hydration of the sponge?



I am currently using the 1-2-3 method.


the question I have is in regards to the sponge (the mix I make before bulk rising). What hydration do people make it and why?

I never actually calculated it until recently but found that generally speaking my sponge will be about 130%. The extra flour and the salt come in just when bulk rising, which reduces the hydration to 71% as per 1-2-3 method.


Would there be any advantage making my sponge at, say, 100% hydration? would that change anything?






Thraundil 2012 August 18

The sponge is typically made to activate the leaven prior to mixing the bulk dough. This holds a few advantages, most of all the fact that if you mix just a small amount of fresh-from-the-fridge starter into a large dough, the yeast and bacteria cultures are spread so thin that it will take ages for the dough to rise. As a direct consequence of this, the hydration of the starter serves one purpose, and one purpose only. Optimise yeast and baceteria activity. This depends on a lot of things. The starter is a mix of untold amounts of different lifeforms, some that like "dry" environments, some that like very wet ones. All this is different from starter to starter. It also depends on the type of flour - when I make a sponge for my brutal kickass rye bread, I use wholegrain rye flour and this absorbs like, ridiculous amounts of water, so I make this close to 140-150% hydration (and its still "tough" and sticky). But a typical sponge for my wheat sourdough is kept around 100% and is typically a 50-50 mix of wholegrain and white flour, and this I find sufficient. 

So, to make a long story short; experiment time! Make three sponges of equal volumes (for example 100 ml) of say, 80%, 110% and 130%. Leave them in a warm environment. Whichever sponge reaches its "maximum volume" first, is the winner. Of course, upon reaching the maximum volume, you have long since passed the maximum activity, but this is for sake of experiment. 

That being said, there is absolutely no reason why a 100% hydration sponge wont make just as nice bread as a 130% hydration one. The difference will be very subtle - the 100% one might facilitate the development of one specific culture over another that might thrive better in the 130% one. This will give the smallest variations in taste, but every culture WILL be developed to a larger or smaller extend once you mix the sponge. 


This ended up alot longer than I had intended... Hehe. Bake on! 

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