What does hydration mean in a pizza recipe…?
Hydration is a term used in lots of recipes and can be quite daunting for new pizza-makers.
In actual fact, its just a term to describe how much water is in the dough compared against the amount of flour in the recipe.
So… a recipe that is 64% hydration and calls for 1000g of flour – then the water amount would be 640g. Simple!
Why is hydration referred to so much…?
The higher the hydration level, the more steam that gets created when you cook the pizza, resulting in the big airy crusts we all aspire for.
So why don’t I just increase the hydration level…?
There is a trade off – the higher the hydration, the harder it is to mix as it gets sticky and harder to handle. Also, the flour we all use varies hugely in the amount of water that it can handle/absorb. Some flours can handle 70% hydration easily whereas others will be a soggy wet mess at 70% and wouldn’t be useless.
What is the best way to figure out what my flour can handle…?
Often you will find people have experimented with your flour already if you search the internet or pizza forums – you’ll probably find that people have found the sweet spot. Otherwise, the best approach is to just experiment. Start off with a low hydration level around 60% or 62%. If it absorbs the water without any issue then increase by 1% next time and see how it goes.
TOP TIP: As you start to get into the higher hydration levels for your flour, it will start to get sticky, however there is a technique to overcome this. After mixing all the ingredients initially, cover the bowl and let it sit for 10mins. Mix/knead the dough again and you will find that the flour has absorbed more of the water and will be less sticky. After mixing for a few minutes, cover and leave to reset for another 10mins. Then mix again and the dough should be much easier to handle. Repeat again and it should be nice & smooth and easy to handle – if it isn’t, then you may have gone too high for what the flour can handle.