This is more of a bread question, but local water really sucks!

Since we’ve moved here, I’ve had trouble making dough. I make goo. It just slumps and can’t be formed into boules, baguettes, or batards. Pan bread or nothing.

When we refilled our hot tub, I saw the water was very soft, like less than 50ppm of hardness. More like 0 PPM.

Someone suggested I add gypsum at .24% (Baker’s percentage) and that helped a bit, but not a lot. Using bottled spring water also helped a bit.

I’ve read that dough likes water between 100 and 150ppm hardness and somewhat acidic, although people praise New York and San Francisco water, and that is nothing like their waters. Anyway, the pH is the other part of our little issue. The pH test strips show 9.0 on one strip and between 8.4 and 9 on another brand.

Deciding that the .24% was too low, and that adding it based on a percentage of the dough may not have been a great idea, it looked like modifying the water directly might give better results. Adding a tsp of gypsum to a gallon of water got the hardness in the 100+ PPM range. Sadly, the gradations on the test strip are 100, 250, 500. A bit less resolution than I’d like.

However, the water was still alkaline, near 8.0. I added a tsp of white vinegar and the pH dropped to the 6.0 range. I had to try using the water, and -

YAY!! I made dough! Not goo! Not great dough, but dough. It was a start.

Do you have any suggestions for how to measure the water - test strips with higher resolution perhaps? And the best ways to adjust the water?

Many thanks!

First, use calcium sulfate not gypsum/carbonate for addition to the dough to restore hardness. The use of 50-grain strength vinegar is the correct action to take to adjust the pH of the water. To test the pH of the water you can use pH test strips available from most pharmacies or pool supply stores.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor