So recently I have had a few failed bakes recently. Obvious this has saddened and disheartened me a little, but I have wanted to get to the reason. I think it is wet dough. Since I have started branching out with my bread, and using different recipes, I have experienced the general problem that the dough is very wet. Now this shouldn’t strike me (or anyone) as strange, all of the bread books + website discuss it, but they don’t really help with what to do with it.
I am at that stage where I am trusting of recipe books, because they know better than me, but still uncomfortable working with the result. For example my recent bake of Dan Lepard’s Oat and Apple bread, came out a disaster. I knew from the start that it was too wet, but didn’t know what to do. The obvious solution is add enough flour to get you back in the comfort zone, but the high water content (especially in sourdough) is what gives a good open crumb.
My main problem is how to work the dough, I don’t mind it wet when it is rising, but how do you knead something with a texture more akin to a thick batter? I have tried essentially not kneading it, and that left me with an under developed dough, which came out like a brick.
One of the other implications of wet dough is that it sticks to everything. So when I leave it to prove in the basket, I can’t get it back out without destroying the shape, or rise.
So what are the options:
So my previous bread making experience was based around working with a floured surface. The problem here lies in the face the wet dough will soak up all the flour, until it isn’t sticky anymore. In which case you may as well have added it earlier.
I had only ever come across this before when making focaccia, an inherently wet dough. Basically rather than using a floured surface, you use an oiled surface. This means you can work with a wet dough, without it sticking too much. This is the initial technique presented by Dan in The Handmade Loaf, though his dough looks dryer than some of mine to start with. Depending on how wet the dough is, this can work a lot of oil into it.
With a Scraper:
I have always associated the little plastic, or metal, scrapers with bakers, but not thought to invest in one. To this date I still haven’t, but I am seriously considering it. The idea is essentially to live with the wet dough, but to keep scraping it off your hands + the work surface.
I came across this video at gourmet.com, which presents an interesting technique for working a reasonably wet dough. As he works it, you can see the texture change. It’s something I would really like to try on my next bake.
If anyone has suggestions on how I can best deal with wet dough I would love to hear them.