High Hydration Sourdough
A high hydration sourdough involves adding more water, and slightly more tending to. The result is a soft and light texture and a beautiful crumb Oh yea, and all those big beautiful holes bakers love to see so much! I do like to retard high-hydration sourdough in the fridge, meaning, allowing it to rise at a much colder temperature. This makes the dough much easier to handle, as high hydration sourdough is much sticker and harder to work with, but definitely a fun one to try! You can let it do it's entire rise in the fridge, as I do here, for 24 hours or so, or you can put it in the fridge towards the end of its final rise, for the last couple hours to make shaping and handling easier. Also note, this method calls for adding salt after the autolyse step, so really allowing the flour and water to first mix well together, allowing in an easier dough to work with.
385g warm water
500g all purpose flour
Mix your dough
Add water and starter to your mixing bowl and give a good ‘bubble-bath’ like swishing. Then add flour and mix will by hand until all bits of flour are fully combined. I like to spend at least 2 minutes mixing my dough to really encourage the gluten structure to begin developing. At this point, it should feel like a sticky, shaggy ball. Get most of the dough off of your hands, get washed-up and re-feed your starter. Cover your bowl with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Then, add your salt and mix well.
Now we want to fold the dough to both form into a ball, but also to add structure and vitality to the final crumb. Starting at 12 o'clock, grab the dough and fold down to 6 o' clock, give the bowl and quarter turn and repeat until you've folded the entire dough into a ball. Periodic folding of high hydration dough isn't as important as lower hydration. Due to the wetness of the dough, the wild yeast and bacteria are able to move around more easily, making it better able to ferment and develop structure.
Cover with a loose fitting lid or plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for its full bulk rise, anywhere from 10-24 hours, or at room temperature for 8-10. I do recommend putting the dough in the fridge at least for a couple of hours before the bench rest, to make it easier to handle.
Pre-shaping high hydration sourdough is vital in ensuring a successful final shape, due to its wetness. Gently guide your dough onto a floured surface, and perform one envelope shape. (I describe envelope shaping in detail in my guide, but also below in the shaping section.) Don't worry about precision here, just creating a little tension and shape, and helping a slack dough develop and rise. Dust with flour and let rest covered with tea towel for 20 minutes to one hour.
Now that we have pre-shaped, our final shaping should feel easier! Grab the top of the dough, and with a little tug in your grip, stretch the dough across the middle and pressing the seam into the dough just before the bottom, using your fingertips to press down along the seam to close the ends together. Do the same for the bottom. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. If your dough doesn't seem like its holding shape, you can do another envelope shape.
Very important here to excessively flour your proofing basket as your loaf is wetter than normal. Gently place your dough seam side up into a floured proofing basket. Cover with a tea towel let sit at room temperature. Our goal in the proofing stage is for our dough to rise one last time in its final shape. Proof for one hour and up to 90 minutes. You can also proof in the refrigerator for 3 hours which I do recommend for this dough, plus the cooler temperature makes it much easier to score!
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with your enameled cast iron pot inside
Time to place our dough into the (very hot) pot. Tip- place a piece of parchment paper on top of the proofing basket and flip over to now have your dough resting on the paper. Score your bread using a bread lame or even just a razor blade to allow air to vent out. Deep lines are key and the possibilities are endless. You can do a simple "X" or two simple lines, can't wait to see what you come up with!
High hydration dough creates a thinner, softer crust, so I like to bake about half covered, and half uncovered to make sure it crisps up nicely. Use the oven safe parchment paper to lift and lay the dough into your pot, or if you feel confident, carefully transfer your dough strait to the pot. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Then bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack for at least 30-60 minutes before you cut into it.