How do I determine hydration?
Hi all, i just started baking sourdough. It's coming out pretty ok, I am still just getting used to getting the loaves looking pretty, but I had a quandary, but I am not sure if it actually matters.
however, I hae no idea what the hydration is because I am doing it by look and feel and have used (rough) cups, but never weighed and aside from my sponge, I don't use much extra water at all.
How I make the final dough is like this:
3c bread flour
1 tsp salt
2c 'sponge' which is my starter and then 1:1 flour and water, this normally makes just a bit over 2 cups of nice frothy family bubbly sponge. The leftover becomes my new starter.
I put the dry ingredients in my mixer, top with the wet sponge, and mix to moisten the lot. If the flour seems to need a bit more water, I'll add some lukewarm water, to be sure all the flour is incorporated. I let this sit for half hour to an hour, and then I knead for as long as it takes for the dough to feel and look right. Like, tacky but not sticky, cleans the bowl, but will stick slightly if left, good windowpane (I found that test here, actually).
Then I just let it rise, folding in 3rds and then 3rds every hourish. (sometimes after only 40 mins, depending on how warm it is, etc.)
I do this 2 or 3 times, till the dough is quite gassy and light.
Then I make the loaf, and let oven preheat then slash and bake.
Everything is going ok. I would like a slightly more open crumb, but I guess it has to be a wetter dough for thiS.
So, how can I determine hydration when I make my dough by look/feel more than weight?
If you're going to tell me to simply weigh stuff instead, can you suggest a basic plain sourdough recipe?
To be frank, I cannot afford an expensive book at present, and that's why I do it how I do, which is working well, but I don't know what hydration would be, so find it hard to tell anyone 'well this dough has x% hydration' as I have no idea.
It would equal about 4 cups flour and 1.5 cups water, if you add the water in the sponge to the bit of water I add when I first mix it...but I don't know if that's how I am supposed to guesstimate it.
If anyone has time to mess with this I really appreciate it! Thank you!