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70% hydration

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  • 70% hydration

    Hi all,

    Before my wood fired oven I used to bake pizza at home in the regular oven. I later upgraded to also use big refractory tiles to help on the oven baking. Big improvement. For all those doughs I fell back on my work experience as a pizzaiolo in my younger days. I made the dough by feel based on what ever amount of liquid I used. That always worked great even if mixing it by hand.

    Now with my WFO I'm willing to learn if there is a difference between the dough I used to make in my young days (commercial electrical ovens) but it was not used for 2 min pizza baking.

    I thus tried the standard receipe over here

    500G flour
    300g water
    10 g salt

    I multiplied it by four for a big batch still keeping the 60% hydration. Using regular flour sourced here in France, I was shocked to see that it was very dry. I incorporated even more water and came upto 70% hydration to make it feel right.

    I thought in the past I did not use high hydration in my doughs but it appears that I am. Do you think 70% hydration is to much for wfo? Is there any hydration that is to much?

    Whats your thoughts on this?



  • #2
    Re: 70% hydration

    How did it turn out? I usually mix for 63 to 65% hydration. Depending on your flour and weather conditions, the hydration can vary. I can't ball 70% dough. It doesn't handle correctly and you'll find yourself using a ton of bench flour to make it up.


    • #3
      Re: 70% hydration


      I'm with PP on this one, although the one big variable is the flour. Caputo, for example, will accept more water (65%) than standard flours here in North America and still remain workable. I make an 85% hydration Ciabatta, but it can't be shaped in the ordinary way. Because you're using French flour, I'd stick with the feel and shapability techniques you're using. If you can form balls at 70%, go for it.

      Across the board, pizza or bread, higher hydration will lead to better volume and a moist crust in a WFO. There is an upper limit, of course, but that limit is affected by your ingredients and kitchen environment.

      Last edited by CanuckJim; 05-09-2009, 08:46 AM. Reason: Incomplete
      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


      • #4
        Re: 70% hydration

        I don't know yet how the dough will turn out. I mixed two batches each with 2 kg flour. First batch was 70% and even though it was a bit more soft then I usually did it was still workable.

        Second batch was also experiement on high hydration. Since the first batch at 70% felt good, I decided to try the second one with a bit more. Turned out that I added enough for 75%. It was very loose but after going through the french fold technique (The Technique: Sweet Dough with Richard Bertinet: Magazine Video : gourmet.com) that I found discussed in thefreshloaf.com it turned out to something that looked like a dough.

        I let them rest in their covered bows to rise for some time (don't know exacly how much since I was doing work outside but when I came back maybe after 1.5 hour it had doubled in size. I started to form the balls.

        First dough was straight forward. Second dough that was 75% was very difficult. I'm used to rolling the dough on the work surface and forming the balls. This dough was difficult to get the shape. After a light dusting of the surface and with dusted hands it was possible to get the dough formed but only when working very fast.

        I then put the dough straight into the refrigirator to rest until tomorrows party.

        I'll let you know my experience on how the dough will handle.




        • #5
          Re: 70% hydration

          Hi Kosta!

          I was under the impression that French flour was generally lower in protein and therefore needed lower hydration than US. I would welcome your comments on that more as a curiosity than anything else. I can make 80-85% Ciabatta with no trouble but my experiments with pizza dough over about 68% have not been happy. Obviously it is working for you (and more hydration within reason is good) so keep at it! (I do have to wonder if it was a wierd batch of flour!)

          Here in San Antonio several of us have been having all sorts of flour problems lately. My favorite pizzaria uses Caputo flour and got a wierd batch that screwed up their dough. I have had two wierd batches of experimental flour and went back to my old standby KA Bread flour to make a great batch of bread and prove I wasn't going crazy!

          My favorite pizzaria is closed on Mondays and the owner and I are going to meet at his place to experiment every week starting this Monday. I will gladly update the group on our experiments and results!

          Look forward to your report on the pizzas!


          • #6
            Re: 70% hydration

            Okay pizza party is now officially over. We had about 12 guests and went through 20 pizza's.

            What can I say. It was like hell for me but everybody raved about the pizza. Why hell? This was my first time with high hydration doughs. Took out first ball and tried forming it using my regular technique. Difficult. Had to adapt a bit and eventually managed to get a pizza on the stone bench. I wanted to dress the pizza on the stone and then pick it up using my home made peel (ordered stuff from GI metal direct but they did not get delivered in time). Not possible. It spent less then 3o seconds on the bench but still managed to have a small hole that meant it wouldn't slide off. Quickly made my first calzone out of that one.....

            Next one tried to adapt further and make it less thinn and finally managed to pick it up and successfully transfer it to the oven. 1.5 min in the oven and it was done. Nicely caramelized and puffy dough. Exactly like the pictures of napolitana pizza and it tasted great. Crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. People really liked it and my wife who has had many of my other pizza styles really thought this was by far the best.

            But oh my god was it difficult to work with! I was proud of my abilities to make perfectly round pizza's and this was like a beginner did them! A bit oval and square looking. Sorry no pictures since we had guests over and I was busy baking. Eventually with many more pizza's I managed to get fairly round ones out and it was a bit better. But after another forced calzone, in order to not get holes on the bottom I had to revert from dressing them on the stone surface and instead dress them on a home made wood pizza peel and transfer them from this into the oven. I used my aluminum pizza peet to instead turn them and take them out.

            Okay so everybody raved about it and when I eventually tried them I agree that the crust was pretty good. Better then what I had done before.

            So what can I say about my experience.

            1. High hydration is very tough to work with both to make the individual balls and to form the pizza's.
            2. Wonderful raise in the oven and crusty and moist.

            So how can I keep the good aspects and make it easier to work with? Some guesses that I would like to try out.

            1. Less yeast. On the fresh yeast packet it said 1 per 1kg of flour. I only had 2 packets and also some instant yeast (instruction said 1 per 1kg of flour). I divided the fresh and instant yeast and used them for each 2kg batch of dough. So slightly less then what I was supposed to do. But still to much I think. The dough was nice the first day but after a night in the refrigirator it was a bit big and airy. (maybe that's why it was so good?)

            2. Earlier refrigiration to cooler temperature. This is to ensure they don't over raise and I hope will make them easier to handle.

            3. I would also like to try to work with cold pizza dough instead of letting it get to room temperature and thus soften up. That how we used to do in my restaurant days.

            I think thats it for now. Any thoughts or suggestions on the above.




            • #7
              Re: 70% hydration

              Some thoughts:
              1) I think way less yeast. I use 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) idy for 500g of flour. A cake of yeast has, what, thirty grams? Remember, the instructions for yeast quantities are written by the people who are selling yeast. Don't worry too much about big bubbles in the dough after cold fermentation: I just push them down with a silicone spatula before stretching out the dough.

              2) I refrigerate for two to four days in individual plastic containers. Don't worry about over proofing: drastic yeast reduction will help a lot. I've used dough a week out. Soon after that it starts to grow visible spots: out.

              3) I prefer cool, not cold dough. Caputo dough gets unmanageably extensible at room temperature, risk of holes.

              A final thought on super hydration. Unless it's something special like NYT no-kneed, I find that you need so much bench flour to get extra hydrated dough to be handleable, that it reduces hydration anyway, and you end up with a lot of raw flour on your crust.
              My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


              • #8
                Re: 70% hydration

                Brother, I think you are very near your target. Move only one thing at a time.
                You mention less hydration, less yeast and colder dough.
                If you managed to get it into the oven in whatever form, calzone or no, you are getting there. Especially, because people liked the taste. Personally, the one thing I would move is the hydration. Just a little less. Did you find yourself making it up with the bench flour?

                I really can't speak to yeast. I use only a Camaldoli preferment. I'm one of those guys.

                Cold Vs. Warm? I'm not a physics dude. I do know that in most cases warm things flow more easily than cold things. If you mixed your dough correctly to form the gluten matrix and haven't compromised it by overheating the dough, I can't see a reason for using a cold dough. Yes, Caputo is extensible. I have the best outcome with a room temperature rise. I can usually form it by stretching it over the back of my hands. Very extensible.

                If you want to flip or twirl it for show, like ThrowDough ...add a bunch of salt ...but don't eat it.

                Me? I just stick it on the peel or make table and make sure I have some wheels underneath it. - Flour or Semolina. Dress it up and Place it in the oven.

                I am not any kind of authority. I only know what has worked for me.

                Just my opinion. Good luck.


                • #9
                  Re: 70% hydration

                  Just one thought to add here... I think you'll find it all much easier once you get a proper pizza peel. And like PizzaPolice said, for experimenting only change one factor at a time - my first choice here would be the amount yeast.
                  "Building a Brick oven is the most fun anyone can have by themselves." (Terry Pratchett... slightly amended)



                  • #10
                    Re: 70% hydration

                    Had another pizza party this weekend. 20 Pizza's this time. I used Barilla tipo 00 flour from Italy. 70% hydration. I would say it took all that water a bit better then the french flour. I also used less yeast. For 3kg flour I used one cube of fresh yeast and also one pack of instant yeast (5g). Worked well but maybe a bit to well. I'll try less yeast next time. Overall dough was better then last time. Nice and crispy on the outside but still fluffy and moist. Wife thought it was the best one so far

                    I must say that the pizza baking is quite addictive.

                    By the way we recreated the amazing pizza we had in Italy last week. Truffle infused olive oil as the base. Mozzarela cheese, then cream of truffle, then porchini mushroom and when it comes out of the oven some arugula salad. Very good.


                    • #11
                      Re: 70% hydration

                      Oh My God, Kosta, that pizza you re-created sounds fantastic! Top off all the truffle oil and mushrooms with fresh arugula, what a treat. I'm having my 1st pizza's this weekend so I'm going over everyones posts and re-learning hydration. I've got bags and bags of Caputo 00 (friends bought it from FornoBravo as wedding gift for us) and I've been saving it for this weekends real, full temp oven firing. I'll try some 68% hydration right at the start. What could go wrong (I mean right). ya-mas, Dino
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                      • #12
                        Re: 70% hydration

                        Hi Dino!

                        Good luck this weekend. First pizza parties are always fun but can be a bit interesting.

                        I would suggest being a little cautious with your flour and mix up a small test batch first (or do several batches) to make sure your hydration is right. The amount of water in the flour can make a BIG difference. As an exterme, I know a pizzaria that stores their flour in their kitchen which is relatively humid and the flour soaks up humidity. They mix at BP58% to get a dough that is in the 66 to 68 range - based on feel and behaviour. While your flour is probably dry, and being aggressive will probably be okay, you may want to mix a batch at 64 or so to make sure before you jump up to 68. You won't sacrifice much and even if all is well, the dough will be easier to handle. And, if all is well you can mix a second batch at 68 and begin learning to handle wet doughs!

                        Good Luck!


                        • #13
                          Re: 70% hydration

                          Hey Dino- I used the "perfect dough by weight" recipe with my caputo and it worked great. (this was NOT the last time, when I messed up my measurements and had to rescue myself) I don't think it needed higher hydration than that. It was easy to stretch and made a lovely, lovely crust. If it were me, I'd try it that way and go from there.

                          Lucky you to have so many bags of caputo! I only have one left....



                          • #14
                            Re: 70% hydration

                            Hello Dino,

                            I think 68% will be difficult to handle but since you have caputo flour maybe it will handle better.

                            I also wonder if the hydration is not the only problem. I worked my dough by hand and I thought it had the right consistency. Maybe I didn't work it enough to create the proper gluten development or maybe I worked it to much. Don't know at this stage. I forgot about the window pane test and I will try that next time.

                            This weekend we have some other friends coming over. Probably 12 Pizza's this time. For the last week and a half I've been working on a sourdough starter. Its not a specific one but something I captured myself. Seems to be quite active now and smells good. I wanted to try that as the next step. Probably will keep hydration at 70% just to see the difference.


                            • #15
                              Re: 70% hydration

                              Originally posted by BrianShaw
                              Sounds like you had a great party!

                              But why are you using both kinds of yeast together?

                              Why not? No specific reason apart for the date on the cube was close to expiry and I thought better safe the sorry..... Is that not a good practice to combine two yeasts?