The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

flour to water

JoeVig's picture
JoeVig

flour to water

Greeting;  

I am knew to your nice page here and have a question.  Is there a generic water to flour ratio for most breads.

 

Thank You

joe

flournwater's picture
flournwater

"generic water to flour ratio", yes and no.  "Generic" ratios can be applied (if only losely) to various types of breads but the hydration level of your dough relies so heavily on the water/flour ratio that even with "common" bread formulas the ratio can vary greatly.  That said, I'd have to say No ....   I would not rely on a "generic" ratio and expect the results to be consistently satisfying.

JoeVig's picture
JoeVig

Thank You

Chuck's picture
Chuck

The ratio of water to flour is called the hydration level, and is arguably the single most important variable in breadmaking. Every recipe is a little different, learning to "adjust" on the fly is part of baking experience, and even variables that at first seem unimportant (desert climate, very high elevation, brand of flour, amount of gluten in the flour, humidity in storage pantry, etc.) often require slight changes in the hydration level.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a very stiff dough is made from all purpose flour using a 50% ratio or 1 to 2 of water weight to flour weight.  That is about the lowest.  (there are always exceptions)  and the highest is about 125% depending on the flour and skill of the baker.    Most recipes for white wheat flour are in the 50% to 75% range and the more "whole" the flour, the more water it will absorb and the higher the hydration to get the dough to stick together into a doughy mass.  

If you are glancing at a recipe, trying to fathom it, look at the total liquids (water/milk/egg white)  divided by the flour (taking into account the type of flour used) and multiply by 100 to get the Hydration %.   Then see if it fits inside rough parameters.   If you find it below 50% it just might be cookie dough or if above 80% be prepared for a loose wet dough.  A 1 to 1 ratio or equal weights (not cups) of flour and water often resembles batter.

Mini

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Low hydration doughs, meaning less water for a certain weight of flour, and high hydration doughs, meaning more water for the same weight of flour, are used to make different kinds of bread.  And the two levels of hydration allow the making of different kinds of crumb.  Crumb is everything inside the crust.  Think of it this way:  low hydration doughs are used to make breads with a cake-like crumb.  A sandwich loaf of American white bread is an example.  High hydration doughs are used to make the breads with lots of holes, like the French baguette.  I think of these two as Northern European (low hydration) and Southern European (high hydration) breads.  The two types required quite different techniques and can be learned quite separately.  Most American home bread makers start with Northern European-style breads.  They're easier and more familiar.  The techniques are more easily learned from a book.  It's only later that these enthusiasts move on to the higher hydration doughs, where the techniques are a little more complicated. 

I always recommend getting a teacher for both, but especially for the higher hydration dough techniques.  I also recommend, for those who like to learn from books, that, instead of learning from a bread cookbook, learn from a bread textbook.  Writers of cookbooks are not inclined to present their material in the organized, step-by-step fashion that a textbook writer uses.  There are very good textbooks on the market.  For a beginner, I always recommend DiMuzio's Breadbaking. But also check out the many videos available on this website and those found using your favorite search engine.

If you're thinking of asking a question on this website, try using the search function first.  There are lots of answers there already.  If you don't find an answer, ask away.  There's always someone who wants to help.

Good luck.   Practice, practice, practice.  Then tell us about your experiences, good and bad.  We all want to learn.