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A comparison of hydration levels in different flours

How does one measure flour? By cups ? Many people tell you that cups are a very inaccurate way of measuring flour. What is needed, they insist, is to measure flour by weight.

To a certain extent they are right. If I tell you to measure 1,000 grams of flour, you can do that. If I tell you to add 700 grams of water, you can do that also.

And you can do that very precisely. Very accurately. And repeatably. However, will the results be what I was expecting you'd encounter? Here I have to reply with a big "maybe".

The issue here is that there isn't a single substance we can identify as "flour". Or even " bread flour". I have long felt that the results of mixing a known quantity of flour and water may not result in a very similar dough because of variations in flour.

As I worked on the flour tests, my suspicions were confirmed. In the pictures below, I have gathered the hydration pictures from the flour tests so they can be immediately compared.

You may be wondering what to look for in the pictures below. At a quick glance, they all look like little blobs of dough. The first column is the name of the flour. The second column is the dough mixed at 100% hydration, and raised on a fork. There are visible differences in consistency here. Some flow, some cling to the fork. The third column is the dough at 80% hydration. The dough is formed into a cylinder (if possible) and put on a cutting board. Some slump at once. Some turn into puddles of dough. Some retain their shape. All of which gives us an idea of the dough's consistency. The fourth column is a dough at 60% hydration. Again, the dough is formed into a column, placed onto the cutting board, and photographed. In some cases, the dough is so dry it can't absorb all the flour (Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat flour), in many cases, the dough is so stiff that seams cannot be sealed. In others, the dough is quite moist. This is usually visible if you look closely. All the photographs below can be seen in a larger version by clicking on them.



Flour Type 100% Hydration 80% Hydration 60% Hydration
20 Percent
Bran Flour
20% Bran Flour at 100% Hydration 20% Bran Flour at 80% Hydration 20% Bran Flour at 60% Hydration
20% Bran Flour
plus rye flour
20 Percent Bran Flour Plus Rye at 100% hydration 20 Percent Bran Flour Plus Rye at 80% hydration 20 Percent Bran Flour Plus Rye at 60% hydration
Arrowhead Mills
Whole Grain Kamut Flour
Kamut Flour at 100% hydration Kamut Flour at 80% hydration Kamut Flour at 60% hydration
Gold Medal
All Purpose Flour
Gold Medal All Purpose Flour at 100% Hydration Gold Medal All Purpose Flour at 80% hydration Gold Medal All Purpose Flour at 60% hydration
Hungarian
High Altitude
All Purpose Flour
Hungarian High Altitude Unbleached All Purpose Flour at 100% hydration Sorry, ;picture is missing Hungarian High Altitude Unbleached All Purpose Flour at 60% hydration
Hungarian
High Altitude
Whole Wheat Flour
Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour at 100% Hydration Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour at 80% Hydration Hungarian High Altitude Whole Wheat Flour at 60% Hydration
King Arthur
All Purpose Flour
King Arthur Flour at 100% hydration King Arthur Flour at 100% hydration King Arthur Flour at 100% hydration
Nitro-Pak
Hard Red Winter Wheat
Nitro-Pak Hard Red Winter Wheat at 100% hydration = =
Nitro-Pak
Hard White Wheat
= = =
Morrison's
Peter Pan
All Purpose Flour
Peter Pan flour at 100% hydration Peter Pan All Purpose Flour at 80% Hydration Peter Pan All Purpose Flour at 60% Hydration
Pillsbury's
Softasilk Cake Flour
Softasilk Flour at 100% hydration Softasilk Flour at 80% hydration Softasilk Flour at 60% hydration
Pioneer All-Purpose Flour Pioneer All-Purpose at 100% Hydration Pioneer All-Purpose Flour at 80% hydration Pioneer All-Purpose Flour at 60% hydration
Rocky Mountain Milling's
Alpine Organic Flour
Rocky Mountain Milling Alpine 100% hydration Rocky Mountain Milling Alpine 80% hydration Rocky Mountain Milling Alpine 60% hydration
Safeway
Unbleached Flour
Safeway Unbleached Flour at 100% Hydration Safeway Unbleached Flour at 80% Hydration Safeway Unbleached Flour at 60% Hydration
Sam's Club
Chef's and Baker's
Bread Flour
Chef's and Baker's Bread Flour at 100% hydration Chef's and Baker's Bread Flour at 80% hydration Chef's and Baker's Bread Flour at 60% hydration
VitaSpelt
White Spelt Flour
VitaSpelt White Flour 100% hydration VitaSpelt White Flour at 80% hydration VitaSpelt White Flour at 60% Hydration
Wheat Montana
Natural White
Wheat Montana Natural White at 100% Hydration Wheat Montana Natural White Flour at 80% hydration Wheat Montana Natural White at 60% hydration
Wheat Montana
Prairie Gold
Wheat Montana Prairie Gold at 100% Hydration Wheat Montana Prairie Gold at 80% hydration Wheat Montana Prairie Gold at 60% hydration