One question I get asked often by my students and by people who follow me on social networks is: "What's hydration?".
I usually cut the story short and quickly tell the simple arithmetic calculation needed to obtain the hydration of the dough.
However, I think it's time to tell the whole story. But I need to "chunk up" the topic and explain first the method from which the concept of hydration comes from.
If you are a bit of a geek I’m sure you will like this concept! 🤓
Baker’s percentage it’s a method to calculate the amounts of the ingredients we’re going to use in our dough, in relation to the flour.
Basically we only decide the amount of flour, so the doses of the other ingredients will come by consequence.
This method allows us to move from the concept of 'recipe', which might be a bit limiting in a way, to the concept of 'formula'. And this is cool because it has several advantages, but I will tell you in a moment.
First I need to tell you how baker’s percentages actually WORK. To explain, I will use the doses of my own recipe. They come from my dough calculator, you can click here to play with it - please note, there are roundings, so I wanted to adjust some of the measurement to make the example easier.
Like I have already mentioned, we have to correlate everything to the amount of flour and express the amounts in percentage.
The amount of flour is a full 100%.
It's time to calculate our first baker’s percentage, the formula is simple.
📺 If you prefer to watch a video version of this article, please click here!
Amount of the ingredient ÷ amount of flour x 100
My recipe calls for 100 grams of water and 160 grams of flour. These figures are what we need to determine the baker's percentage of water. Let's DIVIDE the amount of water by the amount of flour:
100 ÷ 160 = 0.625
Since we’re looking for a percentage, we have to MULTIPLY the result by 100:
0.625 x 100 = 62.5
So the baker's percentage of the water is 62.5% 🎉
👉🏻 Before I continue with the calculations for salt and yeast, let me highlight that my calculator contains volumetric measures for them. In fact, their amounts are really small. Although I always recommend getting a cheap kitchen scale, it's also true that they are not precise enough to measure the tiny doses we deal with when we make a few pizzas at home.
To make our example more immmediate and readable, I have converted the volumetric measurement in a cheeky way: 5 grams of salt and 1.6 grams of dry yeast. Of course they are not random numbers, rather they are very close approximations and you will notice by using a precision scale like the one I use 😏
More calculations now!
Let's DIVIDE the amount of salt by the amount of flour:
5 ÷ 160 = 0.03
Then MULTIPLY the result by 100:
0.03 x 100 = 3
The percentage of the salt is 3% 🎉
Again, we DIVIDE the amount of yeast by the amount of flour:
1.6 ÷ 160 = 0.01
Then MULTIPLY the result by 100:
0.01 x 100 = 1
The percentage of the yeast is 1% 🎉
We have turned a recipe into a formula: to make our pizza dough we will use:
160 grams of flour (100%)
1% dry yeast
Why do we use baker's percentages?
Using baker's percentages brings some advantages.
First: it gives us the ability to scale our doses up or down easily.
We can calculate the doses we need to make a bigger pizza, for example one with 200 grams of flour rather than 160.
We've got the percentages, so we can work out the amounts of the ingredients.
IMPORTANT: you can also do your calculations starting from the whole dough or dough, the yield, but I will leave it to another article - in the meantime, maybe you could book a remote session with me.
Another advantage of baker’s percentages is that you are using a standard.
You and the other bakers and pizza lovers in particular, will speak the same language, it will be easier to understand each other and to share what you do, your experiments, etcetera.
And finally, the predictability of your final result.
Think about the traditional neapolitan pizza: nice and soft, puffy cornicione, melt in mouth texture 🤤
How is that dough made? Around 63% water, 3% salt and up to 2% fresh yeast.
These are basically the doses we have discussed so far!
I started this article mentioning hydration of the dough, I will also wrap things up talking about the same concept. I'm sure you won't be surprised if I tell you that hydration, that thing that everybody talks about, is none other than a baker's percentage.
Hydration is the percentage of water in the dough in relation to the flour.
So hydration of neapolitan pizza dough is around 63%.
However, I want to point out something very important: hydration says first of all how much the FLOUR is hydrated. The number we calculate refers to the flour, I think I stressed it enough 😁
I know that everybody talks about "hydration of the dough", and honestly I do it myself to stay "in standard". However, let's keep in mind that what's actually hydrated is the flour.
If you made it so far, congratulations, you're now officially a pizza geek.
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See you next time 💙
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