Author Topic: Dough Hydration  (Read 3116 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline KAMarks

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 18
  • Age: 56
  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Pompeii
Dough Hydration
« on: July 15, 2007, 07:45:32 AM »
I have a couple of questions about dough hydration.
How much does humidity play into the equation? I am new to this and my doughs seems very wet, sticky, will not hold a ball shape, etc.
At what hydration rate should a dough ball hold it's shape verses turning into a pancake?
I am using a wood fired brick oven. 750 degree and up...Higher or lower hydration rates recommended?
Thanks
Ken


Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21679
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2007, 10:36:10 AM »
Ken,

There are several facets to your questions: room humidity, flour moisture, the flour’s rated absorption, and the method of preparing the dough. The first facet is discussed in this article by Tom Lehmann: http://www.pmq.com/mag/2006march/lehmann.php. Flour moisture is discussed at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3416.msg28981.html#msg28981, with a Tom Lehmann follow-up at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3433.msg29165/topicseen.html#msg29165. As you will note from the foregoing materials, the matter of flour moisture and humidity can be quite controversial and shrouded in old wives tales, which are frequently perpetuated even by professionals whose every word is taken as gospel by followers. The matter of a flour’s rated absorption, particularly in relation to its “operational absorption”, has been discussed in this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,4646.msg39204.html#msg39204. The way you prepare your dough, and whether you measure out ingredients by weight or volume, can also be factors that affect the finished characteristics of your dough as it comes out of the mixer bowl, as discussed at some length in the second item referenced above. In my own experiments using a modified KitchenAid dough making method involving the use of sifted flour and all three mixer attachments (whisk, paddle and C-hook), I have found that I am able to increase the hydration of a dough by several percent above the rated absorption of the flour used without the dough being wet or overly sticky, as it would be using my prior dough making methods. So, how you prepare your dough can affect its hydration characteristics.

In your case, I would start by being sure that you are using the proper hydration (which is related to the flour’s rated absorption) for the specific flour that you are using. Second, I would measure out the flour by weight rather than volume, and do the same for the water. Third, if you are running your air conditioner, that could have a slight effect on your dough and require minor hydration adjustment, assuming that your have abided by the first two steps mentioned above. If you are using old flour, or flour that has not been properly stored, then that might call for some slight adjustments in hydration. If your flour is fresh, it can have a relatively high moisture content and produce the type of results (wetness) you discussed. As you can see, even when the best of circumstances prevail, there may still be a need to make adjustments in the bowl to achieve the desired finished dough characteristics you are looking for. But, if the above steps are followed properly, in my experience the adjustments in the bowl are usually very minor, involving only a teaspoon or less of flour or water. Not fractions of a cup.

As far as oven temperature is concerned, there are many members, particularly those who make Neapolitan-style pizzas, who have successfully used very high hydrations in relation to the rated absorption for the flours used, usually Italian 00 flours. Since I don’t have a very high temperature oven I cannot comment intelligently on the merits of using super high hydrations that are considerably in excess of the rated absorption figures for the flour(s) in question. Perhaps one of our other members experienced in these matter can offer some insight on this aspect of your question.

Peter

EDIT (1/25/13): Since the link to the above Lehmann article is no longer operative, see the Wayback Machine link to the same article at http://web.archive.org/web/20110405042926/http://pmq.com/mag/2006march/lehmann.php
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 05:17:43 PM by Pete-zza »

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21679
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2007, 11:07:22 AM »
I neglected to specifically mention in my last reply that the quality of the flour, and especially the protein content, can also have an effect on hydration. This aspect was discussed in one of the threads referenced in my last post, including posts by forum member Trinity who is a professional baker. In some parts of the country, wheat crops are not shaping up well, as noted in this post by Tom Lehmann at the PMQ Think Tank at http://thinktank.pmq.com/viewtopic.php?p=18147#18147. Millers try to compensate for poor crop harvests by combining flours so that the overall quality remains relatively constant. However, the results even then can sometimes be inconsistent.

Peter

Offline KAMarks

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 18
  • Age: 56
  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Pompeii
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2007, 12:48:30 PM »
Thanks for the referenced links, I will study through those. A few clarifying points.
I weigh all my ingredients and knead by hand. I use Weisenberger flour. I am fortunate to have a high quality mill close to home. I am able to buy 25# bags of unbleached general purpose and unbleached bread flour for $6.50 and 5# bags of unbleached High Glutten for $2.25. I buy directly from the mill. www.weisenberger.com I can afford to toss away a few pizza balls at these prices.

One thing with my new wood fired oven it is not as forgiving to load as a conventional oven. You can not reach in and help with a stuck piece of dough. Besides all that mass really pours the heat to you if you do reach inside.

I am trying to get a feel for a properly hydrated dough. It would be nice to have a professional right there to feel my products and give advice but this forum is the next best thing.

Thanks again

Ken

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21679
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2007, 01:47:50 PM »
Ken,

Thanks for the additional information, including the Weisenberger link. You are fortunate to be able to deal directly with the miller.

I think any one or more of the factors I mentioned in my previous posts may be at play in your case with the exception of the way the dough is prepared, which doesn't apply if you are hand kneading. Based on the small inventory of flour maintained by Weisenberger and noted at its website, unless they are milling grains shipped in from elsewhere, you no doubt are getting really fresh flour with high levels of moisture to work with. Since you are in Kentucky, you may also be experiencing seasonal changes that can affect the hydration of the dough. Since there are no specs available at the Weisenberger website, there can well be other factors that can influence the absorption of their flours.

Hand kneading high-protein, high-gluten flours is not the easiest chore. However, you can improve matters if you use a relatively high hydration. For the Weisenberger bread flour, you might consider using around 62% hydration, or possibly even less (60-61%) if your flour is fresh and has a high moisture content. This is an area where you will have to experiment a bit. For the Weisenberger high-gluten flour, which has above 14% protein content, you might consider using 63% hydration, which is the nominal hydration figure specified by King Arthur for its KASL high-gluten flour. Again, you may have to experiment a bit with the hydration. You could start with 62% hydration.

You might also consider using autolyse in connection with your hand kneading. That will greatly make your hand kneading easier. I believe that sifting your flour should also improve the hydration and the final quality of your dough. Another possibility is to use a combination of an electric hand mixer and hand kneading. I described such a combination, along with using sifted flour, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.msg36489.html#msg36489 (Reply 30), and found that it worked well. As you will note, I was able to use 65% hydration with the KASL I used. The KASL was not the freshest (I was working toward the end of a 50-lb. bag), so it may have been able to take on more water because it was drier than a fresh batch of flour. I also posted a photo of the finished dough at the abovereferenced thread.

I wouldn't worry too much about how "professional" your dough looks/is. With hand kneading, and even with home mixers if you used one, you won't produce the quality of dough that is prepared by professionals using commercial equipment. In your case, you should strive for a slightly underkneaded dough, which will flow quite naturally if you are hand kneading because it is difficult to overwork a dough kneaded by hand. Your dough may have a dimpled, cottage cheese-like outer skin, but that will usually diminish during the fermentation of the dough. The duration of the final knead will, of course, depend on the amount of dough you are making and your hand strength. For an amount of dough for, say, a 16" pizza, and using an autolyse, I don't think you would need more than about 7-8 minutes of final hand kneading, even with high-gluten flour. I once used about 10 minutes and concluded that it could have been shorter.

Peter

Offline KAMarks

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 18
  • Age: 56
  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Pompeii
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2007, 02:40:38 PM »
Peter,
Thank you for the insight. I plan on running my own experiment. I will try Tom Lehmann's NY style Pizza and make three hydration levels 61, 62 and 63. This way I can compare the hydration rates of the dough at the same time. Hopefully this will help give me a feel for various levels as well.
Ken

Offline Anis

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 43
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2007, 12:32:36 PM »
hi peter and ken,
   I don't know if this would help... I also use a high hydration level for my dough (around 74% if I'm not mistaken).  Also, I knead by hand.  I've been kneading my dough with this hydration for months and it always wouldn't form into a ball until just recently.  I tried kneading it by the longest time I can bare (about ten minutes, continous) recently, it formed into a ball.  But try kneading it not on the work table but in a bowl so you don't make a mess.  knead the dough until sides of bowl are free of dough and the dough forms into a ball.  made my arms sore.  but i'll get used to it.  :)   I guess the type of flour you have may differ from mine but this is just a suggestion and your kneadding time may differ from mine.  I think even with high hydration levels you would still be able to form a ball with the dough.  I think this tells you when you have kneaded it enough for the glutten formation/development. (is this right peter?)
   flour quality in my area is not consistent by the way.  I find that there are batches of flour that I do not need to knead for as long as half the time I knead (need of knead, this is confusing) other batches and still get a good crust.  I know there's a scientific explanation to this somewhere, but right now I just look at the cooked pizza dough consistency if I have to make adjustments in my dough prep.  I hope I helped a bit. :) Please post. 
Anis
     

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21679
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2007, 04:03:58 PM »
I think even with high hydration levels you would still be able to form a ball with the dough.  I think this tells you when you have kneaded it enough for the glutten formation/development. (is this right peter?)

Anis,

The prevailing view, as promulgated by professionals like Tom Lehmann and Evelyne Slomon, is that you want to adequately develop the gluten so that the gluten structure retains the gases of fermentation but only to the point where the dough ends up slightly underkneaded. The further development of the gluten structure occurs biochemically. If you were making a typical bread dough, you would want to have a more fully developed gluten structure, which would require more kneading. Of course, the type of pizza dough you are trying to make is also a factor. For example, a dough intended to make a cracker-style crust will often require more extensive and prolonged kneading than a high-hydration dough intended to be used for a NY style pizza.

Peter

Offline KAMarks

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 18
  • Age: 56
  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Pompeii
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2007, 09:48:02 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions. Last night I made four 458 gram (+ or - depending on hydration) of Lehmann's NYC pizza recipe for a 14" pies. I varied hydration levels from 59% to 62 %. The flour was sifted and I used a 20 minute autolyse. I wanted to get a feel for how the particular flour (that I use) felt at these different hydration levels. What I really never realized is how much a small amount of water affects the final product. In this case the water varies only 8 grams (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) between the two extremes. I will further evaluate how each one handles and bakes in my wood fired oven (tomorrow).  It felt I learned a lot in about an hour just mixing these doughs back to back and comparing.
 I also ran across the following guide for different hydration levels:

Stiff & Dry- 58 to 60% water Content
Firm & Tight - 60 to 62%
Modestly Firm - 62 to 63%
Malleable - 63 to 64%
Soft - 64 to 65%
Slack - 65 to 67%

If I were to classify my dough based on the above, I would say it is off one step. As an example the 59% I would classify as firm and tight not stiff and dry.

Ken

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21679
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Dough Hydration
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2007, 10:13:24 PM »
Ken,

The guide you provided looks like the eGullet guide for bread dough. A similar one is at http://www.breadnmore.com/dough.php.

I think you will find the definitions of the ranges skewed somewhat when you look at them in the context of pizza dough because pizza dough rarely gets above about 65% whereas the hydration of some bread doughs, like ciabatta dough, can get as high as 80%. You would have an exceedingly difficult time trying to make a pizza dough with that level of hydration. I think your conclusion of the ranges being off a step is no doubt correct. It may be off more than one step. As an example, looking at the guide you provided, I would view a pizza dough with a hydration of about 45-50% (e.g., a dough for a thin-and-crispy crust) as being "Firm & Tight". I would view a dough for a cracker-type crust with a hydration in the mid-30% as being "Stiff & Dry". You are unlikely to find bread doughs with hydrations that low. I guess what I am saying is that a hydration guide for pizza dough will be different than one for bread dough.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 18, 2007, 10:15:50 PM by Pete-zza »