First of all I would like to thank all the people who have been so
generous to share their knowledge of flour hydration and to answer my
I am still on a personal quest to experience myself what is optimum flour
hydration. What I am finding is:
1. All flours are different including differences between same types of
flours but different brands.
2. There are no recipes that do not need adjustments in liquid or flour
amounts. This made so much more sense after I did some simple tests (below).
3. Weighing flour really tells you very little. It does not tell you how
much of the content is moisture. I suppose if you set a base line for
your own flours in your own house at varying times of the year it may
mean something to you personally, but all flours weigh differently - even
whole wheat flours depending on where they come from.
4. Flours with higher gluten content weigh more than lower gluten flours.
5. High gluten flours need more liquid.
6. Protein content does not tell you the gluten content
Here is a novice scientist's experiment but helpful experiment that I
did. I took all the flours that I had in my house and measured out 1
Tablespoon of each flour after weighing a complete cup of the flour. I
put each type in its own small container (empty margarine tubs) and added
2 teaspoons of water mixing only to blend the water into the flour. What
I found out was very eye opening! I am listing the results in the order
that I feel are the wettest samples to the dryest samples.
1 Tablespoon flour mixed with 2 teaspons water:
1. Arrowhead Mills organic all purpose flour, 4 1/4 ounces per cup -
very hydrated and spreadable- liquidy - viscous (words to describe this are
hard to come up with)
2. King Arthur All purpose flour, 4 1/4 ounces per cup, a little firmer
than the Arrowhead Mills above
3. King Arthur Special for machines bread flour, 4 1/2 ounces per cup.
This flour was very interesting. It had the consistency of egg white -
jelly like compared to all the other samples. A small amount between
index finger and thumb when separated forms long stretchy strands
(comparatively). Mixture was nicely hydrated comparatively. Perhaps
this is the highest gluten content flour of all I tested here?
4. King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour. Not jelly-like as the
special machine flour, maybe a little firmer than above.
5. Arrowhead Mills Organic Hard whole wheat flour. Slow to abosorb
moisture and maybe not much firmer than the white whole wheat. Very
bitter tasting by the way! Maybe old????? 4 3/4 ounces per cup.
6. Local Bakery Ground hard red winter wheat, not as bitter tasting as
above, and probably not much firmer. 4 3/4 ounces per cup.
7. My own freshly ground whole wheat flour using a Vita-Mixer 4 3/4
ounces per cup. This
sample was incredibly dryer than all the rest (weight the same as the
other red whole wheat flours however). In fact it almost did not
completely mix up as compared to everything else. This flour was like a
sponge! I am wondering if the Vita-Mixer in the process of grinding the
wheat berries heats the flour to such a high temperature (you can barely
touch the flour it is so hot) that it dries it out???? If so is this
affecting the flour in any other way - like vitamins, taste, shelf life
(which I know is short anyway).
In any event my favorite breads have been made
with this flour because of the very sweet tasting non-bitter finely
ground whole wheat alternative. I do grind the flour until it is very
fine (2 cups of grain for about 5 minutes). Could I be getting something
better with another type of grain mill? Perhaps it is not drying out at all
but this particular grain has
a very high gluten content compared to the grains used for the other
whole wheat flours which would cause mine to be more absorbent.
However, the amounts of extra liquid I need to make a satisfactory dough
are so out of line from all the recipes that I use that it seems like it
is probably not a high gluten thing but rather a *dry* flour thing? I am
going to go to the lhfs where I purchased the wheat berries to try to get
more detailed information.
Is there anyone on this list that has a Vita-Mixer and uses it to grind
flour? If so please write!
Do all grain mills get the grain extremely hot in the process of
grinding? If not, is this something that is bad for the flour?
I really learned a lot from these experiments. I let the little blobs
sit a few hours. I kept coming back and examining them over time. The
interesting thing and learning process was dabbing a small amount between
index finger and thumb and pulling the mixture apart. The differences
between all the different flours is so amazing. All along, I thought the
differences in flours were minor except their weights and flavors and
perhaps how much liquid they would require to make a satifactory dough.
I didn't realize their consistency and texture would be so dramatically
different as well as how absorbent they are.
Donna German in her cookbook on whole grains mentions the many differences
in flour that
has been freshly ground versus others taking into account their gluten
content and the resulting amounts of liquid needed. She does not give
much detail however - just mentions it - but this is the first place I
have read information on this particular topic. In my great study of
bread machine cookbooks, not one really talks about what to do if you
replace whole wheat flour for white bread flour. I have read that you
need more whole wheat flour if you are replacing it for white bread flour
- - which is completely the opposite of what I have found. I have read
that all purpose flour does not hold as much liquid - which is really
true here. You get loads of info on how to condition the flour/dough if
replacing it, but not to what extent you will have to play with the
liquid. Of course all the cookbooks talk about how to judge the dough
and add liquid/flour if necessary to make a satisfactory dough.
No wonder I felt like I was adding way too much water (when trying to
follow a recipe) to my own freshly
ground whole wheat flour - it needs much more. I have had to add as much as
extra water per 3 cups of flour recipe that started with 1 1/8 cups of water.
Now, I wonder how the weather will affect the above trials if repeated in
the Spring, Summer, and Fall? It has been rainy and humid here this week
and much warmer - which I felt would make my flour moister! (if it got
much drier - ?????).
Thanks for listening! Any comments would be greatly appreciated!