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Bread Baking: 70-Percent Hydration Bread

[Photograph: Donna Currie]

My last Pizza Protips article 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.

About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.

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