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Bread bakers often talk about the percent hydration of a dough; that is the amount of water (liquid) in a bread formula (recipe) in ratio to the amount of flour, according to its Baker's Percentage. Hydration affects the process of bread building and the nature of the final result. NOTE: Liquid ingredients also include milk, alcohol, and juice. More about how to calculate.
Bread can also be classified according to three categories based on hydration: stiff, standard or rustic.
Very firm, dry and satiny; not tacky
50 to 57
Tacky but not sticky; supple
57 to 65
sandwich bread, rolls, French and other European breads
65 to 80 or more
ciabatta, focaccia, pizza
NOTE: Different types of flours absorb water differently because of their gluten protein percents. You may need to adjust dough consistencies; hydration with one flour at 75% may need to be adjusted to 73% or 77% when using a different brand or type.
Bagels (50 to 57% hydration) are one of the least hydrated doughs and are extremely stiff. This means that they need a ton of kneading to get all the flour incorporated and gluten developed; it also means that they are not sticky at all in dough form.
Many formulas, such as white sandwich bread, French bread, and challah, use around 57 to 65% hydration. The dough starts to be a bit more tacky, but also more extensible. These doughs can hold their shape well, but also allow for a greater volume in proofing (rising).
On the higher end of the spectrum you have breads like focaccia and ciabatta, which could be 65 to 80% or more hydrated. These doughs are extremely sticky. Kneading does not usually work on these doughs, and instead techniques used are turning (folding) or just letting the dough develop the gluten over a long period of time on its own (no kneading). We use this technique with the Parmesan, Bacon and Walnut Topped Whole Wheat Focaccia Bread Recipe. These doughs need careful shaping. They might need a bit more bake time than usual prevent the inside from being gummy.