Author Topic: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?  (Read 1406 times)

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Offline I Have Feet

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Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« on: September 07, 2012, 08:58:31 PM »
In reading this forum over the past several days I've realized that the accepted norm for making a lean Neapolitan dough is to use a much lower hydration an I've been using. It seems others are using 60-65%, where as I've been doing mine at 75%. From bread baking I've always understood that higher hydations produce a lighter, more open textured crumb and better oven spring. So, I put my pizza dough right in the middle of my baguettes (which I do at 70%) and ciabatta (80%). After reading around here I decided to try lowering the hydration so I baked a couple pies at 63% today. They were much too bready and chewy for my taste, and also the browning was much more even with no real spotting. I wonder if it's the brand of flour I'm using compared to others here? I'm using Roger's flour, a Canadian brand.

Cheers!

Brendan


Online Chicago Bob

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2012, 09:18:33 PM »
Brendan,
You are not providing much info here other than hydro %'s..there are some excellent Canadian pie men here though so perhaps they will address your flour brand issue. Work flow is critical for what you are trying to achieve I believe. Especially when taking into consideration what you are asking your home oven to do. Only recommendation I can give is to study TXCraig's most recent thread where he details his dough making process.
Maybe he will join in here and help you out.
Bob
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 09:20:36 PM by Chicago Bob »
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Offline I Have Feet

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2012, 01:26:57 AM »
Hi Bob, thanks so much for your reply!

I'm not really having any issues with my dough. The ones last week at 75% turned out great. The ones today at 65% weren't nearly as good. However, anything to do with my oven limitations is not the issue as I used the same oven both times. I mentioned only hydration percentage because that's the only variable that is explicitly relevant to my question and the only significantly different variable between the doughs.

I have not been able to try a huge variety of flours, however it is clear to me that many people on this forum have. I'm wondering, in others' experience, how much variation is there from one flour to the next in terms of how "thirsty" the flour is, i.e. how much water is needed to obtain the desired consistency of dough. I know that some flours are more absorptive than others but I am trying to understand just how much it can vary.

The reason I am asking this is because I've read several people describing a 60-65% dough with, say, King Arthur flour as being a "wet" dough. Using my flour at 63% it was absolutely not what I would call wet. It was extremely easy to handle, I could easily knead it on the counter without any flour at all and it had little if any "flow" to it. When I think of a "wet" dough I think of something very tacky and sticky that, if left to rise on the counter without the confines of a bowl will mostly flow and spread outwards rather than retaining a ball shape and rising up. The dough I worked with today had none of these qualities. I'm trying to figure out if it's that my flour is much more absorptive than something like King Arthur or if I merely have a skewed perception of what a "wet dough" means.

I'm thinking that on Sunday I will test some different flours side by side at 70% hydration- more than today but less than usual - and compare results. I will use Roger's AP, Robin Hood AP (the other big brand out here) and a flour from a local bakery that mills their own flour daily from red fife, an heirloom wheat.

Thanks again!

Brendan

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2012, 01:38:30 AM »
I wouldn't call mid to low 60's wet either. Myabe if you were used to 50%?

I think Bill/SFNM is up in the 70's a lot.

I've found I like 62.5% better than 64%. It's been a long time since I've been anywhere 70% for pizza, but that is where I make bread (with KABF). With the heat and humidity here, it would be a pain (and not in the French sense) for pizza. I have no problems with toughness at 62.5%

Caputo feels wetter than KAAP at a given hydration in my opinion.
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Offline I Have Feet

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2012, 02:04:04 AM »
Thanks for the reply, Craig.

I'm also realizing that I adjusted my mixing technique for the different hydrations. Both doughs were made with only 300g flour, which is too small a batch for my kitchen aid, so I was mixing by hand. For the 75% dough I used a stretch and fold technique but for the 65% I figured that wouldn't work too well so I did a frissage followed by 3 rounds of kneading for maybe 3 minutes each, with a 5 minute rest in between each. It's been at least a couple of years since I've done traditional kneading by hand; if I'm not using my Kitchen Aid I'll generally be doing stretch-and-folds with wet doughs. I have good kneading technique but perhaps I forgot how long it can take by hand.

When I test the different flours on Sunday I'll make batches big enough for my mixer to do the jobin an effort to control the variables as much as I can.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2012, 07:10:59 AM »
I Have Feet,

I think your perception of hydration reflects the fact that you use stretch and fold techniques. Using stretch and fold (and slap and fold) techniques come out of the bread making art and, with a few exceptions (like former artisan bread baker Brian Spangler at Apizza Scholls), are not used by professional pizza operators. But those techniques do allow one to make doughs with very high hydrations yet remain fairly easy to handle, especially with experience. Also, once you master the use of such techniques, I think it is natural to view doughs--even straight doughs using the same flour--as being on the "dry" side when a hydration of between 60-65% is used. But I can tell you after having been on this forum for several years that most people who do not use bread making dough handling techniques frequently experience sticking problems when using hydration values of above about 63%, especially for weaker flours like all-purpose flour. My advice in cases like this is to start low on the hydration, for example, about 58%, and gradually increase the hydration as one gains experience. This is with respect to straight doughs, not doughs using stretch and fold and similar techniques.

Peter

Offline I Have Feet

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2012, 02:26:42 PM »
Thanks for the reply Peter!

Good point that a stretch-and-fold mixing technique does make higher hydration doughs a heck of a lot easier to handle and so people who are not familiar with said technique might have a different concept of what a wet dough is. However, I didn't use that technique for the 63% hydration dough specifically because I thought it would have not been wet enough to develop the dough properly. My mixing technique was: a quick 30 minute-ish biga at 100% hydration before adding remaining flour and salt, followed by frissage (another French technique that might not be common in pizza making?) and then traditional "heal of the hand" kneading for 2-3 minute intervals with 5 minutes rest in between.

Also, just for clarity, when I'm doing a stretch-and-fold I'm not talking about the French "slap and fold", which is still a fairly active kneading process. I'm doing the envelope style folds. So, I'll roughly mix dough together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, then do one fold every 15 to 20 minutes until I'm satisfied with gluten development (usually takes 5 folds or so) before leaving it for an overnight bulk ferment.

Also, not sure if you're suggesting that the stretch-and-fold technique is unsuitable for pizza for some reason, or just that it's not very commonly used?

After thinking about this last night I decided to have some fun and try going in the complete opposite direction, so I mixed up a dough at 80% hydration with 0.3% yeast and 2.5% salt. I'll try making a pizza with it and then make the neighbours happy with a ciabatta loaf to use up the remainder. I'll post pictures later. :)

Brendan
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 02:28:59 PM by I Have Feet »

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2012, 02:55:10 PM »
Brendan,

From what you said, I thought that the 63% hydration dough was mixed and kneaded without using stretch and fold or similar techniques. Many of our members who use the straight dough method minimize the amount of kneading of the dough, and let biochemical gluten development do most of the heavy lifting. This is typically with respect to the NY style of pizza but it can also be used to make other kinds of pizzas. The advocacy here is to slightly underknead the dough, as Tom Lehmann of the American Institute of Baking (AIB) explains in the excerpt (in italics) in Reply 440 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.msg28694.html#msg28694. In your case, if you kneaded your 63% hydration dough too much, that could have been the reason why your pizza was too chewy.

In your post, you said that you used a biga, with 100% hydration. Did you mean a poolish?

I did not mean to suggest that one should not use stretch and fold or similar techniques. We have quite a few members on the forum who do that in a home setting, usually where the doughs have above average hydration values, much as make your own high-hydration doughs. The point I was trying to make is that virtually no pizza professionals use such techniques in a commercial setting.

Peter


Offline I Have Feet

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2012, 04:11:01 PM »
In your post, you said that you used a biga, with 100% hydration. Did you mean a poolish?

Haha, yes. I guess at 100% that would be a poolish, not biga. Sorry!

In your case, if you kneaded your 63% hydration dough too much, that could have been the reason why your pizza was too chewy.

Yes, I'm also now thinking that the bready texture was more to do with mixing technique than hydration. It had been quite a long time since I'd done any active kneading by hand and I was trying to make sure I got enough development, but perhaps I over did it. I will read that post by Tom Lehmann and try and figure out an ideal mixing method for a dough in the 60s.

I did not mean to suggest that one should not use stretch and fold or similar techniques. We have quite a few members on the forum who do that in a home setting, usually where the doughs have above average hydration values, much as make your own high-hydration doughs. The point I was trying to make is that virtually no pizza professionals use such techniques in a commercial setting.

Thanks for the clarification. Im also guessing that not many professionals are baking their pizzas under the broiler of a home electric oven, so for the time being I won't get too hung up on doing it exactly the way the pros do. ;)

Thanks for your replies, Peter. They have definitely been helpful! Even though I've generally been liking my pies with 75% hydration I'd like to work on getting good results with a lower percentage. Since I'm very comfortable handling wet doughs and it is so easy to get a tender, open crumb with higher hydrations I'm beginning to wonder if it hasn't become a bit of a crutch of me.

Thanks again! :)

Brendan
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 04:14:53 PM by I Have Feet »

Offline I Have Feet

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Re: Flour brand and hydration %, how much variation is there?
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2012, 07:47:37 PM »
For Peter, Craig and anyone else who might be interested, I've posted photos of today's 80% hydration pies over in the newbie section. (Where I belong! :P)

Brendan