The Fresh Loaf

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Humidity and hydration compatibility during bulk fermentation

Bakes.inthelakes's picture

Humidity and hydration compatibility during bulk fermentation

Hi I just joined here because non of my questions were ever answered on other platforms 

(to preface this is about sourdough)

 I was wondering, for different hydration % of dough what humidity % work best during bulk fermentation or really at any stage

now I've seen that higher hydration% doughs need a certain amount of humidity, but not too much or they get overhydrated and soggy before they are done fermentating, but too little will for example cause the top to form a hard layer, what are the best humidity% for different hydration%, 

I was just wondering as my new proofing box allows me to change the humidity and was wondering what is best!


GaryBishop's picture

A quick Google search says 75% is minimum and 80% is preferred. 

From my limited knowledge of physics I would guess the ideal would match the vapor pressure at the surface of the dough so it neither gains nor loses water. But I made that up.

As in most things baking related "best" depends on your goals. It could make a fun experiment to vary it over several carefully controlled bakes to see what happens. I imagine the slope of the quality vs relative humidity curve is pretty small. 


tpassin's picture

I have baked bread in the winter in North-Central New Mexico where it's very dry.  I've baked bread in Virginia in the summer (though with air conditioning) where it's much higher humidity.  I've used hydrations from 65% to 85% and I never noticed much difference from the one place to the other.

I don't get a hard layer on top because I cover my dough and my loaves while they ferment.  Either I drape a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough or, during bulk ferment, I keep a cover on the dough tub.

I have gotten drying of the surface during long stays in the refrigerator when I left too much space between the top of the dough and the lid of the container.  By "long stays", I'm thinking of several days to a week.

If your new proofer is a Brod and Taylor proofer (like mine), then you can fill the water tray with water (and make sure it doesn't dry out), or you can cover the dough while it's in the proofer, which is what I do.

Sometimes I will uncover a loaf during the last 15 minutes of proofing so that the surface will dry out a little and make scoring easier.  The stickier the dough, the more helpful that is.