What is the optimum ratio

I’m new to baking bread. I have a recipe that I’ve been using, and tweaking, but so far haven’t produced the dough I’m looking for.

For a ‘basic’ bread dough – flour, water, salt, yeast – what is the ‘standard’ ratio of water to flour, flour being 100% regardless of the amount of flour you start with?

There is no standard as every flour will differ even when using two different brands labelled bread flour.

I’m assuming when you say basic bread dough we are talking bread flour aka strong white flour.

The ratio of water to flour with flour being 100% can fall anywhere between 60-70% hydrated (and sometimes a little more). Depending on how string the flour is and your own preference as well. There will be a range for a good dough. Some might prefer a less sticky dryer dough and others might prefer the results of a more hydrated dough. There will be a point though where too low and it’s too dense and too high that the dough simply can’t manage it.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for a tacky dough. Somewhere in between. Sticky to the touch but not coming off in your hands.

How about measuring out your flour in a bowl. Then measure out enough water in a jug for a 75% hydration dough. When forming the dough add in enough for 60% hydration to start with. Then if the dough needs it slowly add in more water till it feels right. Once you get the consistency you’re looking for see how much water you have left in the jug and you’ll know the hydration of the dough you’re aiming for.

My favorite because it’s easy math is:

75% bread flour
25% whole grain flour
75% water
2% salt
12.5% sourdough starter (for yeast, I’d do the no knead 1/4 tsp)

I often make loaves with this that are:

300g bread flour
100g whole grain flour
300g water
8g salt
50g starter