The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A better understanding of weights and hydrations

BellesAZ's picture

A better understanding of weights and hydrations

I feel like I'm missing something in putting together formula's from other sites where they offer recipes by weight as well as by measure.  Specifically, the King Arthur Flour website has me puzzled and I'm not sure if I'm making something out of nothing, if their formulas are incorrect, or if I am not weighing properly.

This is the third recipe I've made from their site that has given me a very wet dough.  The recipe is the New England Hot Dog buns recipe.  And I'm in the middle of the first rise at the moment. 

I am new to the concept of measuring and scales, so I am of course, doubting myself first and assuming the recipe is correct.  I am using a newer Escali scale and I am using the Tare function to zero out my bowl and am measuring my flour and liquid as ounces for this particular recipe.   However, this dough as well as a couple of others I've made are quite wet.  By the time I am done adding in more flour, I'm worrying about my dough temperature, so I stop adding flour and just let the wet dough start in the rise. 

I made Pain de Mie from their website and my bread was quite wet there as well.  I did add quite a bit more flour.

I've not had these issues with formulas here and they come out as they are supposed to.. I'm guessing.  I did add the extra bit of water in this recipe though.. I find that living in the desert, everything takes a bit more water when I bake.  Perhaps, I should have used the minimums?

I measured both my flour and water using the same ounces setting on my Escali.  Any ideas what I could be doing wrong??  PS  The Pain de Mie turned out very nice, btw in spite of the wetter dough.


LindyD's picture

Hi BellesAZ,

the KAF recipe says:  

  • 7 to 9 ounces lukewarm water*
  • *Use the greater amount in winter or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer or a humid climate.
I'm going to presume you used the full nine ounces of water.
There are a lot of factors involved in hydrating the flour, including the type of flour you are using, humidity, room temperature, and of course, the amount of water.  Don't add all of the liquid at first for any recipe.  Instead, hold back a couple of ounces until you have mixed the dough a bit and determined if the hydration is too dry and needs more water.
It's better to go by what the dough tells you versus the recipe.
BellesAZ's picture

Thanks Lindy, you're right.  I most always hold some water back, but here in Arizona often times I'm adding more water than what many, traditional recipes call for.  I used to live in Oregon, and since moving here, I've really been challenged.

You are also correct that it depends on flour.  I can't store flour here in bags for very long.  It dries out alot unless it's used up.  I used to buy in 25 lb bags, but unless I store them in a bucket with a lid, or buy smaller bags (which is what I've been doing - too lazy to go get a bucket and a lid!  LOL).  Also depending on the age of the flour that I'm getting from the store.. who knows what that really is.

For this particular recipe, I used a newer bag of KAF AP flour.  We are also in Monsoon season (yes, we have Monsoons in the desert!) and the humidity level could be slightly higher depending on time of day. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

always lift up the bowl or measured container and set it back down on the scales to make sure it reads the amount desired or gently rest your fingers on the edge of the bowl or scale forcing the total weight to be much heavier and then release to re-check the weight.  I tend to do it with the tare funktion also. 

I have caught my scales going heavier or lighter when slowly adding up to a weight.

As Lindy suggests, it is better to play with the water than the flour as all other parts of the recipe pertain to the flour.  If more flour is added, then the dough will need more salt, more spices, more oil, etc.

BellesAZ's picture

Well, my New England Hot dog buns came out of the oven perfectly, but I did have to bake it a bit longer to get up to the temperature I wanted.  The timing suggested in the recipe was about 15 degrees shy of what I wanted it to be.  So, I think there was just too much hydration for the recipe.

It's just strange though.  I can make a recipe here and I never have issues, but on that site, I do.  Wet doughs are the norm.  I'll just let the dough be the judge as to when it's right, but when I'm making a recipe I've never made before, I'm not sure what is right - if that makes any sense!

Thanks for all the help.  My Pain de Mie turned out nicely too, but the side caved in just slightly as it was cooling.  Not sure if I didn't bake long enough, but I actually let that one go a bit longer than I should have and was worried about it drying out.  I'm going to fiddle with that recipe as I didn't care for the "doughy" texture and taste.  I like more of a light bread, tight crumb - moist but not doughy. 

I made this bread in traditional bread pans the other day. A new recipe, worked perfectly and gave me the crumb I remember from my childhood, so I might use that recipe for my Pain de Mie dough and see if I get a better bread loaf.