Andy Nguyen commented:
>I feel that using distilled water for bread is _probably_ like using
>distilled water for making coffee. I did try using distilled water
>at one time, thinking that maybe my tap water is over-chlorinated
>and that is making my yeast less active than it should be. I have
>since decided that the reason I wasn't seeing as much yeast action
>(crumb was too dense) not because of the water or because I was not
>getting enough gluten development, but rather it was because,
>well..., I just wasn't using enough yeast!
From what I've read, using distilled water to make bread isn't a
good idea. The mineral content of water is important to the growth
of yeast, and distilled water is mineral free. So is reverse osmosis
For a long time I felt that as long as your water tasted fine, it was
probably OK to make bread with. That was up until my recent move to
Sanger, Texas. I've baked in nine different cities in Texas and
Colorado with no problems. And then, I moved to number ten.
After the move, the dough didn't come together, it was as though it
had way to little flour. I started using flour I'd moved here from
the previous city and I weigh my ingredients so I was sure it wasn't
a flour issue or a measuring problem. A helpful friend suggested
that maybe the water was wetter here. Except that adding more flour
didn't really help. The dough was still goo.
Here in Sanger they use chloramines instead of chlorine. This makes
chlorine more persistent - and gives the water a nasty
taste. However, my yeast and sourdough were both working. This
makes me wonder about the stories I've heard about chloramines
killing yeast and sourdough.
The water is amazingly soft here. But no softer than the water
coming out of the softener in another home in another city where I
had no problems baking.
In desperation, I bought a water test kit like those used for spas
and swimming pools. And I found the water was very alkaline. In all
the other cities I've been in, the water was somewhere between
neutral and somewhat acidic.
Some folks suggested treating the water to harden it. I played with
that and got some inconsistent results. I called the local water
company and they confirmed the softness and alkalinity of the
water. They also told me that the water varied a LOT seasonally but
couldn't tell me when the changes occurred. I didn't really want to
play with the tap water every time I baked and still have
inconsistent results so I went out and got some Ozarka spring water.
And my bread problems went away. I haven't tried other brands, or
even the Ozarka drinking water. I'm sure the other products are
fine, but I had been so frustrated by the baking problems that once I
found something that worked, I was ready to stay with it.