The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Need info on hydration levels in GF bread

clazar123's picture

Need info on hydration levels in GF bread

I understand that Gluten Free is a whole different specialty but then-so is Whole wheat and so is Rye. GF is not discussed at the same level as these other breads and I'd like to initiate that now. I learned so much on this forum about how ingredients behave and right now I need to understand how the different starches and non-wheat flours behave in a dough. Hydration levels are part of that.

Does anyone have any experience in this area? Articles? Links?

I have followed JeurgenKrauss's experiments with great interest and would love to see more. Laura T has made some amazing sourdough GF loaves and while I do sourdough with my wheat bread, I'm not ready for that learning curve yet.

Maybe this is the last place a Gluten Free baker would look but I believe there is so much a wheat based and a gluten free baker have to offer each other. I just made a GF loaf with a water roux-that idea came from my wheatbaking experience! There is a lovely looking Japanese Milk Bread (GF!) I'd love to try soon and the techniques sound almost identical to my wheat based experience.

Let's get some dialogue going.

Samantha M's picture
Samantha M
Norma's picture

    I hope this is not overloading you horse? I was not sure if this is correct procedure, anyway here is some info I have collected and  since I am not sure if you want all I will let you discard what you don't want.


Sour Dough Bread and Health by Mark Sircus Ac., OMD International Medical Veritas Association     In the instance of cancer, instead of treatments that either slash, burn or poison away the tumors and cancer cells, we are going to eat our way with pleasure to stronger health while removing one more cause of cancerous conditions. Research at the Cancer Immunology Program at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia has shown recently that the human immune system can stop the growth of a canceroustumor without actually killing it. There are many natural ways we can increase immune system strength and function and this is vital in our fight against cancer and many other chronic degenerative diseases. The consumption of spirulina in large quantities is at the top of my list of natural agents but in this chapter we rediscover Sourdough bread as "the staff of life," for it enhances the entire immune system. If Americans do not change their eating and drinking habits within twenty years we will have nutritional obliteration.
Dr. James Beasley Ford Foundation ProjectMost of us do not know that before the 1950’s most bakeries ran 2 shifts of workers because the dough was fermented throughout the night with a long and slow natural fermentation process. The very first things corporate bakers did to increase profits was to introduce the fast loaf (3 hours from start to finish), effectively eliminating the need for this second shift of workers. This seemingly innocuous cost-cutting decision would prove to have an incredible impact on our health as have a host of commercial processes in the food and agricultural areas. The catastrophic changes in bakery procedures were a disaster that went largely unnoticed and today some bakeries produce some bread in just 40 minutes from start of dough to baked finish. The general public has become conditioned to commercial bread products and is uninformed about the effects of the commercial processing that regular bread undergoes. Free of commercial yeast, sourdough breads have an aroma and distinctive flavours all of their own and are naturally leavened by a fermented starter. Very basic sourdough bread that had once been fermented for a healthy 8 hours or more is not to be found anywhere except in ones own kitchen today. In commercial bread yeast levels are dramatically increased, accelerants and proving agents introduced including bromide, a known thyroid poison that was insanely substituted for iodine in the US. Fast-made bread is one of the most destructive implementations into the modern diet. It has become normal fare. Poorly-prepared and poorly-digested wheat is the chief contributor to the current plague of “gluten-intolerance,” obesity, diabetes, Candida diseases and many allergenic conditions all of which contribute to the conditions that cause cancer.
    Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented is it healthy for human consumption. When not it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. It is similar to the controversy with soy which also can only be considered a health food if it is fermented long enough. Correctly fermented wheat contains 18 amino acids (proteins), complex carbohydrate (a super efficient source of energy), B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium, and maltase. It is important to understand that the longer the ferment time the less yeast is required.   Bread was first leavened by the Egyptians around 2300 BC. They discovered that a mixture of flour and water left uncovered for several days bubbled and expanded. If mixed into unleavened dough and allowed to stand for a few hours before baking, it yields light sweet bread. This kind of natural leavening remained the basis of Western bread baking until the 20th century when bread made from commercially prepared yeast was introduced.  Naturally leavened breads rise over time (6 to 8 hours) by the action of wild yeast spores drawn into the sourdough starter from the air. Mixing the starter with more flour and water and a little salt forms bread dough. As the unique and complex family of friendly bacteria thrives on the nutrient-rich whole grain flour and mineral-rich salt, they produce carbon dioxide gas. Fermentation continues, and the leavening or expansion of the bread dough creates a fine-grained, moist texture. These beneficial bacteria in sourdough help control Candida albicans, whereas baker’s yeast is a pro-candida organism.    The fermented quality of naturally leavened bread has several healthful advantages over yeasted breads. Yeasted breads are raised very quickly by a refined yeast strain that has been isolated in a laboratory under controlled conditions. In the process of making sourdough bread, during the rising time (called proofing), bran in the flour is broken down, releasing nutrients into the dough. In particular, the phytic acid (phytin) in grain needs to be 90% neutralized in order for the minerals, concentrated in the bran, to be absorbed by the human body. According to the experiments done in Belgium, phytin can be neutralized by natural bacterial action and to a lesser extent, by baking. In naturally leavened bread, the combination eliminates all phytin, while in yeasted bread about 90% remains People with allergies to commercially yeasted breads may not have the same sensitivities to naturally leavened whole grain sourdough bread. With sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during proofing which are not lost in baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust. It’s the fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, that makes eating good quality bread an aid to digestion of all complex carbohydrate foods including other grains, beans, and vegetables. It helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract, resulting in proper assimilation and elimination.  In a study comparing the effects of sourdough bread with commercial bread, researchers reported that sourdough bread significantly lowered serum glucose and insulin responses and gave greater satisfaction than the other bread.  “It is concluded that sourdough baking and other fermentation processes may improve the nutritional features of starch,” the researchers concluded.[i] Sourdough bread rates a 68 on the glycaemic index as opposed to the rating of 100 by other breads. Foods that have low ratings on the glycaemic index are prominent in societies that tend to have lower incidence of diseases and unhealthy conditions that run rampant in our culture such as diabetes.
     Researchers in Sweden at Lund University have noted that the fermentation process that’s involved in the creation of sourdough utilizes carbohydrates, lowering the carbohydrate level in the dough as it’s transformed to lactic acid. The result of this process means that sourdough bread can aid in ensuring that your blood glucose level remains in line, helping to guard against various diseases especially diabetes. About 95% of the flour used in the USA is white. Only 20 to 30% of the grains original vitamins are retained. Natural leavened bread, because of its inherent beneficial ferments, slowly recreates the population of friendly lactobacillus digestive bacteria in the absorption tract. The end result is a recovery of digestion and proper elimination by the effective action of friendly bacteria. Numerous studies demonstrate that populations with the highest fiber intake have the lowest incidence of colon cancer.    In an article, published in 1984 in East-West Journal, Ronald Kotsch describes why conventionally yeasted bread contributes to disease. "In (conventional) yeast fermentation, the starch cells of the bread actually explode. The patterns they form are identical to those of cancer cells.            According to French researcher Jean Claude Vincent, the bio-electrical energy of the dough also is identical to that of cancer cells."
    According to Walter Last, “Undigested gluten from quickly risen bread can seriously weaken the intestinal wall. Its effect on the tiny absorption villi in the small intestine may be compared to the action of sandpaper on wood. Animal experiments have shown that the intestinal absorption villi are long and slender before they come into repeated contact with wheat protein. Afterwards, they become blunt and broad, with a much-reduced ability to absorb. This greatly contributes to the widespread incidence in our society of people with problems of malabsorption and who are missing out on vital nutrients. In such people, not only are the absorption villi blunted, the irritation caused by the sandpaper effect of gluten produces a protective mucus coating over the intestinal wall and this makes it still more difficult for nutrients to pass through the intestinal wall.”
Thus we find gluten, and especially wheat gluten, implicated in malabsorption diseases, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and just about every disease under the sun. When things go wrong in our guts we do not receive the nutrition we need. Malnutrition is one of the major factors that lead to disease including cancer.     Since bread and wheat products are such an important part of daily food consumption, it follows that such food items be healthy and wholesome. Today's milling, refining, bleaching, enriching, and addition of various chemicals to flour and baked breads cause many scientists and medical workers to question their nutritional quality as well as their safety.  Traditionally starters were passed down from generation to generation but if you don’t know someone who has it one can simply mix some flour and water (some suggest starting it with fresh pineapple juice instead of water) and leave it out on the counter for a week or until its bubbling. During this process the natural yeast and bacteria in the air will impregnate the mixture) Sourdoughs are fermented by a variety of lactic acid bacteria, called Lactobacillus, which consume sugar to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas. They also produce lactic and acetic acids, which give sourdough breads their distinctive flavour. Traditional sourdoughs do not contain baker's yeast. Storage methods for breads that contain no additives are very important to maintain freshness and to avoid spoilage. The staling process begins for regular yeasted bread as soon as the bread is removed from the oven. Sourdough bread on the other hand increases in nutritional value for days. Freezing bread prevents microbial spoilage. Baked bread can be kept frozen for three months without losing flavour. Interestingly, slightly stale bread is more easily digested than fresh bread, up to ten days, after which there is a reversal (Jackel et al.,1952). When I used to make sourdough bread I would make many loafs but would wait two days before freezing any of them to let the natural yeast continue to work in the bread. Use organic whole wheat stone ground if possible. The toxicity of pesticide residues on food depends on whether organs, including the liver, have the ability to metabolize them and their resulting metabolites (Hayes & Borzelleca, 1982). There is evidence that pesticides also interact with other chemicals and nutrients in the diet (Dubois, 1972). Chronic poisonings have occurred from ingesting afla-toxins from grain due to inappropriate cleaning (Opitz, 1984; Pfander et al., 1985).
    There are several advantages to stone-ground wheat flour. The endosperm, bran, and germ remain in their natural, original proportions. Because the stones grind slowly, the wheat germ is not exposed to excessive temperatures. Heat causes the fat from the germ portion to oxidize and become rancid and much of the vitamins to be destroyed (Aubert, 1989). The nutritional importance of using fresh stone-ground grains for bread-making was revealed in the results of feeding studies in Germany (Bernasek, 1970). Rats were fed diets consisting of 50% flour or bread. Group 1 consumed fresh stone-ground flour. Group 2 was fed bread made with this flour. Group 3 consumed the same flour as group 1 but after 15 days of storage. Group 4 was fed bread made with the flour fed to group 3. A fifth group consumed white flour. After four generations, only the rats fed fresh stone-ground flour and those fed the bread made with it maintained their fertility. The rats in groups 3 to 5 had become infertile. Four generations for rats is believed to be equivalent to one hundred years in humans. Sourdough Bread Has Most Health Benefits, Prof Finds July 07, 2008 - News Release Not all bread is created equal. The type of toast you eat for breakfast can affect how your body responds to lunch, a University of Guelph researcher has discovered. Prof. Terry Graham studied four types of breads to determine which had the most positive health effects when it comes to carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar and insulin levels. "There's an urban myth that if you want to lose weight, you shouldn't eat bread," said the human health and nutritional sciences professor. "But the truth is, bread is one of our biggest sources of grains and has a number of healthy benefits. With this study we wanted to find out which breads are better so that we can optimize the benefits by combining them into one type of bread." Using white, whole wheat, whole wheat with barley and sourdough white breads, Graham and a team of researchers examined how subjects responded just hours after eating the bread for breakfast and again just hours after eating a standard lunch. The subjects, who were overweight and ranged between 50 and 60 years of age, showed the most positive body responses after eating sourdough white bread, and those positive responses remained even after eating a second meal that didn't include bread. "With the sourdough, the subjects' blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin," said Graham, whose findings are to be published in the British Journal of Nutrition. "What was even more interesting was that this positive effect remained duringtheir second meal and lasted even hours after. This shows that what you have for breakfast influences how your body will respond to lunch." He said it's likely that the fermentation of the sourdough changes the nature of the starches in the bread, creating a more beneficial bread. And while sourdough came out on top, the whole wheat varieties used in the study came out on bottom - even below white bread. The whole wheat breads caused blood sugar levels to spike, and these high levels lasted well after lunch. Graham said the less positive blood responses sparked by the whole wheat are likely due to the fact that the milling process involved in making the whole wheat bread used in the study is similar to that used for white bread. This is not the case with all whole wheat or whole grain breads, he added. "The parts of the grain like wheat germ and bran that have the health benefits are taken out to create white flour and then partially added back in to make whole wheat. Based on the findings of this study, as well as a follow up study using whole grain rather than whole wheat, we are learning that the best way to get these nutrients is through a whole grain bread, not whole wheat."  Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the results of this study have led Graham and a team of researchers to continue studying the healthy benefits of sourdough bread and whole grain. In collaboration with Scarborough bakery Stonemill Bakehouse, they have developed a whole grain sourdough bread and are currently testing the long-term health benefits of the bread on subjects. They are comparing the results to the subjects' responses to a standard white bread.  Contact Prof. Terry Graham Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences519-824-4120, Ext. 56168
clazar123's picture

Thank you for responding to my rather strident request. I can't write a post when I am on my way out the door- all the time urgency came through as a rather militant-sounding call to arms and I certainly did not mean to sound that way.

SmanthaM I read through your whole site and was glad of it. It sounds like a lot of your information is still being converted over from gluten bread to nongluten.  Actually, that tells me that a lot of nongluten behaves similarly. What I have to get used to is how the gels (psyllium,flax) and poss the gums (xanthan,guar,gelatin,pectin) behave in terms of calculating hydration.They absorb the water that is calculated in the formula but they affect the Bread Hydration (crumb hydration) a bit differently. So- Is there a ratio of gel/gum to water to flour that will ultimately effect the Bread Hydration. Perhaps the gel/gum as a percentage of the flour/hydration level. I am struggling with mathematical relationships-it would probably be a matrix or an advanced calculus calculation that can generate a table for us non-math people.

Bread Hydration as separate from Dough hydration- I do like the concept of thinking about them separately, whether it is a gluten or nongluten dough. I might post and seek some of the scientists on the site to expound on this concept a bit.

Thank you.

Samantha M's picture
Samantha M

Yes nongluten behaves similarly not exact but near and thats due to the blend of gf flours high in protein and added starches and the binders used, psyllium to be specific. Dough hydration affects the bread hydration. And because the use of psyllium in gf bread is a fairly new component, there is still alot to discover, like 'is there a ratio of psyllium to water to flour. We are the ones to discover this. It is all trial and error for us. But what I have learnt is that going back to basics of bread making is key to understanding gf bread making. We have become accustomed to things being quick and easy and commercially viable but good bread takes time! We are trying to replace just one thing in gf bread baking and thats gluten. Yet we are told in gf world that several eggs are to be used, milk powder must be added, this and that and we won't have a dough but a batter???? All these cliches just to replace one thing? Bread used to be of just four ingredients and it is the processes of bread (mixing, kneading, fermentation time, hydration, bakers percentage, ratios etc) that made the final product. Keeping that in mind and adjusting for the gf aspects that effect the dough and bread (blend of flours, psyllium). Thats why its still all trial and error. Every time you bake a loaf of gf bread right down the exact amount of ingredients used, how you mixed them together, how long left to rise etc etc. Because this is the information thats being cried out for by gf bread bakers. 

clazar123's picture

And what I mean by that is that whole wheat breads have unique handling characteristics,rye bread is a very unique subspecialty that requires very different handling and techniques than white flour or whole wheat,and then there is all the sweet doughs. All of these have different techniques to handle different ingredients to get the most out of those ingredients.

Why is GF any different? It requires different handling and techniques just like whole wheat and rye. So we have to become familiar with the myriad of ingredients and how they behave. Our skills in developing wheat or rye based dough is valuable in learning how to handle these other interesting flours. I believe the same vocabulary applies and the same concepts are useful to know.

Let's bake deliciously and share out experiences. 

Samantha M's picture
Samantha M

And I totally agree with you!!!! I think thats why I have become completely obsessed with gf bread baking. Bread was the only one thing I deeply missed since going gf. As I looked in further about gf bread baking I was disappointed as what was involved. I was already using psyllium as a dietary requirement for my IBS-C so I knew how it worked. When I used it to replace the gums, thats how I discovered I could make gf bread dough not batter and I didn't need eggs etc, just near basic bread ingredients. Then I saw that others on the internet were using psyllium and other binders like flax and chia and were creating doughs too!

My next attempt I am going to try 100% hydration. 450g flour blend, 450g water and 20/10g psyllium and flax. My next project I would like to do is working the formulas for a gf bread recipe also the mixing times, the fermenting times, baking time and temperature etc as I think these all conduct towards successful gf bread baking. If I can get a basis for a formula and procedures that will establish towards being experimented and perfected by others.


Floydm's picture

Why is GF any different?

I'll give you one reason, in no way trying dampen your enthusiasm for GF baking: tradition.  

Personally, culture and traditional are a huge part of what intrigues me about baking.  With GF grains, there are long traditions of baking flat breads, making porridges, and fermenting the grains, but I don't see much history of making "bread" as we know it and certainly not of making mock-wheat breads with them.  There is nothing wrong with trying to do so... there is also nothing wrong with trying to play Metallica songs on the cello... but it doesn't really do justice to the centuries of tradition and experimentation that have developed trying to express the essence of the materials in question, in my mind.  Mochi seems like a much better expression of essential rice-ness than a pale pasty baguette does.  Baguettes are an exquisite expression of wheat-ness. 

I guess there are folks who like being at the vanguard of experimentation and creating new culture, others who prefer participating in those cultures and traditions.  When I want to be on the vanguard, I listen to electronic music and write code.  When I want tradition, I bake.

Jé's picture

Hi,  thanks for bringing up the topic of hydration level for gluten free bread.  I decided to become a member when I read your post.  I read this site regularly, but now it's time to jump in!

For about 10 months, I baked gluten-free (GF) bread with yeast + baking powder, mainly in a bread machine. I also baked a few excellent breads from Gina @ glutenfreegourmand (her baguettes are a success).  I wanted to get a hand at it before trying sourdough (SD) breadmaking.  For the past two months, I've been baking mostly GF SD bread, based on the work of Laura T and her ditsykitchen blog.  In particular, her rice-sorghum-quinoa batard, which is excellent... then I saw them both active on this site :)

I find it hard to describe the yeasted GF bread in baker's terms,  the recipes I used so far all have eggs or quite a long list of ingredients. Also, most use volume measurements instead of weight (you can compute or measure weight from there, I simply haven't taken the time).

For GF SD bread, I work with a smaller ingredient list and measure by weight.  Also, when psyllium is used in recipes, I try it a few times to get a hand, then I try to sub chia/flax instead (by choice).  I'll have to compute the baker's math out of my recipe and post it someday. I too am experimenting with dough temp, fermenting time, hydration, starter "ripeness".

SamanthaM, when you describe your next attempt with 100% hydration, is it a yeasted bread?  Instant yeast? What weight (g or Baker %)?

Keep up the good work guys.  I hope the community will continue sharing new knowledge on GF bread making. 


Samantha M's picture
Samantha M

Yes yeasted. This time I'm being easy as I want to focus on other aspects with the bread and will use dried instant yeast. Which is actually very good. i too have made gf sd bread and love the flavour.

clazar123's picture

Wheat is definitely a very common and popular grain and there is a lot of history involved with wheat being the basis for bread. Wheat has become synonymous with bread. However, I would challenge that wheat is the ONLY grain that can make bread.  No one can argue that a wheat based baguette is absolutely delicious and I would never hold a  pale pasty object up for admiration as a baguette. That would never make the grade. I am not trying to make an imitation baguette.  I think that very delicious  things can be made with GF grains and they should stand on their own merits. It would be absolutely wonderful if we could learn how to work with non-wheat/gluten free grains to make absolutely delicious loaves and rolls. Baking is a comforting tradition but let's be open to the possibilities of baking something new.... and quite delicious.

Samantha M's picture
Samantha M

Thats it Clazar123! Same traditions-different ingredients-all delicious!

Wheat was/has/is the grain always used because it was easy to grow and harvest etc and so it has always been favoured and other grains not given the chance to have all the time spent on as wheat did. Perhaps and maybe.

The bread I make is wholesome bread. I can make lovely fresh sandwiches. I can toast it. It has a even medium crumb and a tender with a slight chew crust. I can knead it. It rises up for the first occasion and again for a second - adding more flavour and texture to the bread. I have even made sourdough for a real flavour explosion! And it is gluten free!

No more batter instead of dough resulting in a cake like texture rather than bread texture.

It not possible to dampen my enthusiasm as I have too much knowledge and experience to give up hope on gluten free bread! And I'm a optimist!