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[help] Cannot get 70% hydration dough to come together

frostedcookies's picture

[help] Cannot get 70% hydration dough to come together

Hi all, I have an issue with any dough hydration over 60% coming together and developing gluten. I live in a relatively dry environment so I don't think there's a lot of moisture already in the flour.

I have tried this with both bread flour (King arthur and costco's) and various brands of AP flour (King arthur and gold medal) and this seems to still be happening. Above is King Arthur AP flour. I weigh all the ingredients and also made sure the scale is accurate (seems that the volume of dough is roughly what is suggested and the weight of water seems to be correct). Above is 375g of water, 540g of flour, 5g of instant yeast, and 12g of salt. I have tried kneading by hand as well as leaving in the mixer. I have even tried adding a 1/4 tsp of vinegar (below is my vinegar trial, which wasn't any different than the other trials). I let it mix for 20 minutes on setting 2 of my kitchenaid with a J style dough hook and it still ends up looking like batter. Never passes the window pane test. If I try kneading by hand I lose a massive amount of dough to it sticking to my hands and it also doesn't seem to come together. I must be doing something wrong since I see people making pizza doughs etc with the same ingredients and it ends up super smooth and elastic

Abe's picture

There are only two reasons I can think of. Starting with the most obvious...

1: A mistake in measurements. 

2: Your expectations of what the dough should feel like so you over knead it trying to get it non sticky. A dough can be sticky and yet still strong. At 70% hydration many flours will still feel sticky but will have enough strength and when handled correctly it can be worked with. Perhaps you're imagining with enough kneading it'll feel like a 60% hydrated dough so you're over kneading. 

How long was the above dough kneaded for? 

At the end of the day why are you trying to go to 70% hydration? Aren't you getting good results at a lower hydration or are you trying to get the same hydration as other people? What matters is getting it right for the flour you're using! 

phaz's picture

What about water ie. Is it a problem? Enjoy!

pmccool's picture

that some of the flour isn’t completely mixed in.  There are small lumps in the dough that might be unhydrated or partially-hydrated flour.  

If so, the rest of the dough could be gloppy simply because some of the flour hasn’t fully absorbed its share of the water. 

You might want to start with an autolyse and/or whisk the flour thoroughly before adding the water to break up any clumps. 


SueVT's picture

As Paul pointed out, there are still lumps in this dough, which should not be there at this point.

Your flour may have developed hard lumps from being stored in a humid environment and then a dry one. Try sifting flour first, and see what is left in the sifter. If little balls of hard flour remain, you have this issue.

Yes, autolyse. Mix flour and water first until fully wetted and still rough, then cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Possibly as long as 60 minutes, but you don't want to damage gluten by leaving too long.

Taring. I know you do this, but double check the tare before each measurement.

Rafe's picture

 Trust this is what you were looking for.

Different flours absorb different amounts of water and therefore make doughs of different consistencies. The absorption ability of flour is usually between 55% and 65%.
To determine the absorption factor of each of your flours.
Place a small quantity of the flour type (100 g/4 oz.) in a bowl. Add water gradually from a jug containing a known amount of water. As the water is added, mix with a spoon until the dough reaches the desired consistency. You can knead the dough by hand for final mixing and determination of consistency. Weigh the unused water. Divide the weight of the water used by the weight of the flour used.

The result is the absorption ability in percentage. For example:

Weight of flour used 100 g (4 oz.)
Weight of water used 60 g (2 1/8 oz.)
Therefore absorption = 6/10 or 60%

Using the “Bassinage” (Adding more water after the initial mix) method increases the potential hydration percentage of the dough, giving an irregular open cell structure crumb appearance. 

How it's done

  • When weighing your ingredients, separate about 10% of the water in a second bowl or jug.
  • Add the ingredients excluding separated water and knead as you normally would until reaching about 70-75% gluten development
  • Slowly pour the retained water a little at a time & Keep mixing. Once the water isn’t going to splash out of the bowl, increase the speed of the mixer until the water is absorbed. This can take a few minutes!) Repeat until all water is absorbed.
  • NOTE: you may not need all the Bassinage water so don’t just dump it all in!

Using the baker’s percentage based on your 375g of water, 540g of flour, 5g of instant yeast, and 12g of salt. Equates to 69.4% Hydration.

The recipe card shows the distribution of ingredients that includes water weight separated before the initial mix for the bassinage method (Water2). Have also added a revised weight of 1000g flour for info.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to make sure you are not using the milk weighing setting.  the other would be to use less water.  and another thing to check is the expiration date and taste to see if the flour has gone rancid or bitter.  what there a chance the flour got heated up before use during transportation or storage.  how does the flour react in other recipes?  check the yeast as well for freshness and light colour, aroma, etc.  Salt? what kind?  water....where are you located?

AsburgerCook's picture

This is one reason I came back to an active member here. I'm going to do a new post about retro-fitting poolish to existing low-hydration doughs, but this is a quick one.

Hydration is a recommendation, and a description. It's not a rule. You can make technically perfect bread that doesn't taste at all good, or you can make bread that tastes great but is technically "different.

Bottom line: Put all your dry stuff in an initial mixing bowl, but reserve the fat (butter or oil) in a separate small cup or bowl. I do this in a large-ish bowl that's not the mixer's bowl, just because it's easier to scrape the sides. Then, measure out all your water and put it in a separate single container like a measuring cup.

Now make a well in the dry stuff and pour in half of your liquid. I've learned that using a latex glove helps a lot! Smoosh the flour into the liquid until there isn't any loose liquid. Move the sticky stuff a bit to the side, and add small amounts more of the liquid to the remaining dry ingredients. Keep doing this, hoping to incorporate all the dry into the liquid.

You should be squishing (technical term) the dough in your hand while you're trickling in liquid. Your goal is to have a sticky-ish glob of damp flour. Some recipes will give you a range of liquid, contingent on the humidity in your kitchen. I start with the high range. If I don't use all the liquid when the dry stuff is incorporated, that's entirely fine. I just toss it.

If you're still leaving a fair amount of flour behind, then just add more water. Say the bread is 60-62% hydration but it won't make a sticky ball. If you add enough water to pick up the last of the dry stuff, you may end up with 63-64% hydration. So? 

I haven't noticed the slightest bit of difference in how the bread bakes or tastes with just a few additional percentage points of hydration! BUT! I've noticed Huge problems when the flour won't incorporate at the very start!

Too little water is catastrophic. A little more than "recommended" liquid or water is Necessary! If the flour won't incorporate right from the git-go, the bread never will be any good. Just try not to make a slippery, stickly glob of messy dough. Damp: That's what you want.

And Autolyze! Once you have all the flour stuck together (barely), cover and let sit for 45 - 60 minutes. THEN break it up and put it in the mixer bowl. Add in the poolish and fat on a slow speed "Mix." When it's looking pretty consistent, then start "Kneading." I use Bosch speed #2 for 5-7 minutes usually, for sandwich bread.

There's also The Rat Method, which is a good tip. I just do the above instead because I don't have to wait 5 minute intervals.