The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pushing the hydration and some hydration clarifications

Paneski's picture

Pushing the hydration and some hydration clarifications

Hi, it's a newbie observation but it just struck me that not all flours can be used for all hydration levels. This happened while I was making my standard 80% hydration all whole wheat sourdough bread using a new WW flour. Even after 30mins of hand-kneading the dough was slacky and couldn't hold shape at all (end result - very dense crumb).

Correct me if I'm wrong but this actually means that every time I use a new WW flour (or any flour) I should make the same recipe with for e.g. 70, 75, 80, 85 and 90% of hydration and see what's the maximum water the flour can absorb and still be workable? Is this the correct way to determine the max hydration level of flour?

Regarding the "hydration pushing" part - is there a way I can use a e.g. 10,4g protein WW flour and push the hydration level up to to e.g. 90% (assuming that the max for this kind of flour with this amount of protein is around 75%) or is it necessary to use a higher protein flour?




Danni3ll3's picture

but what I do is start being very conservative with the water and I add until the dough feels the way I like it. I have totally given up on figuring out hydration levels for the most part. When I do figure it out, they are usually in the mid to high 70% hydration. It took me a while to learn that how the dough feels and behaves for me is way more important than bragging I made a loaf that was 85-90% hydration. Making good bread is what's it is all about for me. Play with your dough and find out what you prefer.

HansB's picture

Experimenting is the best way as batches of flour and conditions vary. Here is a discussion:

jimbtv's picture

From reading posts at the Bread Bakers Guild of America, a simple change in the flour's lot will induce reformulation tests. From lot to lot a flour's ability to absorb water may change, as well as other factors. Big mills try to deliver the exact values as their previous lots but Mother Nature doesn't always comply.

Changing to a different flour, or even moving from a flour that is store-bought to personally milled, can have profound differences in performance. I found this out when I started milling spelt and rye for my breads. 

Paneski's picture

Thanks all for the replies. 

Following the link HansB posted I've found out that there are many variables (same stated also by jimbtv) that determine the flour's optimal hydration so I guess I need to do some experimenting with different values of hydration for every flour I'm using.

Also the interesting thing with WW flours (I'm using only those so I don't know if it applies also for white flours) is that when first mixing the dough it might seem dry but if autolysed for 30mins it becomes more moist, so I need to take also that into consideration for the "optimal" dough consistency.