Chasing the Perfect Loaf

I’ve been baking bread for years now and have gotten some recipes that work well for me… But every so often, I decide the loaves are not good enough and I start experimenting with my process.

Recently I’ve been working on higher hydration breads again. My sourdough usually runs around 72% hydration but I keep seeing people online turning out amazing breads at 80% or higher. I tried making sandwich rolls using a recipe that calls for 100% hydration and was blown away by how well they turned out. This was just what I needed to increase my confidence to try higher hydration in my sourdough again.

This time I increased the hydration to about 78%. The dough was still easy to work with and seemed strong enough. When it baked, I got plenty of oven-spring and generally a good looking loaf. The crumb was similar or maybe slightly better than my lower hydration loaves. Unfortunately, just like previous bakes, I didn’t get the ear I was looking for on this one. I tried again. Same results. The loaf wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t significantly better. The tradeoffs were slightly better crumb for slightly worse crust (and no ear).

I’ve since gone back to my lower hydration recipe and the ear has returned. Like so many other projects that I work on repeatedly, I’ve gotten to a local maxima. I keep trying changes, but they rarely make the process any better. I would like to think that I’ll get to the point of accepting the loaves I make, but I recognize that I’ll probably always strive for that little improvement, even if I end up going in the wrong direction for a loaf or two. After all, there’s always the possibility to improve on the next one.

Latest loaf of bread, after going back to my “regular” recipe
This entry was posted in Cooking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s