Saving a Drowning Dough

Just to be clear, this is not what is referred to as a water bagel.

This is what happened when I added approximately 50% more water than I should have to the final dough of some sourdough bagels. Unlike another bread I made in the same week, where the overwatering was deliberate if misguided, this was pure accident.

What to do? Add 50% more of all the other ingredients to preserve the dough’s bagel identity? Not an option, since I had neither more sourdough starter nor high-gluten flour on hand. Toss the dough? Perish the thought!

There was only one option left that I could see: process and bake the dough as if it were ciabatta. That is, I folded it several times during the bulk fermentation to get the strength that is difficult to achieve in a mixer when the dough is so wet. (Of course I was helped here by the high-gluten flour and the sourdough as well.) Then I used my usual ciabatta technique to cut the dough into roll-sized rectangles and proof it in a very-liberally-floured couche.

It’s not something I would make again on purpose (high-gluten flour is not ideal for ciabatta), but the rolls made very serviceable vehicles for cream cheese and smoked salmon.

This is not the first time I’ve had to rescue a deluged dough. Maybe you’re a better person than I, and never make this kind of mistake. But if you do, then, with apologies to Emily Dickinson, “I advise you if you don’t know how to make the staff of life [from soup] to learn with dispatch.”

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Susan, this is very sweet and delectable mistake for sure :)
    I just learn a new thing today that high gluten flour is not ideal for ciabatta. Thank you, you are truly my mentor.

  2. says

    Susan, I guarantee that most people would gladly bake a mistake like yours… even when you make a boo-boo, your results are spectacular!

    Great save, loved the texture of your bread.

  3. says

    Clearly, this is what I should have done with the soupy mess of a dough that I had in my recent attempt to make Carol Field’s crocodile bread by hand.

    I imagined that at the time that I was doing just that but I didn’t keep folding it nearly enough times.

    Brava for rescuing the bread. It looks like I wanted my coccodrillo to look. If I hadn’t already promised categorically that I would NOT make it again AND was a complete and total glutton for punishment, I would try the coccodrillo one more time. (I must say that I’m relieved not to be trying your method.)

  4. says

    A mistake! Thank you so much Susan at times I feel like I am the only one who makes mistakes. Having such an accomplished baker as you tell of her mistakes is such a relief.


    PS – Now, of course, I have mistake envy, as my mistakes never have such spectacular results!

  5. Jan says

    Once again, Susan you give me self-confidence in my baking. I find the deeper I get into baking, the more mistakes I make and the more I learn.

    I am thinking about taking another course at SFBI. Hopefully, you are still there.

  6. says

    ‘Lemons into lemonade’ in bread form! Lookd delicious and crusty. Guess it’s time to play with ciabatta…King Arthus seems to have a good sourdough version. Have you tried it or have another to recommend?

  7. says

    I think these look awsome!!
    Since I am a novice bread baker, I admit that I always use all-purpose for bread. If I use your ratio of 97% flour and 3% vital wheat gluten will that be a good substitute for high gluten bread flour?

  8. says

    Thank you SO much for posting this! I was despairing over how to save my halved-the-flour-but-not-the-water dough when I came across this post, and now have a lovely loaf of ciabatta. :)


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