The Rubaud Method: Mastering the Art of Mixing High Hydration Sourdough Bread Dough



Greetings, fellow bread enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into the intricacies of the Rubaud method, a unique and effective technique for mixing sourdough bread dough. This method, named after French baker Gérard Rubaud, is renowned for its ability to develop gluten and create a beautiful, airy crumb in your sourdough loaves. So, grab your mixing bowls and let’s get started on this journey to perfecting your sourdough skills!

What is the Rubaud Method?

The Rubaud method is a hand-mixing technique designed to develop the gluten structure in bread dough without the need for mechanical mixers. It involves a rhythmic, circular motion that aerates the dough, promoting fermentation and ensuring an even distribution of ingredients. This method is especially beneficial for sourdough, where achieving the right texture and structure is crucial for a successful bake.

Why Use the Rubaud Method?

There are several reasons why bakers, both amateur and professional, might choose the Rubaud method:

  1. Enhanced Gluten Development: The unique mixing action strengthens the gluten network, resulting in a dough that can trap more gas during fermentation, leading to a lighter, airier loaf.
  2. Improved Hydration: By incorporating air into the dough, the Rubaud method helps the dough absorb water more efficiently, leading to better hydration and a more elastic dough.
  3. Hands-On Experience: This method allows you to connect with your dough on a deeper level. You’ll feel the changes in texture and consistency, gaining a better understanding of the dough’s development.

The Rubaud Mixing Technique

Let’s break down the Rubaud method into simple, actionable steps:

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

For this method, you’ll need your basic sourdough ingredients:

  • Flour (bread flour, whole wheat, or a blend)
  • Water
  • Sourdough starter
  • Salt

Step 2: Initial Mixing

  1. Combine the Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour and water. Mix until there are no dry spots left. This initial mix is known as autolyse, which helps hydrate the flour and kickstarts gluten development.
  2. Rest: Allow the mixture to rest for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. This rest period allows the flour to fully hydrate and begin forming gluten.

Step 3: Adding the Starter and Salt

After the autolyse, add your sourdough starter and salt to the dough. Mix until both are fully incorporated.

Step 4: The Rubaud Mixing Technique

  1. Grip the Bowl: Place the bowl on a stable surface. Grip the side of the bowl with one hand.
  2. Mixing Motion: With your other hand, scoop under the dough, lifting it up and folding it over itself in a circular, rhythmic motion. Imagine you’re making a gentle scooping and folding action. Continue this motion, rotating the bowl slightly with each scoop.
  3. Incorporate Air: The goal is to incorporate air into the dough, which helps with fermentation and gluten development. You’ll notice the dough becoming smoother and more elastic as you mix.

Step 5: Rest and Repeat

  1. Rest Periods: After about 5-10 minutes of mixing, allow the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes. This resting period is crucial as it lets the gluten relax and develop further.
  2. Repeat: Perform the Rubaud mixing and resting cycle 2-3 times. With each cycle, you’ll notice the dough becoming stronger and more cohesive.

Tips for Success with the Rubaud Method

  1. Patience is Key: The Rubaud method requires patience and a gentle touch. Avoid overworking the dough, as this can lead to a dense loaf.
  2. Listen to the Dough: Pay attention to the dough’s texture and elasticity. As you become more familiar with the process, you’ll learn to recognize when the dough is ready for the next step.
  3. Temperature Matters: Ensure your water and environment are at the right temperature. Warmer conditions will speed up fermentation, while cooler conditions will slow it down.
  4. Practice Makes Perfect: Like any baking technique, mastering the Rubaud method takes practice. Don’t be discouraged by initial challenges—each attempt brings you closer to perfection.

The Science Behind the Rubaud Method

Understanding the science behind the Rubaud method can deepen your appreciation for this technique. When you mix dough using the Rubaud method, you’re creating a network of gluten strands that trap carbon dioxide produced by the fermenting yeast. This network is what gives your sourdough its characteristic open crumb and chewy texture.

The circular mixing motion not only aerates the dough but also ensures an even distribution of ingredients. This even mixing is crucial for consistent fermentation and a uniform rise. The rest periods between mixing cycles allow the gluten to relax and strengthen, resulting in a dough that’s both elastic and extensible.

Incorporating the Rubaud Method into Your Baking Routine

Integrating the Rubaud method into your sourdough baking routine can elevate your bread to new heights. Here’s a simple timeline to help you get started:

  1. Day 1: Prepare the Dough
    • Combine flour and water, and let autolyse for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
    • Add sourdough starter and salt, and begin the Rubaud mixing technique.
    • Perform 2-3 cycles of mixing and resting.
  2. Day 1: Bulk Fermentation
    • After the final mixing cycle, allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for 3-4 hours, performing stretch and folds every 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Day 1: Shaping and Cold Fermentation
    • Shape the dough into a boule or batard.
    • Place the shaped dough into a proofing basket and refrigerate overnight for a slow, cold fermentation.
  4. Day 2: Baking
    • Preheat your oven with a Dutch oven or baking stone inside.
    • Score the dough and bake it at a high temperature for the first 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to finish baking.


The Rubaud method is a testament to the artistry and precision of sourdough baking. By incorporating this technique into your routine, you’ll develop a deeper connection with your dough and create loaves that are truly a cut above the rest. So, roll up your sleeves, embrace the rhythm of the Rubaud method, and watch your sourdough baking skills flourish!

Happy baking, and may your loaves be ever light and airy!


Video courtesy of Gareth Busby

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