Gluten thrives on hydration. While dough is in the mixer, water molecules are binding to the polar sites on the gluten proteins. When these proteins have enough water, they provide elastic and extensible properties. In other words, the better hydrated gluten is, the better it will function in your baked goods.
Three key aspects to gluten hydration:
- Adequate water
- Physical agitation, or energy
- Properly aged flour, oxidation systems or a long holding time
If it is not hydrated properly, your mixing time will increase, product volume will be affected and you may end up with a short, crumbly texture.
So mixing time is a reflection of hydration?
Absolutely. That is why sponges that take hours to ferment mix faster than a straight dough. Aged flour or the addition of oxidizing agents and dough conditioners strengthens the gluten structure and makes it more acceptable to hydration as well. Hydrocolloids can also help with binding capacities.
These additions are needed in high-speed systems, as there is not enough holding time for gluten to be fully hydrated. Continuous mixing methods, or high impact hydration technology can also increase gluten hydration.
Discover more about the hydration that gluten needs!