The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Water

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CT's picture
CT

Water

Hi,


 


I'm new to baking bread, but I've made  a few different breads from a few recipes by now.  Every time I make bread I end up with the same problem: The recipe always specifies too little water.  usually by a lot (25-50%).  This is the case if i measure the flour by weight or volume.  Why is this?


 


Related to this question, often times I end up with a dough that is too dry but I don't know how to fix that other than throwing out what I've got and starting over.  How do you add water to a dough that has turned out too dry?  Maybe I'm realizing I have too little water too late.  how do I know early enough to do something about it?


 


Thanks for the advice!


 


~CT

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

First question.. Have you tried weighing your water? Some measuring cups aren't that accurate.


How do you mix?  I find if I make a well in the flour, pour in all the liquids and mix in the flour gradually, I can tell if there seems to be too much flour and splash in some water on the edges.


 If it's still too dry flatten the dough out, dimple it with your fingers and spray on some water. Knead and repeat if necessary.


Good luck  Liz

CT's picture
CT

I don't usually weigh out water.  I'll start doing that. 


 


Is there an idea water/flour ratio for breads? 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi CT,


What particular type of breads are you tring to make?   If you let me know I can advise on proportion of water required to hydrate the flour for your preferred breads and methods.   Liz has already offered you the best starting advice...weigh your water.   I take it you weigh your flour and other ingredients?   There isn't any point weighing water unless you do.


I would suggest you need to have a very good idea of the correct amount of water required when you start mixing.   Small adjustments are not a problem, but adding water at the levels you describe above seems catastrophic to me, and a complete pain no doubt for you.


Best wishes


Andy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have to add 10.6% more water to state-side recipes for my Austrian bread flour.  It is just absorbent "sucker upper flour" and needs more water.  It has a higher ash content and finer particles of gram in the bread flour.  I always weigh the water, easier than reading those tiny little lines on the cup while holding it level.


Mini

amolitor's picture
amolitor

I only ever measure flour very approximately. I get the liquids and the salt and the yeast accurate, and then I add flour until it's right for whatever I am doing. Lots of people weigh everything and so on (which, I dare say, makes things a lot more repeatable) but I don't think I'm alone in the 'add flour until it's right' school.


You could try that!

jlewis30's picture
jlewis30

I second that. I get my liquids mixed, then add the flour until it is th hydration I am after. 

ahhsugar's picture
ahhsugar

By touch.  That's pretty well how I gauge how much water my bread dough needs.  I find that depending on the humidity/temperature of my kitchen, the amount of flour/water ratio really varies.  So, I guess that my advice would be to learn what the specific dough texture that each of your breads requires.  That said, I'm a newbie.  I have been baking baguettes once a week for a little over a year now (yup ... every week and my hubby and I STILL cannot get enough baguettes!) so I'm pretty good with that type of bread.


Honestly, no matter what, I find that at the end of the day, the success of my baguettes is really in the hands of the "yeast Gods"!  lol


Jenny

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but since the recipes are formulated by the flour and how the other ingredients relate to that amount of flour, it makes a lot of sense to mess with the hydration using less or more water than changing the amount of flour.  By changing the amount of flour,  one has to change the salt and spices (if any) and the dough is easily under or oversalted.


Mini

amolitor's picture
amolitor

I agree, for sure. My thinking is that adding flour "until it's right" comes pretty darn close to adding the right weight of flour, though. At least if you are, as I am, using "mainstream" flours that won't be too far out of whack in terms of absorbency and so on.


Given that I'm using mainstream flours, and that my flours probably have "about average" amounts of moisture present in them, I'm pretty sure the largest variable is going to be how closely packed it is in the measuring cup. Everything else is going to be a couple percent here, and couple percent there.


Since work by feel, and adjust flour instead of water/salt/yeast, I'm probably getting a moderate amount of variability, basically as if I were weighing everything, and then varying salt, leavening, and other ingedients by a few percent here and there. Since I'm baking for the home, I think this is kind of a bonus ;) Loaves are similar, familiar, but never quite the same! (and, frankly, I tinker with the flour mixtures constantly anyways)


If I were baking commercially, or if I were using flours that I felt would absorb more or less water "to a substantial degree" or if I were using more exotic flours of unknown properties, I'd definitely need to be weighing, and then varying water to hit my hydrations.

ahhsugar's picture
ahhsugar

I meant to say that I change the amount of water that I add to my bread dough.  This seems to change depending on temp/humidity in my kitchen (I think) or it's just the "yeast Gods" playing ticks with my dough. lol


I add my usual amount of water, mix, touch ... then add more water if required ... mix, touch ... and so on.  Although, bread making is scientific, I also have a close connection with my doughs.  It's one of the reasons why I LOVE making bread.


I will sadly admit that I have added too much water at times and have then had to tinker with adding more flour.  Still, 98% of the time, the bread comes out yummy.  It's rare though that I've met a loaf of bread that I absolutely hated! lol

yozzause's picture
yozzause

You will find that most bread formulas are based on bakers percentage with the flour being 100% and other ingrediants being related to that eg salt 2% for a normal dough 1% for a fruit dough.


What works well for me is to  measure my water  so that i have  the equal 100% water on hand so if i am using 2 kgs of flour (2,000g) i will get ready 2Litres of water (2,000ml). establish what 1% is in this case  20ml if the formula calls for 60% then add the 1200 ml. you need to be on hand at the initial take up of the dough formation  by experience you will soon get to know the feel, you can always add a few more splashes early in the mix, you cant of course take it out. At the end of your mix if you then measure what is left of the original water  you will have a precise measure of what went in. extremely usefull for your notes that you should be taking, it is suprising just how those extra splashes add up and what you thought was  a certain amount has shot up another 5 to 10% you will be able to know the exact hydration of that particular dough, very usefull for future reference and your next bake as well as an accurate recipe for others to follow.


The other advantage is that the water will be the same temperature if the larger amount is drawn off when that becomes an important issue for certain breads and time doughs


kind regard yozza