Sunday, 25 August 2013

What Hydration means for Gluten Free Doughs.

From my earlier post about bakers percentage and bread hydration I wanted to elaborate a bit more the importance of hydration for gluten free doughs and reasons why.

For starters, gluten free bread recipes usually have a higher amount of water than regular gluten bread recipes do. There are several reasons for this:
  1. Most gluten-free flours are in the form of whole grain. These nutritious flours have higher protein levels and they are more dense. Flours that absorb more water, typically have a higher protein content and dense whole grain flours are heavier than wheat flour thus absorbing more water.
  2. Starch flours have a high water absorption capacity and most gluten free flour blends contain a percentage of starches. Starch naturally holds onto water providing structure and strength within a gluten free dough.
  3. Binders used in gluten free baking absorb water to produce their gelatinous qualities mimicking the properties of gluten.
Higher hydration levels for Gluten Free Bread

Next it is the important factors water has for bread dough.
Dough must be soft and flexible in order to rise properly - a factor of how much water is in the dough. If the dough is stiff, it is difficult for the expanding gases to lift the dough and create volume. After your dough is kneaded, it should be soft and nearly sticky. As a general rule when mixing bread, error on the side of too much water.

Too little water results in a stiff dough. This means that the loaf is likely to be small and stunted. More cake like in texture than bread like. A stiff dough prevents proper expansion, resulting in loaf breaking at
the seam (the weakest point) and won’t achieve proper cell structure.

Stiff dough
A little too much water can see the bread rise too far with the result of large holes in the bread. This "open texture" makes the bread difficult to cut, dries out too quickly and is generally of a weak structure. But this maybe a desired result when making breads such as ciabattas.

A "lot too much" water will see the loaf quite flat, heavy and soggy as it fails to trap the gas from the yeast and also tends to be under baked in the middle.

Wet dough
While it seems hydration is important to a light fluffy loaf it also could result in a flat gummy bread. The key is to have as high a hydration to the dough that will still safely hold it's shape time and time again.

Generally speaking wetter doughs will have big holes in the crumb, and drier/firmer doughs with lower hydration will have a closer more dense crumb.

Finally, apart from accurately weighing your gluten free flour, you also need to accurately measure the water. Again you will be disappointed if you rely upon the markings on water jugs to provide a really accurate measurement. The glass jugs are notorious for mis-measurement. Water is most accurately weighed on your scales just like the flours are.

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