The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Water absorption

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Water absorption

Just found a gem of a tip:

"The more protein a flour contains, the more water it absorbs.  Flours can vary more than 20% in their ability to absorb moisture." 


Meaning.... when substituting flours in a recipe, you will need more or less water (moisture) if you use a flour with a different protein content!  

Mini O 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

And whole grains are both thirstier than refined flours, they drink more slowly.


Or, they absorb a lot of water, but they do it slowly.  When I am developing whole grain recipes, it's not unusual to adjust the hydration in the final mix by feel.  Allowing the dough to rest and being patient are very important when dealing with whole grains.




Galamomof1's picture

Gala of Texas

I really appreciate the voices of experience. Thanks MiniO & M Avery

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and I guess I can go on to say that the higher the ash content of a flour, the more water it will absorb when given the time. Whole grains have a higher ash content, the more they are ground and sifted, the lower it becomes.

So, on with the experimentation!

...and my next batch of muffins are out of the oven....spelt, cranberry with kiwi yeast water! 

Mini O

Floydm's picture

Indeed, Mini Oven, this is a gem.

Flour absorption is something that really has been hanging me up, and I rarely find mention of it in the baking books.  I'm amazed at how much "thirstier" the Pendleton Mills Morbread Flour I recently bought is than KA AP Flour.  They are both unbleached all purpose flours but they behave very differently.  I need to add as much as an extra quarter cup of water to a batch made with Morbread to get the same characteristics as I'd expect from a typical AP flour. 

As well as ash and protein, I've read that fresh milled flour typically has a moisture content of around 10%, but that if you live in a dry climate and your flour isn't fresh it may retain less moisture and so be more absorbent. So there is something else to factor in.

So... baker's percentages are great, but they still aren't a silver bullet.  You may need to add or subtract a couple of percentage points to your baker's percentages to account for your climate and the flour you are using.