What is the ideal hydration for bread dough?

  • What is the ideal hydration for bread dough? BaffledCook

    I made a bread that called for 1kg of flour and 700ml of water. That is a 70% hydration.

    The problem was that the dough became absolutely soaked, so in the end I added more than 500g more flour. Which meant that my salt ratio was off...

    The resulting bread was not too bad, but it wasn't great neither.

    What is the 'proper' flour to water ratio? I've made bread with 55% water and that was OK. I know this depends on the flour, but some kind of rule of thumb must exist.

    Edit I've made the same bread again. This time with 60% hydration as I'm using all purpose flour (11% proteins) and I don't have a mechanic mixer. It turned out alright, but a little bit low. I guess bread flour is really needed here.

  • There is no "proper" ratio. 55% is indeed a very common ratio, but by no means the only possible. Here is a somewhat extreme example: 100% hydration. On the other hand, you can also go very low, if you add oil and use a low-gluten flour. I've made 35% more or less successfully.

    The hydration is very dependent on your flour. A low-gluten flour will fall apart at high hydration. You must use bread flour or durum flour for high hydrations, else you'll get a slurry instead of a dough. Gluten development is, however, hard to achieve with runny dough. This is why some argue for double hydration: take a look at this breadcetera post. (Disclaimer: I haven't tried that one myself).

    If you want to stick to easy-to-make bread, 60% is the target for classic French bread and very easy to work it. The farther away your hydration gets from 60%, the harder to work with the dough. If you are new to bread, aim for recipes closer to 60% until you get comfortable with your skills.

    The above post assumes yeast wheat bread. Other grains and sourdough have different handling properties.

  • There is no proper ratio, it really depends if you want a light bread or one that is more full. You can reach even >100% hydration, but there mixing by hand may be a bit tricky.

    70% hydration is a medium-high ratio: you should mix until you start having a stringy textrure in the dough, due to the formation of a gluten network. The important thing is not to mix too long, as you risk to break the network and lose liquids. Also, don't be scared if the dough is sticky at the beginning and refrain from adding flour. It is good to mix for 2-3 minutes then let the dough rest for a minute or two, then restart mixing: this helps develop the gluten network.

    The more you hydrate the dough the more careful you'll have to be when working with it, as it will be more sticky and difficult to handle. Look at the first two videos in this page to have an idea of the consistency (sorry it's in Italian, but you should be able to understand what's going on easily). The dough in that case was made with 400g flour and 350g water, so 87.5% hydration.

    Of course for all of this, a planetary mixer helps immensely.

  • Your ratio is correct, though only because 700ml weighs exactly 700gr. Incidentally the water ratio is known as the 'hydration'.

    Water ratios tend to range between 50% (a dense loaf) and 80% (ciabatta). A high water ratio is important in getting nice big wholes in the bread (an "open crumb"). The first response when you make a dough with these ratios tends to be "that can't be right" and to add lots of flour. However, bread dough is supposed to be wet and annoyingly sticky (even at 50%). It takes practice to handle dough in that state, but it can be done. Just make sure that you have a good dough scraper.

    Here's a video of someone showing one of the many ways to handle a wet dough: http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough

  • Bread hydration varies widely. The "standard" bread using all-purpose (plain) flour has a ratio of water to flour weight (hydration) 60-65%. Flour with a higher protein level, labelled as bread, strong, or high-gluten, tend to use 65% hydration. Ciabatta and rustic breads generally use more water than normal. The extra water gives them more large, uneven holes in the interior of the bread (called the crumb), and generally leads to a higher-rising bread. These wetter doughs are often referred to as "slack" doughs in baker's parlance.

    Here are a couple sample hydrations from Hammelman's bread baking:

    • Baguettes with poolish, 66% hydration, all bread flour
    • Ciabatta, 73% hydration, all bread flour
    • Pain Rustique (rustic bread), 69% hydration, all bread flour
    • Country Bread, 68% hydration, all bread flour
    • Roasted Potato bread, 61% hydration, 85% bread flour / 15% whole wheat flour / 25% roasted potatoes
    • Whole wheat bread, 68% hydration, 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour
    • Semolina (Durum) bread, 62% hydration, 50/50 durum and bread flours

    Mind you, it is quite possible to make a bread with even higher water content, if one is a skilled baker. Wetter breads (70% hydration and up) generally cannot be hand-kneaded normally, and require a mechanical mixer, stretch-and-fold kneading with a spatula, or autolysis. Autolysis is when you mix water and flour before adding yeast, and then allow it to sit. This allows enzymes in the flour to develop gluten before the rising begins, and can supplement or replace normal kneading.

    Another approach, called double-hydration, is to add only part of the water before kneading. This allows you to knead the bread to develop gluten structure before it becomes too wet to knead.

    For extremely wet breads, these methods may all be combined. I'm looking right now at a double-hydration, mechanically mixed, autolyzed, poolish-using ciabatta recipe that sits at 76% hydration.

  • I am a mixer in a bread factory in Nigeria. I use 55% water for most flours, though some take upto 57% depending on their protein content. However we use mix & mill/knead machines with chilled water to get a smooth & tacky dough.

Related questions and answers
  • I've made a pizza today and thought the dough could use a little more salt. I've looked at this answer and have a question about the salt ratio. How is it calculated? The percentage of flour, or the percentage of dough? My pizza recipe calls for 300 g flour, 150 ml water and 3 g salt. That is 1% of the flour weight, but less of the total weight. If 3% is the recommended salt level for bread, I should be using 9 gr for the flour, or 13,5 g for total weight. That is a huge difference. Edit: The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 bag of dry yeast (but I use my own mother dough), and 60

  • , and, (for special uses), "grippiness" or size of the particles. There is no such a thing as bread flour or cake flour. I decided to experiment with bread and bought hard wheat flour (durum flour) online. It is milled as rather large particles. I decided to mix it 50/50 with my normal flour and use a very simple bread recipe - 1% salt, 3% yeast, 55% water - which is correspons to a middle-range hydration... to this flour. Obviously, I should use more hydration, but how much more? And what to do about the firmness, is this normal for durum, or just the result of insufficient hydration? Why didn't it rise

  • , using lots of flour to keep things from sticking. It was a bit thick, but I chalk that up to inexperience. On my second batch I made slightly more dough and split it into four balls before rolling... for 30 minutes or more before I got to them, and these were much, much harder to roll out. I've since discovered (from Google and word of mouth) is that this is the opposite of what should happen...? Or is there a special technique to rolling pasta dough made with egg (as opposed to water)? Any thoughts as to what went wrong? (Or, perhaps, confirmation that my word-of-Google-mouth rumors are incorrect

  • I have accidently (due to tiredness and unit-conversion) made what I think is roughly a 100% hydration dough. I have used strong white bread flour. I was intending to make some "no-kneed" bread, so after mixing the ingredients I have left it to rise for 18 hours, and it has been in the fridge for another 24 hours. It is very sticky and runny. Are there any types of bread that call for a dough of this level of hydration? Is there anything I can use it for? Other than trying to incorporate more flour (which I'm not sure is a good idea this far into the process)? What will happen if I just put

  • Possible Duplicate: What's the Ideal Coffee to Water Ratio for a French Press? In terms of weight, what is a recommended relation between coffee and the water, when I'm making coffee in a French-press? I think this also depends on the size of the grind, but let's suppose a standard one. Which do you use and what's the strength? Thanks!

  • wheat flour * 1/3 cup lukewarm water * 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast Soaker: * 1/4 cup toasted cracked wheat * 1/4 cup water Day of: * 2 cups bread flour * 2/3 cup whole wheat flour * 1 cup lukewarm..., the soaker, water, salt and instant yeast. Mix together. Add whole wheat flour and have the bread flour. Mix till the batter is smooth and well blended. Allow to sit uncovered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle some of the flour onto a flat surface and pour out the dough. Top with some more flour and begin to knead slowly adding in the rest of the flour. Add a little at a time till the dough is smooth

  • Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between various types of flour? I am baking a Yule Log (Buche de Noel) for solstice and the recipe I generally use calls for a lot of coconut and pecans and I have people who don't like those things coming to dinner, so I am looking for another recipe. The recipes I am finding though all call for cake flour and I don't bake a lot of cakes so I didn't want to buy it just for this recipe, can I turn AP flour into cake flour or what is the difference between the two? I have bread flour and AP flour in the pantry.

  • So I am just beginning on my bread making adventures and have been studying the concept of water to flour proportions for baking bread. My question is about experimenting with other types of ingredients (e.g. replacing water with milk, etc.) and how to determine if what I'm doing is scientifically correct. Should any ingredient that I add that is liquidy (I think I made up a word there) be calculated into the water % target? So, if I start with a basic bread recipe that calls for 65% hydration and I decide I want to use water, eggs and sour cream do I weigh the eggs and sour cream

  • Yesterday I prepared the Rice flour dough with water (room temperature 17 degree celsius) and salt. I noticed: This dough did NOT stick to my hands at all. This dough did NOT stick to itself even. Its pieces kept on falling as I knuckled it over and over. The Chapatis made with this dough kept on breaking as I picked them. (I did NOT roll them too thin.) What care should be taken to prepare dough and Chapatis with Rice flour so that the things don't break? P.S. Never noticed any of these symptoms with Wheat flour. UPDATE: The hot water helped. Does knuckling the rice dough