Tuesday, March 22, 2011

70-Percent Hydration Bread

My last Pizza Protips article for Serious Eats discussed high-hydration doughs and how to manage the stretch and fold technique.

In that article, I explained that stretch and fold is about the easiest ways to handle a dough with very high hydration, like the focaccia recipe in Artisan Breads Every Day, which has an 80 percent hydration.

But stretch and fold can be used with doughs of lesser hydration as well, as long as it's wet enough to stretch easily. Talking about the method is one thing, but doing it - hands on - is the best way to learn. If you've never tried this technique and you've always kneaded with a machine or by hand for up to 10 minutes, it will seem impossible that a few simple folds will give enough structure to the dough. But it works.

If you haven't practiced the technique, this bread is a good way to learn. The dough at 70 percent hydration is easy to work with - not too stiff and not too floppy. Meanwhile, the long overnight rest develops flavor, so it's more than just a teaching tool - it's a good loaf of bread.

As you get more comfortable with the technique, you can move on to higher-hydration doughs and different recipes. You might not give up hand kneading completely, but this method certainly has its place in any bread-baker's recipe book.

70-Percent Hydration Loaf

20 ounces bread flour
14 ounces water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine flour, water, yeast and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment or dough hook (this dough is wet enough that either will work) until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture begins to get smooth. You can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon or dough whisk.

Drizzle the oil into a clean bowl, and move the dough to the oiled bowl, turning to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest, still in the covered bowl, for an hour at room temperature.

Dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out. Grasp the two sides of the dough and pull gently outward until the dough is three times its original width. Fold the two sides inward, like you are folding a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat this procedure. Turn the dough 90 degrees again and repeat. For this final fold, the dough should be stiffer and more elastic. Seal any seams and turn the dough over so the smooth side is on top. If you prefer, coax the dough into a more round shape.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet (or on a peel, if you prefer to bake on a stone) or place the bread on a piece of parchment paper, if you prefer using that to transfer it to your stone. Sprinkle some flour on top of the loaf - or use white rice flour, if you have it - and cover the loaf with plastic wrap. Since this dough is so wet, it's a good chance it will stick to the plastic wrap if you don't flour it. Set the dough aside to rise until doubled, about and hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When the dough has doubled, spray the surface with water and place it in your preheated oven. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Move the dough to a rack to cool before slicing.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.