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- What Is Hydration for Pizza Dough?

If you make your own pizza dough, you likely already know a little about pizza dough hydration. The hydration for pizza dough is usually demonstrated as a fraction. This means that if your recipe calls for 1,000 grams of flour and 600 grams of water, your pizza dough has a 60% hydration. This 60% hydration is very common among beginning pizza dough enthusiasts. Why? Mostly because it is so easy to work with, not because it is the easiest to make.

As you can guess by now, this percentage is called a baker’s percentage, and it helps bakers to easily convert their recipe into different indicators of weight, such as grams, pounds, kilograms, or ounces. When a recipe is written, a baker’s percentage is a simple way to express formulas for any type of baked products, including not only bread but also cakes, cookies, and more. Baker’s percentages are also called flour weight, baker’s percent, and baker’s math.

Once you know what the baker’s percentage is, you can more easily multiply, divide, or scale the recipe if that’s what you need to do. It’s also easier to tell if a specific recipe is sweeter, drier, or saltier than another recipe. With this number, you can convert between batch sizes and even predict what the final product will look like. The percentage number is always equal to the hydration, or water count, as is demonstrated in the above-mentioned ratio.

Having said all of this, you should keep in mind that different pizza styles have different hydrations, and this is mostly due to the flour type used for the dough. Detroit pizza, for example, has a high moisture content at 70% to 75%, while Neapolitan pizza uses the 55% to 60% number.

The hydration for pizza dough is easy to calculate. It is always the total amount of water divided by the total amount of flour, then that number is multiplied by 100. So, just like in the explanation mentioned above, 600 grams of water divided by 1,000 grams of flour is 0.6, and if you multiply that by 100, it shows a 60% pizza dough hydration rate. It’s also good to remember that different flours require different hydration amounts. In fact, many flours do poorly when the hydration percentage is too high, which is why it’s best to start out low and work up from there when calculating this percentage.

When you determine the right amount of hydration for the pizza you’re making, you’ll reap the benefits once the pizza comes out of the oven. Some of the advantages of the hydration number being just right include dough that:

- Is easier to handle
- Is firmer and therefore holds its shape better
- Is not too sticky
- Is drier
- Has a dense crust with fewer air pockets

If you’re a newbie at making pizza dough, it may take a little experimentation to get it to the right consistency. If you push that hydration number up, even by 5%, you’ll notice that the dough is more difficult to work with and stickier, although it can also be easier to spread because it is a little more stretchy. Your results will always depend on the type of flour you use, which is why you may need to experiment a few times to determine the exact baker’s percentage that is right for you.

To start with, the best hydration for pizza dough is 63% to 65%, but again, a lot of that will depend on the flour you’re using. The wetter your dough is, the more extensible it is, and if you want to make the most out of the hydration level and get the absolute best pizza crust in the end, here are some suggestions that will help:

- Don’t add the oil in the dough too early; for the best results, add your oil at the end of the mixing process.
- Don’t overload your work space with flour when you’re kneading and working with the dough. Add a little at a time so that the hydration percentage doesn’t change too much.
- Try soaking the flour in the water for roughly 30 minutes before continuing to the next step. This is called an autolyse and it makes for great-tasting dough.
- When you’re kneading the dough and it’s very wet, use a pizza scraper as you work to make the process much easier on you.

The good news is, you can easily research the flour you’re using and discover what the best hydration percentage is, but to help you out, here are a few popular flour types and what the hydration level should be when making pizza dough:

- le 5 Stagioni Manitoba: 60%
- le 5 Stagioni Pizza Napolitana: 55%
- Caputo Chef’s Flour: 55% to 57%
- Caputo Pizzaria: 58% to 60%
- Caputo Nuvola: 60% to 62%

Different factors come into play when determining your hydration level, including how you wish to bake your pizza and the type of flour you use, which is why you shouldn’t consider any of these percentage numbers as “etched in stone.” Again, you’ll often have to experiment to find the right hydration number for your particular pizza creation.

According to the rules that govern exactly what makes a pizza a true Neapolitan pizza, the correct hydration percentage for this type of pizza is 55.5% to 62.5%. Since you should always bake a Neapolitan pizza in a wood-fired oven, which tends to bake pizzas very quickly, you want a fairly low hydration rate. Wood-fired ovens have very high temperatures, so there’s not a lot of time for the moisture to evaporate from the dough.

Lower hydration rates also make the dough easier to open and shape, and it is less sticky as well, which makes it easier to transfer the pizza from your work space to the oven without sticking. With all of this being said, if you bake a Neapolitan pizza in your oven at home, you can increase the hydration rate to 65% to 70%. This is because home ovens have lower temperatures and therefore allow more water to evaporate from the dough.

You cannot use a low hydration rate for Neapolitan pizzas when they’re going to be baked in a home oven. If you do, it’s very possible the pizza crust will come out dry and hard instead of crispy and chewy. The 65% to 70% number also makes the dough easier to work with without it getting too sticky, resulting in a crust that is soft, crispy, and airy. In a regular home oven, the pizza will also need to cook a little longer since the oven usually isn’t as hot as a wood-fired oven.

Finally, if you’re curious about things that will affect your pizza dough hydration, below are some of them. Keep these in mind if you want to end up with the perfect pizza crust every time.

- Inaccurate measurements. Always use exact measurements according to the directions.
- The humidity level. High-humidity locations sometimes need lower hydration levels and vice versa.
- The altitude level. If you live at high altitudes, you’ll need to increase the hydration level of your pizza dough.

Something else you’ll want to be conscious of is adding extra flour or extra water as you’re kneading. If you add too much of either of these ingredients, it can directly affect the hydration level of the pizza dough, so try to stick with the exact amount required by the recipe and no more.