Sourdough hydration refers to the ratio of water to flour in a sourdough bread recipe. It is a crucial part of sourdough baking that impacts the texture, flavour, and character of the final bread.
Hydration is conveyed as a percentage, calculated by dividing the weight of the water by the weight of the flour and then multiplying by 100. The formula is:
Hydration Percentage = (Weight of Water / Weight of Flour) × 100
How does hydration impact sourdough bread?
Low Hydration (60-65%):
- Results in a stiffer dough.
- Produces a more structured crumb with smaller holes.
- Bread tends to be chewier with a thicker crust.
Medium Hydration (65-75%):
- A versatile range that balances workability and hydration.
- It provides a good balance between a chewy interior and a crispy crust.
- Suitable for a variety of bread styles.
High Hydration (75% and above):
- It yields a wet and sticky dough.
- Produces an open crumb with larger holes.
- Bread tends to have a lighter, airier texture.
- Choosing the right hydration level depends on various factors, including the type of flour used, the desired bread texture, and the baker’s preference. Higher hydration doughs generally require more skill in handling, as they can be stickier and harder to shape.
The inclusion of bran can impact the optimum hydration level of bread dough. Depending on the white and brown flour ratio, these are the ideal hydration levels we tend to use.
100% White Sourdough hydration: 75%
50:50 White/Wholemeal Sourdough Hydration: 76-77%
100% Wholemeal Sourdough Hydration: 81-84%
Dough Hydration Calculator
Flour Type: Different flours absorb water differently. Whole-grain flour will generally require more hydration than white flour.
Sourdough Starter: How runny your sourdough starter is may add more or less water to your recipe.
Environmental Conditions: Factors like humidity and temperature can impact dough hydration. Bakers often adjust hydration based on the weather.
Baker’s Skill Level: High-hydration doughs can be challenging for beginners, so it’s advised that budding bakers often start with lower hydration levels and gradually work their way up.
Desired Bread Characteristics: If you want a more open crumb with larger holes, a higher hydration level is often preferable. For a denser, more structured crumb, lower hydration might be better.
Autolyse: Allowing flour and water to rest together before adding the sourdough starter and salt (autolyse) can enhance dough elaticity and gluten development.
In sourdough baking, adjusting hydration is a powerful tool for bakers to tailor their bread to personal preferences. Experimenting with different hydration levels can lead to the discovery of unique textures and flavours in the final loaf.
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