The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour Weight vs Hydration

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LazySumo's picture
LazySumo

Flour Weight vs Hydration

Talking about the hydration ('dampness') of the flour itself here. In "Breadmaker's Apprentice" he says that 1lb of flour is always the same amount and doesn't really mention how damp it is or isn't. Does that still play? Or is most usable flour dry enough that it doesn't matter?

suave's picture
suave

Let's say it matters less than differences in ability of different flours to absorb water. 

Mike

keesmees's picture
keesmees

my flour is maximum 15,5% moisture according to the specification. in stock it will lose a bit. especially in freezing weather.

there's a rule in industrial bread manufacturing: if you lose 1% water in the flour you have to add 2% during kneading.  (there is more dry stuff in the same weight of flour)

breadbaking at home:

bread 800g: 60% dough (300/500) = 500g flour means 75 g intrinsic water. and 70 when 1% moist is lost

5g difference on 300g water = 1,67% 

so it is always within the error of measurement when you use a kitchen measuring cup

TroutEhCuss's picture
TroutEhCuss

I have been making bread for about three weeks now - primarily due to this website and another.  I usually breakdown recipes based on the common denominators until I I have the basics down - making bread is no different.  This is my question.  The basic bread recipe uses a 3 to 1 - four to liquid formula.  So a loaf using 3 cups of flour is going to have about 1 cup of water/milk or combination of the two.  So, would I call that a 33% hydration? 

dougal's picture
dougal

Firstly, if you follow this forum, you'll learn that volume (cup) measures are not the way to go if you want to improve your baking.

Weigh stuff. Even the water. Accurately.

And, if you use grams for everything, you'll find the maths surprisingly simple.

 

Anyway, when people speak of "hydration" of dough, they are using shorthand jargon for "the amount, by weight, of (aqueous - ie not oily) liquid added to make the dough, expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight".

So 500 grams flour, 200 grams water, 100 grams milk, 20 grams oil is (200+100)/500 or 60% hydration. (The oil doesn't count, the milk does.)

You'd also get "60% hydration" if you mixed 4oz water and 2oz milk with 10oz flour. (I'll leave it for you to translate the proportion of oil in imperial units...) 

 

55% hydration is a dryish dough. 

70% is getting distinctly wet.

So for our 500g of flour (a single large loaf), we are talking about the difference between 275g of 'water' and 350g. Which explains why measurement precision is important.   

suave's picture
suave

Hydration is weight percentage of water.  So, if your cup of flour is 135 g (mine is) then hydration is 227/(135x3)=56%. 

Mike

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

TroutEhCuss,

Baker's percentages are based on weight, not on volume.  The weight of every other ingredient in a formula is expressed as a percentage, relative to the weight of the flour.

In your example, the three cups of flour will weigh approximately (I have to say approximately because no two people ever get the same weight of flour in a measuring cup) 12-14 ounces, while the cup of liquid will weigh 8 ounces (assuming that the measuring cup itself is accurately sized).  So the hydration, measured as weight of liquid divided by weight of flour, would be somewhere between 8/12=66% and 8/14=57%.

People have obviously been making bread successfully for millenia without weighing a thing, but if you want to have a thorough understanding of your dough's texture and behavior, buy an inexpensive kitchen scale.  You can find scales that measure in both English and metric units, with a tare function, for around $30 US.  The other benefit that I never thought of until after I started using a scale is that there is a lot less clean-up afterward, since I can just dump or pour most of the ingredients directly into the mixing bowl while it sits on the scale.

Since you are getting started in bread making (yay, you!), spend plenty of time poking around the site.  You will find lots of useful information on hydration and other topics.  I've learned more about making bread in the last three years of visiting this site than I did in the preceding 30.  Make liberal use of the search feature (it's near the top on the left-hand side of each screen) here; you will find that a lot of questions that new bakers experience have been discussed in great and lively detail.  And by all means, keep asking.  It's a great way to learn.

Paul

TroutEhCuss's picture
TroutEhCuss

Thanks for the responses.

LazySumo's picture
LazySumo

Trout, one more thing...

 

What everyone is talking about above is a thought process called "the Baker's Percentage", googling it will bring up plenty of examples, also a book called "Breadmaker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart has a large section on it. Keep in mind that the flour, whatever it's weight, is considered to be the 100% factor and each individual ingredient's percentage weight is figured against that number.

 

Why is this useful? Well it makes scaling any recipe a breeze. Also bakers in different parts of the world can talk meaningfully about how much any particular ingredient (especially water and hydration) contribute to any recipe.

 

So to answer my question: Yes atmospheric humidity matters, but much less than I need to worry about?

dougal's picture
dougal

The atmospheric humidity might possibly matter slightly.

Very slightly indeed compared to other process variations.

Any variation due to humidity change (and consequent change to the moisture content of the flour) is TINY compared to the variation (inaccuracy) of using volume measurements.

Get a digital scale. ±1gram is a reasonable accuracy. 5000g (11lb) is as much range as you'll likely need (remember this includes whatever bowl).

Budget about $20 for that scale. (Its uses go beyond baking!)

Learn to use the add-and-weigh ("tare") feature.

Don't bother about adjusting formulae for the weather. OK, expect the rise time to vary with varying kitchen temperature. Otherwise, forget the weather for now. 

 

EDIT ADDED - Any quoted "hydration" is extra 'water' beyond the standard moisture content of retail flour. That is just considered standard, there already, and ignored in calculation.

 

 

Use your scale for an experiment.

Measure out some flour into a strong paper (not leaking) paper bag. (Like an old flour bag). Paper is not a moisture-proof barrier. You want at least a pound. Say 500g of flour.

Be careful not to spill any flour out of the bag.

Check its weight every day.

Post on here to tell us when you see any significant variation. 1% would be 5g. With a ±1g scale, if you see a 5g change, its real. (It might not be real if it was only measured on a ±5g precision scale.)

If the flour dries out (or plumps up), then your kitchen must experience a much more extreme climate than mine!

TroutEhCuss's picture
TroutEhCuss

Where can I get the scale?  Target or Walmart?  Are there standard brands that are safe bets that aren't the ultimate versions of a scale?

 

I'm going to check to see if the library has the book.  I can't afford how expensive it is.  

I find it interesting that nearly every basic recipe that I cam across had a 3:1 ratio of flour to water for nearly every basic type of bread.  That means to me bread as a standard is basically all the same with slight variations. 

dougal's picture
dougal

Here's one Scale thread that I recall -

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7731/what-kitchen-scale-do-you-have

I put my ideas on features on that thread.

I can't give US advice, but in the UK Tesco have a decent one for £10 ($16 now). Mine came from Lidl and was only £6.99 ...

 

There are other threads and other scales. (Try the forum's Search function yourself!)

Personally, I'd choose cheap function over expensive fancy form. But that's just me!

 

 

Quote:
I find it interesting that nearly every basic recipe that I cam across had a 3:1 ratio of flour to water for nearly every basic type of bread. That means to me bread as a standard is basically all the same with slight variations.
Thats just boring basic bread recipes and rough measurements.

The difference between different breads is actually often surprisingly subtle changes in method or formula. See the discussions here on the exact best hydration level for baguettes - search for "Anis" !

60% and 70% hydration (by weight) are both "about 2/3" -- but they can make rather different breads. And the difference is only about 3 tablespoons of water in a big loaf. Precision!

You might be interested to see Bertinet's book "Dough" - he describes making lots of different breads from four basic doughs (with just a few variations). Its a good book (with DVD and available in paperback) that is pretty accessible to beginners. Just be aware that gurus will tend to disagree on details. You're entitled to pick and mix!

Or if you want to see a truly great diversity of breads, see Dan Lepard's "Art of Handmade Bread" (that's the US title and its in paperback too)- but I'd say its better as a second or third book.

Reinhart's BBA is an excellent primer for a baker wanting an understanding, and to buld a skill base, not just recipes.