique, the flour…

In this blog post, I wanna share my experiment of tweaking the hydration level. My goal is to find out at which hydration level I can bake with considering that I’m using 450 of low protein flour (10%) and 50g of whole wheat flour (12%).

Just so you know, I live in Brazil, so the temperature is always around 30°C – I usually start autolyse around 1PM or 2PM and the cold retard in the fridge starts between 7 to 9PM – and the humidity as of these days is around 50%.

First test with 60%

Ingredients

  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 280g water
  • 100g active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 10g salt

Baking schedule

  • 2:30PM – Autolyse
    • Mix flour and water
    • Rest 1h30 at room temperature, I was waiting for my starter to peak
  • 4:05PM
    • Add starter at its peak then knead for 3 to 5min
    • Rest 15min
  • 4:25PM
    • Add salt then knead 3 to 5min
  • 4:30PM – Bulk fermentation
    • Rest 30min
    • 5PM – Coil and fold #1
    • Rest 1h
    • ~6PM – Coil and fold #2
    • Rest 1h
    • ~7PM – Coil and fold #3
    • Rest 1h
  • ~8PM – Pre-shape into a boule
    • Rest 15min
  • ~8:30PM – Shape
    • Coat loaf pan with oil
    • Shape the dough then transfer to loaf pan
    • Rest 15min
  • ~9PM – Cold retard in the fridge
  • The next day ~8AM – Baking
    • Preheat oven at 250°C for at least 30min
    • Sprinkle water on top of the dough, score with a razor blade (I was shaking so much 😂) and put the loaf pan directly in the oven and reduced the temperature to 225°C. I put another loaf pan on top of it to simulate a dutch oven.
    • After 25min, I remove the lid and cook for another 30min.

The final result

Notes

  • It was definitely easier to work with this dough than my two previous times where I was working with a dough too much wet. It was like working with slime 😂
  • During the whole process, I could feel I could work with more water but at least I’ve been able to practice my kneading techniques.
  • The taste was good. I like that little bit of tang you have thanks to the sourdough starter.
  • I’m still a beginner and I don’t really know when bulk fermentation is done but I read that using a tube where you put a sample of your dough is helpful to check the growth. So I’ll do that next time.

Second test with 61%

Ingredients

  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 286g water
  • 100g active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 10g salt

The final result

Notes

  • I basically followed the same baking schedule, although that day was hotter than with the previous one. So the bulk fermentation ended 1h earlier.
  • The dough was still easy to work with but definitely not as stiff as my first one.
  • Taste: Good.
  • I used the sample test to monitor growth during bulk fermentation but I used it too late 😂 I’ll remember it for next time 😁
  • When scoring, my hands were not shaking but still no ear on that bread. Maybe it’s my oven setup? I’ll have to test more…

Third test with 62%

Ingredients

  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 291g water
  • 100g active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 10g salt

Notes

  • This one has no pictures because I forgot 😂 But there was still no ear.
  • The dough was a bit more difficult to work with because it was stickier. Still manageable though. I think I’ll reach the hydration limit soon. Maybe at 63 or 64%.
  • That day was hot so bulk fermentation was cut short again.
  • I used a tray that I preheated with the oven at 250°C and put the Brea loaf pan on top of it to see if makes any difference with getting an ear but nope. Maybe it’s my shaping technique? Not enough tension? I don’t know 😅 I’ll have to test more.
  • Taste: Good.
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