The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour Humidity Issues

Mylissa20's picture

Flour Humidity Issues

I live in a very dry western state and I think it is affecting my flour humidity, if that is possible.  I am not able to keep my flour in the freezer because we have a tiny refrigerator, but I keep it cool in my pantry and bake frequently so it rotates quickly. My starter is not stiff (I do 1/2 cup starter, 1/4 cup water, 3/8 cup ww flour for feedings), but as I bake and add the required water and flour I find that the resulting dough is overly dry and I usually have to add more water to compensate.  This seems to happen even when I bake regular bread.  Today I was using King Arthur Flour's recipe for Pain au Levain using Bob's Red Mill flour.  The recipe said that after mixing the levain, flours and water, the dough should not be thoroughly kneaded and "quite sticky." I could not even get my dough to fully absorb the flour in the recipe, and it was a far cry from sticky.  Is that normal for a dry state or could something else be the problem? Any thoughts?

proth5's picture

in the dry Western states (where I also live) the moisture content of our flour (and grains) can be a bit low.  I have moisture meter readings and lab results that tell me this is so.

But I would first look at how I was measuring my flour.  Weight is best, of course.  (I've baked bread for many years and never had any issue, but I switched from volume to weight a few years back and I still wonder why we are ever taught to use volume measure - it is so much easier - faster - and more accurate to use weight.)

If you don't want to weigh your flour (and, see above, you'll never regret the purchase of that scale...) you might want to stir the flour a bit before measuring and make sure you use the "scoop and sweep" method.  Always spoon your flour gently into the measuring cup and then use a straight edge (like a knife) to sweep the excess off the top.  Never tap or shake the cup as that will pack down the flour and give the results you have been describing. 

This will probably have more impact than fretting about the moisture content of your flour. 

Hope this helps.

Mylissa20's picture

Thanks! I must admit I sometimes am absent-minded when in comes to scooping, so that is a very good place to start.  I would love to switch from volume to weight, and a scale is on my B-day list for this month so I hope I've dropped enough hints to my DH.  The more I bake the more I realize how much easier it would be on a multitude of levels to go by weight.  I'll try to be more vigilant next time and see how it helps.

Susan's picture

I bake in San Diego, CA, and Prescott, AZ, and you are both right, the flours are drier.  One of the best things you can do for your baking, Mylissa, is to buy a scale and start measuring in grams.  And after you do so, if you've found your dough too dry, don't be afraid to add 5 grams more water the next time. 

Let us know how it turns out for you.

Susan from San Diego