The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.


Alanaj81's picture


Hello everyone, 

I have been reading a lot of posts on here and have noticed alot of talk about hydration of the dough & starter etc. 

I am very new to baking so could you please explain what this is & how to work it out. 

Also what is meant by autolyse, inoculation & some of those other terms I've been reading. 

I'm still at the stage of trying to get my starter strong enough to bake with so a lot of what I've been reading has not made much sense to me. 

Appreciate any explanations you can offer.  



SeasideJess's picture

Hi Alana, I'm a new baker too. Here is what ive learned about the terms you asked about. Hopefully if I'm getting any of this wrong someone will jump in and correct me!

Hydration tells you the proportion of water to flour in the dough, by weght. The flour is considered to be 100%, and the water is calculated in reference. So, for example, if a dough is 70% hydration, there are 70 grams of water (or mililiters) for each 100 grams of flour. If the recipe calls for 800 grams of flour, 70% of that is 560 so there will be 560 mililetres of water.

An autolyse is a period of time when you soak all or part of the flour in all or part of the liquid, before adding yeast. It can be as short as a half hour or as long as overnight or a few days (refrigerated). Autolyse means 'self cut' in Greek (or Latin?) and it's called that because the enzymes in the flour start to break apart some of the starches and other big molecules, which improves the eventual browning and flavor of the bread. It may do other things, too, I'm not sure. 

Inoculation is adding yeasts and/or bacteria (like in a sourdough starter) to the dough, where they will then start to reproduce and grow, and make changes to the dough. 

Happy baking! Jess

DanAyo's picture

Welcome Alana. Jess said it all...

We look forward to see your progress. Post often. We love pictures.