Rheology is the scientific study of how liquids and soft materials move or flow. The particular behaviour of a given material is also referred to as its rheology. Because dough is a soft solid, it has its own rheological characteristics, which are studied by food scientists wishing to understand how dough behaves with changes in ingredients, kneading, temperature and so on. The ratio of flour to water is the most important relationship in determining the rheology of dough: less water will give a stiff dough that will move and change shape very slowly, whereas more water will give a softer dough that will spread out quite quickly.
Rheology is not a term in widespread use in domestic baking but, with increased interest in the scientific foundations of breadmaking, it is sometimes encountered in discussions on internet forums.
Want to find out more? Look at the chapter on proportions in the book flour and water.
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