Flour, humidity and dough consistency again...
I've just now visited various discussions and remarks here regarding the effects of humidity when preparing dough in the bowl.
The following was a revelation to me.
This summer my wife and I became hooked on shortcake with fruit: strawberries, raspberries and peaches from our local farmers' market are outstanding and we have chowed down most night since the season began in the Cambridge area of Ontario.
I settled on a shortbread recipe calling for 2-1/4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup butter, salt, baking powder, sugar, vanilla, and 1 cup of liquid consisting of 3/4C milk and1/4C water. Fairly standard, no?
After a couple of tries and adjustments I was happy with my dough's consistency. Note that I add the liquid to the dry to achieve consistency. I was having general success with 3/4C added to the dry leaving me a malleable, lumpy dough with a good puff and surface out of the oven.
The week before last saw temperatures here into the 30s(C°) with humidity never less than 95% even at nights for several days and with heat warnings into the weekend. We had guests, and of course I started a batch of shortcakes.
The usual amount of liquid yielded a sticky, fluid mess. I added at least another 1/2C of flour, but still the mass wouldn't come together! My wife spooned dollops onto the baking pan, it was baked, and it was very good in spite of all!. But, the dough had been gloop!
We've since had 3 days' respite with low temperatures in the high teens and low 20s – I'm wearing long pants and a heavy shirt as I post.
I have just now finished a batch of shortbread for tonight using the original batch and volume of flour and my normal 3/4C of liquid. Perfect.
So, I went from roughly 3 C of flour on the past weekend with 3/4C of liquid to today when I used the same 3/4C of liquid to 2-1/4C of flour.
I'm now convinced that heat and humidity are larger factor than I thought.
As a side note, we bake with Robin Hood All Purpose Flour and our municipal water is ver hard.