your thread has been an amazing eye opener for me and many others here. . . . One theme in particular has been especially fascinating and i and others have experimented wildly over the last weeks to gain our own knowledge. that is what you call effective hydration. anyway, i wonder if now that many of us have tried many different interpretations of EH, if you would tell us what that means to you and how your process achieves it. thanks again for this remarkable thread and good cheers to you!
Dear Bill, I thank you for your generous remarks! What is mesmerizing about the baker’s marble (i.e., the wheat flour) is all the potentials
—within its grains! The longer one experiments with wheat dough, the more one realizes its multidimensional propensities. As such, effective hydration still remains a mystery to me!
Please, let me explain after making some preliminary remarks. First, this method is not prominent at all within the Neapolitan circle in Naples, and it is superfluously beyond what is sufficient within that context. In other words, there is nothing Neapolitan about this method of hydration as far as making pizza dough is the concern. Second, although effective hydration and “autolyse” seem to have certain characteristics and functions in common, I refrain from calling it “autolyse” insomuch as I do not know enough about it and its procedure(s). Third, this method is a hyperactively modified version of a hydration method that is still in use in different regions of the Middle East. (In Iran, they even hydrate rice grains for a period of time before actually cooking them, for they believe such hydration helps the rice to cook faster, better, softer, and tastier. Same principle!) Fourth, this method originally meant to be an alternative to using oil, milk, or the like in dough in order to make the crust moist and tender—particularly where there is no wood-fired oven that can generate high levels of heat. At last, effective hydration does not carry the implication that if you hydrate your flour differently, then you are ineffectively hydrating your flour.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, it is not easy and possible for me to compose a written description and explanation of effective hydration for several reasons. Doing so involves technical writing which is laborious and time consuming. Further, since the subject matter is multifaceted, with many variables and scenarios at hand, the end result of putting it down in writing is prone to being confusing and misleading. And, add to that the fact that dough is a territorial being
, in the sense that it behaves, either slightly or substantially, differently in various environments, seasons, and atmospheric conditions. Not all dough mixers seem to work with this type of hydration method! Winters or cold seasons seem to be most instrumental in implementing the method, not so much the warm seasons. At last, most important of all, although I have been experimenting with this method for a long time, at times it fails me without any apparent reason. And, this indicates that I have not fully understood and mastered the method. Until then, please excuse me from answering your question, for which first I need to fully answer for myself. However, if it is of any help, let me quote some of the statements I have made about effective hydration in my previous posts in this thread:Reply 28:
And, that is precisely my point: fluidity, making the flour fluid enough in order to be materially causative
. . . . The floured wheat endosperm is solid, not fluid. And, it has certain regulatory resistance
to hydration, which, if I am not mistaken, flour scientists often refer to as “kinetics of water transport” or “hydration dynamics of endosperm”. This resistance barrier can be overcome “at some time and in some way”, which calls for a “methodology” or “methodic handling”. . . . A way is to get the flour’s own natural enzymes “to adequately turn the starch content of flour into sugar and to reconfigure the protein content of flour into gluten—after mixing, but prior to kneading. . . . By analogy, if your hair is not wet enough, shampooing your hair would not be effective. First, adequately (quantity) and effectively (quality) hydrate your hair, and then shampoo! Adequately
(indicative of “quantity”) and effectively
(indicative of “quality” or “how”) hydrating flour will beget dough of superior extensibility, flavor, sourness, texture, and aroma.” So, there are two distinct, but not separate, factors: quantity of hydration and quality (or how) of hydration.Reply 56:
“Ockham’s razor”, a principle of simplicity, can definitely be applied to the situation at hand. According to the scholastic philosopher William of Ockham, Entita non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate
: “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity” or “The number of entities used to explain phenomena should not be increased unnecessarily”. In other words, of two or more possible explanations for a phenomenon, choose the one that explains what is to be explained with the fewest assumptions and explanatory principles. And, of course, as the great Aristotle stated, this is a rational (ratio, proportion) process.Reply 124:
The chief objective of “effective hydration” . . . , not disjunct from quantity of hydration, is to make flour fluid enough
(notice the adverb "enough") in order to be animated. As I have used the following analogy before, your hair (cf. flour) would not be responsive enough to shampoo (cf. culture/yeast) if it is not hydrated or fluid enough. Just as we are not able to consume hard, raw pinto beans, I hypothesize, in light of my experiments, that the fermentative micro-organisms within dough tend not to uniformly ferment the dough if it is not effectively hydrated. Un-hydrated flour is of no use to bacteria and/or fungi; the more fluid the particles of flour are the more fluently the micro-organisms can ferment the dough. So, I use this peculiar method of hydration in order to copiously exploit (explicāre
, “to bring out the best”) the flour.
In my estimation, which could be erroneous, the timing—not exclusive of temperature—is indispensably critical in carrying out effective hydration, which I view as a musical overture to the opera of fermentation! “Overture” because it significantly sets the mood for the opera to follow. A poor overture can jeopardize a good opera! In regard to timing effective hydration, one should not just haphazardly pick an amount of time, such as 20 minutes or else. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts in this thread, according to Aristotle such natural processes, e.g. hydration, are “rational” (derived from ratiō
, "ratio" or "proportion"), meaning that one needs to proportionately ratio-nalize
time, temperature, and portions of flour and water in relation to one another. With that in mind, the amount of time depends on the following factors:
1. Strength of flour (stronger flour needs more time),
2. Quantity of water (lesser quantity of water requires more time),
3. Absorbency rate of flour (less absorbent flour needs more time),
4. Temperature of water-flour mixture in relation to ambient temperature (enzymatic reactions need proper temperatures to be activated and maintained),
5. Native moisture of dry flour,
6. The rate at which the starch content of flour is enzymatically converted to sugars,
7. The rate at which the protein content of flour is enzymatically restructured as gluten strands, and
While keeping the above factors in periphery of your mind, employ your senses of sight
, and touch
as a trustworthy implement to alarm you as to when enough is enough. There is really no set time. When the water-flour mixture is inspired (īnspīrāre
, “to breathe in”) enough, it is no longer a mere mélange of water and flour, but quasi-pasta
which immanently percolates an implicit pasta-esque aroma, color, and corporeal constitution—that can be learned mainly by repeated trials. Also, make sure to watch the temperature!
If you add a factor to one side of a mathematical equation, then the other side of the equation will suffer if you do not add a counterbalancing factor to it. Likewise, effectively hydrated dough requires less kneading afterwards, for the pasta-esque dough has already generated amino acids or gluten strands that can be over-fortified by superfluous kneading, which can oxidize dough beyond necessity. Therefore, effective hydration not only contributes to the flour being more responsive to cohesive fermentation, but also it reduces oxidation and its unpleasant impacts on dough by reducing the kneading time.Reply 206:
"Effective hydration" . . . is preoccupied with first [ratio-nally] hydrating the flour—without inclusion of salt or any fermentative agent—at the right mixture and room temperature and for the right amount of time [which does not always remain the same]. Thereafter, the salt and leaven [separately dissolved in water] will be added to the hydrated flour and kneading begins. Like the direct method, effective hydration does not employ bigga, poolish, or the like.Reply 209:
[The following factors need to be regulated:]
1) . . . the temperature of water in relation to the temperature of flour;
2) . . . the temperature of the [water-flour] mixture in relation to the ambient temperature;
3) The amount of water . . . should be a certain ratio in relation to the amount of flour;
4) . . . the amount of time [need to be] proportionate to the dough consistency that should be achieved, under the right temperature, by the end of the time period.
You need to be patient and do a number of trials until you discern the difference between each trial and learn by experience. I recommend that you accurately record all the details (periodic outside and room temperatures, periodic inner and surface mixture temperatures, type of flour and water, amount of time, season, mixture smells, colors, textures, transformations, and etc.) of every episode, and compare them with one another to understand the underlying principles. The temperature of your water (the hydrator), in relation to the temperature of your flour (the hydratee) which depends on the ambient temperature, needs to be tuned low enough for the enzymatic reactions to be minimally triggered and nothing beyond. You may want to commence with 60˚ F and keep reducing it by increments of 5 degrees per episode until you reach 35˚ F. (At 32˚ F water freezes.) To this end, mixing the hydrator and the hydratee should not take long enough to heat up the mixture. Further, at this point we are merely mixing, not kneading, to simply embody the mixture and nothing more. Start the ratio of the hydrator at 50% in relation to the hydratee. If you take it any higher, do not exceed 51% or 51.5%.