The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What happens when you change Hydration rate?

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Chode's picture
Chode

What happens when you change Hydration rate?

Is there any way to generalize what happens to a hearth bread or sourdough when you either increase or decrease the hydration rate? My understanding is that a highly hydrated dough produces a more open crumb.  Does that mean those loaves have to be baked longer than a lower hydration loaf using the same method and ingredients?  What's the lowest hydration level you could have and still expect to have a tender and delicate crumb in a sourdough?


Thanks in advance

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Higher hydration: more open crumb, more difficult to handle and shape


Lower hydration: easier to shape, but smaller tighter crumb.


"The wetter, the better" is my recommendation.  I suggest starting high, say 75%, and scaling back from there rather than working up from low hydration.  I did the latter for 2 or 3 years before I finally had the guts to try something really wet.  It was freaky at first because it was so unlike the dough I was used to handling, but the crumb blew me away.


As far as bake times go, yes, it can take a little bit longer to bake a moister dough.  I often turn my oven off but leave the loaves in for an extra 5 or 10 minutes than what I'd expected since it is actually pretty hard to overbake a lean loaf.  Bake time depends on the size and shape of the loaf too, so get a little instant read thermometer for 10 bucks if you find you are ending up with gooey centers in your loaves.


Good luck!

Chode's picture
Chode

Thanks!


In working with these wet loaves, I seem to do well until the shaping. When I try to form a boule, the wet dough relaxes into a frisbee. It this because I haven't folded the loaves enough or have under proofed them?

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Folding more helps, for sure, but with a really moist dough it won't hold its shape unless you let it do the final rise in a bowl or banneton.  You then flip it out onto parchment or a peel right before putting it in the oven. 


A less moist dough can be shaped into a boule and rise the whole time on a flat surface.

pelosofamily's picture
pelosofamily

I usually do lean bread with three cups of water and 5 1/2 cups of flour.  What hydration am I looking at?  As I go by feel?  I get moderate open crumb, but up to the challenge.    Just harder to form.  Thank you for any enlightenment.


Albert 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

You'd have to weigh it to know more accurately because a cup of flour can come in anywhere between 120-150g depending on how tightly it is packed.  Water is around 235g a cup, so... assuming your flour is about 130g a cup:


5.5 * 130g = 715g flour (100%)


3 * 235g = 705g water


705g / 715g * 100 = 98% hydration.  That is a very slack dough.  Do you pack your cups of flour tightly?  And/or work in a lot of extra flour while handling and shaping the loaves?  Even at 150g/cup that is a 85% hydration, which is extremely wet.


 

ArieArie's picture
ArieArie

I did a test of cups->grams, and found that on average of 10 times, a cup is 160 grams.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Which is funny because the two books I looked at last night said significantly lower numbers, like 120g. But I think they expect you to sift your flour, which I never do.

pelosofamily's picture
pelosofamily

Thanks for the formula floyd.  Math and spread sheets have never been a friend of mine.  I now have a point of which to work from. 


Albert

pelosofamily's picture
pelosofamily

So I did some scaling and found a cup of unsifted flour 170-175 grams.  Humidity in Britsh Columbia is always high like Oregon.  I suppose that could be a factor for heavier flour???  So ..705/935= 75%?  What hydration do you suggest for a more noticeable open crumb.  Thank you !!


Albert


 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

75% is very good for a rustic dough. 


Take a look at the little recipe convertor tool I never finished developing.  If you pull down the menu and select a few different recipes, you'll see on the right that it lists baker's percentages.  So you can compare a standard French bread at 60% with more rustic baguette at 66% with a ciabatta up at 70%.   So... yes, 75% is definitely on the slacker side.


Humidity can make a difference, as can the age of the flour and the amount of ash and protein in it.  Though baker's percentages are certainly more accurate than measuring in cups, it is finally dawning on me that they don't eliminate all variability from one's recipes.  Which on the one hand is discouraging, but on the other supports what I've been observing which is that that sometimes when I've changed flours and followed the percentages to a T I need to adjust the recipe quite a bit to get the result I was expecting.  I wasn't messing up and my scale isn't inaccurate, it has just been other variables.  So I'm learning to trust my intuition and when I think it needs more water, give it more water, and when it needs more flour, give it more flour.  The learning never ends.

M2's picture
M2

Since we're on this topic, I've got a question re: the above recipe.


I've never had a real SF SD, so I have no idea how it tastes like (nor its texture).  So when I make this bread using Reinhart's formular, I have nothing to compare with.  I've baked this bread three times and each time I've got different results:


1st: followed the recipe except--I added a bit of water when making the firm starter and I forgot tl leave the bread in the over for the last 10 minute in a turn-off oven.  Great oven spring, nice small crumb, chewy but light, soft crust.


2nd: followed the recipe.  The dough was very hard to knead/fold.  I didn't add any extra water.  Nice oven spring, the best crust ever.  Closed crumb, very dense texture.


3rd: the dough was too hard to knead.  I've added an extra half cup of water.  Nice oven spring, big crumb, pillowy texture, Crust not as great as the 2nd attempt.


Do you find that you need to add extra water to this recipe?  What is a SF SD?  Should I stick with the formula?  What is the "supposed" hydration rate of this bread?


Thanks in advance!


Michelle