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Offline barrelli

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Humidity
« on: August 03, 2006, 12:09:09 PM »
I live in the Houston, Texas area and use Sir Lancelot flour. In the summer, the humidity generally ranges from 55 to 90 and I cannot get a hydration level of 60% unless I want batter. I surmise that the flour has incrteased in moisture just by being in the container. I would appreciate any comments about high humidity levels and what adjustments to make.

Lou from Sugar Land

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2006, 12:27:55 PM »
Lou,

Before attempting to address your question more fully, are you weighing the flour and water, or are you using volume measurements?

Peter

Offline barrelli

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2006, 12:32:21 PM »
I am using a digital scale to weigh the flour and water.

Lou

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2006, 02:46:14 PM »
Lou,

Thanks for that information. Since you are weighing the flour and water, I tend to think that excess humidity may not be the main reason for the hydration problem you have been experiencing. A flour will take on moisture when the relative humidity gets above 60% but usually the amount of added moisture is only a few percent at most, especially if the flour is stored in a closed container of some sort. Flour will also give up moisture when the relative humidity drops below 60%, so averaging over a period of time the changes should offset to a certain degree. If not, the changes usually can be compensated for by small additions of flour and/or water, usually at the teaspoon or tablespoon level.

The additional question I perhaps should have asked is how you make your dough since that can also affect the extent of hydration of the flour. If, for example, you put all of the water in the bowl at the same time and throw in all of the water, or you do the reverse, and you are using a stand mixer such as a KitchenAid stand mixer, the hydration will not be particularly effective. I have found that if I combine the flour and water gradually, I can get greater hydration of the flour under pretty much all circumstances. If adjustments are needed after I have finished putting and combining all of the water and flour in the bowl, they are usually minimal--about a teaspoon or so or even less--if I weighed out the flour and water in advance. FYI, the dough making technique I use for standard doughs is the one described in Reply 8, starting at about the middle of the post, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2223.msg19563.html#msg19563. I use the same approach year round.

Maybe there is something about the Houston humidity that I don’t understand, but I can’t think of any other reason why you have been having problems with the hydration of your doughs, especially if the problem is a recurring one--even seasonally--and not just an isolated instance of human error in measuring out the flour and water.

Peter

Offline buzz

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2006, 09:23:32 AM »
I've found that at different times of the year in Chicago, my hydration neeeds can vary quite dramatically--from a couple of teaspoons to a tablespoon or more. The age of the flour is a factor as well. And when I used to store my flour in the refriegerator , it dried out quite a bit.

This is why I prefer not to weigh and to view each batch as a new experiment! One day you'll need a little more water; on another, a little more flour. Why not start your dough with a little less total liquid than the recipe requires, then start adding more gradually--in this way, you can control the process quite easily according to external conditions!

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Offline varasano

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2006, 10:15:41 AM »
As I general rule, I think that you have to go by feel. Don't worry so much about the scale or the %'s. 

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2006, 11:42:20 AM »
With all due respect for the people who measure out ingredients by volume, I can't see how one can tell for sure whether humidity is a factor when using volume measurements.

To try to prove the point, this morning I put on my Alton Brown hat and weighed out a level teaspoon and tablespoon each of flour (bread flour) and water on a special scale (My Weigh, Model 300-Z) that I purchased a while back from eBay. This scale is specially adapted to weigh very small quantities of ingredients, which makes it ideal to weigh things like yeast, sugar, salt, etc. And it is quite a bit more accurate than my Soehnle digital scale that I usually use for weighing the heavier ingredients like flour and water. Here are the values I got:

1 t. flour = 0.105 ounces
1 T. flour = 0.375 ounces
1 t. water = 0.185 ounces
1 T. water = 0.53 ounces

As one might expect, the water weights will almost always be more accurate than flour weights because you can't overfill a measuring spoon with water. Water also doesn't settle like flour and have its weight change as a result.

After ascertaining the above weights, I revisited a post I had entered some time ago in one of buzz's threads in which I described a test in which I took multiple (three) 1/2-"cup" volume measurements of four different flours, using both a "rough" method (scoop and shake) and a "level" method (scoop and level), and converted the volumes to weights using my Soehnle digital scale. One can refer to the post, at Reply 14 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1184.msg10724.html#msg10724 for more details of the test, but I have excerpted the numerical results here as follows:

Gold Medal a-p, rough:    7.55  7.30  7.35  7.35  7.30  7.20  7.55 (Avg. = 7.37 oz.)
Gold Medal, a-p, leveled:  6.95  6.90  6.95  6.90  6.95  6.90  6.95 (Avg. = 6.93 oz.)
KA bread, rough:              8.30  8.05  7.85  7.85  8.10  8.00  7.90 (Avg. = 8.01 oz.)
Giusto bread, rough:        8.30  8.20  7.80  8.10  7.95  7.90  7.90 (Avg. = 8.02 oz.)

As will be noted from the above table, the variations between weighings of flour and the variations between individual weighing of flour and the averages can be quite wide and, in the case of the "rough" measuring technique, which is a common one used by people who measure by volumes, can easily exceed a teaspoon and, in some cases, a couple of teaspoons of flour (and, in one case, over a tablespoon). I have done, but not reported on, multiple weighings of cups of water before, and the variations are less, with a cup of water viewed at eye level (using the 1-cup marking of the measuring cup) typically weighing 8.1-8.2 ounces on a digital scale. So, I think it is safe to conclude that the variations are greater among flour volume measurements than among water volume measurements.

I don't dispute for a moment that things happen to flour between the time it leaves the miller's facility and its use by someone in a home setting. However, based on the above tests, I can't see how one who uses volume measurement, and especially when using the "rough" method, can blame humidity rather than variations in volume measurements for their hydration problems. I am willing, however, to be proven wrong.

Peter

Offline Randy

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2006, 01:45:11 PM »
I have been fighting the humidity myth for years but as long as TV chefs keep propagating this, it is a battle that can not be won.  I can't help but think years ago the ability for the miller to control drying as well as flour being sold in cloth sacks would be a factor how much liquids were used.  Add to that, recipes crossing the Mason-Dixon line had problems  converting the higher protein flour quantiles in North to the softer, lower protein flours of the South and back which is why I said before is why biscuits were more common in the South and yeast rolls in the North.

Using a scale not only makes a better product but cuts down clean-up since most of the weighing is done in the bowl.

My sister-in-law claims humidity is a real problem but I have watched her rough mixing technique that she calls mixing by feel and she is very inconsistent.  My Grandmother made biscuits twice a day for seventy years and I will say she could bake the same biscuit everytime without measuring but look how many biscuits she made.

Randy

Offline DKM

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2006, 01:42:46 PM »
Humidity is not a myth (and I've read the studies that show it) but it is not as big of a factor as sometimes made out.

Even people who weigh everything out tend to make up for differences with bench flour.

For me look and feel will always be the best method, you just have to have the experience.  Of course individual talent is a factor as well.

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Offline Tim_Wurtz

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2006, 02:54:31 PM »
Hey all,

In response to the first question, your using 60% hydration and it seems your dough is too wet? then adjust your formula to 58%. That is about the most I can use at the high humidity in my area. All the fuss over how much humidty seems to be a factor, here is what I do, this is my solution, the K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple stupid) If 60% is too much then keep reducing until it works. All the formulas you see out on the internet forums may or may not work for you, so keep adjusting until you get it right, I have used as little as 52% and been successful. It comes down to what works for you best :)

A few months ago Peter (Pete-zza) helped me out with adjusting a formula for high elevation, turns out that at higher elevation dough will dry out faster than lower elevations, the formula called for 60% and my dough was very wet feeling, at 58% it is still very wet feeling but once the yeast ferments and the dough sits in the cooler for 24 hrs it is fine. I would be more curious as to how much yeast your using and not so much the 60% hydration factor. If you put more yeast in the formula I can assure you that it will over come the hydration problem in a hurry ;). In my emergency dough formula I used 62% hydration and double yeast and it is getting a skin on it as soon as it comes out of my mixer. I really think your problem is in the yeast???

Just my two cents worth.
Tim Wurtz
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Offline David

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2006, 03:18:34 PM »
I don't dispute for a moment that things happen to flour between the time it leaves the miller's facility and its use by someone in a home setting. However, based on the above tests, I can't see how one who uses volume measurement, and especially when using the "rough" method, can blame humidity rather than variations in volume measurements for their hydration problems. Peter


I think we have agreed to disagree and are in two seperate camps on the Volume / Weighing of ingredients issue.As you are probablyaware, I am in the "weigh everything" camp,just as I believe that the condition (Temp./Aeration/Activity etc.)of each ingredient when incorporated is fundamental to determining the final product characteristics.
                                                                                              David

BTW Peter............Do you have 26 Hrs in your days in Texas? ;)
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Re: Humidity
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2006, 03:56:34 PM »
BTW Peter............Do you have 26 Hrs in your days in Texas? ;)

LOL ;D.

Peter

Offline Trinity

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2006, 08:59:09 AM »
What I notice with flour is that the protein level does not stay the same... Winter wheat,,, Spring wheat... It is always changing. (low protein=slack dough.... Hi protein=nice tight dough).

 I will use up to a quart plus or minus of water (per 50#'s) of flour. ;)
It's an Earth food. They are called Swedish meatballs. It's a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs! I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2006, 10:39:35 AM »
Trin,

I can understand how a high-protein flour will require more water than a lower-protein flour, but do you switch flours when making doughs for your customers? For example, if you were making dough balls for a particular customer using say, a high-protein flour, would you switch to a low-protein flour for any reason? And, if so, what would that reason be? Price? Availability?

Peter

Offline buzz

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2006, 12:08:55 PM »
Even the great science geek Alton Brown asserts that humidity (as well as age, altitude, etc.) can dramatically affect hydration needs. So he starts out with less liquid than he thinks he'll need and adds it gradually until it comes together by sight and feel.

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2006, 03:51:18 PM »
I don’t dispute that humidity, age, storage conditions, altitude, etc., are factors that should be taken into account in making dough. What I have been trying to say is that it is difficult to establish that humidity is a cause of the problems for which it is commonly blamed when volume measurements are used, as I tried to show with the tests I performed. The focus in the discussions to date has been on humidity, but other factors can also be at play. For example, it is well known that protein levels in flours can vary from region to region, year to year, and batch to batch, even for the same variety, and maybe even from bag to bag. In re-reading Trin’s last post I think I may have misunderstood the point he was trying to make and that what he was talking about was these types of variations in protein content, and the effect of such variations on hydration. If I understood Trin correctly--and as a professional baker he will know much better than I-- then that would seem to buttress the argument that humidity is villainized more than it deserves. Alton Brown may have the right solution but not for all the right reasons.

As a summary, I think DKM stated the matter exactly right and I differ from his position only in that I rely on weights as my preferred method, along with touch and feel.

Peter

Offline Trinity

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2006, 02:31:49 AM »
I donít dispute that humidity, age, storage conditions, altitude, etc., are factors that should be taken into account in making dough. What I have been trying to say is that it is difficult to establish that humidity is a cause of the problems for which it is commonly blamed when volume measurements are used, as I tried to show with the tests I performed. The focus in the discussions to date has been on humidity, but other factors can also be at play. For example, it is well known that protein levels in flours can vary from region to region, year to year, and batch to batch, even for the same variety, and maybe even from bag to bag. In re-reading Trinís last post I think I may have misunderstood the point he was trying to make and that what he was talking about was these types of variations in protein content, and the effect of such variations on hydration. If I understood Trin correctly--and as a professional baker he will know much better than I-- then that would seem to buttress the argument that humidity is villainized more than it deserves. Alton Brown may have the right solution but not for all the right reasons.

As a summary, I think DKM stated the matter exactly right and I differ from his position only in that I rely on weights as my preferred method, along with touch and feel.

Peter



 Yup, That's what I meant Peter.

And yes with all the flour we go through I find it necessary to constantly tweak the amount of water for all sorts of recipes.
It's an Earth food. They are called Swedish meatballs. It's a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs! I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2006, 10:11:02 AM »
Trin,

Thank you. After I posted the last reply, I decided to do some more research on the protein issue. I found myself reading lengthy reports by wheat producers and millers that showed that there are fairly wide variations in protein content and other grain and flour characteristics due to variations in weather conditions, poor crops, too little or too much rain, and many other environmental factors. Apparently millers have much experience in blending flours and doing other things to keep flours within narrow ranges, although even there there can be wide variations. I suspect that the King Arthur flours may be less prone to problems in the home setting because they reportedly have the tightest specs in the industry, a fact that was confirmed to me some time ago by a milling company that, at least at the time, milled flours for King Arthur.

As a result of my research on the protein issue, and the humidity issue as well, I found a couple of interesting items by Tom Lehmann, including these that are more reader-friendly than the crop reports I read:

http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi?read=15053, and

http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi?read=21536.

Peter

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2006, 02:47:52 PM »
For the latest word on the subject of humidity, our members may want to see this thread: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3433.msg29165.html#msg29165.

Peter

Offline Randy

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Re: Humidity
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2006, 05:36:57 PM »
Even the great science geek Alton Brown asserts that humidity (as well as age, altitude, etc.) can dramatically affect hydration needs. So he starts out with less liquid than he thinks he'll need and adds it gradually until it comes together by sight and feel.

AB on one of his later shows says humdity is a myth.  In the same show he uses a scale.

Randy

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