The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why does flour need more water when I make bread here?

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

Why does flour need more water when I make bread here?

I live in Allen, TX ( a suburb north of Dallas) and have noticed that everytime I make a recipe (and I mean every single time), I need to add 1/4 to1/2 cup or more of water over what is given in the recipe.


Why is that?


I am new to baking and this forum (my first entry!), so be gentle amigos!  :-)


Thanks in advance.


 


Chris

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I'm guessing it is rather warm and less humid there than your last location.Everything dries out-flour,sugar,etc and requires more water. People,too. :)


 

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

I guess that could be it..... I am new to baking. Just picked it up and found that I have a knack for it. My wife is very happy about this, also!


I have never baked before but noticed that every time I follow any recipe, it requires more water.  But it makes me wonder if I'm adding enough....


should I keep adding water a little at a time until the dough is a little wetter? When do i know to stop adding water?

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Since you are a new baker it is very likely that you are not measuring your flour properly. Don't scoop it out with your measuring cup because that will compact it and you will be using too much. Instead, stir your flour to fluff it up and then lightly spoon it into your measuring cup and level it off by sweeping across the top with a flat blade knife or spatula. It makes a huge difference.

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

That's great advice! Thanks.


I read on one of my recpies that I found online that one "may need to add mroe water in winter".  Could that be it or have something to do with it?

Dcn Marty's picture
Dcn Marty

Better still, weigh your ingredients, especially the flour. You will get greater accuracy and better consistency.

mdunham21's picture
mdunham21

Where were you living before this?  I would most likely agree that it has everything to do with the humidity level.

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

Well, I've never baked anything before now, so that wouldn't factor into things. Also, if it helps you, I got this particular recipe on the internet.


I'm assuming that it almost has to be related to the humidity level here, so I think you're right.


Oh well.... :-)

mdunham21's picture
mdunham21

There are a couple good books out there which will help you a lot.  One of my favorites is The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and the other is The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. 

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

I just bought both of them!

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Add a scale to the equipment you use for better baking results sooner. Measuring your ingredients by weight rather than volume works much better.

Eidetix's picture
Eidetix

Just a wild guess, but mineral content might affect absorption. Try substituting bottled water if you've been using tap, or vice versa, and you might stay closer to the measures the recipes call for.


Otherwise, you could try adding water more gradually to see if a bit less will go a longer way.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Chris, the original poster, has commented that he is a beginning baker and that he has never baked before.


As a result, i don't think it's the water.


I teach baking classes in Sanger and the most common response I get from beginners is, "Gee, I've been making my dough too dry."  Most beginners think dough should be a lot drier than more experienced bakers prefer.  Beginners seem to be afraid of dough sticking to them.


Some related issues - cups can very from under 100 grams to over 200 grams of flour, depending on how they are filled.  Worse, people who scoop flour from the sack experience as much as a 25% cup to cup variation.  Flour is a powder, which is compressible. 


Flour companies seem to think a cup should weigh about 120 grams per cup.  A well known cookbook that is mentioned a lot around here seems to think it should  be about 150 grams.   So, if I tell you 4 cups of flour, do I mean 400 grams, 480 grams, 600 grams or 800 grams?  If, on the other hand, I tell you 500 grams, what do you think I mean?  (Hint - I mean 500 grams.)


Weighing gives you a much better idea of how much flour you are using.  Look for a scale that can handle 10 to 14 pounds.  Smaller than that limits you.


Millers standardize the amount of moisture in the grain before it is milled for ease of processing, so the flour will have very consistent moisture levels when it leaves the mill.


Industry tests show that the three layer paper sacks flour is packaged in does a very good job of containing the moisture in the flour.  Tests show less than a 1% change in the flour moisture between humid and dry areas, if the sack is folded closed between uses.  Similarly, if you have a sealing flour bin, there shouldn't be much variation.  Flour is, if memory serves, something like 12 or 16% moisture.  If it changes by a percent, that still is a small change compared to the overall liquid content of a recipe.


Since I've started weighing a lot of these issues have just ceased to exist.


-Mike


 

gringogigante's picture
gringogigante

I'm in Allen.....Sanger isn't THAT far away! Especially to learn to do it right in the first place.


Can I have a link to your classes? If you don't teach to newbies, can you recommend someone or someplace that does?


thanks, also, for your excellent advice. it seems that I have a loooong way to go!


Chris

Eidetix's picture
Eidetix

I appreciate your post. I was taking a flyer; you seem to know whereof you speak.


I have been running into an issue opposite to the one that prompted gringogigante to post this thread: Using the Bread Baker's Apprentice and weighing all ingredients precisely, my doughs seem a bit stickier in the early mix than Mr. Reinhart suggests they might be.


I am not worrying about it much, though -- especially since I started kneading by hand instead of by mixer. I recently watched a great instructional video by Richard Bertinet about kneading sweet dough. I just applied his slap and fold technique to a batch of buttermilk roll dough made with a recipe posted on this site. In so doing, I followed Mr. Bertinet's instruction not to cheat by adding flour to the counter with a sticky dough.


Within minutes, the dough was no longer sticking to the counter or my fingers. It acquired shape, form and character unlike the mixes I got from machine kneading. It's proofing as we speak. The ultimate proof will of course be in the eating of the rolls, which I should be doing within the next two to three hours.


To gringogigante: Take Mr. Avery's advice and 1) get yourself a good scale and 2) don't worry much if your dough seems a bit dry or sticky to start with. Much of the fun in bread-making comes in tweaking ingredients and techniques until you get a product that suits you. More of the fun comes with eating a product that tends to be pretty damn good even when it is not by some textbook standard approaching perfection.


Here's the link to the Bertinet video:


http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough


It's worth checking out.